What would you do with Arduino?
15 August 2013
As the digital age marches onwards, it has been observed that while more and more people are increasingly using computerised devises as part of everyday life, the number of people that understand what goes on 'under the bonnet' in terms of programming skills is in pretty steep decline.
However, there is an increasing number of products with the potential to help redress the balance that are gaining in popularity.
One such is Arduino, an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. Read the info on the official website and you will discover that Arduino senses the environment by receiving input from a variety of sensors and can affect its surroundings by controlling lights, motors, and other actuators.
As well as being cheap and easy to program, Arduino is supported by a huge online community of enthusiasts who are only too eager to share advise and expertise with the novice user.
Rather than being developed specifically for an industrial environment, Arduino is aimed at artists, designers, hobbyists and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments. That's not to say that not to say that Arduino and comparable products can't be used in industry – to quote just one case, three Arduino boards have been used instead of a micro controller on a digital printing machine used for industrial packaging.
In addition to the cost and easy programming benefits, using Arduino in an application like this is future-proof: if the company goes out of business, there are is a myriad of clone devices available. Also, to support older shields, as the platform evolves it will retain pin compatibility.
But away from the industrial sector – in my living room in particular – Arduino is encouraging everyone to become a programmer. Using C++, with help from dad, my eight year old son has been programming the board to control a series of LEDs to light up in particular sequences. OK, it's not quite up to LHC standard yet (Arduino is, apparently, used at CERN), but it's a start and you don't have to look too far to see the huge amount of potential projects out there. With applications ranging from to a keyboard with bananas for keys to a system for opening your garage doors via your smart phone, potential uses seem limited only by your imagination. And in the mean time, you can bet that come Christmas we will have the most fantastic flashing tree lights imaginable!