Motobrain: High Tech Automotive Power Distribution Unit
A high tech automotive power distribution unit and fuse block that you program and can control from your smartphone or tablet.
What is it?
The Motobrain PDU (power distribution unit) is a next generation, high tech, fuse block and power distribution unit for use with 12V systems. The system will control a wide range of electrical accessories on your car, truck, jeep, motorcycle, boat, or whatever you can think of. The device is solid state and Bluetooth 4 enabled, so you can control the entire system from your Bluetooth 4 equipped phone or tablet. We currently support iOS devices and will support Android 4.3 devices before delivery. Solid state construction means you can digitally set your current limits without the need for physical fuses or breakers. Circuits can be controlled with our proprietary input interface which allows you to logically connect PDU outputs to existing vehicle circuits or hardware switches so the phone is NOT required for daily use.
What can I use this for?
The device can be used to control many different auxiliary electric devices in automotive-type environments. You can use the PDU to control auxiliary driving lights, electric cooling fans, electronics (GPS, stereos, radar detectors, etc), heated clothing, among many other things. Essentially, if the item runs on a 12V system you can hook it up to the PDU and have control from your phone. The PDU is small in size (3.5x2.5x1.5" encapsulated) and can be installed in tight locations which may be exposed to harsh conditions (it is waterproof but care should be taken to protect it from high temps). With its ability to sense a vehicle's current state I think it would make a pretty good candidate to replace the entire electrical system in a classic vehicle as well.
Is a phone required for daily use?
Absolutely not! The phone is required to program the PDU but is not needed for daily use. The phone also behaves as a remote control unit for the PDU if you would like to directly control circuits and also serves as a display for real time data from the PDU. You can use switches or circuits linked to the PDU’s input lines to create a solution that behaves like a traditional fuse block, set up a futuristic iPad dashboard inside your vehicle, or anything inbetween.
What kind of features are included?
Mobile Device Connectivity – You can pair your Bluetooth Low Energy 4 device to the PDU. To control the device from your phone, just launch the Motobrain app and pair up with your PDU. From the app you can control each output, as well as receive real-time system status and power consumption information. Configuring and monitoring the PDU is a breeze with the app.
Physical Capacity – The unit is comprised of two custom circuit boards that are 100% encapsulated in super tough polyurethane. We use severe duty cabling for the power, ground, and signal wires. The PDU can provide power for up to 8 circuits, with each single circuit rated at 15A continuous and combined capacity of 100A. The amperage limit of each circuit is individually programmable. The PDU will allow you to switch circuits ON or OFF as well as modulate the duty cycle with PWM (this allows you to dim any circuit). To support traditional switches, the PDU has 4 input signal wires that can be connected to physical dash-mounted switchgear. Each input can sense 12V or GND and perform a custom action as a result. Again, all of this is fully programmable and controllable from your BT device.
- Eight 15A circuits with PWM
- 100A maximum source current
- Eight user-programmable current circuit breakers
- Over current circuit priority
- Two constant current drivers
- Over-the-Air upgradability of both software and firmware
- Protected against of 500V transients (the largest I've been able to produce)
- Brownouts as low as 5V won't reset the device
Real-time Telemetry –
- System voltage
- Total current
- Channel current
- Channel PWM
- Channel fuse level and status
- Device tempurature
Programmable default output behavior –
- Turn on outputs based on key, ignition, or low voltage
- Turn off outputs based on key, ignition, low voltage, or high voltage
- Modulate output duty cycle to create pulsing effects
4 programmable signal inputs –
- Reacts to 12V and GND signals
- Turn outputs on or off
- Delayed output turn on after signal
- Toggle outputs
- Adjust output PWM
Constant current – Some electronic devices require a very specific current delivered in a constant, steady supply. Some homebrew LED lights are one such example. We’ve tried really hard to accommodate these devices and the PDU will supply up to two devices with constant current at 100mA resolution.
More Information –
Screen Shots and PDU Photos
Sounds great! How does the Kickstarter work?
We would really love to get started on building the units and get them into the hands of our backers. We have done a lot of prototyping work and we have made great strides in ensuring that everything works as designed.
- Kickstarter campaign – 30 days – We’ll fire up the Kickstarter campaign and keep working towards our goals. We’d be absolutely thrilled to hear about how you plan to use your PDU while the Kickstarter is open for funding. Shoot us an email!
- Prototype revision – 60 days – We have a few more tweaks to the design that we’d like to implement prior to production. Once we’ve verified the changes, we can move on to production.
- PCB production – 60 days – We have two PCBs to produce, one for the high current power distribution and another for processing and Bluetooth radio. Suppliers and PCB production are sorted and ready to go.
- Assembly – 60 days – We will do the final assembly and QC in house prior to shipping out.
- Shipping to backers – 14 days – After everything looks good we will ship the unit to you!
How will you use the funds from Kickstarter?
The PDU is made up of many tiny (and expensive) components that are not affordable until purchased in volume. The majority of funds raised by Kickstarter will be used to directly purchase production components. Things like heavy duty PCBs, Bluetooth radios, and so forth. We need to hire an assembly house to help place and solder components on PCBs. The PDU is encapsulated in polyurethane and we will incur costs associated with the tooling and production runs. Lastly, we have some costs associated with boxing up and shipping the units to our backers.
What is the project's history?
The development of this version of the Motobrain has been underway for nearly one year. You can read all about the process on the Motobrain blog here (http://www.motobrain.net/blog/). Also, you can watch videos detailing parts of the development process below. You should note that these videos were created during the development process and represent the state of the project at the point in time they were shot rather than the device's current state.
Risks and challenges
This is a complex device with many components and features. Additionally, there is nothing like the PDU on the market so there is no guidebook to follow. We have built many prototypes and made rigorous testing and evaluation a priority. Still, moving from prototypes to a manufactured product is not a trivial step and there is still much work to do. We will need to manufacture small batches of PDUs, test and validate, and then build more. The Motobrain app for Android is also yet to be developed. Android app development is something we are very good at so this is not a technical concern, but like everything else, it takes time.
Lastly, this design has not yet been tested to 100A. The design says it can source that much current but we will not know until we try. I have run it for long stretches at 60A and it warms up a mere 10C so that is very encouraging.
- (30 days)