Put a bow on The Electric Imp and April dev board, gift it to your hacker friends, and watch their minds implode. This platform and interface leverages the cloud to connect most any device to the Internet.
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Why We Love It
Ever wish you could have your Twitter feed appear on an LCD screen on your fridge? Maybe have your closet lights reflect what the day’s weather will be like? The Electric Imp platform makes it incredibly simple for hardware developers to connect devices to, well, pretty much everything. No more low-level tinkering with firmware. Instead, jumpstart your projects and get them cloud-connected quickly with the Electric Imp. Since the Imp can send and receive HTTP events, you can leverage existing online services like Zapier, Open.Sen.se, and Webscript.io, to infinitely expand the Imp’s capabilities.
Rather than being a full cloud-based hardware controller like NinjaBlocks or SmartThings, the Electric Imp is designed to be fully integrated with existing hardware, either directly onto a custom board, or integrated with other microcontrollers (Arduino, Raspberry Pi, etc.). To get you prototyping quickly, you can use the included April breakout board which exposes all of the Imp’s pins and can be powered via mini-USB. There are even plans for a new dev board named Olive that will include NFC and RFID readers. We can’t wait.
It’s very simple to develop for the Imp using the web-based IDE, meaning no SDK to deal with, no JTAG programming, and no download times to hold you up. Software runs on top of the Imp’s OS and is written in Squirrel language, which shares many similarities with C while implementing some of the more high-level functions you would find in languages like Lua. This affords you the luxury of crash recovery, buffered I/O, and the ability to push out updates to your other connected devices. Beyond the in-browser IDE, each Electric Imp comes with a free public API so you can push HTTP events to and from your Imp. And if you need to have persistent data, either for logging or keeping state, you can either use the onboard 40KB of storage on the Electric Imp itself or push it to another cloud server via the API.
The Imp comes equipped with standard 802.11b/g/n WiFi capabilities, WEP/WPA/WPA2 encryption, a low-power consuming Cortex-M3 processor core and the April dev board, features six open pins (excluding voltage and ground) for your hacking pleasure. These pins have a variety of unique features and capabilities made possible by the clever Imp. The pins aren’t just for standard general purpose input and output; each one has the ability to work with a range of data protocols (UART, I2P, and SPI), handle analog to digital signal conversion, and manage their power output (or PWM). This is a big step up from microcontrollers like the Arduino UNO or Leonardo, because it not only allows you to send and receive data through more than one protocol (at the same time too!), but you don’t need 20 pins (The UNO has 14 digital, 6 analog) for each specific function.
The developer community’s response to the Imp platform has been overwhelmingly positive. Already, there are big upcoming projects like Lockitron and Quirky Wink that use the Imp as their cloud backbone. If you’re looking for project ideas or need help, just take a look over at the thriving developer forums or sift through GitHub to find some of the most informative and active code.
Why We Love It
We love the Electric Imp team’s focus on making the Imp platform a powerful and scalable option for makers. If you’ve ever tried to bring a hardware product to market, you know just how difficult this can be. Add to that the massive complexities of cloud enabling a device, and you’ve got yourself one big, expensive headache. The Imp seeks to remove this hurdle from the path of makers, which will only make it easier for independent inventors to bring awesome, connected devices to market. As believers in the rise of creative technology, this is a winning proposition, and one we’re thrilled to support.
Being able to automate and connect with the world around us is like catnip for Grand St. However, the devices to do this are many while the ones that do it well are very few. The zeitgeist is to take your data or commands and run them through the cloud, and most developers, through no fault of their own, spend the bulk of their time working on this side of the technology rather than on the actual product. The Imp emerged from development hell with some clever forethought by Hugo Fiennes and his team: unconfined to a single board design, the developers and Imp community can improve on the board without the need for timely and costly hardware revisions or improvements. This Imp may look like a devil, but it does the work of a saint.
Having trouble with BlinkUp? We just added videos on our website to help you better understand the BlinkUp status codes. You can click on any of the pattern descriptions to view a video of an imp in that mode of operation. Check them out here:
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