Tag Archives: wireless connectivity

1:1 interview with Jean Anne Booth of UnaliWear


“What really makes the Kanega Watch different is that it goes where you go, both inside your home and away. It is discreetly styled, so there’s no stigma from wearing an assistive device, and it speaks to you in words.” 


In this interview, we feature Jean Anne Booth, a serial entrepreneur with a successful track record in hardware innovation, having previously launched and sold two large and notable companies. Her current project is UnaliWear, a wearable health technology startup that has recently made its Kickstarter debut. She comes with a wealth of experience, and her timing could’t be better as the wearable digital health market continues to unfold. What’s more, Kanega Watch — which we recently featured on Bits & Pieces — is looking to bring a much-needed vision for practical usage to that space.

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Tom Vu: What’s the main driver to going about this once again? Well, considering you did this before as the first person to launch the ARM Cortex-M3 at Luminary Micro?

Jean Anne Booth: Great question! I actually retired for a couple of years after I sold my last company to Texas Instruments. During this period, my mom turned 80, and she had a couple of incidents that made me start looking for a personal emergency response system for her. Many of the assistive devices available are flawed in one aspect of another. Most importantly, there are three reasons, which make them quite hard for seniors to desire to integrate into their lives. First, they are ugly. Secondly, if they have connectivity, the devices usually require some complicated installation of a tethered smart phone or access point. And one of the most overlooked objections, there is a big “HELP” button. This big button is quite visually disturbing. When you see the big “HELP” button made large for usability and functionality, it is so socially stigmatizing. I wanted my mom to live safely while being independent and not being socially stigmatized.

TV: How is the UnaliWear Kanega Watch different from other wearable tech?

JAB: Focus groups have called Kanega Watch a ‘wearable OnStar for seniors’ because we provide discreet support for falls, medication reminders, and a guard against wandering in a classically styled watch that uses an easy speech interface rather than buttons. What really makes the Kanega Watch different is that it goes where you go, both inside your home and away. It is discreetly styled, so there is no stigma from wearing an assistive device, and it speaks to you in words. The watch brand name “Kanega” is from Cherokee for “speak”.

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TV: Is what you’re creating really going to make our lives better?

JAB: Yes, it’s about being there when it counts. You can wear Kanega Watch on 24×7 basis, so you don’t forget to put it back on, and therefore you’re wearing when you need it. There is a very long battery life, unlike an Apple Watch, Android, or Samsung smartwatch. There is no need for an additional device, either an access point or a smartphone. For seniors, or those who are independent but vulnerable, it can help with issues at night like trips to the bathroom. It’s waterproof, not just water resistant, so you can wear it in the shower/bath (this is where a majority of falls happen), and also in your pool exercises. It works anywhere you go, and those who are vulnerable are not trapped at home. Importantly, there is a convenience to this as you’re wearing everything you need to stay safe.

For instance, here is one of the fundamental characteristics of how the watch works, and why our tagline is “Extending Independence with Dignity.” If the Kanega Watch wants to speak, it will ask permission first. It requests permission to speak by buzzing on the wearer’s wrist like a cellphone on silent, so there’s no visual or audible stigma of wearing an assistive device when socially inappropriate — like at church.

If it detects a potential fall, it will ask if you will need help, because two out of three falls do not require help. In fact, Kanega Watch will continuously monitor you – a kind of continuous welfare check. In a suspected fall, if you don’t respond to the request for permission to speak (for example, if you’re unconscious, unable to move, or unable to speak), then it will begin to escalate and then notify emergency and your contacts for help. There’s practical and smart logic built into the wearable.

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TV: How has your experience in this industry going to help in fulfilling the practical/adoptable use of moving wearable tech toward broader acceptance/use?

JAB: To me, it’s not about advancing a category of technology. It’s about harnessing technology to solve real problems, and in this case, about allowing people to live independently, safely, for as long as possible. It’s been an interesting experience transitioning from semiconductors to healthcare, and has proven to be very rewarding building products that directly make people’s lives better. It’s a fantastic feeling!

TV: What hardware startups do you think are actually doing some really interesting things right now?

JAB: That’s a hard question for me because I’m biased toward products that make a difference and are directly useful. Often what is the most cool and interesting is not at all useful! One thing that our Kickstarter campaign has taught us is that the average person buying things that are cool is not quite in the same category as the people who would buy our wearable for seniors.

TV: How would you describe your team?

JAB: Today, our team consists of a cadre of three founders. Our CTO Marc DeVinney does all the hardware. Brian Kircher, who I’ve worked with for 14 years, does all the software for the Kanega Watch. I do everything else.

TV: Who do you look up to as a mentor now?

JAB: Jimmy Treybig, founder of Tandem Computers, has been a close friend for years and has always been helpful. Jimmy has been a source of a lot of wisdom. For this particular company, another extremely important mentor is my mother, Joan, who is also our Senior User Experience Advisor. She’s put together a number of focus groups, and has also been a lot of help in detailing the use cases.

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TV: What improvements will your product provide society? Perhaps even help the movement of IoT, connected things and wearables?

JAB: The Internet of Things promises to transform daily life, making it easier to work, shop, merchandise, exercise, travel and stay healthy. Really, thanks to billions of connected devices — from smart toothbrushes and thermostats to commercial drones and robotic companions for the elderly. It also will end up gathering vast amounts of data that could provide insights about our habits, religious beliefs, political leanings, sentiments, consumer interest, sports, and even as far as go to other highly personal aspects of our lives. I think the maturation of IoT and wearables is intertwined together. In some respects, what we are building at UnaliWear is also helping cement together the more meaningful adoption of wearables. In our particular case with the Kanega Watch, we couldn’t solve our user problem unless we could provide a better wearable device that is constantly connected all the time. Ultra-low power is very challenging fundamental backstop for every wearable device, and for most IoT devices as well. Our wearable includes cellular, GPS, and Wi-Fi built into one seamlessly integrated non-obtrusive wearable.

Our design goal for the Kanega Watch is that it must be wearable 24×7. It cannot be in a pocket or have requirements of being tucked into a purse. It also must have enough communications capability so that a senior is not stuck in their home all the time. To meet this goal, we have a unique patent-pending quick swap battery system enabling a user to not have to take the watch off to charge. The wearable can last 2 days for most users, and it comes with four batteries. It’s designed to have two batteries available on the charger and two batteries on the watch at all times. The device eliminates the need to be near a base station or smartphone.

Today, simply using built-in smartphone or app presents a couple of problems. Most seniors today don’t have nor operate a smart phone. Less than 5% of seniors over 80 years in age have a smart phone today. For the few seniors who do have smart phones, there are still problems using a smart phone for falls and reminders, because today’s smart phones still have only about 10 hours of real usage time per day.

TV: By 2050, what are some of your predictions for consumers or users interacting with technology on a day-to-day basis?

JAB: I do think that speech will definitely play a larger part in our interaction paradigm. Remember that popular Star Trek movie scene where they come back in time to save the whales and Scotty goes with Checkov to analyze the strength of the materials being used to make a housing for the whales, and the computer he is given is the original Macintosh. Scotty speaks to the Mac, Checkov reminds him that’s not the interface, and then Scotty picks up the mouse and speaks to the mouse. This seems to show a natural interface into the future as Scotty mistakes the old computer for one he can easily and naturally talk to. Now looking at where we are today – the senior population is the fastest growing population segment in the US, and by 2030 will be 20% of our total population. Today, there are 17 million seniors above the age of 75 who are living independently, yet only 2.2 million of those independent seniors have any kind of monitoring system to get help. Today’s 17 million seniors will burgeon to 27 million seniors by 2030. Natural speech interfaces and connectivity will be control what we’re able to build in the future.

TV: What question might you pose to someone in the middle of making a choice to purchase or carry something that is connected and electronically enabling for a senior in their lives?

JAB: I think the message is simple. We show over and over again that if you want to extend the time and quality of someone’s life, then extend their independence. That means you need products that a senior is willing to wear, and that fits into their active lifestyle. At its core, the wearable is based on an Atmel | SMART SAM4L Cortex-M4 MCU running FreeRTOS as the real time operating system and also includes the ATWINC1500 SmartConnect device for Wi-Fi. The Kanega Watch includes both Wi-Fi and cellular communications; when you’re at home, it uses your Wi-Fi. When you’re away, it transitions seamlessly to cellular.

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TV: Does the Kanega Watch have initial roots from the Maker Movement?

JAB: Yes, the roots are definitely Maker Movement – and also a lot of rapid prototyping (hardware’s version of the Lean Startup). We built our first industrial design prototypes at the TechShop in Austin, and our very first alpha design used a 3D-printed “box” as the “watch”. We make a lot of prototypes with rapid turn 3D-printing and CNC-machined aluminum. Before we built our own first prototypes, we created a software prototype on the Omate TrueSmart smart watch, which has dual 1.3 GHz ARM Cortex-A8’s running Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich.” Our only challenge with this prototype is that the battery life was an unsatisfying 5 hours – which meant that I had a battery pocket in my pocket and kept the watch plugged in with a cord hidden under my shirt when I needed to demonstrate over a long period, such as at a conference like SxSW. I like our current prototypes better!


Interested in learning more or have an elderly family member who could benefit from the Kanega Watch? Head over to UnaliWear’s current Kickstarter campaign here.

Atmel unveils a cloud-ready Wi-Fi/Bluetooth combo platform for IoT apps

Atmel has expanded its SmartConnect wireless portfolio with a wireless combo system-on-chip (SoC) for the rapidly growing Internet of Things (IoT) market.

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The new fully-integrated WILC3000 wireless link controller combines Wi-Fi 802.11n and Bluetooth Smart-ready technologies in an ultra-small 4.1mm x 4.1mm Wafer Level Chip Scale Package (WLCSP) with lower power consumption, along with Atmel’s patented adaptive co-existence engine, making it the ideal solution for IoT and wearable applications. Atmel’s WILC3000 Wi-Fi solution offers multiple peripheral interfaces including UART, SPI, I2C, and SDIO, along with the associated cloud-ready connectivity software, making it the perfect wireless connectivity companion to any microprocessor (MPU) running Android or Linux MPUs.

Atmel is also introducing the WINC3400 network controller featuring embedded flash memory which allows the device to host network services stack, Wi-Fi stack, and Bluetooth Smart profiles for rapid design development with no wireless expertise required from the designer. The WINC3400 can be paired with any Atmel AVR® or Atmel | SMART MCUs.

“IoT requires a diverse portfolio of wireless MPUs and MCUs with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capabilities that will enable cloud access,” said Kaivan Karimi, Atmel Vice President and General Manager of Wireless MCUs. “Adding cloud connectivity to devices in the industrial, medical, wearable, fitness and other consumer markets will require a combination of embedded Wi-Fi with Bluetooth optimized for low battery consumption, and support for out-of-the-box, cloud ready software. Atmel’s SmartConnect WILC3000 and WINC3400 address these requirements by delivering a compact cloud-ready Wi-Fi/Bluetooth-certified platform that helps bring customer products faster to market.”

The latest cloudy-ready Wi-Fi/Bluetooth combo platform is optimized for low-power applications, supporting single-stream 802.11n mode providing up to 72 Mbps throughput, enabling a broad range of use cases. Both devices integrate a power amplifier, LNA, switch and power management unit providing developers with the highest level of integration together with the best link budget for maximum range. The WILC3000 and WINC3400 provide the highest integration for a lower bill of material. The only external clock sources required is a high-speed crystal or oscillator with a wide range of reference clock frequencies supported (14-40 MHz) and a 32.768 kHz clock for sleep operation.

The WINC 3400 network controller offers an On-Chip Network Stack to minimize host CPU requirements. The Network features include TCP, UDP, DHCP, ARP, HTTP, SSL, and DNS. Additionally, the WINC3400 SiP includes Bluetooth Smart profiles allowing connection to advanced low energy application such as smart energy, consumer wellness, home automation, security, proximity detection, entertainment, sports and fitness and automotive. This solution also supports Atmel’s cloud-ready software for simple cloud connectivity.

Ready to add some connectivity to your next design? Explore the entire SmartConnect wireless family here.

Atmel unveils an ultra-low power Bluetooth Smart solution for the IoT

Evident by the sheer volume of connected objects infiltrating our homes, offices, cars and nearly every facet of our life, the Internet of Things (IoT) market is set for explosive growth. With billions of devices expected to become network-enabled, designers of all levels will require a very low-power platform that allows them to develop these smart gadgets in space-constrained applications. Luckily now, there’s the BTLC1000.

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The new ultra-low power Bluetooth Smart solution is capable of achieving sub-1µA in standby mode, while delivering the industry’s best dynamic power consumption and increasing battery life by as much as one year for certain applications. The BTLC1000 pushes the limits of space constrained areas with its unprecedented 2.1mm X 2.1mm Wafer Level Chipscale Package (WLCSP), making it ideal for the rapidly growing IoT and wearables spaces, including portable medical, activity trackers, human Interface devices, gaming controllers, beacons and much more.

Expanding upon the Atmel SmartConnect wireless portfolio, the BTLC1000 is a Bluetooth Smart link controller integrated circuit that connects as a companion to any Atmel AVR or Atmel | SMART MCU through a UART or SPI API requiring minimal resource on the host side. The standalone Atmel | SMART SAMB11 Bluetooth Smart Flash MCU leverages the embedded ARM Cortex-M0 core combined with the integrated analog and communication peripherals to implement application-specific functionalities and is available as a system-in-package or a certified module. Both devices are fully integrated with a self-contained Bluetooth Smart controller and stack enabling wireless connectivity for a variety of applications to be quickly implemented without the wireless expertise typically required.

“One of the primary challenges of the IoT market is system integration—connecting one or multiple devices to the gateway and cloud,” explained Reza Kazerounian, Atmel Senior Vice President and General Manager, MCU Business Unit. “Atmel’s new Bluetooth Smart solutions solve these integration issues by enabling IoT designers of all levels the ability to connect their devices to the gateway and cloud with an easy-to-use, low-power Bluetooth connectivity solution. We are excited to enable more designers to bring their connected devices to the IoT market without comprising design time.”

Bluetooth Smart devices are a new breed of Bluetooth 4.1 peripherals with only a single Bluetooth 4.1 radio connecting only to Bluetooth Smart Ready devices. For those unfamiliar with the technology, Bluetooth Smart is the intelligent, power-friendly version of Bluetooth wireless connectivity that works with an application on the smartphone or tablet you already own. In fact, Bluetooth Smart solutions set new low-power standards with at least 30% power savings compared to existing solutions on the market in dynamic mode.

The cost-effective Bluetooth Smart technology can easily provide developers and OEMs the flexibility to create solutions that will work with the billions of Bluetooth-enabled products already in the market today, not to mention is supported by every major operating system. The technology brings every day devices such as toothbrushes, heart-rate monitors, fitness devices and more to be connected, communicating through applications that reside in Bluetooth Smart compatible smartphones, tablets or other similar devices already owned by consumers.

Interested? General samples will be available in March.

Libelium extends wireless connectivity to Waspmote IoT sensors

Internet of Things (IoT) platform provider Libelium has added long-range wireless coverage to its Waspmote and Plug and Sense! sensor nodes, by integrating Semtech’s LoRa RF technology in a new module-on-a-chip embedded radio design for smart cities and IoT deployments.

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Powered by Atmel’s ATmega1281 MCU, Waspmote sensor nodes are designed to deploy by the thousands, connecting any sensor using any communication protocol to any cloud system. The LoRa communication protocol extends wireless connectivity, thereby enabling Waspmote sensors to transmit data at distances of several miles, over 20 miles in open spaces, and even through buildings. With LoRa’s high sensitivity of 138dBm, the Waspmote long-range module can receive data packets transmitted through difficult conditions and long links, thus reducing infrastructure costs for city uses.

“We’ve worked shoulder-to-shoulder with Semtech engineers to shrink the module form factor to integrate within our Waspmote sensor platform,” said David Gascón, Libelium CTO. “With LoRa we are offering new connectivity features and we have achieved a price reduction of 10-25% per node compared to our current product line. Our goal is to help customers select the wireless radio options that best suit their needs, in any environment.”

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Aside from the ATmega1281 MCU, key Waspmote specs include 8KB SRAM, 4KB EEPROM, 128KB Flash, -10ºC, +65ºC temperature range and an RTC (32KHz) clock.

“The Libelium Waspmote solution, combined with LoRa, reduces the infrastructure cost to deploy smart city applications and improving the return on investment will accelerate more deployments,” explained Hardy Schmidbauer, Director of Wireless and IoT products at Semtech. “The flexibility and availability of more than 80 sensors in Waspmote, paired with the LoRa benefits of long range and extended battery lifetime create a very compelling solution.”

Interested in learning more? Read the entire announcement from Libelium here. Meanwhile, you can also check out how Atmel is powering the company’s Waspmote Mote Runner IPv6 development platform.

 

5 things coming to the smart home in 2015

With adoption and ownership of smart in-home devices on the rise, the future of an entirely connected house is not too far off. With major backing from corporations like Apple and Google to the emergence of [Atmel based] startups on Kickstarter and Indiegogo, it is clearer than ever that the market is ready to grow at a rapid pace. From home automation to smart metering, a new generation of intelligent products are set to increasingly power and connect our daily lives.

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Writing for Gigaom, Stacey Higginbotham highlights five key trends that she expects will continue to evolve over the next couple of months and finally come to fruition in 2015. Here’s what she had to say…

1. Bluetooth-controlled lights

“At long last, products are coming on the market that will let you use Bluetooth to control light bulbs, outlets and more. These products are using mesh networking to make installing a connected light switch as easy as sticking a new plate to the wall using double-sided tape. Products from Avi-on (which is building bluetooth switches for GE’s Jasco brand), Oort, and Seed will change the way we use lighting in the home and at work. Even Peep, a company showing off a camera that snaps a picture when someone knocks on your door is looking at using Bluetooth as a faster way to get an image to people inside the home, since using Wi-Fi means it would go from the connected camera to the cloud and then to people’s phones.”

Our recent acquisition of NMI immediately expanded the 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities of the company’s offerings, thereby accelerating our introduction of low-energy Bluetooth products such as these.

2. Voice-controlled homes

“To talk to your home, you’ll talk to your phone: This isn’t a trend I’m excited about, but it’s obviously where we are heading in the relative near term. Since our phones are equipped with awesome natural language processing already, big companies such as Nest and Apple and small ones like Nucleus will use them to let people control their homes via voice. For example, Nest will integrate with Google Now’s speech recognition while Apple’s HomeKit is sure to have a Siri component. On the startup side, the Nucleus intercom system showed off a way to not only message people in your house, but to speak into the phone to control your lights. Ubi is building similar functionality into it’s app.”

Surely enough, it’s not that uncommon to find yourself spewing to an malfunctioning appliance or sharing your displeasure with a gadget; however, in the near future, when you talk to these devices, they may actually listen. Envision yourself calling out commands to complete tasks such as raising the heat on the thermostat or closing the blinds at night. Thanks to startups like Ubi and Wit.ai, custom voice controls may be coming to a neighborhood near you.

3. Low-power Wi-Fi 

“Two companies, Homeboy and Roost were offering different products that took advantage of low-power Wi-Fi. The benefits of such a set up are pretty obvious — you don’t need a fancy hub to control a device and it can work for almost everyone.”

It’s no surprise to find Wi-Fi as one of the integral technologies enabling devices to connect directly to one another, to wide area networks, or simply to the Internet in order to provide remote monitoring and control of a home system. As such, it is becoming a major driver of the explosion of the ever-evolving Internet of Things, particularly the connected home market. Atmel’s SmartConnect family is comprised of self-contained, low-power, and certified modules that are enabling wireless connectivity in such embedded designs, ranging from battery-operated devices to smart home appliances.

4. No more hubs for automation

“This year’s hot device, the home hub that combines a bunch of radios with a software platform to let people control multiple connected devices is going away. Even SmartThings CEO Alex Hawkinson is ready to build software that is independent of the company’s hub, although he admits it may take some time and won’t include all the devices out there. I also saw a startup, showing off an Android-based controller called the Reach app that lets people pause videos, play songs over their Sonos and control a few other devices like Hue lights. The app is in alpha right now, but I’m eager to see it once it hits beta.”

5. Show me the money!

“The business models that have been lacking in several popular services are beginning to crystalize. From Linden Tibbets. the CEO of If This Then That disclosing that he plans to have consumers pay for premium IFTTT services, to an in-depth discussion from IControl’s CEO on business models for the smart home, it’s clear that while companies have been focused on the user experience, the revenue models aren’t far behind.”

While we may not know exactly what the future holds, it appears that 2015 and beyond are looking much SMARTER.

Atmel teams with ARM on IoT Development Platform

Atmel is joining forces with ARM on the mbed device platform for the ever-growing Internet of Things (IoT).

This partnership broadens the ecosystem support for developers using Atmel’s portfolio of secure, low-power and cost-effective wireless connectivity solutions, specifically the Atmel SmartConnect Wi-Fi and 802.15.4-compliant solutions. Additionally, IoT developers for smart wearables, connected appliances, home automation systems and more can now bring their products faster to market.

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Built around open standards, the mbed platform combines Internet protocols, security and standards-based manageability into one integrated system, and gathers silicon, cloud and device partners in one community. Atmel | SMART SAMR21 and WINC1500 customers now gain access to the mbed OS software platform, which includes command-line tools, a low-power HAL, as well as advanced networking protocols like 6LoWPAN and Thread to significantly accelerate IoT development.

“The ARM mbed IoT Device Platform simplifies the development and deployment of next-generation IoT devices and cloud services,” said Krisztian Flautner, ARM General Manager, IoT Business. “The integration of Atmel’s wireless technology with the mbed platform allows IoT developers to rapidly create devices that communicate across a mesh network with cloud services. This will drive the acceleration of the IoT in consumers and industrial markets.”

“As a leader in the IoT market, Atmel is committed to enabling developers of all levels the opportunity to bring their IoT devices quickly to market,” explained Steve Pancoast, Atmel Vice President of Software Applications, Tools and Development. “In this fragmented market place, we are leading the charge to bring easy-to-use hardware, software, development tools and platform solutions to market and enabling our IoT developers more time to focus on critical features in their design. By partnering with ARM on their mbed platform, we’ve taken another step towards making the 50 billion devices for the IoT market a reality.”

Those interested in learning more about the ARM mbed platform can head over to its official page here.

ArduIMU V4 is an Atmel based integrated measurement unit

Back in 2007, the original ArduIMU launched with the capability of being a fully-functional inertial measurement unit based on Arduino. Seven years later, Ahmad Byagowi’s team has brought the ArduIMU V4 to life with countless added abilities.

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The V4 — which recently launched on Kickstarter — is described as “a beefed up successor to the original ArduIMU project and a fully capable wireless Integrated Measurement Unit (IMU).” Based on Atmel’s ATmega128RFA1, the 100% Arduino-compatible ArduIMU’s wireless functionality allows the device to monitor 9-axis motion and use sensors to analyze temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, and even visible light.

While these are the listed functions of the V4, the team aspires that Makers and hackers will work within the community to expand the device’s capabilities. “The ArduIMU V4 is not just useful to applications which require inertial measurement, but has evolved into a powerful and versatile hardware framework for hobbyists, Makers and hackers,” a company rep writes.

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The new ArduIMU offers users access to SPI, I2C, UART (0 & 1), analog input and PWM output, therefore enabling developers to take their own ideas and design custom shields for the V4. Additionally, the team was able to compile the Contiki OS on the ArduIMU V4 and use it for various projects, including implementing 6LoWPAN for a network of multiple units. Hello, IoT!

So what exactly could you use a machine like this for in your daily life? The team suggests implementations ranging from using it to sense humidity or tracking regional weather changes to monitoring a plant’s health or helping to fly your quadcopter.

According to its creators, the ArduIMU V4 is equipped with a built-in Micro-USB port for charging and communication with a host computer. “Since we used a standard FTDI USB-Serial chip, you don’t have to worry about finding finicky drivers to make it work. To communicate wirelessly, you simply use two ArduIMU V4 units and set up wireless communication between them,” the team explains. “Of course, the ArduIMU V4 can do both at the same time, so you could have one ArduIMU V4 out sampling data and sending it wirelessly to a second ArduIMU V4 that is plugged into your computer’s USB port to do some heavy number-crunching.”

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While existing ZigBee devices can be used to communicate with the ArduIMU V4, the team is still actively working on an easy to use Arduino-style framework to make this feature more accessible to those with minimal MCU development experience.

With the help of the Kickstarter campaign, the team is looking to manufacture their first 500 ArduIMU V4 units. With all materials already sourced, “All required schematic files and parts lists are fully completed and ready, reducing and hopefully eliminating most of the problems and delays you may find with many other Kickstarter campaigns.”

To read more about the campaign which runs until October 9th, head over to the ArduIMU V4 page!