Let's take a look at four excellent popular platforms: MbientLab MetaWear, ESP8266, Arduino, and Raspberry Pi.
It is important to note that the MetaWear, ESP8266, and Arduino are microcontrollers: low-powered computers that are designed to run one program at a time. They have the advantage of consuming less power and are often less expensive than a full computer. Most have less than 4MB flash memory and equally small amounts of RAM, which means that they cannot run the large operating systems that we're accustomed to. But, what if you need to create a device that can do multiple things at once?
This is where the Raspberry Pi comes in. It is a small computer that supports Linux and Windows 10. Depending on the model, it has 256, 512, or 1024MB of RAM, and supports most microSD cards. If you have a project that requires interaction with digital sensors you can use Node.js along with custom drivers to control them directly from the Pi. If you have an analog sensor (see Analog vs. Digital), it can be combined with Arduino and Johnny-Five. Raspberry Pi units start at $5 and typically average about $15 if you include an SD card and Wi-Fi adapter, which makes them a very inexpensive segue into IoT development.
Lance Gleason will be speaking about this topic at All Things Open in Raleigh on October 26.