For the latest Digi Hackathon, I headed overseas to hold our first ever creative construction event at Digi’s office in Logroño, Spain. Using XBee WiFi Cloud Kits, the four teams hacked away for what was the most competitive session yet. In a matter of hours, each team had to quickly brainstorm, build, and present their cloud-connected projects. Their results were terrific.
The Garbage M.A.N.: Smart garbage containers monitoring for smart cities
Germinator Plus: An automated system for remote greenhouse seed germination monitoring.
Lie-Detect-o-Meter: A mobile battery-operated wristband lie detector for public questioning.
The Smart Plug-Y-Play: A power consumption monitor and remote control for computers and other electrical appliances.
Last week, we held a Digi Employee Hackathon to put the new XBee Wi-Fi Cloud Kit to the test. This is one of several ways we are working on designing outstanding user experiences for new Digi products. With the kits, the teams were able to build projects that connected with the cloud right away. One team member reported, “I got from the box to the cloud in under 20 minutes.” Using the kit’s dashboard, new widgets were developed to whimsically represent data being collected by Device Cloud. Rain, food safety and even child development were addressed by our project teams.
I’m looking forward to doing more of these internal hackathons in the coming year. They’re fun!
Right now I’ve got a big pile of different sensors, lights, motors, scent emitters and more on my desk. We’re going to demonstrate XBee hookups for ’em all, then show how they can be linked to one another, hooked up to computers and connected to the Internet. From breathalyzers to joysticks and from wind sensors to air fresheners we’re creating a modular toolbox that should jumpstart all kinds of creative and practical XBee projects. Come and see the beginnings:
There’s a terrific new article (login required) in New Scientist featuring my friend and colleague Ted Hays. Back in 2009, Ted created an Internet-enabled bubble gun in the Networked Objects class I taught at ITP. His Bubble Gun announces incoming email with a stream of soapy spheres. It’s a whimsical demonstration of how simple devices can join the Internet, transforming data from chilly abstractions into satisfying interactions. Here’s an excerpt:
Hayes represents a growing movement of tinkerers who are merging the online and physical worlds in surprising ways. Instead of waiting for technology companies like Cisco or Apple to make their gadgets, these “makers” are buying off-the-shelf computer chips, sensors and wireless radios, and doing it themselves. They are transforming their possessions – from plant pots and clothing to thermostats or cuddly toys – to become smarter, connected and social.
…where established companies are still struggling to figure out how to connect with consumers, a growing community of amateurs is busy creating thousands of smart devices. And some technology observers believe that all this activity is revealing how to build an Internet of Things that people actually want to use.
The article, by MacGregor Campbell, also covers independent connected projects like Twine and Arduino. These, combined with radios like the XBee, promise to bring the power of device networking to a broader audience.
At NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, students in Rob Faludi’s “Sensitive Buildings” course were given access to a 28-story apartment building in Manhattan. Using XBee radio modules, students created a variety of projects utilizing both the building’s existing systems and a set of XBee wireless gateways. Projects included a mail chute tracker, a projection that visualizes elevator use, an exercise monitoring system, and a sensor network that measures climate conditions and noise throughout the building.
Colombo’s not only a MAKE writer, he was also one of many fine students in the inaugural Sensitive Buildings class, currently scheduled to run again this September at NYU. For the fall, I’m planning to focus even more on observation and prototyping for trying out new ideas. Thanks to various advances in Digi International’s technology suite, including the enhanced XIG, it has become much faster to teach the tech. Students can also learn directly from my book which leaves us free to dig into the practice of interaction design and make new technologies that are really useful to tenants.
Click below to see what Colombo’s piece looks like in print: