The Internet of Things comes as a huge stimulus for the student-inventor
By Anand Parthasarathy
Bangalore, December 8 2014: In his book "The Road Ahead" Bill Gates reproduces a famous 'New Yorker' cartoon that shows two dogs, one sitting on a chair in front of a PC, telling a second dog sitting on the floor: "On the Internet, no one knows you're a dog!" It underlined the fact that the Net was a great equalizer -- serving all who accessed it .
Two decades after that seminal comment, we are facing another technology leveler: the Internet of Things (IoT) -- the interconnection of billions of devices ( 20 billion and counting) within the existing Internet, without requiring human interaction.
The beauty of IoT, is that applications are limited only by our imagination -- and whipping together a cool tool is something even school and college students can do -- thanks to availability of many affordable development tools and kits, offered by leading Indian and global electronics companies.
Last week, I got to serve as one of the judges at a national IoT contest organised by Intel in Bangalore. Some 300 teams of youngsters, were each provided with Intel "Galileo" and "Edison" kits -- student-friendly development platforms, where you could connect chips, memory, storage and sensors, to create interesting applications. They worked round the clock for 24 hours -- and landed us in a serious dilemma: how to select the best from dozens of clever solutions: a shopping cart that scans every item before you reach the checkout; a street lighting system that switches on only when a vehicle approaches; an SOS mobile alert sender for women , activated when the owner just taps her feet...
Only weeks earlier, I had dropped in at a similar contest hosted by National Instruments, where one of the top prize winners went to a team from Hindustan University, Chennai which created a solar-powered rough terrain vehicle useful for bomb disposal. And earlier this year, a students from the Karamveer Bhaurao Patil College of Engineering, Satara, Maharashtra, developed a hydraulic robot controlled by a human arm at the Texas Instruments Innovation India Analog Design contest.
All theses student inventions are made possible because these companies have launched affordable development kits which can be quickly turned into computer-based tools.
- Intel's Edison is an Atom-powered system-on-a-chip, with all the bits required to add memory, storage and a WiFi connection to the Cloud. You don't need a soldering iron, everything is click-n-fit.|
- NI's myDAQ is a low-cost data acquisition (DAQ) device that gives students the ability to measure and analyze live signals anywhere, anytime. It can mimic 8 instruments, including a function generator, oscilloscope and digital multimeter.
|- TI's myPartsKit comes with the building blocks of all electronics, including op-amps, an instrumentation amplifier, a comparator, voltage regulators, switching regulators, timers, temperature sensors, data converters, transistors, resistors, capacitors, LEDs, switches and more.
- Analog Devices' Wireless Sensor Network Development Kit allows users to establish a working wireless system in as little as 15 minutes to remotely analyze various types of sensor data, such as temperature, humidity and motion.
- iWave, a leading Indian product developer, has put together an Advanced Learning Platform enabling students to deploy several new displays, sensors, and interfaces, based on ARM and Freescale solutions while introducing them to a rich world of Embedded Systems.
- Many of these kits will also work with the most popular student platform today the Rasberry Pi wallet computer. Most of them cost Rs 3000 or less.
Who knows, the Next Big Thing in IoT may be dreamt, designed, developed and delivered from the electronics lab of an Indian school or college! Get to IT, guys