Category Archives: Internet of Things

Wearable Electronics!

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Connected Liverpool is very much focused on driving and collaborating in projects that improve the health & wellbeing of our Liverpool City Region residents. We like to work with existing/adopted technology but also like to explore what is about to be ‘adopted’ as a result of innovative collaborations between engineers and professors all over the (increasingly connected) globe.

Today we like to explore a new type of wearable electronics that can stick to the skin like a “temporary tattoo” and is powerful enough to read brain signals. John A. Rogers, engineering professor at the University of Illinois, led the development of an ultra-thin device from silicon that can stick to the skin without the need for adhesive and without irritation. Usually, wearable electronics trade flexibility for computing power. But not in this case, as Rogers explains:

“Over the past several decades, most approaches to wearable electronics involved skinlike electronic platform creating points of contact, like electrodes, or focused on flexibility over computing capabilities. It throws away essentially all of the scientific knowledge and engineering know-how that’s already been built up around silicon”.

So he kept at it, taking silicon from a half-millimeter thick wafer to a nanomembrane. The new platform has silicon-based circuitry fabricated in a wavy structure that allows it to form a web of electronics. Those circuits are integrated into extremely thin rubber sheets that naturally stick to skin without the need for adhesive.

When placed on the forehead, the heart and the forearm, the device works as well as standard electrodes in measuring activity. On the throat it is sensitive enough to record throat muscle contractions during vocalisation, meaning it could help people with difficulty speaking.

The unobtrusive nature of the tattoo makes it an ideal device for the monitoring of people with sleep disorders without the need for uncomfortable electrodes and devices (brilliant!). Also, it has the power to stimulate (but not force) muscles giving it the potential to assist in physical rehabilitation.

The next step of the project will include the engineering and demonstrating of a fully-integrated wireless communication capability so the device can transmit information more easily.

The device is not perfect yet as Rogers explains that after about two weeks, naturally-occurring skin exfoliation would make it difficult for the electronics to stay in place. Anyhow, the arrival of a new device that tackles the issues of current comparable electronics that measure brain signals is a fact!

 

 

 

 

ARM to showcase Internet of Things at HQ

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ARM says work is underway to transform its Fulbourn Road HQ into a hub for Internet of Things technologies. The chip giant and its partners have won £800k from the government’s Technology Strategy Board to deploy network technology and 600 connected sensors across its premises.

These are to be driven by ARM-based chips and will be used to control car park lights, meeting rooms, heating and water management systems, all with the aim of saving energy and demonstrating how the Internet of Things – or machine-to-machine communication – can achieve this. The whole system will be open for inspection.

Partners include: AlertMe, IntelliSense.io, Enlight, 1248, Red Ninja, Neul and Badger Pass.

Lee Omar, CEO of Red Ninja said: “We are delighted to be working with Internet of Things  thought leaders ARM, Alert me and Enlight to create apps that create real value from Internet of Things assets.  Our experience is creating value from large and diverse data sets, we are looking forward to mashing up this data to create innovative apps.”

ARM says: “This collaboration between some of the UK’s most advanced technology companies will also provide the technology industry with key lessons on how a new generation of intelligent, connected products and services can be fully implemented, with the potential for worldwide adoption.”

Cambridge-based AlertMe is extending its remit by providing ARM staff with kits to monitor their own homes for energy efficiency. EnLight is upgrading outdoor lighting, and Intellisense will measure pressure and flow in ARM’s heating and ventilation

Oracle hitches Java to ‘Internet of things’

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The company hopes that Java can supplant C in embedded-device development projects.

With an upgrade to the embedded version of Java announced Tuesday, Oracle wants to extend the platform to a new generation of connected devices, aka the Internet of things. Oracle also hopes that Java can supplant the C language in some embedded development projects.

The company is releasing Oracle Java ME (Micro Edition) Embedded 3.3 and Oracle Java ME Software Development Kit 3.3, providing a client Java runtime and toolkit for microcontrollers and resource-constrained devices. Version 3.3 is geared to low-powered devices and systems without screens or user interfaces. It also supports the ARMv5 through ARMv7 chip architectures and enables greater connectivity between edge devices and network peripherals and systems.

Oracle anticipates that Java developers can leverage their skills building applications for very small devices to begin developing solutions for the Internet of things, which includes devices ranging from street lights to home automation and security systems. Oracle appear to be making strides in addressing segments of the marketplace that historically have not been large users of Java.

The Java ME 3.3 Embedded rollout features improved device APIs to increase the number of external peripherals that can be integrated, runtime monitoring, and logging enhancements are featured. Supported developer boards include Raspberry Pi and Keil STM32 F200 Evaluation Board. Java ME SDK 3.3 backs Windows 7 32-bit and 64-bit systems in addition to Windows XP 32-bit, and it has plug-ins for the NetBeans IDE and Eclipse.

Oracle also is looking to provide partners with the ability to customize Java ME embedded products for different device types and market segments with its Oracle Java Platform Integrator program, which provides support, patches, and updates. Downloads of Oracle’s embedded Java technologies are available at Oracle’s website.

 

Microsoft introduce Lab of Things

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Today at its Faculty Summit, Microsoft Research introduced the beta of Lab of Things, a new platform from the company that will support sensor information from the physical world in a simple way, allowing for more experiment by more people in more places.

Lab of Things is a system that links together physical data collection and Microsoft’s HomeOS. HomeOS  is Microsoft’s bid to turn your house into something slightly more automated. If you want to run an experiment that employs sensor data, Lab of Things will provide a backend for you. Also, you can access your experiment via mobile devices, store and share data in the cloud, and adjust the experiment itself by visiting the site itself.

Assume that you wanted to run an experiment that involved collecting temperature data from the top of radio towers around your city. Once you installed your sensors on the towers, and linked their data flow to the Internet, you could employ Lab of Things as the tool to collect, monitor, and analyse the information. Microsoft calls the service “near real-time.”

One of the Lab of Things’ objectives is to lower friction between idea and experiment by cutting out the need for scientists and software engineers. Here, have some code that works. This will allow for more total experiment, and also more experiment by the less well-funded; DIY hackers.

The lab costs nothing, but there is a caveat: If you are an academic collaborator, you can freely use the Lab of Things for your research. The Lab of Things license does not allow commercial use.

You can snag the beta Lab of Things SDK here.

Human motion will Power the Internet of Things, say energy harvesting engineers

Most people generate enough power to continuously transmit data at a rate of 1 Kb/s, say researchers who have audited the harvestable energy from human motion.

The Internet of Things is the imagined network of data links that will emerge when everyday objects are fitted with tiny identifying devices.

The idea is that every parcel in a post office would transmit its position, origin and destination so that it can be tracked and routed more efficiently, that every product on a supermarket shelf would transmit its contents, price, shelf life and so on, that your smartphone would interrogate the contents of your fridge and cupboards every time you walk into the kitchen to warn you when the milk is running low.

Each of these things will enhance our businesses and lifestyles in a small way. But taken together, this Internet of Things will entirely transform the way we interact with the world around us.

But there’s a problem: these tiny identifying devices require a power source. Batteries are expensive and impractical so computer scientists are hoping to harvest the necessary energy from the environment, in particular from lights and from human motion.The question is how much energy is available in this way. That’s relatively straightforward to answer for indoor lights (about 50-100 microwatts per cm^2). But the energy available from human motion is much harder to assess.

That’s caught the interest of Maria Gorlatova and team at Columbia University in New York who have measured the inertial energy available from the activity of 40 individuals over periods up to 9 days. To do this they attached to each person inertial energy harvesting devices, essentially a mass attached to a spring, that recorded their motion.

“To the best of our knowledge, the dataset that we analyze is the first publicly available acceleration dataset collected for a large number of participants,” they say.

They also measured the power available from the movement of objects such as doors, drawers and pencils to see how much might be harvested here.

The results are often surprising and sometimes counter-intuitive. Here’s a list of their main findings:

  • Periodic motion is energy rich. So writing with a pencil generates more power (10-15 microwatts) than the acceleration associated with a 3-hour flight flight including take off, landing and turbulence, which never generated more than 5 microwatts.
  • Humans are passive most of the time. About 95 per cent of the total harvestable energy they produce is generated during less than 7 per cent of the day.
  • Walking generates the same amount of power as indoor lighting (about 150 microwatts). Running generates around 800 microwatts.
  • Purposeful shaking generates up to 3,500 microwatts, 30 times more than walking.
  • Even though it requires less exertion, walking downstairs generates more power than going upstairs because of the higher accelerations involved.
  • Taller people generate about 20 per cent more power than shorter people.
  • The difference between people’s power output depends largely on the amount of walking they do. Sensor placement on the body makes little difference.
  • Most people generate enough power to continuously transmit data at the rate of about 1 Kb/s (more than 5 microwatts).

That’s an interesting set of results. Engineers are already designing algorithms to manage the way energy is harvested, stored and then used. Gorlatova and co say this kind of work will help to make these as efficient as possible.

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1307.0044: Movers and Shakers: Kinetic Energy Harvesting for the Internet of Things