Web-connected devices, or “The Internet of Things”, just might be one of the fastest-growing trends in the tech world today. Every other day we hear about new kickstarter campaigns, major acquisitions, new standards, alliances and consortiums in this space, all racing to position themselves as the greatest new “revolutionary” gadget that will change the world, ranging from the ridiculous to the absurd to the sublime.
However, all the current ways to make things talk through the internet are either very specific, closed consumer devices with one purpose and little flexibility, or require a high degree of skill & knowledge in hardware or software or both.
Today we’re VERY excited to release the cloudBit, our most powerful module yet. It gives anyone the power to turn any object into an internet-connected smart device in a snap – no soldering, wiring or programming required.
With the cloudBit, you can snap the internet to anything.
That means the Internet of Things is now open and accessible – enabling anyone to prototype, test ideas, and participate in a field that could change the world and how we live. People can recreate popular connected devices (like a smart thermostat), invent their own, or build solutions to their unique needs. Our mission is to put the power of electronics in the hands of everyone, from the simplest circuits to powerful internet-connected devices.
littleBits has always had the goal of making electronics a material , the way that wood, metal, cardboard and paper are materials we can use to create. The cloudBit is the next major step in this same vision — we are now making the Internet into a concrete material that can be easily incorporated into any physical creation or invention. See our founder Ayah speaking about this at the recent Solid conference in San Francisco:
How to Get It
The Cloud Starter Bundle comes with six electronic modules, an insert card with five tutorials and 100 more available online, and two accessories to easily start connecting everyday objects to the Internet.
The cloudBit is available for $59, or included in the Cloud Bundle for $99.
How It Works
The cloudBit can be paired with every module in the littleBits library to create trillions of combinations and ideas.
There are three ways it interacts with the connected world:
Bits™ to Web – Using hardware to communicate with web services and software; a button or motion sensor can trigger a web action such as a SMS message or a tweet, logging sensor data in a spreadsheet, etc.
Web to Bits – Communicating events in the web to the cloudBit. Think Facebook likes or Twitter followers settings off bells and whistles.
Bits to Bits – Communicating from machine to machine. With more than one cloudBit, people can “wire” them to communicate with one another across any distance.
littleBits Cloud Control
We’ve developed a web app called Cloud Control to make the setup process easy and offer different and powerful ways to interact with cloudBit immediately out of the box. On any computer, tablet or phone, you can remotely trigger or read from your cloudBits.
Internet-connected with IFTTT
We’ve worked with IFTTT to build out the littleBits channel and extend the functionality of the littleBits platform by allowing people to integrate with their favorite websites. IFTTT has over 100 channels and growing, many of which are new hardware channels, allowing you to connect your littleBits projects directly to tons of other connected devices.
Advanced users can find their way around a simple, powerful API, the possibilities are limitless!
cloudBit Inner Workings
The infrastructure that powers the cloudBit is very sophisticated, built on the latest Node.js technologies. The cloudBit system actually consists of many different modular pieces working together seamlessly.
The elements of the littleBits Cloud Platform [see diagram]
- Device server, to which the cloudBits connect via a raw HTTP socket
- HTTP API, used by our services and accessible by advanced cloudBit users [documentation here]
- WebSocket streaming API, used by Cloud Control for real-time interaction [will be available to cloudBit users in the future]
- REPL server, for system administrators, to have direct command-line access to the data stores and messaging systems
- all of the above are tied together by a pub/sub messaging system, for now we are using Redis pubsub [although we will most likely move to a ZeroMQ architecture soon]
Like many ideas, we have been thinking of making an internet-connected littleBits module since the beginning. With the additions of a few key team members early last year [including me ], we decided it was time to tackle it.
We had many things to decide: what would a littleBits cloud-connected module look like? How would the actual hardware be set up? How would the web & software part work? We researched, experimented, tested and tested again. Here is an early experiment done with node.js for arduino, which is not yet going through the internet [it’s connected directly to through USB].
And below we have a finished cloudBit, performing the same interaction but with our Cloud Control app through the internet:
Here are some more historical versions of the cloudBit, and the final version below:
It’s been a long, fascinating road and we’re really proud of the cloudBit. We’ve gone through 2 complete hardware revisions, 2 major software builds, and we are now super excited to release it out into the world to see what you all are going to create!
Thanks to all of my fellow littleBits teammates and Tom Kennedy of Refactory.co, as well as Richard Rodger and Matteo Collina at NearForm.com for their help in making hardware limitless.
— Colin Vernon, Head of Cloud Platform