my thoughts on programming and other nerdy stuff

What you need to know about the Internet of Things


The past few years I have spent some time using var­i­ous API’s in the inter­net. Who hasn’t? Com­pa­nies like http://​mash​ery​.com list thou­sands of API’s.  The inter­con­nec­tion of these API’s is becom­ing a com­mod­ity — just look at http://​ifttt​.com (If this Then That .com ) or http://​zapier​.com .

Well the first eye opener came when Belkin brought out their WeMo line:

WeMo is a fam­ily of sim­ple and cus­tomiz­able prod­ucts that allow you to con­trol home elec­tron­ics from anywhere.

One of many recipies to connect something in the internet to something in your home

One of many recip­ies to con­nect some­thing in the inter­net to some­thing in your home

WeMo can inter­act with web-based social media and apps through a great ser­vice called IFTTT. When the front door opens, for exam­ple, you get a text or email. Visit IFTTT and check out recipes for some wild things you can do with WeMo.  more >

Once I was more aware of this, I started see­ing Blog posts like this: Using Siri to turn on the Christ­mas lights

If you start look­ing at the suc­cess­ful Kick­starter projects, you can find many that started out as “Inter­net Con­nected Elec­tron­ics” like the type that have been show­ing up on Maker sites.

  • Plant Link is a sys­tem that mon­i­tors the water needs of your lawn, gar­den, or house plants. It alerts you when they need to be watered and can even water them for you.
  • Don’t sali­vate in vain at the deli­cious food your favorite chefs make. Nomiku cooks sous vide at a very pre­cise temperature.

So for Christ­mas I got an Arduino starter set.  This might seem daunt­ing to some, but I did start of col­lege study­ing Com­puter Engi­neer­ing with basic Elec­tri­cal Engi­neer­ing classes.

With the Arduino I was SHOCKED at how easy it was to con­trol hard­ware using an API just like I had been using the past years in the Web.

After the blink­ing LED exam­ple, I did the “play music” project with my startet kit.  There was a sim­ple “API” for play­ing a tone using the piezo speaker — for exam­ple:
tone(buzzerPin, frequency(notes[i]), duration);

Then I added an Actu­a­tor which con­verted a touch along a strip to a value between 0 and 1000, so I could play a scale by con­vert­ing the value from the Actu­a­tor to one of the 7 “Tones” I had setup in an Array.

void loop()
int sensorValue;
// Read the voltage from the softpot (0-1023)
sensorValue = analogRead(0);

void playNote(int RGBposition) {
int indexVal;
if (RGBposition < 10 ) { noTone(13); } else { indexVal = (RGBposition / 128) ; char names[] = { 'c', 'd', 'e', 'f', 'g', 'a', 'b', 'C' }; char currentNote = names[indexVal]; tone(buzzerPin, frequency(currentNote)); } }

When you take a step back an con­sider that this was a $25 con­troller board with a few wires, an Actu­a­tor for less than $1, and a piezo speaker for less than $1 which was pow­ered by a USB port, you start to see that cre­at­ing your own hard­ware attached to the inter­net is not that far off for a programmer.

Con­sider that a WiFI Shield (daugh­ter board) ist around $30, or one with just eth­er­net or blue­tooth a bit less…

Con­sider that a sim­i­lar type of board — the Rasp­berry Pi is basi­cally a full on x86 com­pat­i­ble PC with USB, WiFi, HDMI, and a Video/Audio Chip capa­ble of  HDTV — costs less than $50! It has sim­i­lar ports and capa­bil­i­ties (API / Libraries) for “talk­ing” to the hard­ware com­po­nents you attach via the ana­log or dig­i­tal ports, and you start to see that con­nect­ing your grill ther­mome­ter to the inter­net, and log­ging the tem­per­a­ture every minute to a Google spread­sheet doesn’t seem that hard anymore.

In 2013 Start fol­low­ing a blog which lists new Arduino add-ons like this onehttp://​www​.adafruit​.com/​b​l​o​g​/​c​a​t​e​g​o​r​y​/​a​r​d​u​i​no/ and you will have a non-stop flow of new ideas of what could become part of the “Inter­net of Things”.  Here are some exam­ples which inspired me:

  • The Arduino Esplora is a micro­con­troller board derived from the Arduino Leonardo. The Esplora dif­fers from all pre­ced­ing Arduino boards in that it pro­vides a num­ber of built-in, ready-to-use setof onboard sen­sors for inter­ac­tion. The Esplora has onboard sound and light out­puts, and sev­eral input sen­sors, includ­ing a joy­stick, a slider, a tem­per­a­ture sen­sor, an accelerom­e­ter, a micro­phone, and a light sen­sor. It also has the poten­tial to expand its capa­bil­i­ties with two Tin­kerkit input and out­put con­nec­tors, and a socket for a color TFT LCD screen. 
  • Robotic Arm Edge - With Robotic Arm Edge, com­mand the grip­per to open and close, wrist motion of 120 degrees, an exten­sive elbow range of 300 degrees, base rota­tion of 270 degrees, base motion of 180 degrees, ver­ti­cal reach of 15 inches, hor­i­zon­tal reach of 12.6 inches, and lift­ing capac­ity of 100g.
  • The Arduino Micro con­tains every­thing needed to sup­port the micro­con­troller; sim­ply con­nect it to a com­puter with a micro USB cable to get started. It has a form fac­tor that enables it to be eas­ily placed on a breadboard.

Have fun, and share your ideas with me!

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Author: poornerd

Tech­nol­o­gist, Entre­pre­neur, Vision­ary, Pro­gram­mer :: Grad­u­ated from USC (Uni­ver­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia) with a degree in Com­puter Sci­ence. After 10+ years of free­lance con­sult­ing and pro­gram­ming, he co-founded Site­Force AG eBusi­ness Solu­tions in 1999 in Munich (München), Ger­many.

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