Internet of Things data collection @ data.sparkfun.com

Earlier in July, SparkFun announced the introduction of a new service to push Internet of Things device data, data.sparkfun.com. Esentially, data.sparkfun.com is a data channel where data can be pushed (easily via HTTP posts) to a persistent repository on the Internet. So your Internet of Things devices are able to send data to a single repository. SparkFun wants to provide a “robust service for use with all your projects”.

Like anything in life, although well put together, there are some reasonable limitation on the free service. Each project that you register (referred to as a stream) has a limit of 50MBs of data. Once the 50 MBs is exceeded, older data is deleted as newer data is received. Additionally, 100 pushes to the stream are allowed over a 15 minute period, which allows you to either push data in bursts or distribute them as is appropriate for your particular needs. Also, all streams are publicly accessible to anyone with the correct URL.

That being said, the service utilizes Phant, an open source engine developed by SparkFun that is freely downloadable in the case where you want to run the servers on your own (cloud) hardware. If you run the service locally, you can configure the installation to allow for arbitrary storage scenarios and are not limited to 50Mbs. 

data.sparkfun.com

Finally, there are great examples of how to hook up Google Charts JavaScript library to implement a simple graph of your live logged data. 

In less than an hour, I was able to setup a custom stream to record the running history of my Internet controlled stoplight that indicates the quality of our software build at work. Using a simple HTTP POST, approximately every 30 seconds  I log the data to my data.sparkfun.com stream and the allow reporting via Google Charts. All I can say is absolutely amazing!

Raspberry Pi Model B+ Released

After about two years since the launch of the Raspberry Pi model B, the Raspberry Pi Foundation launched the Raspberry Pi model B+. Although exciting, the model B+ is more of an evolutionary change (incremental) vs. a revolutionary (transformational) change. Some of the major changes in the model B+ include:rsz_b--500x337

  • The B+ has 40 general purpose I/O (GPIO) pins, 14 more than the model B. Conveniently, the first 26 GPIO pins are the same on the model b and B+
  • The composite audio and video are combined into one jack and audio quality is improved, the camera display connector and Ethernet port remain unchanged
  • However minor, the power USB port has been moved to the side of the board next to the HDMI connector, which is nice to no longer have cables necessary on one side of the board.
  • Two addition mounting holes are provided which makes mounting the board in enclosures a bit easier.
  • The SD card has been replaced with a micro SD card that protrudes much less from the bottom side of the board.
  • And possibly one of the best improvements of the model B+, especially where batteries are used to power the board, is the reduction in power required for the model B+ (reduced power consumption by between 0.5W and 1W).

modelbvsbplus2

The Raspberry Pi Foundation plans to continue production of both the Raspberry Pi model B and B+, both of which are available for purchase for $35. Outside of commercial use the Pi, where specific hardware enclosures have been fabricated for the model B, the model B+ will be the more popular model moving forward.

BLE in action – Knock!

I blogged previously on the topic of iBeacons, which use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). BLE is a low energy Bluetooth implementation that allows devices to run for months or years using only a tiny battery.

A client told me about a cool app, Knock, that does one simple thing (and very well)…it uses BLE to unlock your Mac when you and your phone are close to your Mac. The app works by having two pieces of software. One piece runs on the iPhone and uses Bluetooth to connect to the other piece of software running on a Mac.

The typical use case is you walk up to your Mac and want to unlock it. If your iPhone is in your pocket, the knock app will wakeup automatically and you just knock on the iPhone whilst it is in your pocket. Each time you knock, there is a visual indicator on your mac (blue ring emanating from the center of your login screen). Just two knocks are required to unlock your Mac.

knock

Obviously, there is a pairing process to make sure not just anyone can unlock your Mac. And the iPhone app will not work after the phone is rebooted until the phone is unlocked for the first time, to help provide additional security.

This app is far from a necessity, but it is very cool and certainly convenient if your hands are full when you are using your Mac (maybe while cooking). It represents to me just the beginning of what interesting and unique apps we will begin to see as we enter this new world of mobile and the Internet of Things.