BarCamb 2 – Embedded Can Do The Internet Too!

I was lucky enough to make it to BarCamb 2 at the Genome Campus for a day of discussion about “the interface between science and technology”.

Alf showed off some cool Statistics Mapping he’d been playing with. He was using MapTube to show population demographic information (age in this case) on maps. Looking up Cambridge 20-30 year olds confirms what you’d expect; age increases as you move out from Cambridge to the surrounding villages, and Mill road is a bit of a beacon…

Cambridge 20-30 year old location

Michael was back with another incarnation of Ndiyo called Camvine. They’ve applied their hardware VNC-like technology to digital signage, with the focus around providing the content as a web service. Looks interesting and has the potential to be really slick, and I’m interested to see where their differentiation ends up in such a populated and competitive area.

I wonder if the same concept could be served better with some simple internet-in, video-out web boxes. I’d expect these to become really common over the next few years as single-package computers like that found on the BeagleBoard hit the market.

Andrew gave a great introduction to tangible interfaces, in particular Reactable. There is some really interesting stuff going on in this area and the technology is pretty accessible so you can knock up your own. The presentation also shows how bjork is in on it!

The hot topics of last year seemed to be the semantic-web, micro-formats and RDF. This year none of them featured much, and the new buzz thing was definitely git which got its own panel! It seems a great model, although I couldn’t help feeling that there was a slight mismatch between what people were saying was the great benefit (there is no central repository) and what they were actually getting the benefit from (being able to do local/distributed version control separate from, but still maintaining, a central repository). Worth a further look…

My topic was “Embedded Can Do The Internet Too!” – not really a talk, more a collection of examples and observations I pulled together on the day. The main point was that the internet is currently thought of as Browser/Website/Keyboard/Mouse, and I wanted to get people thinking about the potential when you break out of that and have microcontrollers using the internet.

One example was a project Chris did with a local school; they used an mbed microcontroller to build a data logger in to a wall power socket. It also exposed itself as a webserver using ethernet-over-powerline. The result is pretty cool; point your browser at the wall socket ip and see the log of the appliance power consumption!

Another was the MASHED08 hack we did which accesses the internet using GPRS over the mobile phone network.

BarCamb 2 Talk

I also demoed a simple example I put together of an mbed running a web server, where the webpage it returned showed the state of an analog pin in near real-time (input), and controlled some digital pins using check boxes (output). Not a particular exciting demo in itself, but it was more about the potential and I think people saw where it could go.

It was great to be in the company of such an enthusiastic bunch again, so thanks to Matt for setting it up. I got a few questions about SHDC too, so I’m hoping a few new faces might drop in sometime 🙂

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