Rapid prototyping is a quick way to prove your ideas, enhance them, or take them a step further in production. Before electronic boards such as the Intel® Edison board or the Intel® Galileo board were available, hardware prototyping was expensive and accessible only to a select few. Now, with online orders and a wide variety of learning tools, such as Instructables, it’s easy to dive into your first Internet of Things (IoT) project and bring your ideas to life.
Either because you’re a hobbyist and want to solve a problem you face daily or you have an idea you want to develop before you seek funding, the Intel® IoT Developer Kit provides the platform and support you need. Multiple moving parts must coexist before you can achieve a functional solution. The tangible parts are the sensors, actuators, microcontroller, and board; then, there’s the software portion, which interacts with the hardware, and any additional software layer to assist with data collection and manipulation.
You can use the Intel® System Studio IoT Edition on computers running a Windows*, Mac* OSX*, or Linux* operating system to access the libraries that facilitate functions to get data from the sensors and actuators. With multiple development environments available, such as Arduino*, C++, Python*, and Java*, the Intel® IoT Developer Kit caters to developers of all types. Node.js* functionality is achieved through the Intel® XDK IoT Edition integrated development environment, also available under free distribution from the Intel® Developer Zone. Intel® IoT technology integrates with other systems, as well, such as Microsoft* Azure*, IBM* Bluemix*, and Amazon Web Services* (AWS*). Remember to check the latest updates on new version releases, which may support further plugins and crossplatform functionalities.
You can use either the Intel® Edison board or its predecessor, the Intel® Galileo board (see Figure 1). Multiple sensor and wire kits are available. In particular, consider the Grove* Starter Kit Plus to get your feet wet with prototyping. Note that you can mount the Intel® Edison board on various extension boards, such as that from SparkFun*. In addition, you can create enclosures for your prototypes with three dimensional printers or laser cutters to give your project a finished look.
Uses and Implementation
Our daily actions are usually routine, following a state of action and reaction. As an example for those who have pets, it’s given that we will need to feed it and provide fresh water for them. A more eccentric example is a laundry notification system that tells users when washing machines or dryers for laundry are available. For those who live in apartment complexes or don’t have their own washing machine or drier, such a solution would be a time saver. For example, the Smart Walking Stick for Blind People is a project that looks to solve daily challenges for people who have disabilities or accessibility challenges.
Let’s walk through it in terms of sensors and actuators. When you start to prototype, you need to identify which technology, both hardware and software, you want to use. Your choices depend on which development platforms you’re comfortable with, which platforms you’re looking to learn, and which approach you take to solve the issue at hand. Say you’re tackling an automatic feeder prototype for your pet: You could use a pressure sensor that measures the weight of both the food and water bowls separately. By calculating a minimum weight for each bowl (showing when it’s empty) and an average, you’ll know when a bowl will soon run out of its content.
Another approach is to determine how many servings the pet food container holds. By using a sound sensor, your IoT device could count down and send you a notification when only a few servings remain. This implementation would have a timer with the specific times throughout the day when a serving should be allocated. Connected to the Internet, the device could alert or inform you when your pet’s food bowl needed to be refilled or automatically take action. Depending on how you configured the device, it could also reorder supplies if it “sensed” that the food would soon run out. You could add a display to provide a visual status of the number of servings left. This is just one solution of many, and you could quickly test which approach might be most effective, enhancing or dismissing each option by using the Intel® IoT Developer Kit
The possible uses are endless: Which you choose depends on the issues you want to solve and the benefit your device creates for your end users, such as time efficiency or cost reduction. You will need multiple iterations for testing because adjustment or redesign of the prototype is common in the early stages. With the Intel® Edison or Intel® Galileo boards, you can quickly reuse sensors and microcontrollers without having to order new parts. If you’re using a breadboard or some other means of connecting that doesn’t include soldering, the time and effort required to rewire your board shrink compared to previous decades, where you had to reengineer the device from scratch. The size and weight of the Intel boards and sensors make them an appealing product if you’re interested in solutions that are mobile and quickly assembled or disassembled.
Data helps us take action and identify patterns. Without data from sensors, the actuators would probably not have a reaction to the observations made in the physical world. You can connect the Intel® Edison board to cloud platforms such as Microsoft* Azure, IBM Bluemix*, AWS*, or the Intel® IoT Analytics Dashboard to collect and process the data. These features can be expanded to other databases, allowing data manipulation and adding value to your prototype through tangible metrics. You can also add security measures to your prototype, security being at the forefront of consumers’ concerns these days.
Even though data collection might not be an essential part of your prototype, for some use cases, it will be a great addition. For example, for the automatic pet feeder, an optional step while you’re working on a prototype is to collect data on automatic lights and energy consumption, post the data in the cloud, and analyze it for energy saving times frames. Having the Intel® IoT Developer Kit count, with the option of adding data analytics to your projects, is a plus. If you’re interested in exploring cloud options and capabilities further, see Cloud and Analytics Tools.
Figure 2 shows the relationship between hardware and software options. It also includes the various cloud options as part of the software stack.
You can prove an IoT idea wrong in a matter of days or weeks with the Intel® Edison board. The online community, documentation, and resources promote quick adoption of the system, ensuring that if you run into any roadblocks, the support team or community of hobbyists will help you overcome it. At an accessible price point and a small size and powered by great technology, prototyping with the Intel® Edison board and Grove* Starter Kit Plus can take place anywhere. Supporting multiple coding platforms, coders of all levels can tackle their projects in a variety of programming languages. All it takes is some hardware, some software, and a problem to solve!