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BLE sensors / controllers that run on a coin cell for years, no programming required and connect to the cloud via a BLE to WiFi router Read more

Calgary, Canada Gadgets
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Funded!

This project was successfully funded on July 23, 2014.

BLE sensors / controllers that run on a coin cell for years, no programming required and connect to the cloud via a BLE to WiFi router

Calgary, Canada Gadgets
Share this project

About this project

Check out WestWorkTechnology.com and mcThings.org for Pre-Orders and future updates!

McThings will be OPEN SOURCE!

Stretch GOAL #1               $75,000  REACHED!

Every McRouter comes with a case!
Every McRouter comes with a case!

 Stretch GOAL #2                $100,000

Universal and EU McPlug variants!
Universal and EU McPlug variants!

If we reach this goal we can make McPlugs that work in nearly every country in the world!

A McModule without the battery clip attached (they ship with the clip attached)
A McModule without the battery clip attached (they ship with the clip attached)

McThings are a collection of devices and software that can be used to measure and control anything and connect to the cloud. The main device is a measure and control board, called a McModule, which is a tiny low-power device that communicates wirelessly to the cloud through a McRouter. McModules are designed to be very small, consume minimal power and therefore run for years on a coin cell.

Other device in the McThings product line are:

  • A McRouter is a WiFi bridge between the Internet and the McModules so McModules can communicate with the cloud. They provide integration with IFTTT, Facebook, Twitter, SMS, Email and other cloud services. WiFi setup for the McRouter can be done on an IPhone, Android phone, PC or MAC and is fast and simple because the McRouter uses TI's SimpleLink and SmartConfig technology. See http://www.ti.com/tool/smartconfig
  • The McPlug is a power plug that can wirelessly control two power outlets with solid state switches. The maximum voltage of 250V AC and a maximum current of 16 Amp.

The McThings vision 

Our vision is that eventually every house, shop, garage, etc. will have a large number of low-cost, low-power easy to setup sensors and controllers that will improve efficiency, quality of life and minimize power consumption. A router will connect the sensors and controllers to the cloud for full integration with services like Facebook, Twitter, SMS Email, Google+, WeMo devices etc. The McThings infrastructure fulfills this vision with low-power and low-cost modules, full internet connectivity and no programming required.

Low Power 

The McModule uses a modern 32-bit low energy ARM processor which consumes 530nA in sleep. Together with the other components the whole McModule consumes less than 1 µA in sleep. A 230mAh battery can power the device 230,000 hours (26 years) in sleep mode, so the key is to let the device do as little as possible. An example is measuring the temperature every minute where the module wakes up every minute, measures the temperature and makes a connection to the McRouter and sends the temperature. Battery life would be 5 years or longer. Another example is sending a text when the cookie jar is opened. In this case it is maybe used once a day or week and battery life is even longer.

The McModule is Small, Really Really Small.

The McModule is 29 mm (1.1 inch) by 17 mm (0.7 inch) and including the battery it is only 4.6 mm (0.18 inch) thick.

 No programming required

Programming is not required. A rule engine tells a McModule what to do and a wizard creates the rules. The wizard communicates over WiFi to the McRouter and they transfer the rules wirelessly to the McModules.

The McRouter stores the rules for all paired McModules locally in flash so after a power failure they are still available.  

Measuring and Sensors

Below is a list of sensors that can be used with the McModule. All measurements can be logged and used to control things. The McModule can measure voltage and resistance very accurately and can communicate with sensors that require UART, I2C or SPI communication. Below are some of the possibilities:

  • Time in all McModules. Can be used with other sensors to measure time like how long the door of the freezer, fridge is open, multiple stopwatches to measure gaming times like how long does it take to drink a glass of beer, etc. Just add a few buttons and it works.
  • Temperature sensor in all McModules or external sensor for temperatures above 200°F. Can be used in freezer, fridge, attic, inside the car, outside, different sides of the house, garage, shop, against the windows, in your dryer, are your pipes freezing, long term logging of any temperature, barbeque, etc.  
  • Acceleration in all McModules. Can detect door knock, something is moved or touched, activity tracking, single and double and directional tapping (user interface), freefall and motion detecting vibration of machines, track when the doggy/cat door is used, oven door is open.
  • Simple button sensors to indicate a certain state or a simple push button
  • Moisture sensor. Can detect moisture in plants or outside in soil or grass, basement flooding, leakage of equipment, etc.  
  • Rain sensor. Can detect rain and can be used in an advanced internet weather station.  
  • Magnetic switch. Can detect everything that moves including door opens, when windows are open or closed, etc.  
  • Biometric sensor like Methane, Carbon Monoxide, Pollen, Dust, LPG, Fingerprint scanner etc. These complex sensors operate like they normally do and the McModule makes them wireless.  
  • Touch sensor, like key-pad sensors, etc.
  • Light sensors for things like detecting day/night, if the cookie jar is open or closed, shadows, etc.  
  • Distance sensor and PIR (passive infrared sensor) to detect if somebody is in the room, etc.
  • Other sensors like Current and Voltage sensors, Force sensors, RFID readers, Infrared proximity sensors and Proximity sensors.
's video poster
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McModule reading a capacitive touch sensor
McModule reading a capacitive touch sensor
    
McModule in a motion sensor
McModule in a motion sensor

Controlling

After measuring things you often want to control, indicate or log things. The McModule is ideally situated to do just that without using a programming language.

  • Indicate with the included Green and Red LED. The LED’s can be on, off, blink and the brightness can be controlled. Add more LED’s or other indicators. Combined with sensors they can indicate if there are any open outside doors, if there is movement in a room, if the gate is open, if the lights in a room are on, etc. One McModule can control 6 LED’s plus the internal LED’s. Other examples are the voltage of the car of boat battery by controlling the intensity. 
  • Alphanumeric displays to display messages and other information like temperature, voltage, etc. 
  • Send Text messages based on measurements and events to a cell phone. 
  • Send tweets based on measurements and events to a twitter account. 
  • Send Emails based on measurements and events. 
  • Switching appliances, light, etc. that are connected to the main power with the McPlug. 

Logging

The McRouter can log and distribute measured information to the cloud. This information is available in csv format that can be directly read by Excel or other spreadsheet programs.

Measurements are easy to import into excel from a CSV file
Measurements are easy to import into excel from a CSV file

Some things you can do with it. 

  • Measure and log the temperature of any location in your house, your fridge, your car while it is at home, outside not too far from the house, in the attic, etc. 
  • Log temperature over years, compare the temperature with different wind conditions, find cold spots, calibrate your heating system and save energy.
  • Check the temperature of the hot-tub without going outside
  • Send a tweet, text or email when your freezer/fridge gets too warm, the hot-tub too cold, etc. 
  • Put one in the ice bath of a keg to make sure your beer is always cold
  • Use it as a dog activity tracker
  • Remote control anything that has a plug
  • Connect it to you garden furniture and switch lights on when somebody tries to move it.
  • Use it as a remote for all your lights
  • Switch your lights on and off so it looks that somebody is at home.
  • Measure the vibration when somebody walks up the stairs and switch lights on.
  • Log when doors are opened and closed, change the behavior of your kids and save energy.
  • Buy some low-cost motions sensors and door-sensors and build your own low-cost security system that sends you a text when somebody gets in the house so you can call the police and save hundreds on monitoring
  • Log the sun-rise and sunset time.
  • Measure when you plants, inside or out-side need water.
  • Get a text when someone knocks on the door. 
  • Detect when doors, windows or drawers are open/closed
  • Measure and log the moisture in your plants/flower beds/grass 
  • Log information from a full weather station like wind speed/direction, rain, and humidity
  • Get a tweet or text when someone who shouldn't open your cookie jar does it anyway
  • Turn on lights and a siren when a drawer with valuables is opened
  • Control your lights by just tapping the McPlug or any other location 
  • Measure your car battery voltage and send a message if it gets low.
  • Anything you can come up with.  

How it all started

For one of our projects we needed 40 temperature sensors and if the temperature did not match the required values it should send an Email to the company so they could send someone. All sensors needed to be wireless so the installation cost would be minimal. We used some WiFi boards but the problem was the power. Batteries needed to be changed every week which was not acceptable. Low-power wireless boards exist but they connect to phones, cannot work together and do not connect to the internet. 

That was the moment when we realized that the market needs low-cost low-power (coin-cell) measurement modules that can work together and connect to the internet and cloud services. To make the product more versatile the measurement module must accept a wide range of sensors and controlling the module must be wireless, over the web and simple which means that programming is not an option. To make a complete product we also needed a control module that can switch things on or off, indicate state etc. We combined the measurement and control aspects and built the McModule where the "M" stands for Measurement and the "c" for control. 

We started with some development boards and wrote most of the software to see if we could get the power down. Then we built the McRouter. To switch power we developed the McPlug.

Planning

We have tested all the hardware and we need to change some minor things and do another board-spin. Based on this we expect that the final hardware design will be ready the end of July. Then we can start ordering the components in August. Some of the components have a 12 week lead time so we expect that the production starts in October and will be ready for shipment in November. 

In the mean time we have to complete the software. The state of the software is as follows:

  • McModule is 60% done. We have to add more functionality to the rule engine. Expected effort 6 weeks.
  • McRouter (wireless part) is 80% done. Expected effort 2 weeks.
  • McRouter (routing part) is 60% done. Expected effort 4 weeks.
  • Maintenance program including the Wizard is 80% done. This program contains the rule engine interpreter and the maintenance UI. Expected effort 4 weeks.
  • Integration with IFTTT. Expected effort 4 weeks
  • Wireless Bootloader for the McModule. Expected effort 3 weeks.
  • McPlug is a McModule with extra hardware. Expected effort 3 weeks.

This is about 26 weeks. We expect that we have one full time person working on the software and one person part-time (33%). This would give us a December delivery date.

Pledges

Don't forget that the rewards amounts are in Canadian dollars, which is about 8% lower than the US dollar.

Technical Specifications

McModule

  • Low Power 32-bit ARM Cortex processor  
  • 2.4GHz multi-protocol radio
  • 128-bit AES encryption co-processor
  • Green and Red LED and a button
  • Temperature sensor
  • Accelerometer with hardware support for tab and double tab
  • 6 Analog/Digital channels that can operate as digital input, digital input with pull-up, digital output, Pulse Width Modulation and analog input I²C bus, SPI bus and UART
  • Two high input impedance measurement channels  
  • 2.4-3.6 Volt supply  
  • Battery clip for coin cell 

McRouter

  • Powerful PIC32MX (100Mhz) processor
  • 128-bit AES encryption co-processor
  • Wi-Fi (CC3000) working on a version with CC3100
  • USB host for logging and firmware updates
  • 2.4GHz Bluetooth LE 4.1 radio
  • Raspberry Pi compatible GPIO
McPlug
 
  • Low Power 32-bit ARM Cortex processor
  • 2.4GHz multi-protocol radio
  • 128-bit AES encryption co-processor
  • Green and Red LED
  • Temperature sensor
  • Accelerometer
  • Two solid state switches/dimmers 250V / 16A
  • Enclosure

 The Engineering Team

Hardware

Tom
Tom

Tom went to the University of Calgary to study Engineering and started to really delve into design for manufacturing. Now he does freelance hardware design and has done work in the medical and Oil+gas sectors. He has experience in RF, miniaturizing designs and how to design within constraints of a manufacturing process.

Firmware/Software

John
John

John is an Electrical Engineer with extensive experience in software and firmware architecture, design, development and delivery. He was the lead architect of Q-Kernel™ by QuasarSoft Ltd., and is currently product manager of Q-Kernel™.John also worked as a consultant for a medical device company and for oil and gas related companies. He has extensive experience with abstracting the complexities of hardware, the design of modular systems and device drivers.

Risks and challenges

We know we are very close to getting the hardware done since we already have pre-production units (panelized and all) and we have manufacturing experience. The only real problem we may run into with regards to getting the hardware out in time is component lead times. This is very dependent of the amount of backers and can become longer than the expected 12 weeks. Once the campaign is nearing its end and we have a better idea as to the quantities we will be producing, we will have a much better idea of the sourcing timeline.
We have lots of experience in firmware and software and the most complex part, the rule engine, is working. It just needs to be extended. While we have the twitter and Email integration working, the IFTTT integration is not done. We don't expect that this is a big problem but it carries more risk than the other parts of the software.
All McThings products can load new software wirelessly so we have the ability to improve the software over time.

Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

FAQ

  • No McThings only require a cloud server if they need a service like SMS, twitter, Facebook or anything else that lives on the web. McThings can work entirely independent of an internet connection.

    Last updated:
  • The range is about 50-100 meters depending on obstructions and host of other factors. We could have gone for a slightly smaller antenna, which would have made the whole device smaller, but we really wanted to prioritize the RF performance.

    Last updated:
  • Openness and integration with other products was always a very important for us. Therefore we made our own devices open source and integrated with IFTTT so we can talk to a lot of devices. IFTTT is very nice but it is for a number of applications to slow and not everybody wants to use cloud services.
    On the other hand it is for us impossible to integrate to the thousands of individual devices that are out there that all have different protocols. We decided that we should integrate at the network level and we choose the most common network to do this, TCP/IP which includes wired and wireless communication. This means that we can integrate to every Wi-Fi device out there, but it requires some code because every device has a different API. Because we are open and use publish/subscribe (no-polling) people can add their own integration code. Over time we will add more device integration. We think that people will add integration code and we will include that every time we publish a software version of the McRouter.

    Last updated:

Rewards

  • You selected
    Pledge $5 or more

    33 backers

    We'll keep you up to date with all the new software and hardware. Get access to the schematics and API.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $79 or more

    72 backers Limited (28 left of 100)

    1 - STARTER PACK - EARLY BIRD - with this package you will get 1 McRouter and 1 McModule.
    The McModule comes with an accelerometer, temperature sensor and can directly hook up to almost any other sensor.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $99 or more

    3 backers

    1 - STARTER PACK - with this package you will get 1 McRouter and 1 McModule. The McModule comes with an accelerometer, temperature sensor and can directly hook up to almost any other sensor.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $119 or more

    100 backers All gone!

    2 - PROJECT PACK - EARLY BIRD - with this package you will get 1 McRouter and 3 McModules. All the McModules come with an accelerometer, temperature sensor and can directly hook up to almost any other sensor.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $139 or more

    49 backers

    2 - PROJECT PACK - with this package you will get 1 McRouter and 3 McModules. All the McModules come with an accelerometer, temperature sensor and can directly hook up to almost any other sensor.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $149 or more

    50 backers All gone!

    3 - POWER PACK - EARLY BIRD - with this package you will get 1 McRouter and 3 McModules and 1 McPlug. All the McModules come with an accelerometer, temperature sensor and can directly hook up to almost any other sensor. The McPlug can control 2 household items of 80V-250V and 15amps. It can also dim lights.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $159 or more

    80 backers

    6 - PROJECT PACK PLUS - with this package you will get 1 McRouter and 5 McModules. All the McModules come with an accelerometer, temperature sensor and can directly hook up to almost any other sensor.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $189 or more

    25 backers

    3 - POWER PACK - with this package you will get 1 McRouter and 3 McModules and 1 McPlug. All the McModules come with an accelerometer, temperature sensor and can directly hook up to almost any other sensor. The McPlug can control 2 household items of 80V-250V and 15amps.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $209 or more

    41 backers

    7 - POWER PACK PLUS - with this package you will get 1 McRouter and 5 McModules and 1 McPlug. All the McModules come with an accelerometer, temperature sensor and can directly hook up to almost any other sensor. The McPlug can control 2 household items of 80V-250V and 15amps.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $249 or more

    61 backers

    4 - HUGE PACK - with this package you will get 1 McRouter and 10 McModules!!! All the McModules come with an accelerometer, temperature sensor and can directly hook up to almost any other sensor.

    Wireless up your whole house with this one.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $349 or more

    30 backers

    5 - HUGE POWER PACK - with this package you will get 1 McRouter and 10 McModules and 2 McPlugs!!! All the McModules come with an accelerometer, temperature sensor and can directly hook up to almost any other sensor. Wireless up your whole house with this one. The McPlug can control 2 household items of 80V-250V and 15amps.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $499 or more

    8 backers

    8 - SUPER PACK PLUS - with this package you will get 1 McRouter and 25 McModules. All the McModules come with an accelerometer, temperature sensor and can directly hook up to almost any other sensor.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world

Funding period

- (30 days)