7 Hardware Ideas by Stephen Hamer


We started working together on the Open Activity Tracker design a month ago. With the help of a lot of people (Chris Gammell, Sam Grove, Bryan Thomas, Eric Evenchick, George Hahn…) we managed to design the schematic and PCB layout in slightly more than 5 hours of real-time collaboration work. We will receive prototypes shortly and will now work on the software side and the enclosure.

When we picked that specific project (#3 in the list), Stephen Hamer – co-founder here at Upverter – had drafted a list of devices he would be interested to build. We obviously won’t have time to work on all of them and we thought making it public may inspire some of you. We encourage hardware hackers to fork projects and build derivatives of the original design everyday, so it made sense to share our thoughts – well, Steve’s thoughts.

Here are 7 concepts waiting for someone to bring them to life!

1) Sleep environmental sensor suite:

There are lots of things that can affect the quality of the sleep that we get.

There are devices that record data about us while sleeping.

This device would provide the other half of that picture, what happens around us while we sleep.

This device would periodically record environmental data like:

  • ambient sound level
  • light level
  • temperature
  • humidity

2) Cloud offload GPS data collector:

Location data is fantastic but is relatively power-expensive to collect.

A team of researchers at Microsoft developed a clever method of reducing GPS power
requirements while retaining accuracy. (http://research.microsoft.com/apps/pubs/default.aspx?id=172624)

  • GPS antenna, filters
  • real time clock
  • storage

3) Activity trackers are all the rage right now.

Knowing how active you were in a day is fun data to have.

There’s limited analysis that you can personally do because of the high level of information that’s presented to you from most commercial products.

Having a device that recorded basic physical information like acceleration,
compass heading, altitude… would give an opportunity to be able to write and
share algorithms to analyse this data personally.

  • accelerometer
  • gyroscope
  • magnetic compass
  • pressure/altitude
  • storage

There are lots of things I’d like to track and record. How many times I open
the fridge in a day?

How cups of coffee do I drink a day and when?

I’ve tried lots of different things, paper, smart phone apps, text editor…

All of these have been too high friction and have only lasted for a week or two.

A push button that records the time of the press is really what I want.

I can then glue these to all of the things that I want to track stats associated

4) “Event Counter” buttons:

  • count events like: opening the fridge, cup of coffee, glass of beer from the keg…
  • push button
  • real time clock
  • storage or RF to transmit event

I’ve never had a phone whose vibration mode has been noticeable while walking.
As such I miss lots of calls and notifications while walking.

People have suggested using a Pebble smart watch. It solves the problem, I like wearing a
watch though.

What I’d really like is a Bluetooth pager. Something that I can wear on my belt
that would vibrate instead of the phone.

5) Wearable BT4 phone notification (BT pager):

  • vibration motor
  • BT4 + microcontroller
  • silence switch

Ambient display lighting can be lots easier on the eyes and provide a more
immersive experience in low light viewing.
Projects like (http://learn.adafruit.com/adalight-diy-ambient-tv-lighting) are awesome! They’re limited to computer driven content (so that Processing can
calculate the edge colors).

To be able to use this on any screen a pass-through device would have to be constructed.

6) Hardware ambient display lighting:

  • DVI-D/HDMI pass through
  • RGB LED control for back light

If your TV setup looks anything like ours you’ve got more remotes than you know
what do with. The remote also have a tendency to find the deepest, darkest
nooks and crannies of the couch to hide in.

What I’d love to solve this problem is a network accessible “IR bridge”.

It could be programmed with the different button presses from the collection of
remotes from all of your devices.

These signals could then be replayed through a local web interface.

This would let you replace all of these remotes with your smartphone.

7) Network accessible IR bridge for controlling IR controlled devices:

  • Microcontroller with network access
  • IR LED
  • IR sensor for “learning”

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