ESP8266 - LED Matrix via Web

In this tutorial, we will learn how to control LED matrix signboard via web interface using ESP8266. In detail, we will program ESP8266 to become a web server that does the following:

ESP8266 NodeMCU controls LED matrix signboard via web

Hardware Preparation

1×ESP8266 NodeMCU
1×Micro USB Cable
1×FC-16 LED Matrix 32x8
1×Breadboard
1×Jumper Wires
1×(Optional) DC Power Jack
1×(Optional) ESP8266 Screw Terminal Adapter

Or you can buy the following sensor kit:

1×DIYables Sensor Kit 30 types, 69 units
Disclosure: Some of the links provided in this section are Amazon affiliate links. We may receive a commission for any purchases made through these links at no additional cost to you. We appreciate your support.

Overview of LED Matrix and Web Server

We can use a pure HTTP to send a text from web interface to ESP8266. However, using WebSocket makes it looks more responsive and does not add much difficuity, So in this tutorial, we will use the WebSocket.

Unfamiliar with LED Matrix and Web Server and WebSocket, including their pinouts, functionality, and programming? Explore comprehensive tutorials on these topics below:

Wiring Diagram

The wiring diagram between ESP8266 NodeMCU and LED matrix display

This image is created using Fritzing. Click to enlarge image

See more in ESP8266's pinout and how to supply power to the ESP8266 and other components.

ESP8266 Code

The webpage's content (HTML, CSS, JavaScript) are stored separately on an index.h file. So, we will have two code files on Arduino IDE:

  • An .ino file that is ESP8266 code, which creates a web sever and WebSocket server
  • An .h file, which contains the webpage's content.

Detailed Instructions

To get started with ESP8266 on Arduino IDE, follow these steps:

  • Check out the how to setup environment for ESP8266 on Arduino IDE tutorial if this is your first time using ESP8266.
  • Wire the components as shown in the diagram.
  • Connect the ESP8266 board to your computer using a USB cable.
  • Open Arduino IDE on your computer.
  • Choose the correct ESP8266 board, such as (e.g. NodeMCU 1.0 (ESP-12E Module)), and its respective COM port.
  • Click to the Libraries icon on the left bar of the Arduino IDE.
  • Search “MD_Parola”, then find the MD_Parola library
  • Click Install button.
ESP8266 NodeMCU MD_Parola library
  • You will be asked to install the “MD_MAX72XX” library
  • Click Install All button to install the dependency.
ESP8266 NodeMCU MD_MAX72XX library
  • On Arduino IDE, create new sketch, Give it a name, for example, newbiely.com.ino
  • Copy the below code and open with Arduino IDE
/* * This ESP8266 NodeMCU code was developed by newbiely.com * * This ESP8266 NodeMCU code is made available for public use without any restriction * * For comprehensive instructions and wiring diagrams, please visit: * https://newbiely.com/tutorials/esp8266/esp8266-led-matrix-via-web */ #include <ESP8266WiFi.h> #include <ESP8266WebServer.h> #include <WebSocketsServer.h> #include "index.h" #include <MD_Parola.h> #include <MD_MAX72xx.h> #define HARDWARE_TYPE MD_MAX72XX::FC16_HW #define MAX_DEVICES 4 // 4 blocks #define CS_PIN D8 // The ESP8266 pin const char* ssid = "YOUR_WIFI_SSID"; // CHANGE IT const char* password = "YOUR_WIFI_PASSWORD"; // CHANGE IT ESP8266WebServer server(80); // Web server on port 80 WebSocketsServer webSocket = WebSocketsServer(81); // WebSocket server on port 81 // create an instance of the MD_Parola class MD_Parola ledMatrix = MD_Parola(HARDWARE_TYPE, CS_PIN, MAX_DEVICES); void webSocketEvent(uint8_t num, WStype_t type, uint8_t* payload, size_t length) { switch (type) { case WStype_DISCONNECTED: Serial.printf("[%u] Disconnected!\n", num); break; case WStype_CONNECTED: { IPAddress ip = webSocket.remoteIP(num); Serial.printf("[%u] Connected from %d.%d.%d.%d\n", num, ip[0], ip[1], ip[2], ip[3]); } break; case WStype_TEXT: String text = String((char*)payload); Serial.println("Received: " + text); ledMatrix.displayClear(); // clear led matrix display ledMatrix.displayScroll(text.c_str(), PA_CENTER, PA_SCROLL_LEFT, 100); String echoMessage = "Displayed: " + String((char*)payload) + " on LED Matrix"; webSocket.sendTXT(num, echoMessage)); break; } } void setup() { Serial.begin(9600); ledMatrix.begin(); // initialize the object ledMatrix.setIntensity(0); // set the brightness of the LED matrix display (from 0 to 15) ledMatrix.displayClear(); // clear led matrix display ledMatrix.displayScroll("newbiely.com", PA_CENTER, PA_SCROLL_LEFT, 100); delay(1000); // Connect to Wi-Fi WiFi.begin(ssid, password); while (WiFi.status() != WL_CONNECTED) { delay(1000); Serial.println("Connecting to WiFi..."); } Serial.println("Connected to WiFi"); // Initialize WebSocket server webSocket.begin(); webSocket.onEvent(webSocketEvent); // Serve a basic HTML page with JavaScript to create the WebSocket connection server.on("/", HTTP_GET, []() { Serial.println("Web Server: received a web page request"); String html = HTML_CONTENT; // Use the HTML content from the index.h file server.send(200, "text/html", html); }); server.begin(); Serial.print("ESP8266 Web Server's IP address: "); Serial.println(WiFi.localIP()); } void loop() { // Handle client requests server.handleClient(); // Handle WebSocket events webSocket.loop(); if (ledMatrix.displayAnimate()) { ledMatrix.displayReset(); } }
  • Create the index.h file On Arduino IDE by:
    • Either click on the button just below the serial monitor icon and choose New Tab, or use Ctrl+Shift+N keys.
    Arduino IDE 2 adds file
    • Give the file's name index.h and click OK button
    Arduino IDE 2 adds file index.h
    • Copy the below code and paste it to the index.h.
    /* * This ESP8266 NodeMCU code was developed by newbiely.com * * This ESP8266 NodeMCU code is made available for public use without any restriction * * For comprehensive instructions and wiring diagrams, please visit: * https://newbiely.com/tutorials/esp8266/esp8266-led-matrix-via-web */ const char *HTML_CONTENT = R"=====( <!DOCTYPE html> <!-- saved from url=(0019)http://192.168.0.2/ --> <html><head><meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=windows-1252"> <title>ESP8266 WebSocket</title> <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=0.7"> <link rel="icon" href="https://diyables.io/images/page/diyables.svg"> <style> /* Add some basic styling for the chat window */ body { font-size: 16px; } .chat-container { width: 400px; margin: 0 auto; padding: 10px; } .chat-messages { height: 250px; overflow-y: auto; border: 1px solid #444; padding: 5px; margin-bottom: 5px; } .user-input { display: flex; margin-bottom: 20px; } .user-input input { flex: 1; border: 1px solid #444; padding: 5px; } .user-input button { margin-left: 5px; background-color: #007bff; color: #fff; border: none; padding: 5px 10px; cursor: pointer; } .websocket { display: flex; align-items: center; margin-bottom: 5px; } .websocket button { background-color: #007bff; color: #fff; border: none; padding: 5px 10px; cursor: pointer; } .websocket .label { margin-left: auto; } </style> <script> var ws; var wsm_max_len = 4096; /* bigger length causes uart0 buffer overflow with low speed smart device */ function update_text(text) { var chat_messages = document.getElementById("chat-messages"); chat_messages.innerHTML += text + '<br>'; chat_messages.scrollTop = chat_messages.scrollHeight; } function send_onclick() { if(ws != null) { var message = document.getElementById("message").value; if (message) { document.getElementById("message").value = ""; ws.send(message + "\n"); update_text('<span style="color:navy">' + message + '</span>'); // You can send the message to the server or process it as needed } } } function connect_onclick() { if(ws == null) { ws = new WebSocket("ws://" + window.location.host + ":81"); document.getElementById("ws_state").innerHTML = "CONNECTING"; ws.onopen = ws_onopen; ws.onclose = ws_onclose; ws.onmessage = ws_onmessage; } else ws.close(); } function ws_onopen() { document.getElementById("ws_state").innerHTML = "<span style='color:blue'>CONNECTED</span>"; document.getElementById("bt_connect").innerHTML = "Disconnect"; document.getElementById("chat-messages").innerHTML = ""; } function ws_onclose() { document.getElementById("ws_state").innerHTML = "<span style='color:gray'>CLOSED</span>"; document.getElementById("bt_connect").innerHTML = "Connect"; ws.onopen = null; ws.onclose = null; ws.onmessage = null; ws = null; } function ws_onmessage(e_msg) { e_msg = e_msg || window.event; // MessageEvent console.log(e_msg.data); update_text('<span style="color:blue">' + e_msg.data + '</span>'); } </script> </head> <body> <div class="chat-container"> <h2>ESP8266 WebSocket</h2> <div class="websocket"> <button class="connect-button" id="bt_connect" onclick="connect_onclick()">Connect</button> <span class="label">WebSocket: <span id="ws_state"><span style="color:blue">CLOSED</span></span></span> </div> <div class="chat-messages" id="chat-messages"></div> <div class="user-input"> <input type="text" id="message" placeholder="Type your message..."> <button onclick="send_onclick()">Send</button> </div> <div class="sponsor">Sponsored by <a href="https://amazon.com/diyables">DIYables</a></div> </div> </body></html> )=====";
    • Now you have the code in two files: newbiely.com.ino and index.h
    • Click Upload button on Arduino IDE to upload code to ESP8266.
    • Open the Serial Monitor
    • Check out the result on Serial Monitor.
    COM6
    Send
    Connecting to WiFi... Connected to WiFi ESP8266 Web Server's IP address IP address: 192.168.0.2
    Autoscroll Show timestamp
    Clear output
    9600 baud  
    Newline  
    • Take note of the IP address displayed, and enter this address into the address bar of a web browser on your smartphone or PC.
    • You will see the webpage it as below:
    ESP8266 NodeMCU websocket web browser
    • Click the CONNECT button to connect the webpage to ESP8266 via WebSocket.
    • Type some words and send them to ESP8266.
    • You will see the response from ESP8266.
    ESP8266 NodeMCU websocket chat server

    ※ NOTE THAT:

    • If you modify the HTML content in the index.h and does not touch anything in newbiely.com.ino file, when you compile and upload code to ESP8266, Arduino IDE will not update the HTML content.
    • To make Arduino IDE update the HTML content in this case, make a change in the newbiely.com.ino file (e.g. adding empty line, add a comment....)

    Line-by-line Code Explanation

    The above ESP8266 code contains line-by-line explanation. Please read the comments in the code!