Pointr is an open data smart street sign


Press a button and this AVR powered street sign will point you in the right direction.


During a recent hackathon, one team from South African hackerspace BinarySpace was tasked with building something that could make use of openly available government data in a creative way. For this endeavor, the group took inspiration from BREAKFAST NY’s XMEGA powered Points Sign — an intelligent street sign that parses real-time data to point you in the direction of the most interesting things happening around you.

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With this in mind, BinarySpace developed a similar sign dubbed Pointr. Intended for public use, this DIY installation is capable of guiding people towards one of four different government facilities — home affairs, libraries, child services and courthouses — as well as four types of emergency features: police, hospital, fire department and a panic button for immediate assistance.

The body of Pointr is comprised of PVC pipe, a steel pipe and several 3D-printed parts. Housed inside is the belt/pulley mechanism that allows the arms of the sign to swivel. An offset motor gives the project its ability to rotate 360 degrees, albeit not continuously.

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“This means that if the sign is pointing at 340 degrees and needed to go to 10 degrees, it would basically move counter clockwise to 10 degrees instead of just moving forward over 360 to 10 degrees. For our purpose this wasn’t an issue at all,” the Makers explain.

At the heart of the system lies an Arduino Mega (ATmega2560) along with a RAMPS 1.4 shield driving the stepper motors. Pointr’s software is handled by the Arduino, which processes the location data directly and then sends the message to its corresponding LED screen.

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For the control panel, the team mounted eight buttons onto 3D-printed panels along with 3D-printed icons indicating each use. Moreover, all three arms boast an LED screen to reveal the intended target once a button is pushed. The idea is that, if a user presses the panic button, the police will be immediately notified that someone requires help nearby the sign. Press any of the others and it will point the three signs to wherever you intend on going.

Intrigued? You can see the prototype in action below!

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