The smart router is ready for IoT play


The evolution of router has reached the IoT’s doorsteps, and it raises some interesting prospects for industrial and smart home markets.


The router used to be largely a dumb device. Not anymore in the Internet of Things arena where node intelligence is imperative to make a play of the sheer amount of data acquired from sensors, machines and other ‘things.’ The IoT router marks a new era of network intelligence — but what makes a router smart?

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For starters, it employs embedded hardware platforms with DIY capabilities while balancing the performance and power consumption requirements. Next, an IoT router provides the operational status on an LCD screen while manipulating the data from different interfaces. In human machine interface (HMI) applications, for example, a smart router offers LCD and touch screen interfaces on expansion I/Os.

Take the case of the DAB-OWRT-53 smart router, which is developed by the Belgian design house DAB-Embedded. The sub-100 euro device — based on Atmel’s SAMA5D36 processor and OpenWRT router hardware platform — is mainly targeted at smart home and industrial IoT applications.

The smart router of DAB-Embedded

The IoT router supports popular wireless interfaces such as Wi-Fi, ZigBee and Z-Wave, as well as a diverse number of wired interfaces including Ethernet, USB, CAN 2.0A/B, KNX and RS-232. And all the data from these interfaces can be stored in either microSD card or NAND flash.

Anatomy of Smart Router

The Atmel | SMART SAMA5D36 is at the heart of the smart router design. First and foremost, it optimizes power consumption in the battery-operated router that features 3.7V lithium polymer battery support with charging capability over a microUSB connector. The router boasts eight hours of battery lifetime while being in full ON mode with Wi-Fi communications.

Second, the ARM Cortex-A5 processor shows a robust performance in the communications domain. For instance, the SAMA5D36 implements routing functionality to transfer data from one Ethernet port to another in a way that router designers don’t require an external hardware hub or switch. Moreover, Atmel’s MPU offers greater flexibility to run a lot of embedded software packages such as OpenZWave and LinuxMCE.

Third, the SAMA5D36-based IoT router offers users the ability to manipulate firewall settings, Disable PING, Telnet, SSH and UPnP features. Furthermore, the hardware security block in SAMA5D3 processor allows the use of CryptoDev Linux drivers to speed up the OpenSSL implementation. The Wi-Fi module — powered by Atmel’s WILC3000 single-chip solution — also supports the IEEE 802.11 WEP, WPA and WPA2 security mechanisms.

The smart router of DAB-Embedded employs Active-Semi’s ACT8945AQJ305-T power management IC, but the real surprise is Altera’s MAX 10 FPGA with an integrated analog-to-digital converter (ADC). That brings the additional flexibility for the main CPU: Atmel’s SAMA5D36.

The FPGA is connected to the 16-bit external bus interface (EBI) so that IoT developers can put any IP core in FPGA for communication with external sensors. All data is converted inside the FPGA to a specific format by using NIOS II’s soft CPU in FPGA. Next, the SAMA5D36 processor reads this data by employing DMA channel over the high-speed mezzanine card (HSMC) bus.

An FPGA has enough cells to start even two soft cores for data preprocessing. Case in point: A weather station with 8-channel external ADC managing light sensors, temperature sensors, pressure sensors and more. It’s connected to the FPGA together with PPS signal from GPS for correct time synchronization of each measurement.

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OpenWRT Framework

The SAMA5D36 embedded processor enables DAB’s smart router design to customize free OpenWRT Linux firmware according to the specific IoT application needs. The OpenWRT framework facilitates an easy way to set up router-like devices equipped with communications interfaces such as dual-port Ethernet and Wi-Fi connection.

What’s more, by using the OpenWRT framework, an IoT developer can add now his or her own application (C/C++) to exchange data with a KNX or Z-Wave transceiver. OpenWRT even supports the Lua embedded interpreter.

Next, while DAB-Embedded has built its smart router using the embedded Linux with OpenWRT framework, Belgium’s design house also offers a board support package (BSP) based on the Windows Embedded Compact 2013 software. That’s for IoT developers who have invested in Windows applications and want to use them on the new hardware: the DAB-OWRT-53 smart router.

Later, the embedded design firm plans to release smart router hardware based on the Windows 10 IoT software and Atmel’s SAMA5D family of embedded processors. The Belgian developer of IoT products has vowed to release the second version of its router board based on Atmel’s SAMA5D4 embedded processor and WILC3000 chipset that comes integrated with power amplifier, LNA, switch and power management. Atmel’s WILC3000 single-chip solution boasts IEEE 802.11 b/g/n RF/baseband/MAC link controller and Bluetooth 4.0 connection.


Majeed Ahmad is the author of books Smartphone: Mobile Revolution at the Crossroads of Communications, Computing and Consumer Electronics and The Next Web of 50 Billion Devices: Mobile Internet’s Past, Present and Future.

This 3D-printed, Arduino-powered robotic mower will take care of your lawn for you


Build your own Ardumower for less than $300.


Mowing the lawn; it’s a nice slice of solitude and exercise for some, and an arduous task for others, to be avoided at all costs. If you fall into that second category, then the Ardumower might be for you. According to its description,“With this download project you can build your own robotic lawn mower at a fraction of the cost that one would have to apply for a commercial one.”

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The mower itself is an interesting build, with a nicely sloped canopy and driving wheels that resemble something found inside of a clock. Housed inside is an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) and a motor driver board for control. Two 12V electrical motors are used for locomotion around a yard, while another motor turns the cutting blade.

The robo-mower is kept within your yard using a boundary wire fence to tell it when it has reached the limits of its domain. As seen in the video below, it also has some obstacle avoidance capability, though it would likely be best to keep it in an area free from animals, children, and irresponsible adults!

If you want to assemble one yourself, you can do so for about $250-$300 — a fraction of the cost of its commercial counterparts. A manual, which is available for $12.16, claims to give step-by-step directions to build your own Ardumower (or maybe two for larger lawns!), as well as info on how to create the boundary fence.

This machine can print pictures using drops of coffee, wine and other liquids


Just when you thought you’ve seen it all…


If you’ve ever been to a Maker Faire, then chances are you’ve stumbled upon the PancakeBot, a CNC machine that extrudes delicious art out of batter. A few years ago, RIT Assistant Professor Ted Kinsman decided that he wanted to print using something other than ink as well. His choice? Coffee, or any other material with low viscosity.

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The machine itself is an xy-axis printer equipped with a solenoid liquid valve, stepper motors for positioning and an Arduino, which can store images of approximately 80×100 pixels. However, despite its mediocre resolution, it does plot human faces fairly well. The drip size, the nozzle distance and the paper that the beads of coffee extract fall onto can all be changed.

“For many years I have thought about building a machine that could paint for me,” he explains. “Since I always have leftover coffee, I thought it would be a fun medium to play with.”

For what it lacks in resolution, it surely makes up for in cost — Kinsman says that it’s super inexpensive to create images. To begin, the professor snaps a picture, heightens the contrast and converts that into a PGM file that the Arduino could read. The sketch then prints a test grid, which can be modified by dropping in a PGM image and adjusting the space between drops. As MAKE: notes, the grayscale is converted to an array of dots whose darkness corresponds to the length of time that the valve of the pipette opens to release a coffee drop.

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“Each of the pixels is turned into a number from 0 (no coffee) to 256 (the largest drip size). The size of each pixel is controlled by determining how long to open the drip valve for — the largest drop (and darkest pixel) requires the valve to be open for 63 milliseconds. In this way, the machine currently can do 53 different shades of coffee,” according to PetaPixel.

A Mariotte’s siphon is employed to ensure that the depth of the coffee in the reservoir won’t affect the pressure, which in turn could influence the size of the drops. Each print requires about an hour from start to finish, but takes roughly a day to fully dry.

Looking ahead, Kinsman would like to explore the possibility of adding another stepper motor so that he can make spirographs or use a syringe that would enable him to print with thicker liquids. But until then, you can watch it in action below (note that the machine is using blue ink) and read more about the project here.

 

Atmel wireless connectivity supports industrial IoT revolution


The BTLC1000 exhibits the lowest BLE power consumption in the industry.


With both this year’s CES and Embedded World now behind us, it’ll be interesting to see which of the gadgets unveiled during these shows find a way to market — some will go to production, others won’t. I am skeptic about the smart shoe offering self-fastening mechanism… And during these two weeks, the IoT revolution has silently progressed in industrial automation. (You will be surprised if you read some very serious white papers extracted from the Internet of Things series published by Bosch.)

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While attendees flocked to Vegas, progresses were made in industrial automation thanks to hard work being done in Germany. In fact, these two worlds — consumer oriented and industrial — are both relying on wireless connectivity, including products from Atmel: the ATWILC1000, ATWILC1500 or ATWILC3000 supporting Wi-Fi and ATBLC1000 supporting BTLE 4.1,which  was recently crowned “Product of the Year” from Electronic Products.

According to Bosch’s white paper “Leveraging the Internet of Things: Companies can streamline business processes for stakeholders across the extended enterprise,” we realize that Bosch’s managers have brainstormed about the IoT to extract the added business value for the enterprise, like for example, “in manufacturing, data automatically collected from smart and connected products, give companies meaningful feedback as to how products should be reengineered, and provides opportunities for additional revenue through selling services.”

In order to become smart and connected, industrial products need to integrate either a Wi-Fi connection supported by ATWINC1500, or a Bluetooth supported by the very tiny (see above) ATBTLC1000.

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Shows the requirements for scalability on two current customer PoCs at Bosch Software Innovations. These PoCs start in year one with a very low umber of connected devices and sensors. However, in a short space of time, they scale massively upward for commercial launch and rollout.

From the above graphic, extracted from another white paper from Bosch, “Realizing the connected world-how to choose the right IoT platform,” we can derive two crucial information. The first is the fact that IoT is already a reality in the industrial market segment, not really known to be fashion driven like could be consumer electronic. The second information is about scalability. In both examples, the number of connected devices was very low, but in a short space of time they scale massively, reaching 500k devices for the first and up to 3 million for the other. A single industrial automation application can generate a very good semiconductor business, including sensors, MCU and wireless connectivity device. In our previous blog, we have investigated the ATWINCxx00 family bringing Wi-Fi connectivity to any embedded design. Let’s take a look at the award winner ATBTLC1000 device supporting BT 4.1 connectivity.

Atmel's BTLC1000

The BTLC1000 is an ultra-low power Bluetooth SMART (BLE 4.1) SoC with an integrated ARM Cortex-M0 MCU, a transceiver, a modem, MAC, PA, TR Switch, and a power management unit (PMU). It can be used as a BLE link controller or data pump with external host MCU, or as a standalone applications processor with embedded BLE connectivity and external memory. If we look at the key features list:

  • BLE4.1 compliant SoC and protocol stack
  • Lowest BLE power consumption in industry
  • Smallest BLE 4.1 SoC — Available in WLCSP (2.26×2.14mm) or QFN ( 32p 4×4 mm)
  • Optimized system cost — High level of integration on chip reduces external Bill of Material significantly
  • Wide operating Voltage range — 1.8 – 4.3V
  • Host Interface — SPI or UART
  • Certified modules — FCC, ETSI/CE, TELEC
  • Enterprise Development support & tools with the ATBTLC1000 Xplained Pro

The main reasons why the Atmel BTLC1000 has won the Electronic Design award are power, cost and certification. This chip not only exhibits the lowest BLE power consumption in the industry, it’s also the smallest BLE 4.1 SoC (see picture) offering optimized system cost, thanks to high level of integration. If companies like Bosch supporting industrial automation segment for years (if not centuries) start to be seriously involved into smart connected IoT systems, no doubt that ATBTLC1000 and ATWILC1000 devices have a bright future…


This post has been republished with permission from SemiWiki.com, where Eric Esteve is a principle blogger and one of the four founding members of the site. This blog first appeared on SemiWiki on January 10, 2016.

SensorTape is a sensor network in the form factor of masking tape


Sensor deployment made as simple as cutting and attaching strips of tape.


Developed by students from MIT Media Lab’s Responsive Environments group, SensorTape is a sensor network in the form factor of masking tape. Inspired by the emergence of modular platforms throughout the Maker community, it consists of interconnected and programmable sensor nodes on a flexible electronics substrate. In other words, it’s pretty much a roll of circuits that can be cut, rejoined and affixed to various surfaces.

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And what’s even cooler is that it’s a completely self-aware network, capable of feeling itself bend and twist. It can automatically determine the location of each of its nodes and the length of the tape, as it is cut and reattached.

As the neighboring nodes talk to one another, they can use their information to assemble an accurate, real-time 3D model of their assumed shape. Tapes with different sensors can also be connected for mixed functionality.

SensorTape’s architecture is made up of daisy-chained slave nodes and a master. The master is concerned with coordinating the communication and shuttling data to a computer, while each slave node features an ATmega328P, three on-board sensors (an ambient light sensor, an accelerometer, and a time-of-flight distance sensor), two voltage regulators and LEDs. The master contains the same AVR MCU, as well as serial-to-USB converter and a Bluetooth transceiver. The tape can be clipped to the master without soldering using a flexible circuit connector.

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In terms of communication protocol, the team chose a combination of I²C and peer-to-peer serial. Whereas I²C supports most of the data transmissions from the master to slave, addresses are ‘assigned dynamically’ over peer-to-peer serial. This enables a fast transfer rate of 100 KHz via I²C with a protocol initialization sequence that accommodates chains of various lengths, up to 128 units long. (For testing, the MIT Media Lab crew developed a 2.3-meter prototype with 66 sensor nodes.)

Aside from its hardware, SensorTape has black lines that instruct where it’s okay to cut and break the circuits using a pair of scissors. As you can see in the image above, this can be either in a straight line or on a diagonal, which allows you to piece together the tape into 2D shapes just as you would when forming a picture frame.

Although still in its infancy, sample use cases of SensorTape include everything from posture-monitoring wearables to inventory tracking to home activity sensing. What’s more, the team has created an intuitive graphical interface for programming the futuristic tape, and it’s all Arduino-friendly so Makers will surely love getting their hands on it and letting their imaginations run wild. You read all about the project in the MIT group’s paper, as well as on Fast Company.

Bring the weather forecast to your Chucks


Hack a pair of Converse using an Adafruit FLORA, NeoPixels and a Bluetooth LE module that relays weather data from your phone.


San Francisco-based creative studio Chapter, in collaboration with Converse, have hacked a pair of Chuck Taylors to bring the forecast to your feet.

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The Converse Beacon consists of an Adafruit FLORA board (ATmega32U4), a Bluefruit LE module and a NeoPixel ring, which together, can alert you to custom weather conditions through IFTTT. In other words, your sneaks can let you know when rain is coming, when the surf is just right, or when conditions are perfect to take a stroll outside. Talk about walkin’ on sunshine!

What’s more, you’re not just limited to weather. Once you’ve connected IFTTT to the Adafruit channel, you open the door to hundreds of possible recipes that link various inputs to your NeoPixels.

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Think you want to relay data from your smartphone to create stylish alerts on your Chucks? Then check out Chapter’s full project write-up on Hackster.io.

The Ski Buddy is a FLORA-powered coat that teaches you to ski


A DIY wearable system that can make learning to ski fun for kids.


As anyone who has ever hit the slopes will tell you, learning to ski can be quite challenging — especially for youngsters. Tired of seeing children be screamed at by parents trying to teach them to ski, Maker “Mkarpawich2001” decided to develop a wearable system that would make the process much more enjoyable for kids.

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The Ski Buddy is an electronic jacket that helps novice skiers through the use of lights. Based on an Adafruit FLORA (ATmega32U4), the coat is equipped with an accelerometer, a AAA battery pack, and conductive thread that connects to LED sequins.

“Knowing that childhood memorizes can unintentionally affect our adult lives, I sought out to come up with a tool to help making the process of learning to ski fun for kids at young ages,” the Maker writes. “Of course, all children love light-up toys, so why not transfer that love to learning? With changeable settings, you can use this coat for a variety of lessons.”

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According to Mkarpawich2001, the Ski Buddy can be used to teach linking turns, parallel skiing, hockey stops and even gradual pizza stopping (the act of pointing your skis together and pushing your heels out to form what looks like a slice of pizza).

The lights will flash once to suggest that they are working, and then guide the user along the desired path, including direction, speed and stops. While on the slopes, instruction is provided via the LEDs, depending on the particular lesson. For instance, alternating lights can let a person know to slow down, or when turned off, can mean they’re going the right way.

You can see it in action below, and head over to its page here. Those looking for a more commercial solution should check out Carv.

 

 

This ‘useless IoT device’ prints out Reddit’s Shower Thoughts


With the press of a button, Thinking Man produces a random amusing thought from Reddit’s popular subreddit Shower Thoughts. 


If you’ve never seen it, the subreddit /r/Showerthoughts is full of brilliant, concise and often hilarious insights that come to mind while, you guessed it, showering. Amidst all of that lathering and rinsing, our brains wander. The question is, what do you think about during your most vulnerable moments?

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Cognizant of this, the crew at MAKE: Magazine have developed a “totally useless and ridiculous desk toy” that prints out snippets from Reddit’s infamous feed. With one press of a button, the aptly named Thinking Man generates a random amusing thought from its onboard thermal printer, which is downloaded from the social network via Wi-Fi. The result is an objet d’art (or “work of art”) that can surprise you with its cleverness.

Aside from its thermal printer, this Internet of Useless Things project combines an Arduino Mega (ATmega2560), an ESP8266 module and a plastic mannequin head. (You can see how to program the ‘duino, wire the boards, work with code and power up the device referring to its in-depth writeup here.)

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“Because the entire response from Reddit is too large for the Arduino to store in memory, the microcontroller has to pick out the relevant data as it is received. The included source code does just that, and can be adapted to read data from anywhere on the Internet or your home network,” MAKE: explains.

With a little tweaking, you can configure your own Thinking Man to produce jokes, or even more useful tidbits such as to-do lists, headlines, weather reports and class schedules. The possibilities are endless. Intrigued? Then head over to MAKE:’s entire write up here, or watch the team’s weekend project video below!

SumoBoy is an Arduino-based fighting robot


Build your own lean, mean fighting machine with this robot kit. 


If you’re competitive, but not the fighting type, robot sumo may be the sport for you. Robot sumo is exactly what it sounds like – sumo wrestling for robots. Instead of you facing your opponent inside the ring, you have a robot attempting to push another out of the arena. Sound like something you’d be interested in? Luckily for you, a team of die-hard robotics enthusiasts have created a DIY kit to help jumpstart your new hobby – no technical skills required.

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Meet SumoBoythe world’s first mini sumo robotics kit that is intended for both sport and education. SumoBoy is the brainchild of RobotNest, a company started by a team of engineers and programmers who also happen to be world champions of mega and mini sumo robot tournaments in Japan, U.S. and Europe. Their goals are to popularize robot sumo worldwide while proving to the younger generation that programming and electronic engineering can be both fun and exciting.

The novelty of robot sumo is that the competing robots, called sumobots, are autonomous and not remote controlled during battle. Sumobots are successful based on the best strategy programmed prior to the competition. The SumoBoy kit comes with an assembled robot that complies with industry standards, and it includes additional components to tinker with the robot’s fighting capabilities. An instructional book will be available on the company’s website, which will address the basics of electronics, programming and other topics including artificial intelligence.

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SumoBoy boasts an Arduino Micro (ATmega32U4) at its core, which can be programmed in C or C++ languages. Additionally, the kit includes a prototyping board that serves as a learning platform for the fundamentals of electronics and coding. With this board, users can play with dozens of components, combine them into numerous algorithms and learn how to program in order execute their own winning strategy.

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The kit also provides a power supply, USB cable, a set of electronic components comprised of sensors, resistors, capacitors, transistors, wires, LEDs, motors and a high-quality screwdriver, and a cardboard dummy that serves as the opponent when testing the robot in action.

Ready to take on the sport of robot sumo? Head over to SumoBoy’s Kickstarter page, where the RobotNest team is currently seeking $100,000. Delivery is slated for September 2016.

 

This machine can solve the Rubik’s Cube in just 0.887 seconds


And just like that, we have a new world record! 


With their eyes set on the Guinness Book, Jay Flatland and Paul Rose last month unveiled an automated machine capable of solving a Rubik’s Cube in 0.9 seconds. However, their glory was short-lived as fellow Maker and industrial engineer Adam Beer introduced a robotic contender, named Sub1, that has officially sorted the colorful puzzle in only 0.887 seconds — breaking the previous world record by a mere fraction.

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Beer’s machine only requires 20 moves to unravel the cube. As soon as the start button is hit, shutters are removed from Sub1’s two webcams, each of which capture the arrangement of all six sides. These images are then relayed to a laptop, which identify the various colors and calculate a solution using Tomas Rokicki’s implementation of Herbert Kociemba’s Two-Phase Algorithm.

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The solution is sent over to an Arduino-compatible MCU, which is tasked with actuating the 20 moves of six high-performance steppers that rapidly turn each side of the cube in 887 milliseconds.

Despite Beer’s recent accomplishment, we can’t help but think that the two teams and countless other Makers will be eager to see how quickly they can unravel the Rubik’s Cube as well.