When we launched our Indiegogo campaign, we offered a mysterious Perk that included a bridge to allow data from our Wimoto’s to find its way directly to the Internet without having to use the app. Despite the very vague description, this limited Perk sold out and reaffirmed that this was indeed an option many people wanted.
The original concept for what has now become known as the “Cloud Cube” was for a very simple Arduino-compatible device that literally just shuttled data back and forth between our sensors and the cloud. We’d beefed up the Arduino-side of things to make sure it was up to the job by using an ARM Cortex M3 CPU.
I was literally lying in bed one night and it struck me we were unnecessarily making things hard on ourselves whilst also not delivering the most innovative product we could. So, we went back into the dungeon and literally redesigned the whole thing in the space of a weekend.
The result is something we think is pretty cool, and we hope you agree.
Now powered by a more powerful ARM9 CPU running at 400MHz with 128MB of RAM, the Cloud Cube runs an embedded version of Debian Linux as its operating system. New firmware can be loaded to the device by burning it to the included MicroSD card and our software framework automagically updates.
Our software stack is built upon node.js, so is event driven (just what you want in a device like this), and more interestingly for many of you: exposed locally via a REST interface. What does that mean in English? You can write your own integrations and apps to talk to the Cloud Cube!
The cloud image you see on the top of the unit is actually on a 2.7″ epaper display. Why a display? Well, we like to think of this as an ‘ambient’ display that can show data from your sensors (lawn needs watering, baby’s bedroom is cold), the local weather forecast, your latest Tweets, or other low priority but useful information. Because the display has a near 180-degree viewing angle in every direction, high contrast, and low-glare, it’s easy to read. Not having a backlight means no light pollution at night!
Wireless connectivity is provided by 802.11n Wifi and, of course, Bluetooth SMART (aka Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy). We’ve chosen low power components all around to reduce the cost and environmental impact of powering the device.
One of the things we’re most proud of is that despite it’s diminutive 8cm*8cm*8cm size, the Cloud Cube has two empty expansion slots (one is occupied by the CPU card). Next year we’ll release additional expansion cards, but I’ll tell you about the one that’ll be available first: the iAQ card.
The iAQ (Indoor Air Quality) card features precision temperature, humidity, and a range of air quality sensors. Whilst there are other products on the market that claim to measure VOCs (volatile organic compounds), we’ve gone a couple of steps further.
We measure particulate matter such as smoke, pollen, and dust in the air in your home — both larger particles (~10 microns) and small, harmful particles (~2.5 microns). Rather than just measure VOCs, we also measure reduction gases (‘RED’) such as carbon monoxide and oxidation gases (‘OX’) such as nitrogen dioxide.
To give you a complete picture of the state of your home or office’s air quality, the iAQ card records both daily and annual exposure to these factors. Whilst it can’t necessarily identify individual toxins in your environment, if can give you a sense of how good (or bad) your indoor environment is and alert you when you might need to open a window or change an air filter.
Future expansion cards may include cellular data (either as a backup to Wifi, or for locations where Wifi isn’t available), battery backup, and camera. In fact, we’re toying with the idea of including the camera and a highly sensitive MEMS microphone in the base unit: tell us your thoughts on this in the comments.
We hope you liked what we’ve designed and are as excited as we are. To those who took a leap of faith: thank you for helping to make this happen!
Feel free to ask additional questions in the comments.