Blynk: fun and profit for IoT (part one)

Some days ago, while wandering on the Net, I came across an interesting video about two guys starting a car’s engine through a smartphone. Besides the obvious hardware wizardry, I was very attracted by the cool looking app they used to connect to the system: this was the very first time I heard about Blynk, an OS project aimed at building IoT app in a very easy and intuitive way. Or so they say.

I couldn’t resist such a promising declaration, so I checked out the ‘Docs’ section on the Blynk website: apparently, assuming you already have one of the more than 400 supported boards, your first Blynk app could be up and running in a matter of minutes….is it that easy?

Short answer: it is that easy.

Longer answer: continue reading!

When it comes to similar things, I’m rather impatient: let’s see if the ‘matter of minutes’ thing is real or it’s just marketing.

Time: 00:00:00 -> My very minimal setup includes an Internet connected laptop,  an Arduino Duemilanove board, an Android smartphone and basically nothing else. First things first: install the the Blynk app (yes, most of the magic happen in an app) on the smartphone. By default, the app connects to a public Blynk server on the cloud, so I managed to create an account (a valid email address is enough) and got an authorization token, a long alphanumerical string.

Time: 00:00:30 -> the Arduino board is connected to my laptop through a ‘standard’ USB port, I’m far from home and there’s no way to connect it to the Net directly (but, as you will see, this isn’t an issue);

Time: 00:01:40 -> Blink libraries for Arduino downloaded and installed;

Time: 00:02:30 -> Basic Blynk sketch (available from the sketches collection added with the Blynk library) uploaded on the board, should be enough to send commands and read values from the board pins without writing any code;

Time: 00:04:00 -> first project in the app is created: a button widget connected to the digital pin 13 on the board. It should turn on and off the built in led. All the widget configuration is done very easily within the app;

The widget can be added in the editor area selecting it from a list. It can be easily placed where needed and (partially) resized.

Configuration is really straightforward: choose board pin and output values and you’re done.

Time: 00:04:30 -> the script (provided within the Blink libraries for Arduino, for windows is a .bat file) to enable the communication between the board and the Blynk server is up and running;

Time: 00:04:40 -> It works! I’m able to set the LED state from my smartphone.


All of these are mostly point and click activities….so it’s really that easy! To be honest, I just had to edit one line of code within the Arduino script to insert the Blynk auth token string.

In the next chapters of this random exploration, more details of the Blynk architecture will be unveiled!

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It’s summer: time to leave the keyboard and go play outside! After some googling (and after realizing that an FPV Multicopter is currently completely out of budget) I’ve decided to give a try at KAP, or Kite Aerial Photography. The idea is pretty easy and not new: just append a camera below a kite and take a snapshot. According to Wikipedia, the first known KAP session dates back to the nineteen century, thanks to Arthur Batut, a french photographer who’s been a pioneer in aerial photography.

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Bluemix, DevOps and the IoT: new adventures in The Cloud! (1)

Disclaimer: as it can be easily found by googling around a bit, I work for IBM. The following article,  however,  express only my personal views and opinions and doesn’t represent in any way those of my employer. Moreover, it is not intended to be an exhaustive technical description of Bluemix (there are official docs available covering the topic) or a part of it, but just a summary of some experiments I did with the platform…enjoy!

During the last few days I spent some time playing with Bluemix, the latest Cloud Platform offering from IBM. I was curious to discover what it really is beside the usual announcements and what can be accomplished by using it, so i rolled up my sleeves and gave it a try: the following is a half-serious account of my journey in the Wonderful World of The Cloud. Please note: this is not intended to be an exhaustive guide to Bluemix or to a part of it and, to be clear, currently I’m not working as a developer  (no more after about one decade of code writing), so maybe some concepts that are quite new to me are part of common knowledge among more technical guys.

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Geeky Humor

SQL Injection

Learning security ‘by examples’….

(Should I be worried about finding it funny?)

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Playing with MQTT

Recently I spent some time looking for a smart way to interact with my ‘Internet-enabled’ devices (basically Arduino + sensors, LEDs + Ethernet shield combinations) through a web interface. There are a lot of projects already completed and working out there, but my nerdiness imposed me to build my very own starting from scratch. The basic idea, not very original, is to have a technology stack that allows the device to send and receive data using standard TCP/IP connectivity. Continue reading

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Global photographer?

To me, it’s always been sort of a booster for my self-esteem to find photos from my online portfolio used to illustrate someone else’s article, post or blog entry (with proper credit, of course). I even adopted a CC license schema to allow and promote such things. But sometimes it’s, ehm, advisable to investigate a little further on the blog’s or article topic to avoid being considered a kind of supporter of ideas that are exactly the opposite of my thinking or worse (or maybe not, but one’s never knows…).

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Cardboard tronics!

After playing with the XBee modules for a while I felt ready to leave the breadboard for a more ‘permanent’ circuit. Remember the wireless temperature sensor built here? My target was to put together some kind of PCB where to connect the XBee end device, the thermistor, the battery case to power the whole stuff and all the other components in order to have something stable and a bit more reliable, I had some tests on battery duration waiting to be performed. And I’d like to put my data on Cosm, too. Continue reading

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Arduino, Zigbee e le infinite possibilità (6)

Ed eccoci qui a parlare, questa volta, delle opzioni di risparmio energetico incluse nei moduli XBee con cui ormai abbiamo acquisito una certa familiarità.

Una rete di sensori wireless, come dice la parola, può anche dover fare a meno della rete di alimentazione, affidandosi a batterie più o meno capaci per garantire le comunicazioni all’interno della rete stessa, ed è quindi fondamentale conoscere come è possibile configurare i moduli per ottenere il minore consumo in assoluto: in alcuni casi possiamo allungare la durata della batteria anche di anni!

Come fare è presto detto: i moduli XBee configurati come End Device permettono di attivare una modalità ‘sleep’ in cui la radio è sostanzialmente dormiente, con consumi prossimi allo zero, ed ‘risvegliata’ ciclicamente per trasmettere o ricevere dati. La durata del ciclo di sleep può essere configurata a piacere, e può andare da pochi millisecondi fino a più di tre settimane, e in modo analogo può essere configurata la fase di attività.

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Binary creatures

Need some quick framework to display your data (like, ehm, these)? Or you’re up to something completely different, like a new groundbreaking idea on creating artificial music (like this one, be sure to check out the video)? Processing can be what you’re looking for. Is a Java based programming language coming together with  a nice IDE (a plugin for Eclipse is also available), born to create images and animations and to support complex interactions with a very limited coding effort.

I used it to write a very tiny application (no more than 200 LOC) that simulates the life of….a dot (or, better, a couple of dots). Continue reading

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Google greetings

This is how the Google homepage looks like today on my browser (yes, it’s my birthday):

Somewhere I wrote down my birth date while opening an account on G+ or YouTube, I suppose, otherwise I would feel a bit, ehm, scared……


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