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PiAnywhere coming soon

With the amount of interest in the Sensly air quality HAT for the raspberry pi there was an amount of demand for its use in remote applications. Which gave way to a side project by our electronics team with the intent of providing all the functionality required for “Internet of Sensors” in a single Raspberry Pi HAT. The end result was PiAnywhere which comes in three flavors 4G, 3G and GSM.

Of course now we have shiny new hardware the process of improving usability now begins. Currently we have integrated a python API with makes it possible to communicated with the internet and access other functionality such as GPS, Bluetooth and battery management. Our goal is to extent the software to Linux drivers that allow the Raspberry Pi to use PiAnywhere as a mobile hot spot and shutdown functionality.

Here we are testing the early SPI driver between Linux and the PiAnywhere 3G edition. All data is communicated over the SPI bus which allows for very high data rates between our hardware and the Raspberry Pi.

PiAnywhere GSM

The exception is the GSM edition of the PiAnywhere which is designed to be low cost and suitable for most IOT applications. All of the communication with the GSM edition takes place though I2C and has a configurable address. This allows access maximum access to all of the GPIO pins on the Raspberry Pi. The GSM edition also includes Bluetooth communications which is not featured in the other PiAnywhere models.

We have colour coded the PCBs to make identification easy GSM (red), 3G (white), 4G (Black).

PiAnywhere - A picture of three boards. GSM, 3G and 4G

We are hoping the PiAnywhere HATs will prove an interesting platform for remote projects with the Raspberry Pi.

4D Printing, Disorder Building Ordered Structures

Massachusetts Institute of Technology is widely considered the hotbed in the world’s technological innovation, and nothing is more on the forefront of the future than the MIT Media Lab. At events all over the world MIT’s Technology Review tries to start global conversations about technologies that matter, the people who make them and how they could change our lives. At last week’s MIT’s Technology Review EmTech Brazil, audiences got a taste of what the future of wearable technology and self-assembling consumer products could be.

The idea behind 4D printing is that you take multi-material 3D printing — so you can deposit multiple materials — and you add a new capability, which is transformation, that right off the bed, the parts can transform from one shape to another shape directly on their own. In a paper published in Nature Scientific Reports, They looked at the design of complex self-deformations in objects that have been printed from multiple materials as a means to customise the object into specific forms. The expanding materials were placed strategically on the main structure to produce joints that stretched and folded like a bendy straw when activated by water, forming a broad range of shapes.

There’s more that can be done with 3D printed materials to make them more flexible and more useful: structures that can transform in a pre-programmed way in response to a stimulus. There’s even a software called cadnano that allows us to design three-dimensional shapes like nano robots or drug delivery systems and use DNA to self-assemble those functional structures. And that’s called self-assembly, which is a process by which disordered parts build an ordered structure through only local interaction. But most importantly, we can use this same software for the design of nanoscale self-assembly systems and human scale self-assembly systems. The approach they use to print 3D structures using materials with different properties: “one that remained rigid and another that expanded up to 200% of its original volume.”

4D assembly

Image: Washington Post – Stratasys MIT Cubefolding Combined

The event in Rio de Janeiro with MIT scientist Skylar Tibbits who many think of the father of 4D self-assembly technology. In the future wearable technology will simply be adaptable to any situation that we find ourselves in, such as a shirt that has a hemline that will rise and fall depending on the event being attended. But Coelho wasn’t just talking about smart fashion that was aesthetically adaptable, he also sees a future where wearable technology actually guides us to the people that we are looking for.

Smart Watch

Image: 3Dprint.com

The device that Coelho showed off looked like a simple watch, but it did far more than tell time, it actually searches everyone else in the room wearing a similar device and notifies you when it found someone who you should talk to, or someone that you should avoid by glowing green or red.

 

 

References:

3D and 4D Printing Will Allow Clothing and Consumer Products …3Dprint.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2015

http://www.nature.com/articles/srep13616

http://theconversation.com/explainer-what-is-4d-printing-35696

 

Air Pollution

Why You Should Care About Air Pollution

Why You Should Care About Air Pollution

Air Pollution

Air pollution is virtually invisible in our day to day lives, but it’s important to understand how it can affect your health.

The air we breath is essential to healthy living and is one of the main points we’ve wanted to tackle with Sensly. Some air pollutant particles are so small they cannot be seen with the naked eye, making it hard to encourage people to be conscious of what’s around them. These very fine particles and gas pollutants are produced indoors and outdoors but have a greater concentration inside where we spend 90% of our time.

These can pass through our bodies natural defences through our nose and into our lungs. This is a perfect delivery method to enter our blood stream. The illnesses vary from lung cancer, asthma, birth defects, long-term injury to the lungs, as well as brain and nerve damage. With knowing all of this, how can we improve indoor air quality? We suggest following these five simple steps:

  • Make sure your home is clean.
  • Open windows to circulate the air.
  • Maintain a good level of humidity.
  • Do not smoke indoors
  • Avoid synthetic fragrances.
  • Purchase house plants that help to filter the air.

Maintaining a good air quality will help you with stress, headaches, drowsiness and learning.

 

 

Sam Nwankwo - CEO of Altitude Tech. Altitude Tech Featured In South West Business News

Altitude Tech Featured On South West Business Website

Recently, we were featured on the South West Business website where Sam, our CEO, was interviewed about our most recent product, Sensly.

Plenty of good ideas have been sparked in a conversation down the pub. Not so many have gone on to be successful businesses.

Sam Nwankwo, pictured, hopes to achieve just that and at the same time, and somewhat more importantly, play a part in improving air quality in our cities.

Sam and his friends founded Altitude Tech and developed air quality monitor Sensly, which they hope to put into production soon.

The process has already been an “amazing learning experience” for the young entrepreneur.

He said: “We had all worked for start-ups and were inspired by our bosses to create our own business and develop our ‘Sensly’ product concept, an indoor air quality sensor that uses onboard gas sensors to detect a wide range of harmful compounds.”

The formula of the team is that they each have different backgrounds and skills, from engineering and design to business and marketing.

“We all share a passion for technology and have a common goal to create products that people need,” he said. “We took a scientific approach to running a business to accomplish our goal, formulating assumptions that we could test in the real world, as we realised early on that we needed feedback from the general public to validate our ideas.”

They started with the simple that the air we breathe is important.

“While on average we can survive three weeks without food and three days without water,” Sam said, “we can only survive three minutes without air.

“We also assumed that people care about their air quality. However, current air quality monitors aren’t very simple and are rather expensive.”

Sensly air quality monitor developed by Altitude Tech

The Sensly idea was born. Using the onboard sensor information, the device is can give real-time notifications and visual alerts about surrounding air quality.

It also enables people to share their data and use this information, which they hope will be used to improve their surrounding air quality.

“On a global scale, Sensly can enable cities to dynamically plan their growth,” said Sam. No lack of ambition then.

The start-up has got to this point in no small part thanks to support from the Bristol Robotics Laboratory’s Technology Business Incubator (BRL), based at the University of the West of England (UWE) .

The team all worked for companies there and pitched their idea to its innovation manager Jill Burnett.

“We were granted some desk space within the incubator,” said Sam. “We also obtained a grant from the University of the West of England to help us set up our business.

“Using the resources we obtained from UWE and BRL we developed our prototype. We then took the idea to Kickstarter the crowd-funding platform to validate our assumptions and test the market.

“The response was amazing, we hit our funding goal within seven days and raised over £33,000 by the end of the campaign.”

He added: “None of this would have been possible if it wasn’t for the assistance given by BRL and UWE, and the schemes and opportunities available within the South West. The region exemplifies the nation’s drive to create a better, more connected tomorrow, striving to support and accelerate the efforts of those within the community that want to contribute to building a better future.”

The team has developed a product, tested the market and is preparing for mass manufacture.

“Our next step will be to ship our Sensly air quality product to all of our Kickstarter backers,” said Sam. “Then, hopefully, we start working with cities like Bristol to create a mesh network of Senslys that can inform us on the overall air quality in our communities, so we can begin the public debate on how best to improve our air quality together.”

Original Article: Bristol start-up Altitude Tech’s sensor could help cities improve air quality

NASA Guide to Air Filtering Houseplants - Featured Image

Infographic – The Best 18 Air Filtering Houseplants

Improve Your Air Quality With Air Filtering Houseplants

With Sensly, our smart indoor pollution sensor, one of its limitations is not being able to improve air quality by itself. It can only give readouts of gas levels. While making you aware of pollution levels is great, we want to offer some practical tips on how you can improve your home air quality with air filtering houseplants.

We stumbled across this fantastic infographic that shows the 18 best air filtering houseplants.

The data behind why these houseplants are so beneficial are from a Study by NASA and the Associated Contractors of America. They wanted to discover which indoor plants are efficient at purifying the air. More information on the study can be found here.

In the study, it was discovered that some indoor plants were extremely useful in removing benzene, ammonia and formaldehyde from the air. This consequently helps to reduce the effects of sick building syndrome that you can read more about here.

This could be an easy, low-cost solution for improving your air quality within your home or workplace. If you do decide to add these plants to your home, we’d love to hear if you notice any differences in your health.

NASA Guide to Air Filtering Houseplants To Improve Indoor Air Quality

A big thanks to Love The Garden for the awesome infographic.

Sensly At The Ideal Home Show On The Christmas Smart Home Stand

Sensly At The 2016 Ideal Home Show In London!

Our Day Out At The Ideal Home Show

A few weeks ago the Ideal Home Show contacted us to see if we’d be interested in sending them a Sensly so they could showcase it in their Virgin Media Smart Home Section. Obviously, we were very keen (the more publicity, the better!) so we took this opportunity to have a company day out. They had presenters showcasing Sensly to anyone who visited the smart home stand, and we had some great feedback and responses from people.

We were quite surprised with how big the event was! It was at Kensington Olympia and over the four-day event duration, there must have been tens of thousands of people visit. We had a 15-minute wait just to get in!

Sensly Being Demonstrated at the Ideal Home Show In Kensington London 2016

Sensly was also placed among other Smart Home products as you can see in the image below. It was a perfect opportunity to gather real world feedback from potential customers and even people not interested in the product. We gathered a wide set of qualitative data that we consider invaluable. Combined with our recent feedback from our Kickstarter backers, we have a clear idea of what we can create for future products (or future Sensly improvements) once we have delivered our Kickstarter.

Sensly Being Demonstrated at the Ideal Home Show In Kensington London 2016 2

This was the first event we’ve ever had the chance to showcase a product, and we’re extremely proud that so many people liked Sensly! The market research we collected was invaluable. Hopefully, in the near future, we can attend more of these events and show off more of our future products that we have in the pipeline.

Did you attend the Ideal Home Show? Did you spot Sensly in the Virgin Media Smart Home section? If you did, let us know on Twitter! We’d loved to hear your thoughts. Our Twitter accounts are @AltitudeTech and @_Sensly .

Sensly At The Ideal Home Show On The Christmas Smart Home Stand

pi zero eagle

PiZero – Start Designing Your Add Ons With Eagle

I was lucky enough to get my hands on the new Pi Zero which was available with the MagPi magazine and of course ideas started to get tossed around the room. The very low cost opens up the market for low cost applications that require either a full operating system or large amounts of processing power. And with it’s ultra small design the Raspberry Pi Zero is going to be a great tool for building all manor of cool devices. I myself can’t wait to get ubuntu snappy on my PiZero and seeing what can be done.

And so I though the natural starting point was to get some eagle symbols ready so we can start designing right away. And so I thought I would share them with the community so we can all start playing as soon as possible. This should be a good template to kick your designs off.

pizero eagle

Download PiZero Eagle Library / Template

The eagle library provides two options, through hole and SMT.

https://store.altitude.tech/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/pi_zero.zip

esp8266ex (IOT) Internet of things, connecting your products

(IOT) Internet of things, connecting your products

Chances are if you’ve arrived at this blog you are aware of the “internet of things” and the vast array of products claiming to be IOT. But behind the buzz words and a rather large amount of misunderstanding we can quantify IOT quite simply as connected devices. And of course the core idea is taking your common products we use everyday and network them to enhance them.  So at its core what we are really doing is adding Bluetooth or WiFi connectivity to such devices and interacting with it using a layer of pretty software.

WiFi or Bluetooth is the question?

There are two main options here, Bluetooth or WiFi and thanks to the vast range of IC’s available today integrating either is not a huge task, particularly for low bandwidth applications like those used in the internet of things. There are a number of factors to consider when making this decision including cost, bandwidth, power requirements and how data is consumed.

The main focus of this post is going to be on WiFi communications and how they can be integrated into a product as well as the various options you have when doing this.

IOT and cost

I think first and foremost cost is a particularly important factor for these kinds of products. After all network enabling our house hold devices is cool and no doubt adds some interesting functionality but for many products IOT is just a feature. I feel this technology is something that all manufacturers should aim to add to products but it should not be a premium that adds massively to the end cost.

For example there is a recent trend in smart smoke alarms, many of which I have seen cost many times that of a standard fire alarm. And the only real difference (other than good marketing) is the presence of network connectivity. The market should not be like this, smart devices should be the next stage of the market not an overprices luxury with endless pointless features.

And so this brings me to what is currently my Favorited little muse, the Espressiff (http://espressif.com/) ESP8266EX. You can see this tiny chip pictured here on my finder. And despite it’s small size this chip offers relatively simple connectivity your 2.4Ghz network. And on top of this I have found it really easy to integrate into my projects due the the small number of passive components required to get it working. For prototyping it was easy enough to integrate with an FTDI USB to Serial converter making programming over USB a very simple matter.

esp8266 on finger

Of course there are a fair few WiFi chips available but this little guy is special due to the fact that it costs around $1 at volume! Of course we better not forget about a few supporting capacitors, resistors and oscillator, brining the cost of wireless integration to a bank breaking $1.5. And even in small quantities this number of unlikely to be more than a few dollars.

Of course there are a number of pitfalls when using this chip, the first and perhaps is the fact that it it Chinese made. As a result you should only really expect community support, although the code available these days is considerably stronger than when the chip first entered the market. However for the extremely low cost I would say a little hardship on the programming side is more than worth it. That being said the chip offers a firmware that implements the commonly known AT command set meaning you don’t necessarily need to write code directly for the ESP8266EX. This is particularly useful if your application has its own microcontroller as you can simply use the the ESP as a slave device.

The ESP is also not a great option for high throughput applications, so if you are planning of transmitting some high definition video your are going to have to look elsewhere. Tests with high bandwidth tends to cause the chip to freeze up and become erratic.

But that being said if you have an applications sending a small steady stream of packets this chip is perfect. So any application reporting measurement to a server or polling for commands is a perfect match for this integrated circuit. Which is basically 90% of IOT applications!

But just as this chip has its flaws at has some very interesting strengths, in particular network detection and communication. When playing around the chip seems to pick up even very weak networks and is always gets a great deal of its packets through. Our general experience with just a simple chip antenna has been very good and when used with a larger external antenna we have yet to ever really have signal issues. While we do get some packet loss if the network is very weak or a very large number of packets are being sent, we compensate for this in the software. The end result is robots communications for IOT devices but for a tiny cost.

So now we’ve gone through a little background on the chip I will be going through how the ESP8266EX is integrated from both an electrical and software perspective in the next couple of posts.

How To Vote For The Sensly Air Quality Sensor In The Shell LiveWIRE Smarter Future October 2015 Funding Competition Part 2

More Potential Funding For Sensly – Shell LiveWIRE Competition

Recently, we submitted Sensly, our smart pollution detecting device to the Shell LiveWIRE Smarter Future Programme. We were shortlisted as one of five companies that have the chance to win:

– £5,000 in funding
– Mentoring and a workshop with business experts from Shell
– The chance to win the yearly £25,000 Shell LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

As you can imagine, we are very excited to be shortlisted for this and have the potential to win the competition. We’re currently asking friends and family to vote for us as winning this could make a huge impact on our business! It will allow us to keep developing Sensly after the Kickstarter and see what new ideas we could pursue with the product line.

If you do have a spare 2 minutes to vote, it would mean the world to us and we’d be forever grateful 🙂

How to vote for Sensly in Shell LiveWIRE

The voting system can be a little confusing, so I’ve taken some screenshots and (hopefully) I’ll be able to walk you through the entire process.

Step 1: Click on this link: http://www.shell-livewire.org/awards/smarter-future-programme/

 

Step 2:  Once you click that link, you’ll land on this page. Next, click where it says ‘2’ in the slider (see instructions below on the image).

 

 

 

How To Vote For The Sensly Air Quality Sensor In The Shell LiveWIRE Smarter Future October 2015 Funding Competition Part 2

 

Step 3: Click the button that says ‘vote now!’

How To Vote For The Sensly Air Quality Sensor In The Shell LiveWIRE Smarter Future October 2015 Funding Competition Part 1

 

Step 4: Vote for ‘Altitude Tech’ 🙂

How To Vote For The Sensly Air Quality Sensor In The Shell LiveWIRE Smarter Future October 2015 Funding Competition Part 3.1

 

Step 5: You’ll be prompted to enter your name and email. They’ll also send you a confirmation email. I found that my confirmation email appeared in my Spam folder, so be sure to check they if you don’t receive it in your main inbox.

http://www.shell-livewire.org/awards/smarter-future-programme/