New products, Conferences, Books, Papers, Internet of Things

Archive for May, 2013

Wanted for the Internet of Things: Ant-Sized Computers

freescalex299If the Internet is to reach everywhere—from the pills you swallow to the shoes on your feet—then computers will need to get a whole lot smaller. A new microchip that is two millimeters square and contains almost all the components of a tiny functioning computer is a promising start.

The KL02 chip, made by Freescale, is shorter on each side than most ants are long and crams in memory, RAM, a processor, and more. The genesis of the chip was a customer asking for help creating a wireless device small enough to be easily swallowed and cheap enough to be considered “digestible.” Freescale is now offering the chip for general sale, and also embarking on an R&D push to create more tiny computers that also include sensors and wireless data connections.

“The Internet of things is ultimately about services, like your thermostat connecting to the Internet and knowing when you’re coming home,” says Kaivan Karimi, director of global strategy for microcontrollers at Freescale, “but the technology those [services] are based on is embedded processing and sensors.”

If connected sensors are to be spread throughout the world around us, those technologies need to shrink in size, power consumption, and price, says Karimi. Freescale is betting that one of the best ways to do that is to integrate, into a single chip, components such as processors, memory, sensors, radios, and antennas that would usually be laid out across a circuit board.

More info here.

Control your HVAC Infrared Devices from the Internet with IR Remote

Cooking Hacks -the open hardware division of Libelium- has just released IR Remote, a small shield that allows you to record any infrared command sent by a remote control and resend it from the Internet. It works connected to Arduino and Raspberry Pi, and let us to control any HVAC system including heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and thermostats from the Cloud. More than 6 different wireless interfaces are available to connect Arduino and Raspberry Pi to the Internet: WiFi, 3G, GPRS, Bluetooth and 802.15.4 / ZigBee. With IR Remote you can easily control our home HVAC system from a laptop, a webserver or even from your smartphone. The shield is compatible with both Arduino and Raspberry Pi so you can choose your favourite platform to automate your home.

Read more.

Welcome Arduino Yún

Arduino_Y_n_isoMassimo Banzi announced it some minutes ago during his annual “The state of Arduino” presentation at Maker Faire Bay Area:  Arduino Yún  is the first of a revolutionary family of wifi products combining Arduino with Linux.

Yún means “cloud” in chinese language,  as the purpose of this board to make it simple to connect to complex web services directly from Arduino.

Designed in collaboration with Dog Hunter, a company with extensive experience with Linux, the board adopts the Linino distribution which provides signed packages to ensure the authenticity of the software installed on the device.

Historically, interfacing Arduino with complex web services has been quite a challenge due to the limited memory available and they tend to use verbose text based formats like XML that require quite a lot or ram to parse. On the Arduino Yún we have created the Bridge library which delegates all network connections and processing of HTTP transactions to the Linux machine.

Arduino Yún is the combination of a classic Arduino Leonardo (based on the Atmega32U4 processor) with a Wifi system-on-a-chip running Linino (a MIPS GNU/Linux based on OpenWRT). It’s based on the ATMega32u4 microcontroller and on the Atheros AR9331, a system on a chip running Linino, a customized version of OpenWRT, the most used Linux distribution for embedded devices.

Like a Leonardo, it has 14 digital input/output pins (of which 7 can be used as PWM outputs and 12 as analog inputs), a 16 MHz crystal oscillator and a micro USB connector.

More info here.

Mote learning

From the Economist:

TAKE a vast windowless hall. Squeeze in hundreds of garish booths vying to produce the loudest and most obnoxious music possible. Then add thousands of busy people and bake at a high temperature for several days. Visiting a large conference or trade show can be an unpleasant experience, as Babbage can attest from many years of writing about technology. Precisely how unpleasant, though, no one has measured until now. At Google’s annual I/O conference for developers in San Francisco this week, scientists are finally trying to turn sharp elbows, raised voices and sweaty brows into cold, hard data.

The Data Sensing Lab, a project of O’Reilly Media, has deployed over 500 sensor motes at key locations around the Moscone West centre. Each phone-sized mote is a self-contained computer based on a cheap Arudino micro-controller and linked with low power ZigBee digital radios. Some measure temperature, pressure, noise, humidity and light levels. Others are tracking air quality, the motion of crowds or how many mobile phones are being used nearby. Together, they form a network producing over 4,000 streams of data that are uploaded to Google’s Cloud Platform software for analysis.

The network is an example of the “internet of things”, where physical objects are digitally interconnected and communicate without human intervention. At a shindig like I/O, this could one day mean rooms pre-emptively activating air conditioners when they detect delegates arriving, or organisers rating speakers by the level of mobile phone use during their presentations.

At the Google event, the Data Sensing Lab showed live visualisations of people flowing out of seminars and forming an eager cluster around a stand showcasing Google Glass wearable computers. It also highlighted the noisiest area (the keynote by Larry Page, Google’s co-founder) and the quietest (a pop-up shop selling Google-branded products). All the data will be made freely available online after the conference wraps up.

More info here.

The history of the internet of things includes a Swedish hockey team and LEGOs

adam_dunkelsThirteen years ago Adam Dunkels was trying to hook up a hockey team in Lulea, Sweden with sensors and cameras so coaches and fans could track helmet cams and players’ vital signs. It was an academic project but it was also an early example of the internet of things. The project was doomed to fail for a variety of reasons, but out of that experience came a lightweight code for connecting devices called Lightweight IP.

A later version of that code became the base for LEGO Mindstorms and a variety of other connected projects. But Dunkels realized that to truly build a platform for connected devices he needed even lighter weight code. So he built Contiki, an operating system of sorts of the internet of things. And now he’s commercializing all that he’s learned in a startup called ThingSquare. In the podcast we discuss the history of the internet of things and when we reached the tipping point that made the internet of things inevitable.

Listen to the podcast here.

World’s First Online Development Environment for the Internet of Things Announced

Thingsquare  announced Thingsquare Code, to help connect products such as light bulbs, thermostats, and smart city systems to smartphone apps. Thingsquare Code is the world’s first online interactive development environment (IDE) for the Internet of Things and works with a number of recent chips that target the emerging Internet of Things market, from leading chip vendors Texas Instruments and ST Microelectronics.

Thingsquare Code lets developers of Internet of Things products program their wireless chips from a web browser. Before Thingsquare Code, developing Internet of Things products used to be time-consuming and would require extensive expertise on behalf of the developer. With Thingsquare Code, developers can quickly prototype and validate their products, directly from their web browsers.

“The latest IP/6LoWPAN solutions for IoT applications from Texas Instruments (TI) will be ready for Thingsquare Code,” said Oyvind Birkenes, general manager, Wireless Connectivity Solutions, TI. “Thingsquare opens the door to developers from various disciplines to connect their products faster to the Internet. This is truly revolutionary.”

“Thingsquare Code already works with a number of microprocessor platforms, including the ARM Cortex M3 and the TI MSP430,” said Thingsquare chief architect Adam Dunkels. “With our secure cloud connectivity solution, devices can be programmed without cables and without having to install compiler toolchains, which is a large step forward for IoT programming.”

Thingsquare Code is currently available for beta testers and will be available for use with a number of wireless chips for the emerging Internet of Things market developed by Texas Instruments and ST Microelectronics.

More info here.

LogMeIn and ARM want to help you build the internet of things

Just a few weeks ago, my colleague Stacey Higginbotham covered an interesting Spanish outfit called Carriots that’s building a platform-as-a-service (Paas) geared specifically towards the internet of things (IoT). As with other startups such as Electric Imp, the aim here is to make it super-simple for developers of connected devices and the services around them to, well, connect those devices. It’s a lot easier to innovate on top of an established platform than to rebuild the fundamentals each and every time.

Well, those startups now have seriously heavyweight competition in the form of LogMeIn, the remote connectivity specialist, and ARM, the British firm whose low-power chip designs underpin the vast majority of mobile devices, and which is now competing with Intel to own the IoT space.

LogMeIn has just launched its own PaaS for the internet of things, calling it Xively(the beta version was known as Cosm). And developers wanting to start creating connected devices on this platform are being offered the Xively Jumpstart Kit, which combines Xively with ARM’s mbed platform, for building devices using ARM’s microcontrollers. With this kit, the companies promise, developers can “rapidly progress from prototyping to volume deployment”.

Xively is based on LogMeIn’s Gravity infrastructure – the same one used to support the company’s cloud storage offering, Cubby — and it comes with development tools for writing and prototyping services, a provisioning engine for deployment and a scalable management console. It supports real-time messaging and directory and data services, as well as analytics, and it uses a “pay-as-you-grow” pricing model that should make the platform attractive to startups.

The directory services extend to a “commons” named the Xively Connected Object Cloud, through which different companies’ devices can interconnect. According to LogMeIn, a “fundamental philosophy” baked into the Xively terms of service states that “customers own their data and can choose whether or not to share all, part, or none [of] it.”

showcase page for the platform shows early projects built on Xively that include the Visualight smart lightbulb and even some of the post-Fukushimacrowdsourced radiation-monitoring efforts (which used an earlier iteration of the platform, called Pachube at the time).

More info here.