Tag Archives: Pubnub

1:1 interview with TinyArcade creator Ken Burns


TinyArcade is the most adorable video game console you’ve ever seen.


Recently, we had the chance to sit down with TinyCircuits founder Ken Burns, who just wrapped up a successful Kickstarter campaign for the TinyArcade. Here’s what he had to say…

Ken Burns of Tiny Circuits

Josh Marinacci: Hi Ken. I’m one of the original Kickstarter backers of TinyCircuits and I love it. Could you tell us a little bit about TinyCircuits, why you created it, where it’s based?

Ken Burns: Thanks! TinyCircuits started as a side project while I was working at a contract engineering company. We would help other companies (from one person startups to Fortune 500 companies), develop electronic products, and prototyping was always a huge part of what we did. However, to create working prototypes usually involved creating a custom PCB (somewhat expensive and time consuming), or hobbling together a number of different development boards to create the proto, which was always ugly and usually too big.

So that’s what started the idea of a small modular system with a number of different sensors and options, and around the same time Arduino was becoming very popular so I decided to base it around that, which was the birth of the TinyDuino system. At the time it was just me in a spare bedroom of my house in Akron, Ohio, working on this and prototyping it up, but I showed it to a number of people and got a lot of great feedback, and decided to launch it on Kickstarter in the fall of 2012. The initial TinyDuino Kickstarter campaign did great, enough to convince me there was potential to create a business around it, so I left my job and committed to TinyCircuits full-time.

Three years later we’re still going strong, with a staff of 8 people and our own electronics design and manufacturing operation here in Akron, Ohio.

JM: One of our talented engineers recently built a Bluetooth wearable smartwatch using TinyCircuits. Have you seen a lot of adoption in wearables? What things do people build with it?

KB: That’s definitely a great project! Wearables is definitely something people use our stuff for a lot, it’s very small, compact, and easy to use, which makes it perfect for wearable applications. We launched the TinyScreen last year, which is a small OLED display that fits onto the TinyDuino and allows users to create add a very cool compact display to their projects.

Jewelry is one that a number of people have done, and some friends of ours are actually building out a 3D printed jewelry product based around our TinyScreen that should be launching early next year. Others are using our circuitry for wearable sensors, like for athletic and healthcare monitoring. And an eight-year old launched his own smart watch, the O Watchon Kickstarter to teach kids 3D printing and programing earlier this fall that is built around our stuff!

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JM:Has anyone used your boards for a shipping product?

KB: A few small companies have used our products for very low volume items, but a few are designing products that integrate in the TinyScreen which will be higher volume. For low to mid volume items (one to a few hundred) it makes a lot of sense to buy products like ours to integrate with, since it saves the need to design a custom PCB and do the upfront engineering. After a certain volume it’s more cost effective to design a custom board, and we actually have helped a number of companies do that with our in-house design partner.

Josh: TinyArcade is absolutely the coolest thing ever. It’s a shame it won’t be ready in time for Christmas. Why did you decide to build this product, and why run it as a KickStarter instead of just selling it like your other boards?

Ken: Thanks! We would have loved to have it out by Christmas this year, but we needed to take our time over the summer to get the design right. The TinyArcade is really an outgrowth of the TinyScreen project we did last year, one of the things people really liked about it was that you could play games on it, and a number of our users started creating games for it, like Space Invaders, Outrun, Asteroids, etc.

In the spring we saw a really little arcade cabinet candy dispenser, and thought it would be cool to put a TinyScreen in it and play games, but the size wasn’t quite right. But the idea stuck with us, and we have a designer friend (Jason Bannister from mechanimal.com) design a 3D printed cabinet which came out looking incredible. We started showing this off at different shows, like Maker Faire Bay Area, and it was a huge hit, and people kept asking to buy it. So we decided to turn it into a product.

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We redesigned the TinyScreen to bring the cost down and way crank up the performance, and add things like audio, joysticks, and an SD expansion slot. The 3D printed cabinet is also fairly complex and something that needs a commercial printer to make (it can’t be printed on a Makerbot), so the prints are expensive. So we came up with a laser cut enclosure that could be made for much less but still look like a cabinet, so we could offer this at a low price.

We’ve had great luck on Kickstarter in the past, and one of the big reasons we did this again is so we can buy the components in bulk. We’re still a small startup and cash flow is always an issue, so using Kickstarter lets us buy some of the major components (like the OLED, joysticks, etc) in volume to keep the cost down. If we did it without Kickstarter, the price per unit would have to be a lot more.

JM: Where did you find those tiny joysticks?

KB: Those are super cute, aren’t they?! We used some PSP type joysticks in the past for our joystick board, but these were too big for this. These joysticks are made by CTS and actually available at places like DigiKey, and work amazingly well. They’re great for very precise analog movements. They are one of the more expensive components in the TinyArcade, but definitely worth it.

The top of the joystick is actually a knob that we designed ourselves and is a high-res 3D print, using a resin printer, so we can make it just like an old style arcade joystick.

JM: Does the TinyArcade have room for expansion? I’d love to make one connected to the internet through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Will you support those options?

KB: It certainly does! This is still a TinyDuino type product and maintains expansion capability, and there is room to add another board in the cabinet. Bluetooth and Wi-Wi are the two that we definitely consider the most likely, and since the platform is completely open source, it’s really up to the user’s imagination as to what they want to add. Based on how well the Kickstarter goes, and if there is community support, we’d love to see the ability for some multiplayer games over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

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JM: With a Wi-Fi board, is it possible to do OTA updates?

KB: Right now we don’t have that capability, it really comes down to support in the bootloader. However we do support loading games and videos off a microSD card if it’s present, so it would definitely be possible to create a program to download files over Wi-i and save them to the SD card to use.

JM: What’s next for TinyCircuits? Any new products in the pipeline?

KB: We have a huge list of things in the pipeline that we would like to do, we actually have about 15 new expansion boards designed that should be hitting production early in 2016. One of the big push is into micro-robotics, so tiny servo drivers and motor drivers, new radio options, an ESP-based Wi-Fi board, many more sensors, and of course rolling out the TinyScreen+ board and the TinyZero processor board (basically the Arduino Zero, 32-bit ARM platform) which brings a new level of horsepower to the platform.

JM: Tell us a little more about the Kickstarter campaign and when do you expect it to ship?

KB The TinyArcade Kickstarter (successfully) ended on December 17th and we plan to start shipping in March 2016. The big reason for the delay is due to getting some of the key components in, like the raw OLEDs, this takes 8 – 12 weeks from our supplier, we plan to have the other items ready to go (the PCBs built, and the cases made), before then, so we can get shipping the moment they come in.

This interview originally appeared on PubNub’s blog

Rewind: 12 projects you wish you had in your office


Whether it’s eliminating distractions or enhancing convenience, every workplace could use some of these things.


An Electric Standing Desk

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StandiT is a modular, patent-pending system that can take ordinary desks or wooden tabletops and transform them into electric stand-sit desks capable of raising and lowering on your command.

An Ergonomic Keyboard

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Keyboardio is an open source ergonomic keyboard that gives your pinkies a break and puts your thumbs to work.

A Listening Table

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The brainchild of the New York Times R&D Lab, the Listening Table is like any other piece of office furniture except for the fact that it can record the most important moments from a meeting. A microphone array focuses on the speaker, no matter where he or she is seated, while custom speech-processing software generates a word-for-word recording and a semantic overview — what topics were talked about, in what order, and by whom.

A Connected Coffee Pot

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You’ve all been in the situation before: You arrive at the office coffee pot only to find that it’s empty. If only you could curb that disappointment with up-to-the-minute reporting on exactly how much coffee is left in the pot. Well lucky for you, PubNub has developed an IoT Coffee Maker with real-time coffee capacity monitoring.

A Coffee Age Timer

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In most offices, coffee tends to go pretty fast throughout the morning. However, as the day goes on, caffeine consumption dwindles down a bit. And when it’s time for that late afternoon pick-me-up, it’s sometimes difficult to guess just how long the coffee has been sitting in the pot. Fortunately, Paul Kerchen has created a solution to keep track of that: BrewDoo.

A Boss Tracker

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Ever wonder whether or not your boss is in the office? As part of a recent demonstration, the Atmel team in Norway built a SAM D20 GPS tracker that lets you receive an SMS alert whenever your supervisor enters the building.

An Arduino Alarm System

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Hate when your colleagues steal things from your cubicle without asking for permission? Thanks to Stefano Guglielmetti, you can now devise your own Arduino Yún (ATmega32U4) alarm. Discreetly place the device around whatever it is that you’d like to monitor. If and when movement is detected, the alarm will emit a siren and then proceed to take a picture and email it to you. What’s more, you can shame the thief by automatically posting their photo to friends on Facebook or Twitter via a simple IFTTT recipe.

A Productivity Sign

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Every office has that one guy. He walks around the floor, gazing into each cubicle, looking to spark a conversation. Not before long, he glances your way, makes eye contact and begins to head in your direction. As he approaches, he utters the infamous words, “It’ll be quick.” But let’s face it, it’s never quick. An hour later, not only has he drained you of your creative energy, but you just lost 60 minutes of productivity. Wired In is a Bluetooth sign that eliminates unwanted distractions by telling your coworkers you’re busy.

A Personal AC Unit

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Especially in the summertime, finding the perfect indoor temperature to accommodate others can be quite challenging. Some buildings blast the AC to help with airflow, but this results in goosebumps even when it’s hot outside. Evapolar is a personal air conditioner that humidifies and purifies the air around you. The gadget sits on your desk, enabling you to enjoy your own climate, tailored to your temperature needs.

A Real-Time Commute Display

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Transit is a conveniently-placed sign displaying commuter information from the web every 30 seconds. Although most of us can simply glance at our smartphones to check public transportation updates and weather forecasts, it’s easy to forget to do so when ‘in the zone.’ Sometimes, the only way we pay attention is when that information is served to us conspicuously. That was the thinking of iStrategyLabs, whose project ensures that you never miss a train, always know how many bikes are available, and stay one step ahead of the weather.

An Office Chairiot

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Sitting behind the same desk in the same chair can get a bit boring after a while. What if that same chair could whiz through the building at 15 to 20 miles per hour? Meet the Office Chairiot Mark II — a motorized IKEA Poäng chair that employs some off-the-shelf scooter parts like wheels, axles and batteries to roll around.

A ‘Skip Track’ Target

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Hate a song playing on the radio? Hope you have good aim! The Neo-Pangea crew’s Boombox Blaster adds a gamification element to their workplace’s music selection by turning a suspended NERF target into a “skip track” button.

Building an IoT coffee maker with realtime capacity monitoring


Now you can see how much coffee is left in the pot without leaving your chair. 


You’ve all been in the situation before: You arrive at the office coffee maker in the morning only to find that it’s empty. If only you could curb that disappointment with realtime reporting on exactly how much coffee is left in the pot. Well fortunately for you, PubNub has harnessed the power of the ATmega328P MCU and the PubNub Data Stream Network to build the IoT Coffee Maker with realtime coffee capacity monitoring. The project works by collecting coffee volume levels and then streams the data in realtime to a live-updating UI.

In the video below, the coffee maker’s creator Kurt Clothier introduces his project, walks through some of the steps to build it, and shows it in action. If you want to get to creating one for yourself or your workplace, be sure to check out the entire IoT coffee pot tutorial and live demo on PubNub.

In a nutshell, the Atmel IoT coffee pot gathers volume data based on the weight of the coffee pot using a scale. The ATmega328P MCU is the brains behind the operation, while an ESP8266 is used for Internet connection. The volume data is then sent to a realtime web UI and visualized in realtime via PubNub Pub/Sub Messaging and the EON JavaScript framework.

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The project requires the following:

Web UI updates the % of coffee left in realtime.

Web UI updates the % of coffee left in realtime.

Obviously, this tutorial can be expanded outside the kitchen to a broad number of powerful IoT use cases. With this same design, you can track readings from any number of sensors, and stream its data in realtime to any number of subscribers in realtime. Thinking big, you can implement similar technology in large scale industrial IoT settings, like agriculture, oil or medical.

You can even get rid of the scale altogether and use these concepts to collect data from anything with a segmented LCD screen. With that said, Clothier and the PubNub team would love to see what you come up with, so be sure to let them know about your awesome project! But for now, let’s enjoy the fact that we know exactly what percentage of the coffee pot is full.

Atmel launches IoT Cloud Ecosystem Partner Program


Atmel’s Cloud Ecosystem Partner Program accelerates time-to-market for developers creating next-generation IoT solutions.


Good news, IoT developers! Atmel has just announced its Internet of Things Cloud Ecosystem Partner Program, providing those using Atmel | SMART MCUs and Atmel SmartConnect wireless solutions with access to a wide range of market-leading ecosystem cloud partners for device management, data analytics and visualization in order to experience end-to-end, out-of-the-box IoT solution development.

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With the ever-increasing need to collect, visualize and analyze data from IoT edge nodes and to manage the associated services, cloud connectivity is becoming an essential element for product development. Aside from that, device management has also emerged as an important aspect of cloud services as more gizmos and gadgets are performing functions through remote management. Take a connected thermostat, for example, that is programmed remotely and sends climate information back to the user’s RC device reducing overall power consumption while providing a better user experience.

Each cloud partner in this program not only brings a unique, distinct feature to the IoT ecosystem for developers using Atmel solutions but offers production-ready software stacks ported on Atmel wireless platforms to help accelerate time-to-market as well. Developers can now easily connect to the cloud through various software as a service (SaaS) options, based on their use-case requirements early in the development cycle. Additionally, Atmel is in the process of onboarding multiple cloud service partners providing regional and vertical expertise where required. Among the names on the growing list are PubNub, Proximetry, Exosite and Arrayent.

“We are excited to team with Atmel to deliver to their customers a highly secure solution for bi-directional device communication and control,” says Todd Greene, PubNub CEO. “Our highly reliable and massively scalable Data Stream Network provides companies with real-time infrastructure and a robust feature set for architecting their IoT solutions. Our partnership with Atmel offers the only ‘out of the box’ solution for IoT developers to create secure IoT products, reducing risk and accelerating time-to-market.”

With the anticipated growth of billions of devices by 2020 in the IoT market, secure cloud services will be a critical element to ensure Internet accessibility connectivity of these smart devices. The partner program ensures developers have the opportunity to design with Atmel’s pre-certified Wi-Fi, 802.15.4, and multimode modules and Atmel | SMART MCUs to provide a seamless end-to-end solution from the edge node to the cloud with a simple, plug-and-play connection that works out of the box.

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“Our cloud services are integrated into several leading Atmel | SMART MCUs, SmartConnect and security modules,” adds Tracy Trent, Proximetry CEO. “We provide leading software solutions that enable the management of the most critical of things in the IoT including remote access and secure data management. With our services integrated into Atmel’s leading products, IoT developers now have a true end-to-end solution from the edge node to the cloud.”

What’s more, IoT developers can simply use any of the compatible Atmel development boards for access to the application programming interface (API) to qualified cloud partners. In order to expire the design process, several development kits are available with access to Atmel Cloud Partners like the WINC1500-XSTK, the SAMW25-XPRO, the SAMR21-XPRO and the Arduino Zero.

“Launching this highly anticipated IoT ecosystem partner program, we are now one of the few suppliers that delivers solutions from the edge node to the cloud, along with full software support. We are excited to team with these unique cloud service companies and look forward to adding many more,” explains Reza Kazerounian, SVP and GM of Microcontroller Business Unit at Atmel.

Photos: Atmel @ Maker Faire Bay Area 2015


And just like that, another flagship Maker Faire event has come to an end.


From life-sized humanoids and stair-climbing robots to pancake printers and drum-playing pants, Maker Faire Bay Area 2015 had it all. Over the weekend, tinkerers, modders and hackers of all ages and skills flocked a jam-packed Atmel booth, which showcased a number of uber-cool demos under this year’s theme “From Makerspace to Makerplace.” Among those on display included 14-year-old Quin Etnyre, DrumPants, Zymbit, littleBits, Zippy Robotics, Primo and of course the heart of the Maker community, Arduino. When it came to gizmos and gadgets driven by versatile 8- and 32-bit AVR and Atmel | SMART MCUs, it didn’t stop within our exhibit. In fact, countless other DIYers throughout the fairegrounds proudly showed off their embedded projects as well.

Here’s a look back at the two-day show (and tell) in photos…

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Tem

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Modulo

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Building a realtime temperature sensor with Atmel and PubNub


PubNub’s Bhavana Srinivas demonstrates how to build a realtime temperature sensor with PubNub and Atmel.


With the buzzword being Internet of Things (IoT), PubNub recently wanted to build something simple, yet powerful, that could extend beyond the hackerspace and be applied to the real world. It had to combine software and hardware, and allow people at home to build it and try it themselves.

Arduino came to mind, but seeing as though the team has already written a great deal of realtime tutorials using the Arduino board, they sought out to try something a bit different. Instead, the group decided upon employing Atmel | SMART SAM D21 Xplained Pro and PubNub to devise a realtime temperature sensor.

Project Overview

The Atmel temperature sensor monitors temperatures and streams the data to a live-updating dashboard, in realtime, anywhere in the world. The temperature sensor measures the ambient temperature and publishes it as a data stream to a channel via the PubNub Data Stream Network. A web browser that subscribes to this channel displays the data stream on a live visualization dashboard.

The Concept

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  • The Atmel I/O1 Xplained Pro sensor measures the ambient temperature.
  • This connects to the Wi-Fi using the ATWINC1500 module.
  • The PubNub code running on the Atmel chip enabled the team to publish the temperature in realtime to anyone subscribing to the same channel as a data stream.
  • Through the PubNub Developer Console, you can receive this stream of information from as many sensors as you like in realtime.

What Will You Need?

Hardware

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Software

  • Windows PC
  • To get your unique pub/sub keys, you’ll first need to sign up for a PubNub account. Once you sign up, you can get your unique PubNub keys in the PubNub Developer Dashboard. PubNub’s free Sandbox tier should give you all the bandwidth you need to build and test your messaging app with the web messaging API.
  • Install Atmel Studio 6.2
  • Install updates to Atmel Studio as suggested during installation
  • Install terminal software like putty or teraterm

A prerequisite is that you upgrade the firmware for SAMD21 using the .bat file provided with the PubNub Atmel example before you run this demo. Make sure no other software like putty or teraterm is using the com port). Close Atmel Studio and the putty terminal. The firmware upgrade is successful if you see a PASS sign on the terminal after running the code.

Connecting the Hardware, the Right Way

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  • Connect WINC1500 XPRO board to SAMD21 XPRO connector EXT1
  • Connect I/O1 XPRO board to SAMD21 XPRO connector EXT2
  • Connect OLED1 XPRO board to SAMD21 XPRO connector EXT3
  • Connect SAMD21 XPRO to a free USB port on your PC (make sure no other USB port on your PC is in use)
  • Connect the power to the port that says “DEBUG USB”

The Software

Open the PubNub example: pubnubAtmel/PubNub_EXAMPLE.atsln (included in the code download) in Atmel Studio and you will see the following page. Make sure you choose the debugger/programmer and interface as shown below.

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Include the following lines in pubnubAtmel/src/main.h:

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#define TEST_MODE_SSID “Enter-your-SSID” (choose THE Wi-Fi access point you want the chip to connect to)
#define TEST_MODE_PASSWORD “Enter-the password-for-the-SSID” (enter the password for the same Wi-Fi connection)
#define TEST_MODE_WITHOUT_PROVISION

In pubnubAtmel/src/main.c, add the channel name and pub, sub keys.

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Build (F7 / Build -> build solution), run(continue/ green arrow/ F5/ debug -> continue).

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Open PubNub Developer Console, use the same channel name and pub,sub keys as in the code and SUBSCRIBE.If all is well, you should see a constant stream of messages in the following format: {“columns”:[[“temperature”,”55.00″]]}

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From there, the PubNub crew was able to collect and stream temperature data in realtime. But what’s next, you ask? Well, they needed to do something with that data, right? Visualize it!

Visualizing the Data Stream

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Bhavana and the PubNub bunch didn’t just want to display raw data off the sensor as a live-updating number; instead, their partner-in-crime Tomomi built the beautiful temperature visualization, which mocks nursery or greenhouse monitor (a typical realworld use case for realtime temperature sensors).

The interface runs in the browser, and the technology behind is quite simple, using PubNub JavaScript APIs to subscribe the data sent from the Atmel chip. It’s simple, lightweight, built entirely in JavaScript, and accessible from anywhere in the world with any kind of device – mobile phones, tablets, and any smart device, as long as you have a web browser. The main purpose behind this is to present information in most efficient manner without losing its accuracy.

In this scenario, the UI shows the current temperature, also a simple line graph, updating in realtime so that you can tell the relative changes of the temperature, raising and dropping. This particular data is simple, but when you have multiple, more complicated data, data visualization plays more crucial role.

Go Conquer IoT

This demo is read-only and reads the ambient temperature, but in reality, you want to develop products that lets your users monitor and control, i.e, bidirectional communication between devices. For instance, if you have a smart A/C, not only monitoring the current room temperature, but you need to make it controllable from a remote devices.

“With the power of PubNub APIs, you can achieve this with no hassle. I hope I am leaving you guys with enough excitement to try this demo out, and also build cooler ones,” Bhavana concludes.

In the meantime, be sure to follow our friends at PubNub and Bhavana Srinivas on Twitter!

Creating an earthquake warning system with littleBits and PubNub


Maker replicates California’s earthquake warning and monitoring system using littleBits, Ruby and PubNub.


In the wake of the tragic 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, Anmol Agrawal decided to create a mini earthquake warning and monitoring system using littleBits, Ruby and PubNub.

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As the the Maker notes, this DIY solution — which also happens to be among the latest entries in this year’s Hackaday Prize — could be be employed to detect both earthquakes and tsunami in prone areas.

“My initial approach was to get some data through online resource like meteorological survey websites, as they are the ones with access to all the sensors, devices, machines, seismographs etc. to keep track of earthquake activities. I planned on getting that data continously and running the logic continously like if earthquake is more than 5.3 richter scale, send the warning,” Agrawal writes.

He decided to take this one step further by creating a system specifically for India. This was accomplished by acquiring the data of seismic activity for the country, which was completed by crawling the India Meteorological Department’s earthquake report every 10-20 seconds.

The Maker adds, “Although that is a very inefficient method but I still wrote the script. I got it working but then I thought, is the data updated on the page in real-time or after couple of hours? If the earthquake comes somewhere at 6pm and it’s getting updated on the site at 8pm, then that data is of no use.” large_filled_eewbasics

After some research, Agrawal came across the earthquake early warning system currently in use in California, and decided to replicate it with an Arduino littleBits module (ATmega32U4), Ruby and PubNub. He employed a littleBits pressure sensor to create the earthquake effect based on the strength of his finger’s touch and a bright LED to serve as the warning signal. The data is continuously measured, streamed and sent to PubNub using a dashboard created with Freeboard.io.

“To give an idea of how fast this system is, in recent the Nepal Earthquake, it would have given a three-five minute early warning to Kathmandu and surrounding cities as epicenter was only 70-140km away from them,” he concludes.

Interested? You can read up on the Maker’s entire build here.