Internet of Things, Bangalore (IoTBLR) is a thriving do-it-yourself (DIY) community populated by enthusiasts working to create stuff for the Internet of Things (IoT). Nihal Kashinath, founder of the group and Nagasai Arun Panchakarla, co-organiser, tell us about the relevance of DIY for building the IoT
By Janani Gopalakrishnan Vikram
How do you perceive your group as making a positive contribution towards the emerging IoT?
Nihal: In the short term, creating awareness and building enthusiasm about the IoT amongst professionals will help drive the movement. As more people get involved, they learn from each other, come up with several great ideas, implement them and extend the IoT network.
In the long term, introducing kids to building things will make them excited about IoT and help make it sustainable. Along with all this, bringing in companies and commercialising technology will ensure that the economics work out, which is critical to the success of any large-scale movement. Our group is basically building the ecosystem to make all this happen.
There are several boards available today for DIY projects, such as the Arduino and the Raspberry Pi, but I guess the components you require for IoT projects might have different requirements in terms of form factor, power consumption, amongst others? Can you provide some information on the kind of components you use?
Nagasai: Yes the components required vary a lot amongst IoT projects, especially to tackle the constraints of processing power, memory, power consumption, amongst others.
For initial prototyping, we are working on crowd-sourcing of the resources and boards such as Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Beagleboard, Telos B, amongst others.
For commercialised versions, we need to design our own cost-effective hardware solution based on MSP430, EFM32 and STM32 and low-power radio transceivers. Moore’s Law will play a significant role in the IoT but not as it was portrayed, to improve processing power.
In the IoT case, it would be mostly used to improve power consumption and reducing cost of the hardware. So, to create an IoT product, we need to have custom hardware according to the requirements and design. And we need to create a knowledge base around that.
There are many platforms today that claim to ease connectivity for IoT products—Contiki-based Thingsquare, Xively, amongst others. Do you think these are worth the bucks, or do you go with just plain vanilla operating systems for your projects?
Nihal: I personally advocate building on others’ work in this space, since they have already solved certain problems and you do not have to waste time and resources (funds, expertise and energy) solving the same problems again. Makes a huge difference when working with limited resources and when time-to-market is critical. For open source, that already happens fairly efficiently.
With proprietary/closed systems, there is an inherent loss of control over the project parameters. If that does not affect your design too much, go for it. Of course, it also depends on the resources you are willing to spend on this.
Nagasai: One needs to be aware of which licence they are using, and adhere to the open standards by IETF and IEEE, amongst others. As we look at history and the success of open platforms, I think using open platforms that comply with standards is the right way to go. Open platforms that allow commercialisation of the product will tremendously reduce the time required to bring the product to the market.
For example, Contiki operating system is a BSD-style licence, which allows commercialisation of the product. And the cloud platforms such as Thingsquare, Xively and Thingworx also provide APIs for data management, which bring the development cycle down from months to days.
Snazzy Wearables at CES 2014
Subsequent to looking at some interesting home automation tools showcased at CES 2014 in the previous issue, let us now take a quick look at some exciting ‘connected’ wearable technologies.
Epson’s Moverio BT-200. These smart glasses fuse video and images over your actual view of the surroundings. With advanced projection and optics technology, these transparent smart glasses enable a full 360-degree, interactive experience of 3D games, video entertainment and augmented reality applications.
With a powerful processor and a whole range of apps available on the Moverio Apps Market, this Android device is GPS-capable and equipped with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0 and Miracast connectivity.
Netatmo’s June. Too little of the sun will result in weak bones while too much of it causes sunburns! Well, just how much can you manage? Netatmo’s June is a trendy bracelet that helps women manage their sun exposure. It measures sun exposure using ultraviolet (UV) sensors and works with a companion iPhone app to give personalised sun protection advice to avoid sun damage and prevent premature skin aging.
Jaybird Reign. There is nothing new about fitness bands, many of which are doing the rounds today. But, the Jaybird Reign caught the fancy of viewers at CES as it has a unique feature of suggesting a ‘Go-Zone’ for you, which is the best time for you to exercise.
Of course, it also monitors your physical activities such as walking, running and cycling and also detects transitions between activities. Additionally, it also monitors sleep patterns and warns when you need rest.
FiLIP. After jewellery, clothes and footwear, now wearable technology for kids! FiLIP is a wearable locator and phone with GPS, Wi-Fi, cell tower location and cellular voice capability, which provides reliable communication. But, it is not a real phone! As in, FiLIP tries to solve the contradictory problem of wanting to stay in touch with your kids 24×7 yet not entrust them with a full-fledged phone at too young an age.
FiLIP—wearable locator and phone
So, this watch and phone that works with a mobile app achieves the goal of: “One touch to call your child. One touch for them to call you. One touch to locate.” The best part is that it is attractively designed to please kids!
Slide’em gloves. Though not a technology product per se, this product got noted at the CES by virtue of being a tech usage enabler. The special winter gloves from Slide’em enable people to use touch screen devices even in the worst winters despite wearing thick gloves for warmth.
A specially formulated conductive material is designed into each fingertip for typing and texting with high accuracy. There is also a slider pad on the index finger and thumb for swiping left to right or sliding to unlock the device. The design of the glove displays a deep understanding of people’s usage of touch screen devices.
The author is a technically-qualified freelance writer, editor and hands-on mom based in Chennai