Modeo is a company that is out to set trends in the nascent e-bike market, an area poised for rapid growth in the coming decade as the need for efficient urban transportation grows (if you're unfamiliar with e-bikes, The New Wheel gives a good introduction). Modeo's vision is of an internet connected platform for e-bikes that can enable diagnostics and data collection, as well as control and tuning through an elegant mobile app.
A recent collaboration with Modeo had us building a small energy-efficient Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)/CAN bus interface board prototype that can bridge the gap between a mobile device (iPhone etc.) and the motor control electronics in an e-bike. By going with a BLE enabled system-on-chip (the ARM® Cortex M3-based BCM20732 from Broadcom) we were able to reduce size, cost, and complexity of the prototype board. The resulting board included CAN driver, real time clock, power regulation, and a selection of headers and connectors for convenient debugging, programming, and installation all on footprint approximately 52mm x 28mm.
E-bikes are definitely starting to take off in popularity (not to mention a blast to ride!). Keep a look out for more from Modeo in the future.
The schematic, board, and manufacturing files for both the EChem Breakout Board and the BLE EChem Sensor described in previous posts are now available for public use and distribution.
You are free to use this material for any purpose.
Coming soon to pants near you... Drumpants!
We recently completed the electrical design and layout of the Arduino compatible Drumpants PCB. Some of the highlights of the board include an Atmel SAM3X ARM-based microcontroller, Broadcom Bluetooth Low Energy radio, and VLSI MIDI decoder. They also feature 4 instrument input jacks, MIDI extension header, lithium battery management and regulation system, and USB port for programming and charging.
Working alongside industrial design firm Pull Creative, we've optimized the board for size, function, and manufacturability. Below you can see a panel of Drumpants PCBs ready to go out for assembly.
Drumpants gives you the opportunity to have a drum set in your pocket that connects to your iPhone or iPad. Though they come with pre-loaded firmware, pressure sensitive instrument pads, and a Drumpants iPhone app, they are designed so that you can easily customize the experience with your own Arduino firmware, DIY instruments, and plugins for your favorite audio software.
Drumpants finished up a successful Kickstarter campaign in January and is getting ready to be released to the public shortly. Pre-order yours here.
In order to enable quick evaluation of the various 3 and 4 electrode chemical sensing cells out there on the market, we've developed a breakout board for interfacing with electrochemical (EC) cells. EC sensors, though of higher quality and much lower power consumption than metal oxide sensors, require a bit more 'up front' circuitry; hopefully having a low cost EC interface board available will make it a bit easier for those wanting to try measuring with EC air sensors to focus on calibration and applications instead of support circuitry.
The board is based around the TI LMP91000 Analog Front End and includes a 12 bit ADC, on-board temperature sensor (for temperature correlation), and EEPROM (for storing calibration data). The entire system can be controlled via I2C using a 'Grove' compatible 4 pin connector. For those that would like to use the board in more elaborate configurations (chaining multiple boards, using an external ADC, etc.) or exercise more fine-grained control, the board breaks out nearly every pin of every IC to standard 0.1 inch headers that fit conveniently into a breadboard.
Shout out to KSFlabs and Peter Sand of Manylabs for input on this board.
Update: These are no longer being sold. Look for a post shortly that includes links to the design & manufacturing files for this board and the Bluetooth enabled version.
Update: Design files on GitHub
Bluetooth® Smart (AKA Bluetooth® Low Energy or BLE) is somewhat unique among wireless connectivity technologies in that it's optimized for low power & low data rates. A typical type of application for this technology would be a remote sensor that periodically sends small amounts of data to a host for processing, like a heart rate monitor that connects to your phone.
Devices utilizing BLE can be designed to last a year or more, powered only by a button cell (watch) battery. They can be connected in all sorts of configurations, from a simple one-to-one connection (server --> client) to complex star topologies (you can theoretically have billions of devices). BLE is also beginning to be supported by most new smartphones.
With this kind of flexibility and device support there are a lot of uses one could imagine; Distributed sensor networks, wearable device interfaces, fitness monitors that connect to your smartphone, information
beacons in remote locations, and replacement for NFC/RFID are just some that come to mind but there are surely many others that will appear as the technology's popularity grows.
One simple but useful application of BLE is just to take something that typically relies on a wired connection for data transfer and replace the cable with a BLE connection.
The firmware I've used on several projects to make BlueGiga's BLE112 module behave like a simple serial cable connection (UART) can be found here on GitHub. When this is running and the device is connected to the host, the Bluetooth radios are transparent and it's as if the device is plugged in directly with a serial cable. For low data rate applications, it's not a bad way to get rid of another annoying cable.
A note about the firmware and BLE112 module:
The firmware is written in BGScript, a fairly easy to use scripting language for BlueGiga's Bluetooth modules, which includes a free compiler.
There are a number of integrated BLE modules on the market that include the BLE chip, antenna, and some sort of microcontroller functionality. I've tested a few and have a strong preference for BlueGiga's offerings.
They not only have (by far) the best documentation and support for their products vs. the competition, they also provide a number of free tools to help with development (of which BGScript is one). The BLE112 stands on it's own as a microcontroller as well with UARTs, ADCs, Digital I/O pins, and a whole bunch of other peripherals.
It's worth noting that I'm in no way affiliated with BlueGiga, or any other chip maker for that matter.
Learn more about BLE and BlueGiga's BLE modules at the sites listed below:
Along with clean water and good food, the quality of the air we breathe is one of the most important factors influencing our overall health. You can get an idea of the common pollutants and their health effects from this excellent overview by the US EPA.
Despite abounding information about the health effects of air pollution, there is frustratingly little available on how it varies over local geography and time in most regions. Often the first (or only) indicators of poor air quality are coughing, asthma, malaise, and perhaps, in extreme situations, a menacing grey cloud.
With this in mind, we've been working on a portable gas detection unit, capable of sensing 3 of the 6 major pollutants tracked by the EPA (that's CO, NO2, & SO2). Its small, very low power, and Bluetooth (r) Low Energy (BT4.0) enabled so it can be read and controlled via smartphone.
In the short term we are trying to get some of these in the hands of researchers and students to help develop methods for localized air monitoring as well as to help teach environmental awareness and data collection. Ultimately, we are working on calibrating these devices so they can provide a reliable and easy to use (but relatively low-cost) platform for environmental monitoring.
An expanded network of such sensors could be of considerable value to those living in air-compromised areas (near roadways, factories etc.), sensitive individuals, and (really...) anyone curious or concerned about the air they breathe, ideally as a way to present quantitative data for action, and at the very least as an early warning system. Stay posted for more or feel free to contact me if you are interested in knowing more.
Update: Design files on GitHub