The fast-growing “Internet of Things” has pulled mobile operating systems like Android into everything from thermostats to light fixtures. Because the OS is open-source and freely available, you don’t need to ask any big firm’s permission to use it. And thanks to a sensor kit from Texas Instruments, developers can now experiment with an endless range of products.
Not surprisingly, sensors are offering mobile development shops new worlds to conquer. The only hitch might be that most developers aren’t sensor and telemetry specialists. But thanks to the TI CC2541 SensorTag Development Kit from Texas Instruments, they don’t have to be.
The sensor kit supports six common types of sensors: an IR temperature sensor, humidity sensor, pressure sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer. The first three sensors measure environmental conditions important to practically all devices located in the field.
The IR temperature sensor, for example, warns if a device’s motor is overheating. A humidity sensor can detect if moisture is penetrating a waterproof casing. And a pressure sensor can report on either excessive or substandard pressure. Taken together, these sensors can form powerful tools like a remote weather station.
The accelerometer and gyroscope are especially important to mobile instruments, as they allow a device’s motion to be tracked independently of GPS or other external location measurements. Most smartphones already have these features, but the sensor kit handles a wider range of conditions than most smartphone components. Finally, the magnetometer measures magnetic fields and electric currents, providing a safe means of remotely monitoring electric grids and power generators.
Despite the diverse functions of the TI sensor kit, most developers won’t use all six sensors for a single project. An Albuquerque-based development team gave the TI SensorTag a playful but thorough workout by strapping it to a model rocket, measuring the acceleration, speed and pressure of the launch. But space is far from the final frontier. One of the most popular areas for sensor kit experimentation is physical fitness.
As TDK’s Armin Schober notes, “[The technology can support] heart rate monitors, running shoes or bicycle computers combined with an altimeter to track altitude changes.” Vincent Hess of Sensirion adds, “[SensorTag] is a perfect contribution to meet the customer needs for personal health.”
The NeatoCode blog suggests a further fitness-related twist: smart clothing that uses the temperature and humidity sensors to open air vents as an exerciser warms up. Even at a recent Mutual Mobile hackathon, three teams of developers discovered new physical uses for the TI sensor kit.
One hands-on, or rather, fists-on invention was a boxing game that paired the sensors with sparring dummy. The sensor’s accelerometer reported exactly how much of a beating the mannequin was taking, along with how much of a workout the user got from it. Another boxing-related idea placed sensors in gloves so users could track the force of punches while shadowboxing. Then there was the football that sent back info on passes.
With its six wide-ranging sensors, the TI sensor kit offers development shops a low-cost, fast-working way to apply mobile technology to the Internet of Things. So why not order a kit for yourself and see what you can come up with?