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Maypole: ESP32-Powered Open-Source Hardware for Wireless Collaboration

Reporting from Shanghai, China
Dec 29, 2020

The ESP32-powered Maypole looks like a USB stick. However, when it is configured appropriately, it turns any USB port into a hub for wireless collaboration.

Maypole is Akshar Vastarpara’s crowd-funded ESP32-powered gadget for wireless file storage from any place with an Internet connection. Maypole looks, and even functions, like a USB flash memory stick. But, thanks to the ESP32-PICO-D4 System-in-Package at its core, it also lets you to transfer files, over a 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi connection, to and from an on-board 32 GB MicroSD card. This means, of course, that it’s not just you who can transfer files this way. Configured appropriately, Maypole turns any USB port into a hub for wireless collaboration.

Maypole solves a number of problems right out of the box. Thanks to its inbuilt LiPo battery, you can use it to back up your data without even plugging it in. Alternatively, you can upload files through its USB interface, and distribute those files to others, in a small-group setting, without the malware risks involved in “passing around” a traditional USB stick.

But Maypole really shines when it is plugged into other devices. It is smart enough to know when it is being sent new data, which allows it to disconnect from anything that might be using it as a mass storage device, before updating the set of files that it makes available over a USB port. It can then reconnect automatically. Suppose, for example, you have a printer with the ability to read files from a USB flash drive. By plugging Maypole into that USB port, you can allow anyone on the local network to send print jobs.

It is not just about printers, though. Whether you are in an industrial setting, a workshop, a lab, a makerspace, or your own living room, there is a good chance you are sharing the room with something that accepts input files through a USB port. Examples include sewing machines, CNC routers, laser cutters, car stereos, digital picture frames, laboratory equipment, video projectors, bench-top tools, and countless other devices.

Maypole works in the other direction as well. Suppose you are installing a security camera in your office. While it is easy enough to find a camera that stores video in the Cloud these days, having a little more control over such potentially sensitive data can be quite tricky. You could buy a camera that records footage in an external USB device, but you would still want that video to be stored "off site”, for the sake of ensuring that your video will not disappear in case of a break-in. This is where Maypole comes in. Log footage directly to Maypole, then copy it down and delete it from anywhere within your Wi-Fi range. Or configure port-forwarding on the local router, implement access control or password protection, and manage your footage from anywhere with an Internet connection.

Technical Specifications

  • ESP32 - PICO - D4
  • Power
    • Support for batteries of up to 500 mAh
    • Battery protection
    • Automatic charging when Maypole is running off USB power
  • Wi-Fi Modes: STA, AP, or AP+STA mode
  • MicroSD: Support for cards of up to 32 GB

Maypole: ESP32-powered Wireless Storage from Anywhere

To get all the details about Maypole, please check out the relevant crowd-funding campaign. It has already exceeded its funding goal by 30%, nearly a whole month before the official end of the campaign.

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