As we start the week, I thought I'd lighten things up a bit (no pun intended) with something fun before slogging back into a week of pondering the finer points of SSL lighting standards and thermal issues.
I was all set to make a post about the wonderful photonic poems being broadcast from the LED lighting system on San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, but that got put on the back burner when Arduino announced the availability of its new GSM transceiver shield ("shield" is Arduino-ese for mezzanine card) for its tiny, versatile open-source microcontroller boards. At €69 each (US$90) the cards are not the sort of thing you'd want to stick on every light bulb, but they definitely open up some interesting possibilities for applications such as managing clusters of smart outdoor lighting products.
Telefónica's Arduino GSM Shield
The Arduino GSM Shield, developed in conjunction with Telefónica’s Physical Internet Laboratory, adds a GPRS/GSM connection to the Arduino motherboard, meaning that it can be controlled through the Internet anywhere there is mobile phone coverage. There are several other GSM shields available from other vendors, but the Telefónica group seems to have done an exceptionally good job of creating a set of libraries to take care of all the complicated operations needed to connect to the Internet and make and receive phone calls and text messages.
In addition, every unit comes with a ready-to-run Telefónica SIM card, which gives the user access to a very inexpensive tariffing scheme for worldwide data communication. The card requires a very simple activation process through the BlueVia website where users can log in with their Arduino accounts and be online in minutes.
Watch the video below to get a quick tutorial on activating and using the board.
One of the first LED-oriented applications I can imagine for the modem is a cluster of SSL roadway or streetscape lamps that can be controlled and monitored by a single GSM-equipped Arduino board. Equipping the lights with this low-cost two-way data/control link would make it easy to configure the lighting system for a park, campus, or segment of highway as well as manage its energy consumption and monitor the health of each luminaire to detect problems before they become failures. I'm sure there are lots of other SSL applications where a low-cost wireless controller would be welcomed, including the lights on large public structures such as the Golden Gate Bridge project I mentioned earlier.
The GSM shield plugs into any Arduio processor board with a riser pinout that's compatible with the ubiquitous Duo board.
To visit the Arduino store, click here. For those of you unfamiliar with Arduino, it's a family of low-cost microcontroller boards and plug-in I/O shields whose entire design and associated software libraries are fully open-source. This allows anyone who's making a prototype, one-off project or low-volume production run to buy the boards from Arduino or several other manufacturers and then produce their own (or modified versions) when the economics make sense.
Very interesting. And a new twist on old-fashioned light bulb jokes! Seriously (well, mostly), this will add some perspective to the blog I'm in the middle of writing about Philipps' developers program for its Hue lighting system that was recently covered in MIT Tech Review www.technologyreview.com/view/512396/an-app-store-for-home-lighting/ . I was tempteed to dismiss it as a marketing gimmick, but this and anotheer thing I'll discuss made me think twice.
"How many NASA engineers does it take to change a light bulb?" That is the great first line in this article about LED applications and their benefits for the International Space Station. The details of the article tell about research to improve the lighting on ISS and improve life on-board. So, what? Improved ISS life means improved life for your grand-kids who will be traveling the Solar System and the Galaxy.
Improved sleep, more alert astronauts, and other enhancements are possible with the adjustable 3-color LED light configuration they are researching. Like many other NASA research subjects, the practical, on-earth applications can be many. Better office lighting, efficient "Nap rooms" for workers that really help production, kid's bedroom lighting; it boggles the mind!
Glad to hear you are slso getting involved w/Arduino - it's changing how people design and manufacture stuff in many industries - and it's unleashed the imagination of a genration of DIY-ers.
What sorts of projects are you thiinking of working on? Will you be able to post someof the highlights as a guest blog?
I've had a lot of fun learning how to use the boards and the dev environment. I'm still not a pro but am just about ready to tackle a small project or two. I've also played with Arduino-compatible boards with 32-bit processors that are great for apps where a little mor e "oomph" is needed than the venerable 8-bit AVR MCU can supply. Digi-Key is a good source for basic Ardiuno components but there are also some other interresting sources I'v located. If I can be of any help, please contact me.
And please keep us all informed about any projects you are working on!
You may be interested in attending a panel discussion at DESIGN West this year on April 23, on OSHW in San Jose:
Session description: Are you interested in learning more about open source hardware, but skeptical that it has a place in the professional engineering world? The reality is that more and more engineers are discovering that OSHW can be an essential tool for quick prototyping, characterizing and testing peripherals, and beyond. Hear from some of the OSHW movement's leading personalities on where their products are being applied in the professional design world today and where it's all heading.
Sparkfun, Arduino, Raspberry Pi developers and engineers will be speaking.
Find out details here: http://www.ubmdesign.com/sanjose/schedule-builder/session-id/179
Hope to see you there! Karen Field, Content Director, DESIGN West
Hi Lee--funny coincidence, I was just recently researching the Arduino family as they are an interesting way to demo or prototype some M2M applications. Adding a GSM board to the family just increases the fun!!
FYI, if anyone wants some of the other boards or dev kits in a hurry, DigiKey among others stocks them: