Tech Marinade
Uncovering Hidden Innovation in DIY Electronics
Weekend Crowd Fund Picks
by Ryan Sailor ▪ 9.7.2014 Crowd Fund

It’s a great weekend to browse a few crowdfund sites for new projects. Here are three projects you should consider backing.

CANBus Triple

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Modern cars are packed with electronics: engine diagnostics, dashboard panels, GPS units, satellite radio, cameras, sensors. Computers on wheels, basically. Simpler models might have a few dozen processors, whereas complex luxury vehicles can have well over 100. In order to allow the many diverse electronic units in the car to talk to each other, cars use a standard communication protocol called Controller Area Network Bus (shortened to CAN Bus).

As makers, we ask: how can we get inside this vast array of little car computers? The CANBus Triple – now funded on kickstarter – provides an answer. It’s an Arduino-compatible device with three CAN bus controllers. If you know how to install a car alarm, you can open up your car’s electronics to the CANBus Triple. For a $75 pledge, you will receive a first-run CANBus Triple from their campaign. Read more about it at the kickstarter.

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Robogaia 2D Robotic Obstacle Detector
by Ryan Sailor ▪ 9.2.2014 Crowd Fund

Ever wanted to build a robot butler that won’t run over your cat?

The Robogaia 2D Robotic Obstacle Detector is a robust object sensor that can be used in situations demanding wide-angle proximity sensing. A small team of engineers from Cleveland – under the name Robogaia Industries – is developing the device and is now running a Kickstarter to fund development of its fourth version.

Inspired by a lack of inexpensive sensors on the market that they could use in their robots, the team at Robogaia crafted their own and now make the result available to anyone.

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NI and Mouser Throw Curveball into PCB Design Ring
by Ryan Sailor ▪ 8.6.2014 News

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This is big news. Really big, and not just because there’s a new PCB Design program or because it’s sponsored by Mouser and… free.

It’s big news that it’s an increasingly good time to be an electronics maker, and the big names in the industry are noticing. Mouser recently announced a free version of National Instrument’s MultiSIM Circuit design and testing software.

The new version is called MultiSIM BLUE. Details pertaining to this specific release are slim, but presumably BLUE will feature all of the circuit design and testing capabilities of MultiSIM, including SPICE simulation.I don’t expect any surprises in terms of capability, rather there may be limitations to look out for. A Reddit thread comment hints at a 50 component limit. This is probably enough for small to mid-sized projects, but it strictly depends on whether passives are included and if the limit is counting unique components.

I haven’t personally reviewed MultiSIM, but National Instruments makes serious software. If BLUE is up to snuff with its commercial counterpart, then be prepared for a very impressive and comprehensive design experience. Even if the PCB design component isn’t a radical departure from other free alternatives (see our DesignSpark review), the addition of circuit design and SPICE simulation wrapped into the package makes this a powerful offering.

Interested in the release date? Well, it’s probably soon, but you can find out for certain if you sign up on Mouser’s website here.

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Maximize Your TV’s Potential With The MaxMyTV
by Kyle Patrick Cayabyab ▪ 7.24.2014 News

FeaturesThe Internet of Things has been showing up quite a bit lately, with many devices offering you the ability to turn your home into a smart house. If you don’t know what the Internet of Things is, it is essentially the interconnecting of various devices serving purposes ranging from sensory to controlling. By bringing together these devices, one can automate many functions of their home or learn more about their presence in the house. However, one entry in the Internet of Things race is the MaxMyTV, which utilizes your TV and probably your attachment to it.

The MaxMyTV does more than simply upgrade your TV. It transforms your home into that smart house, offering you absolute control from the comfort of your command center: your couch. You can connect the MaxMyTV Smart Hub in between your TV and your primary set-top box, without needing to choose one over the other. The Smart Hub then serves two purposes: bringing together your TV services with the MaxMyTV software and giving you more control of your house, shop, etc. from your TV.

Using the concept of the Internet of Things, MaxMyTV also consists of a fleet of peripherals ranging from various sensors to a power outlet and camera. Each of these modules works in sync with your TV and offers you the ability to monitor various aspects of your home and program the modules to react accordingly. For example, you can monitor how much power you use from certain outlets using the power outlet. Or you can have your TV alert you when someone approaches your door or even when there is a break in. The MaxMyTV uses a system of rules to automate the behavior of devices, so you can program you house to react to your every move.

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The Smart Hub is equipped with Zigbee, Bluetooth, and WIFI wireless capabilities. The MaxMyTV sensors communicate using the Zigbee protocol, which allows for the integration of a wide variety of different sensor devices in the future. Using Zigbee, you will be able to add your own sensors to your MaxMyTV fleet.

So far, the team has hardware prototypes built for the Smart Hub, Smart Power Outlet, and the sensors. The software has also been developed to include HDMI input processing, support for Android apps, the overlaying of social media and a camera feed on the TV. The team plans on optimizing the batteries for the sensors as well as including security features. And if it wasn’t enough that the MaxMyTV is a jack-of-all-trades, the team also plans on including smart phone app integration.

The MaxMyTV seems to get the right idea on what many people would want out of their home automation systems: the ability to relax on the couch, enjoy a night in, binge watch something on Netflix, and receive alerts when the pizza guy is at the door. And with since the Smart Hub is based on Android and uses Zigbee, users can work to create their own sensors and device, designing unique home automation systems of their own.

Be sure to keep an eye out for the MaxMyTV so you can go from couch potato to couch commander.

 

 

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McThings Reaches The End Of Its KickStarter Campaign
by Kyle Patrick Cayabyab ▪ 7.22.2014 Tech Marinade

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The suite of BLE sensors and controllers regarded as McThings reaches the end of it’s Kickstarter campaign, earning well over its $50,000 CAD goal. WestWork Technology Ltd. developed this collection of devices and software to measure and control anything you need and even connect to the cloud. WestWork envisions that homes, shops, etc. “…will have a large number of low-cost, low-power easy to setup sensors and controllers that will improve efficiency, quality of life and minimize power consumption.” And these sensors and controllers will connect to the cloud and fully integrate with Facebook, Twitter, and more. This integration can already be seen on household appliances like refrigerators you can tweet from.

McThings comes together to create a low cost and low power infrastructure with fill internet connectivity. The main control board, called a McModule, will run for years on a coin cell and runs on a 32-bit ARM Cortex processor with a 2.4GHz multi-protocol radio and a 128-bit AES encryption co-processor. A McRouter and McPlug will also be available for backers and in preorders.

Are you a beginner at programming? The McModule uses a rule engine for instruction and a wizard to define those rules. You don’t need to be a pro to use McThings as programming is not required.

Hosting a variety of sensors including temperature, acceleration, moisture, biometrics, and more, the McModule can handle any kind of measuring you may need. It can even control, indicate or log things such as send a text message when the temperature of you home increases and turn on the AC with a reply. You can even log almost anything and keep track of useful information like the temperature of various rooms in your house or anything else you can think of.

Be sure to check out the Kickstarter page, the McThings page, and WestWork’s site for more information and how you can preorder if you missed out on backing it.

 

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Raspberry Pi Founder Eben Upton Announces New Pi Model
by Ryan Sailor ▪ 7.14.2014 News

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This might be the best Monday in a while! Eben Upton, Raspberry Pi Founder, announced the Raspberry Pi Model B+ today in a blog post. Granted,  this is not a fully new model (one worthy of a new letter), but rather a refinement of the already excellent model B.

The model B+ addresses some of the shortcomings of the previous model. For example, the Pi now supports 4 USB connections instead of two meaning you have more room for peripherals in addition to a mouse and keyboard. The whole package is much tighter as well, with neat, rounded corners, mounting holes, and significantly less port overhang. The electrical properties of the device have been remastered for up to 1 Watt of power savings, better audio, and more robust circuitry.

Why not throw in a couple more GPIO pins while they’re at it? Well, they did.

After all of those upgrades, you would think the bad news would be the price tag. That’s not the case: The model B+ will ship for the same low price of $35!

Recommendation? The B+ is practically the new Model B, so pick one up if you need a new Pi or don’t have one already. The model B will continue to ship as long as there is “industrial demand”.

 

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