Connecting Your Pico W to the Internet
There are accessories to connect standard Pico to the Internet, but the Pico W now comes with WiFi built in.
Unlike the Raspberry Pi 4 which uses separate GPIO pins for WiFi and Bluetooth, the CYW43439 chip supports both simultaneously.
To get started with the radio, you need to install the latest MicroPython UF2 files (available here) by holding down the boot selection button and connecting a USB cable.
Connecting to the Internet
As the name implies, Pico W adds WiFi capability to the Pico microcontroller development board. This opens up a range of exciting IoT projects that can be controlled over the Internet. The new Wi-Fi functionality is added to the existing Pico circuit board without increasing its power requirement or adding any external components.
The Pico W is programmed in the same way as the original Pico with MicroPython or C/C++. It has 26 externally accessible GPIO pins and the same processor core. Software compiled for the standard Pico will work with the Pico W, but may require recompilation to take advantage of the Wi-Fi capabilities.
The Pico W can also operate in AP mode, allowing it to function as a wireless access point with a built-in DHCP server for assigning IP addresses to devices connected to the network. This opens up a range of additional possibilities for the device, such as hosting a web server to control digital outputs or receiving sensor data.
Configuring the Radio
The Pico W has the same pinout as the original Raspberry Pi Pico and can be programmed in C/C++ and MicroPython. The only notable change is that the onboard user-addressable LED has shifted from an internal GPIO pin on the RP2040 microcontroller to one on the CYW43439 radio module.
The CYW43439 has both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and it can act as a network switch. It also has a OLED display (using the pi-picoss-oled library), a tack switch or push button for changing channels and an LED for signal strength.
To get started with the radio, you need to install the Pico W’s firmware on it. To do this, hold the BOOTSEL button as you connect it to a computer via its micro USB port and drag the UF2 file over it. Once that’s done, the radio is ready to use.
Listening to the Radio
Many participants described how the radio is central to their everyday lives. They spoke of having daily listening routines, such as listening to particular programming at certain times, and of the radio being ‘always on’, accompanying them throughout the day. In addition, they also spoke of how the radio provides them with entertainment, information, and company.
When asked about the benefits of their radio listening, many people referred to mood regulation. This may be partly due to the fact that music listening has previously been linked to positive shifts in mood (Krause et al., 2018).
The Pico W can be programmed using C/C++ or MicroPython and supports wireless networking with AP mode. To enable this, the device needs to be booted in AP mode using the BOOTSEL button, and a UF2 file is required. UF2 files can be downloaded from the Pico documentation. This project can be run on a desktop or laptop, with the radio connected via USB.
Using the Radio
There are many fun projects that can be built on the Pico, but if you want to control your Pico from outside of the board’s range, WiFi is essential. Until now there have been accessories that you can use to add wireless functionality to your Pico, but it is much easier to simply build WiFi into the microcontroller itself.
The latest version of the Raspberry Pi Pico W is the first in the series to include a Wi-Fi radio. It’s available now, but it will cost you $6 – a little more than the $4 Pico was when it launched last year.
To get started with the new Pico W, you need to download the latest boards manager files and then run the example Blink sketch in the IDE. It will take a few minutes to install everything, but once it is done you’re ready to go. During this process you will need to keep BOOTSEL held down on your Pico, so you may want to grab something to hold it down with while you do that.