What is this thing anyway?


The wonderful folks at Element14 were gracious enough to send me a RIoTboard to evaluate and experiment with. My first question was, what is a RIoTboard and what can I do with it.  Well, I was happy to learn it had nothing to do with crowds of people getting rowdy in the streets. As I learn about the RIoTBoard and what it can do, I'll document it in a series of blogs. Welcome to chapter 1.


First, what is it?


The I,o,T in RIoTBoard refers to the Internet of Things.


According to Wikipedia.org: Internet of Things - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


"The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to uniquely identifiable objects and their virtual representations in an Internet-like structure."


This is not a new concept. Each day, items from mail to melons, are transported all over the world. These items are tracked with barcodes, quick response (QR) codes and radio-frequency identification (RFID) tagging. Retail stores, supermarkets and libraries around the world protect their merchandise with electromagnetic (EM) tags. Add to this credit / debit cards, smart cards and keys and it’s easy to see we are all members of the Internet of Things in one form or another.


All this was designed to make our lives easier and less mundane. But, tagging and tracking are just a small part of this idea. To be in the true spirit of the Internet of Things, everyday items such as toasters, microwave ovens, coffee makers and refrigerators should also be connected. When you get up in the morning your toast is ready, the muffin you placed in the oven night before is warm, your coffee is brewed, and your regenerator tells you that you are out of fig preserves. 


This leads to, why the RIoTboard?

Since it is not practical to glue your laptop to the regenerator, necessity the mother of invention, raised her head and said “We need something that is, inexpensive, easy to use and relatively small”. “We need a Shrubbery!  Actually, something to monitor, water and provide sun light would be nice. But I digress, to answer this call, the folks at riotboard.org  decided, as they put it, to create a “development platform to allow design engineers the flexibility and power to develop in the new Internet of things (IoT)", essentially, a Revolutionizing the Internet of Things board. The bonus is they made it open source. With so many devices needing to be connected, I believe this was a good move indeed. 


On to the RIoTboard


The board measures 75mm X 125mm. The Quick Start Manual that came with the board called for a 5VDC, 4 amp supply. However, after checking the Manuals on the Element14.com web site, RIoTboard: Revolutionizing the Internet of Things - An Open Source Platform , both call for a 1 amp supply. This reinforces the practice of checking for updates. Please see the manual for all the specifications board and processor. I was happy  learn the board itself only requires 600mA to run. We have to start somewhere. When you add peripherals and accessories it goes up from there.

Here is a size comparison of the RIoTboard with the Raspberry Pi Mod B and  the Arduino Uno

Size Compair-2.png

The RioTboard comes with Android 4.3, Build 1.0.0-rc2 installed. The board can run on Android as well as Linux. Both distributions are available for download at Element14.com, RIoTboard: Revolutionizing the Internet of Things - An Open Source Platform.

At first glance, I am impressed with the layout. It looks like a mini version of the motherboard you would find in any desktop PC, yet it only slightly larger than a 2.5 inch laptop hard drive.

The I/O, depicted in Figure 2, is extensive for a board this size. All I needed to get the RIoTboard up and running was an inexpensive 5VDC 1.5 amp power supply (Available through Element14), an HDMI cable, a monitor or TV with HDMI, a keyboard and a mouse.  I actually used a wireless mini keyboard with a built in touchpad that I received with the Raspberry Pi XBMC kit from Element14.

RIoTboard-2a.pngNice features are the inclusion of selectable boot configurations, SD and microSD card slots, audio input and outputs, and camera connectors. This is important, so that smart refrigerator can scan the barcodes, record and inventory the items you put in and take out. That way, it can tell you about the fig preserves. Hopefully, before morning…

You can find some great people at here at Element14's RIoTboard community, that are working on ways to make the RIoTboard perform. There you can find answer to questions, ideas for projects and join the developmental process in action.

In our next chapter we will dive in to RIoTboard and see how it ticks.

Thought for the day... "What you see is not necessarily what you get...."