The Internet of Things (IoT) is a game-changing technology, but is it possible to create a pioneering IoT solution with no technical expertise whatsoever?
Intel–customer Hanhaa thinks so. It believes that plenty of people and companies from all walks of life have problems that could be solved by smarter ‘things’. To prove it, they’ve launched a Kickstarter funding drive for its solution that promises to create an army of overnight inventors with its UFixU (pronounced You- Fix-You) philosophy: the Symbisa board.
“We can bring applications to life quickly, painlessly, and globally for anyone who doesn’t have the time or expertise to address all the nitty gritty technology issues and make it happen, but still has a real need,” says the company’s co-founder Azhar Hussain.
“Symbisa is for individuals, entrepreneurs, inventors, and small or large companies who want to get started in measuring the world around them within minutes of opening the box.”
Starting from Scratch
The Symbisa board comes bundled with sensors for GPS, temperature, humidity, accelerometer, RFID, and light, meaning it can track and measure the most common key indicators of location, movement, condition, or the status of almost anything. Connectivity is provided by quad-band GSM radio and next-generation SIM technology that connects to Hanhaa’s servers as soon as it’s switched on. Instead of paying for bandwidth, a micro-charge is made each time the board is accessed.
There’s also no need to access the hardware, because all development takes place in the cloud using a specially adapted version of Scratch – a drag-and-drop programming language designed by MIT to help teach children the basics of coding. Power is provided by a standard mobile phone battery pack, widely available online and capable of powering the board for up to three months. The cherry on the top: Hanhaa even provides 3D printing files for casings that suit various environments.
To allow for an end-user interface, there’s a button that can be dynamically assigned functions and, for the more ambitious, it also has a connector for a zero-energy consumption e-paper display (an optional extra) as well as an expansion slot for additional sensors.
“With Symbisa we blended hardware, software, services and procurement into a single stream that delivers you an all-round IoT capability. This takes all the pain out of development. The PC fixed a lot of pain for the last generation, finally making computing accessible – we want to become the PC of the IoT,” said Azhar.
Becoming the maker’s maker
The idea was inspired by a pain point the Hanhaa founders’ faced in a previous business. Azhar was awarded
an MBE for his work pioneering electric motorsports, a venture that involved sending high-value packages and parcels around the world.
To track and protect these parcels in transit Azhar and his Hanhaa co-founder Hafi Rahman hacked their own location tracking solution using hundreds of cheap mobile phones sourced directly from the manufacturer in China
“We had the connections to fix our own problem, but it still wasn’t easy. It got us thinking: how could we unleash this power for others,” says Azhar.
The Intel early adopter programme allows innovative companies advance access to the latest Intel solutions, and Hanhaa is among the first to use the Intel® Quark™ Microcontroller D2000, an x86 compatible microcontroller (MCU) that enables battery-powered Internet of Things solutions and allows for sensor-level processing.
“Intel’s help allowed us to get from concept to product in 100 days. We had access to the solution architects, and they wrote drivers and modified firmware specifically for us. The responsiveness of Intel, given its size, was ninja-like! And that hasn’t stopped.”
The board is already out in the field with some pilots, including a pharmaceutical company tracking the location and condition of drug shipments around the world, and a smart clothing application for regulating body temperature.
With their Kickstarter, Azhar says Hanhaa is looking for the early adopters and pioneers “who can really help us build out the first generation of Symbisa”.
As processor power rises and costs come down in line with Moore’s Law, Hanhaa plans to take full advantage and keep innovating the Symbisa board.
“Intel is clearly keen to cultivate developers and help them realise their ambitions. The scalability and support they can provide is critical to that and we’re really excited about where Intel’s product roadmap is heading,” says Azhar.
View Hanhaa’s Kickstarter here.