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What is Flutter?
Flutter is a wireless electronics development platform based on Arduino. With over 3200ft (1km) of usable range, a powerful ARM processor, and integrated encryption, Flutter makes it easy for you to build projects that communicate across the house, across the neighborhood, and beyond.
Whether you want to check the temperature of a beer-brewing setup, have your mailbox send you a text message when the mailman arrives, control a swarm of flying robots, or just turn on your lights with your phone, Flutter gives you the range, power, and flexibility to do it.
We’re not just building circuit boards though. Our goal is simple: make it easier for engineers, makers, builders, and hackers to go farther with their projects than ever before. Even if it's their first time. We’re going to arrange and keep a set of basic electronics tutorials so getting started with Flutter is as easy as possible.
Creating Flutter networks is easy, even if it’s just two boards. Specify networks in Arduino code or configure Flutter with our mobile app. Once configured, devices can enter and exit the network seamlessly. This makes it extremely easy to set up a network at home (or anywhere else) where all of your projects can reliably communicate. Flutter is like a second network for your devices.
Building wireless projects shouldn’t have to be expensive. Flutter was built from the ground up with cost in mind, that’s why our boards start at just $20. We’ve worked hard to keep costs as low as possible and deliver you a quality product you can afford to use in as many projects as you’d like. To accomplish this, we're designing two boards:
Flutter Basic ($20)
Still under development, the Flutter basic is tiny and simple. You get all the features of Flutter (including 1km range) in a circuit board with an low-profile integrated antenna, rather than the large antenna shown in the video. Featuring micro USB for power and programming, components on both sides to reduce size, an LED, and a button, as well as plenty of digital and analog I/O.
Flutter Pro ($30)
Prototypes of this board are what is shown in our video. The Flutter Pro adds battery charging, a professional screw mount antenna, an additional button, and more memory for more code.
The Network Shield connects to your home router and creates a bridge between your mobile devices, the Internet, and Flutter. The Network Shield gives you all the benefits of our mobile app but also lets you use Flutter to interact with the web: send a tweet, log sensor data to the web, or build a web page that controls your real world projects. Giving you a second network in your home with 100x the coverage of your wifi network, the Network Shield is perfect for connecting your projects to each other, your mobile devices, and the web.
This shield features a Texas Instruments wifi module with special SmartConfig setup that lets you connect Flutter to any 802.11b/g wifi network with just a few taps on our mobile app. And also features an ethernet jack for a simple solid connection between Flutter and the outside world.
One of the most important features of any wireless system is its range and reliability. We use wifi every day, but take a few steps down the driveway and coverage quickly becomes scarce. Flutter is a different kind of wireless system, completely self-contained with over a half-mile range. This allows for a wireless platform without borders, and no longer being chained to a router means your projects are free to follow you out the front door, through the yard, and down the street.
As with any wireless device, security is extremely important. Since information leaving your antenna can be picked up by anyone nearby (and information coming into your antenna could have come from anywhere) it’s important to have a system in place that verifies who you are talking to in a secure way that’s also easy to use.
To make Flutter as secure as possible, we’re building in special cryptographic hardware and integrating cryptography into every layer of the software, giving the user ultimate control over who can and cannot communicate with their devices.
In addition to software for handling encryption and decryption of data, flutter uses the cryptographic chip as the hardware element of the security system. Built specifically for use in high security applications, the Atmel ATSHA204 is based around secure storage for protecting your encryption keys.
Using the chip’s features, Flutter networks are able to use extremely strong encryption and other cryptographic techniques to keep your network secure.
Flutter’s goal will always be to provide the community with access to inexpensive and reliable wireless technology, and so Open Source was a natural marriage for our project. Every aspect of our system will be made available, from schematics, board designs, the bill of materials, right down to the firmware and mobile app. We want to make it as easy as possible for you to build or improve upon our foundation.
Flutter’s wireless technology seamlessly routes messages across multiple devices to reach their final destination. Want to send lots of data across longer distances? Drop another Flutterboard in between and let Flutter handle the rest. Got an ambitious project that requires a huge network? We’ve got you covered there, too. Flutter is designed to scale from two devices to thousands, and our flexible tagging system means you won’t lose track between the lights in your bedroom and the lights in the kitchen.
Versatility & Mobile
Flutter easily connects to other computer networks either via USB to a PC or many modern Android phones, over wifi or ethernet with our Flutter Network Shield, or over bluetooth with our Bluetooth Shield. Bluetooth is especially useful with mobile since it allows your phone to connect directly to the Flutter network without requiring Internet access or a wifi router.
Flutter’s direct USB capability and our comprehensive set of shields means that no matter what you build with Flutter it’s always possible to communicate with the network using your phone.
We plan to develop a free, open source mobile app to provide users with an easy way to configure alerts and display project data on their phone. Use buttons and sliders to send commands to any device or browse and edit your network configuration and device tags, Flutter makes it extremely easy to manage multiple devices.
You love finding innovative ways to take on everyday tasks, whether it’s dimming your lights with your smartphone, getting text notifications when the doorbell rings or the mail arrives, or even building your own quadcopter. Whatever the task at hand you can rely on Flutter to be versatile and robust enough to take on the challenge:
Light, Water, and Temperature Sensors
By connecting simple sensors with Flutter you can easily collect environmental data like temperature or light, water, and humidity levels. Which means you can do anything from measuring the humidity in your greenhouse, to building a wireless beer brewing setup, monitoring the temperature in your grill, monitoring sunlight for solar applications, or even checking the Ph levels in your pool. And that’s just with a couple cheap sensors.
With its powerful CPU and long range radio, Flutter is an excellent platform for building quadcopters. Flutter’s protocol is designed just as much for reading a few sensors as it is for hardcore robotics applications so the user has ultimate control over what the protocol is doing.
Self-Diagnosis and Spectrum Analyzer
Flutter can even be used to diagnose itself. Because Flutter has bare metal access to the radio hardware, you can easily listen to the radio waves around you and plot the data. We'll even build some of this functionality into the app for basic diagnosis.
Hooking up Flutter to an RC car is dead simple. Whether you just want to drive it with an SNES controller for fun or use it for swarm robotics research, Flutter makes it easy.
Everything you’ve seen so far is a functional prototype; the demos in the video are 100% real and were done live, but Flutter is still under development.
We designed the prototypes using the Sparkfun Arduino Pro Mini board as the basis, but its limited speed and RAM mean that there’s only enough room for simple programs. We want flutter to be as flexible as possible, so we’re going to design new boards around the Atmel SAM3s, an affordable but powerful ARM CPU with plenty of speed and storage space for any project you can think of.
We’re also working on evaluating a better radio, as Texas Instruments announced the code-compatible successor (TI CC1200) to our current radio chip (TI CC1101) about two months ago. We’ve got samples and are already doing new board layouts, and it looks like a serious improvement across the board, with higher transmit power, better receive sensitivity, higher data rates, and better low power modes. It’s the radio Flutter was always made for!
Changing the CPU and radio (and adding the encryption chip, which our prototypes lacked), means a complete redesign of the Flutter boards, but we know it will be worth it. We’ve spent months building Arduino libraries, learning about radio design, developing our business plan, and doing real world testing. We now have a comprehensive plan for developing the hardware and radio protocol that will make Flutter everything the community needs.
- New prototypes based on final design: 4-6 weeks
- Hardware finalization, testing, & certification: 2-4 months
- Beta SW ready; First HW shipments to early backers: 2-3 months
We will then work on shipping final hardware and getting the software to full release status as soon as possible.
This projection places initial early backer shipments at around 6 to 8 months from the campaign’s end; sometime around March 2014.
Why We Need Kickstarter
We will use the funds from the Kickstarter campaign to develop the final hardware, get it FCC certified, and develop the software for the protocol, encryption, and general Arduino support. We will also develop mobile apps for Android and iOS which allow you to easily interact with Flutter projects using your phone.
Specifically, we need to: redesign the Flutter Pro for ARM+Encryption+New Radio, and then design the Flutter Basic to match. During this process, we will also develop the Flutter protocol beyond the libraries we have now (already 1000's of lines of our code) to include mesh support, tagging, and the associated protocol features required to support that.
We're building an entire ecosystem of open source software to allow everyone from app developers, to hardware hackers, web developers, and even total beginners to dive into Flutter and make the most out of it. The more funding we get the more of that we can make a reality, but at the very least we will have the hardware, protocol/software, and mobile apps for both iOS and Android.
Flutter's goal is simple: make it easier for engineers, makers, builders, and hackers to go farther with their projects than ever before. Even if it's their first time.
We've been hacking electronics and building our own projects our whole lives, and we've found nearly all of our projects could have benefited from wireless, but it was always too expensive. We realized that integrating wireless directly onto the main board would drastically reduce the cost, and we were able to make Flutter.
Add-ons a'la Carte:
Yay! We have an a’la carte menu now!
Flutter Shirt (tee or tank): $20
Flutter Basic: $20
Flutter Pro: $30
Shield Shield: $5
Bluetooth Shield: $35
Network Shield: $55
RC Shield: $18
Breakout Shield: $2 Starter Kit: $30
3D printed SNES back: $35
1000 mAh lipo battery for SNES back: $15
To add any of the above items to your pledge, simply pledge the additional amount above the reward tier you're receiving. For example, if you're pledged at the $45 level and would like to add a Flutter Pro board as well, pledge $75 ($45 + $30). When the campaign is over, we'll collect your a’la carte orders via an emailed survey.
Risks and challenges
We've designed many production circuit boards, and have direct experience manufacturing circuit board runs on the order of hundreds of boards. Managing runs of thousands of circuit boards will introduce some new elements to that process, but with our team's experience and our expert advisors we're confident that we can successfully execute the manufacturing run.
Designing a radio product requires FCC certification, which can be a challenge, but initial testing of our prototype radios' performance shows efficient operation, with real world performance very closely matching the Texas Instruments' reference designs, and among our advisors is a hardcore Silicon Valley radio expert, who has spent over 35 years advancing radio technology.
We love new challenges and can't wait to work through them all - we're 100% committed to delivering a quality product and supporting it for years to come.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)