Whisker IoT Invention System
Easy to use wireless device for building the IoT. 4 mile range. 5 year battery life. Works with hundreds of sensors and devices.
Well, we didn't hit our goal, but we aren't going to let that stop us. At this point, we are actually ahead of schedule and should start shipping rewards in late January. We are taking pre-orders for Whisker at our webstore and all backers will receive a time-limited coupon for special pricing as thanks for their support. Orders are going to be shipping first come, first served, so get yours in the queue today!
Note: Shipping within the 50 United States is included in the reward pricing. Rewards will be shipped by USPS First Class mail.
What is all this Whisker stuff, anyway?
Whisker is a wireless platform for building IoT (Internet of Things) applications. It doesn't matter whether the "things" in your "internet" are homes, robots, cars, or even pets... Whisker lets you monitor, track or control anything, even when that "thing" is miles away.
The Whisker IoT Invention Kit is a combination of support boards and software that allow you to quickly connect power and sensors (or other devices) and get them working together and talking on the internet fast, whether you are a complete novice or an old hand with a soldering iron and IDE. And to make it even easier, we are creating a bunch of "Whisker Mashups" that show you exactly how to use Whisker for lots of different things. The pictures below show just a few of those.
So What Can Whisker Do?
These are just a few of the ideas we came up with for Whisker, but we have many more such as:
- Using light level sensor and tilt sensor to detect mailbox opening and presence of mail
- Detecting garage door open status and automatically closing it
- Measuring voltage of solar panels and battery voltage at a pump house
- Monitoring status of gates on property, getting notification when they are left open
- Tracking stolen assets such as trailers, vehicles, and political signs
- Create a digital wind chime using a whisker with an accelerometer in a tree
- Using a dry-bag to make any Whisker device water proof
The low cost, small size, long battery life and unbelievable transmission range open up endless possibilities and we can't wait to hear what you come up with.
How Does It Connect To The Internet
Connecting Whisker to the Internet is very easy thanks to our USB adapter.
It plugs into the USB port of any host PC, Mac, or Raspbery Pi. Once our open source gateway application is installed on the host, Whisker can use the host's Internet connection to get to the cloud. It is that easy.
If you don't have an extra PC you can dedicate to the task, a $35 Raspberry Pi makes a really good host for Whisker. It has a built in Ethernet port and you can add cellular and WiFi connections for very little money. We will provide an SD card image with everything pre-configred for the Pi to make things easier.
If you want to use Arduino instead, we also have an Arduino shield available. Our gateway app is being ported so that it can run on Arduino as well.
Note: Shipping within the 50 United States is included in the reward pricing. Rewards will be shipped by USPS First Class mail.
There are a few components of the Whisker IoT Invention System that we need to explain so you can decide which reward is right for you. The most important component is the Whisker Engine itself.
The Whisker Engine's I/O can be expanded using the I2C port and the serial UART:
- Digital I/O port expanders
Whisker doesn't operate alone. There are a number of support boards and software components that make him easy to use. The first, and most critical, support board for Whisker is the break out board, or B.O.B. Download the datasheet here.
B.O.B.'s job is to make Whisker easy to use. He provides Whisker with power from several different sources:
- USB - power Whisker from line power or a USB battery pack
- Battery - power Whisker from AAA or LiPoly batteries
- DC Power - power Whisker from wall transformer with 2.5mm barrel connector
He also makes it easy to connect to sensors and other devices using the 16-pin, dual row right angle header. This header provides access to regulated and raw power, ground, and all I/O pins available from Whisker. Side Car activity boards (explained later) plug into this connector for a truly "plug and play" experience; you can also use this connector to wire up devices from AdaFruit, Digilent, Sparkfun, and a number of other suppliers.
B.O.B. is included in rewards in two configurations:
USB B.O.B. - populated with FTDI USB COM: port IC, voltage regulator, headers for Whisker, and required support components. Allows Whisker to connect to Raspberry Pi, PC/Mac, and Beaglebone creating a quick gateway using the open source Whisker Network Manager.
Dev B.O.B.- The device version is populated with a 2-pin JST connector for battery power and the headers for Whisker. A parts kit with a USB connector, voltage regulator, LED, 2.5mm DC power jack, and support parts is included so you can configure B.O.B. to meet your requirements (this does not include the FTDI part or its supporting components). Each Dev B.O.B. comes with a 2xAAA battery holder with built in switch.
Side Car activity boards provide a quick, plug and play method for getting Whiskers working right away. Just plug them into the header on a B.O.B. and you can instantly track location, motion, monitor temperature and humidity, and interface with external devices such as garage door openers.
- Tracker - Power, (1) digital input, (1) digital output, (2) analog inputs
- Enviro - Power, (2) analog inputs, (2) NPN outputs*
- Digital I/O - Power, (2) digital inputs, (2) NPN outputs*
* Capable of 200mA/output, 400mA total
The last component of the system is a kit of sensors you can use with Whisker to measure CO2, sound, color, flame, and more. These are all compatible with Whisker and can be directly connected to any BOB. Some sensors require 5V, which will require a B.O.B. powered from a wall transformer or the USB connector.
- MQ5 Gas Sensor, Color Sensor, Flame Sensor
- Metal Detector, Hall Effect sensor, IR Reflective Sensor
- Laser reflective sensor, Moisture Sensor, Encoder
- Sound Sensor, DHT-11 Humidity Sensor, Vibration Sensor
- UV Sensor, Water/Rain Sensor
You can also use Whisker with a long list of 3rd party devices, a list which is growing every day.
Under the Hood
Whisker can transmit up to 4 miles outdoors using only two AAA batteries, can operate for 5 years before the batteries need to be replaced, and works with just about any device include switches, relays, sensors, motor, displays, and more.
Whiskers are event driven, which makes them very efficient. They only send sensor data when user defined triggers are met which means that, depending on the whiskers' configuration, thousands can be supported by one network manager.
The whisker engine is the heart of a complete IoT invention system, including a USB Network Manager, Break Out Board (BOB), plug and play I/O boards called Side Cars, and the Whisker Network Visualizer app. The system works with Windows, Linux, Mac, and even Arduino.
The whisker system is designed for rapid prototyping and is very easy to use. In just a matter of minutes, whiskers can be wired, configured, and integrated to build complex applications.
The whisker engine can either be integrated directly into your project or, if you want a fast plug and play solution, it can be combined with our BOB and one of our Side Cars. Multiple power options are available including line power, 2xAAA batteries, LiPoly, or even coin cells (for very low power, long sample time sensor apps).
The USB network manager is compatible with Windows, Linux and MacOS. It is powered from the USB port and turns any network connected PC, Mac, or Raspberry Pi into a whisker gateway. Using the PC, Mac, or Pi's Internet connection, Whiskers can use the Internet to send data to the cloud, send tweets/emails, post to Facebook, and communicate with Whiskers at other locations. To make sure you are the only one who can access your Whiskers, you provide a unique key to the application we provide for the PC, Mac, or Pi. Then, when you want to interact with your Whiskers remotely, you provide that key to the application and you alone have access.
If you are an Arduino fan, you have another option to build your gateway. Our Arduino shield provides access to Whiskers and our gateway software is being ported to run on Arduino as well as PC, Mac, and Pi. All you need is some kind of Internet connection for your Arduino board: WiFi, Ethernet, Cellular are all supported.
The Whisker Network Visualizer (WNV) application is available for PC and will soon be available for Mac, Android and IPhone/IPad. This application is used to configure, program, and interact with your Whiskers. Each whisker is tagged with a unique id (similar to a MAC address) and this id is used by the app to speak to the whisker.
Once configured, the whisker is instantly online. Using the WNV, you can interact with your whiskers, track their location, connect them to the cloud using popular open cloud platforms such as ThingSpeak and BugLabs, and even automate their behavior with C#. Using a Twilio account, you can configure your Whiskers to send emails, text messages, and even text to speech phone calls when user defined alert conditions are met.
Of course, we have just scratched the surface of technical detail in the limited space we have available here. We have prepared a detailed slide deck with a lot of technical information about whisker you can download here:
That presentation covers the electrical and software related specifications of Whisker, the Whisker Network Manager, support boards, and so on. Additionally, the whisker data sheet can be downloaded at the following link. Please note that this datasheet is still a work in progress and so will be subject to change. However, this link will always point to the latest revision:
Lastly, you can always visit the WhiskerRF section of our website at the following link:
The WhiskerRF Story
Whisker started life more than 2 years ago as a concept for a Lego-like building block system for creating IoT applications. Our business is connecting things to the internet without using wires and we needed a way to rapidly prototype new solutions to prove concepts.
With more than 20 years wireless design experience, we knew that we wouldn't be able to use any of the standard's based radio technologies. Two key design design criteria pretty much eliminated them all: long range and battery life.
Originally, our goal was to achieve 1/2 mile range using a 100mW frequency hopping spread spectrum (FHSS) radio. This is a good balance of range versus power performance, but using FHSS in battery powered applications introduces a pretty high level of complexity.
Fortunately, a new microcontroller family from Renesas (RL78) gave us a way to offset the complexity and power issues. It can operate at 40MIPs while drawing less than 3mA and the sleep current is almost immeasurable.
Then, last October, we were introduced to a new radio technology called LoRa that boasted unbelievable range performance. At first we were skeptical of the claims, but after doing some testing, we realized quickly that LoRa is a game changer. Using two AAA batteries, the LoRa radio can transmit for miles. In fact, in some tests we were able to get 10 miles of range.
Now, whisker combines the LoRa technology, the RL78 microcontroller, and our open protocol platform (OpenRF) to deliver the world's first truly long range wireless IoT solution.
Here are some pictures of various prototypes we built throughout the development of whisker.
- $95,000 - Arduino Shield
- $115,000 - Add one country to list of certifications
- $130,000 - WiFi Network Manager - eliminates the need for a PC. Connects the whisker network directly to the Internet.
- More to come
Use of Funds
As you can see from the video WhiskerRF works. All of the demos are real and you can get access to all of the open source code and designs on our website (schematics for the module, OpenRF™ protocol source code, and Whisker Network Manager source code).
Most of the code and circuit designs are already being used in proprietary industrial products; they are tested and working.
We still have a few things to do, but the list is short:
- Finish testing - this would include temperature chamber, accelerated battery life, and final system level testing
- Add new sensor/actuator drivers - this will include additional device support for whiskers
- Improve low power performance - our math indicates 5 years of battery life, but we think we can do better. We need to do additional accelerated EOL testing and more development, but we are hoping to get that to 7-10 years when LiFeSO2 batteries are used.
- FCC certification for US. Additional countries will be included if we are able to make our stretch goals
- December 2014 - funding period ends
- January 2015 - FCC and EU testing
- March 2015 - Rewards start shipping
Whisker, WhiskerRF, Whisker Network Manager, OpenRF, and Whisker Module are all trademarks (™) of Digital Six Laboratories, LLC
(c) 2014 Digital Six Laboratories, LLC. All rights reserved.
Risks and challenges
The core technology works and is already embedded in industrial products about to go to market, but we still have some additional development to do.
With more than 20+ years experience developing RF and wireless technologies for products that have operated in countries around the world, we are very confident in our abilities to finish this project on time and deliver as advertised.
However, there are always things that can interfere with our ability to deliver the project on time:
1. Regulatory certifications - While we are very experienced at getting new products through the regulatory process, changing rules and unforeseen issues with the electromagnetic emissions can always cause delays.
2. Component availability - when we are ready to start production, component lead times may push out so that our current schedule projection is no longer valid.
3. Unforeseen technical issues - "It ain't done until it is done". While we are very confident in our schedule, we also recognize that if a major problem is found, it could delay our schedule significantly.
4. Natural disasters - this may seem rediculous to mention, but we have had weather, sun spots, and any number of other things interfere with a project schedule.
While we cannot make any guarantees on schedule, we can promise you that we will mitigate as much risk as possible AND we will constantly communicate our progress so that, in the event the schedule pushes out, you know exactly why it happened and how long the delay will be.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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