Cloud Cube….now less cloudy!

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.

 

Image
Cloud Cube prototype in “apple red”.

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.

31 comments

  1. Mario Lurig · ·

    1) I assume that’s 802.11n/g/b WiFi?
    2) Love the idea of a iAQ card! I’m using the device to measure the commercial kitchen conditions so an extra sensor is fantastic
    3) I like a RESTful connection point to the device, but I hope that doesn’t negate the cloud option. I don’t want to put this in a business with a dynamic DSL IP address and need to have a router that can handle that (DynDNS integration) just so I can communicate with the device. I like local RESTful access, but the idea is making it easy to access the information from ANYWHERE.

    1. 1. Yes. The device isn’t really capable of taking advantage of all 802.11n features, but it will attach to an 802.11n network.
      2. Yes, it will give you a very good idea of what’s in your commercial kitchen environment. Have you seen the redesigned Wimoto Thermo?
      3. I should clarify — the local REST access is in addition to our Cloud service.

  2. Does this come with my purchase? Do I have to buy it? It is the first I heard of it

    1. If you purchased a pack with a mote.bridge or Cloud Cube, yes. Otherwise, no 🙂

      1. Can I buy it now? As an addition?

  3. A camera in the base combined with motion sensors would make a perfect home alarm device.

    1. Yes, we agree. The fact it can work with our external sensors be believe makes it an even better security device.

      The camera would be nothing special — equivalent to a cellphone camera from a few years ago. But perfect for security, nanny cam, dog cam, etc.

    2. We’re evaluating a couple of different camera modules. Assuming they’re satisfactory in terms of price/performance, we’ll include a camera. 🙂

  4. How much power it drains?

    1. ~200-250 milliamps. It’s hard to say exactly as it really depends exactly what’s happening at the time.

  5. Marcus Meredith · ·

    When will the iPhone app be available for download to see the data that is on the cloud service?

    1. I’m not sure I fully understand the question? Are you asking “when will the iPhone app be available?” and “will it be able to see data on the cloud service?”

      1. Marcus Meredith · ·

        Yes to both (I guess they are really two questions).

  6. Sounds great. Would like to be able to integrate this with the Piper.

    1. I’m not sure what Piper would add to the mix if we add the camera?

  7. Why can’t I buy it as an add on or something? Please answer the question ?

    1. We’re considering doing an Indiegogo campaign for the official launch of it. It won’t be the same deal that original backers got ($99), but it’ll be close.

      1. An official campaign for what? Could I add it on to my unit which I have ordered?

  8. Gaston Paradis · ·

    I am not very technical, I am a user. Technically, it does offer WiFi and BLE, and now a new iEQ; this is great. What function does it provide? Read our Wimotos at certain frequence (every few minutes) and store the data in the Cloud ? Will we see the data on the IOS application and another application in the Cloud?
    What else? Can we attach other BLE units to read and store data (example BLE switch)?
    Can we use rules IFTTT or others to trigger other devices?

  9. Very nice add-ons, and even though I am charmed with the e-paper display I wonder why one would go and look to the display of the cube, if all data is accessible through the cloud. I hope that all the rethinking will not cause the release to slip too much.
    Still I am amazed with the creativity and forward thinking, can’t wait to get my hands on the Wimoto’s and the cube!

  10. Very cool indeed.

    The arduino board/Debian/REST will allow for a lot of cool mods and applications (i.e. putting the sensors to work!). Having camera/air quality sensors would be huge 🙂

    Any updates on the release/ship dates for the motes/cube/apps (android/ios)?

    Great Work!

  11. The Indoor Air Quality sensor sounds really nice. I will want to buy it when you make it available.

  12. I love the IA Quality card idea and the e-paper display is just great.
    I would like to ask you to build in a little projector to project time, temp (inside /outside) on a wall or sealing when it’s dark. This would be a very cool feature I believe. The projector function could be an add on Box/cube type of thing. Later on you can add speakers to the box an you can use this as a alarm clock/internet radio. The projector box/cube should be battery powered, so you can take it on business trips and it shows local time and home time – temperature at home and alarms if you want. I would love it!
    What’s the expected delivery date on the cube?
    Cheers!

  13. Hi,
    I would like to know when the Cube will be shipped to us, the backers.

    Many thanks

    1. We’ll make an announcement shortly. One bitter lesson we’ve learned is to double, then triple-check, the supply chain, sprinkle in even more contingency, then pray to the Gods of electronics and logistics, sacrifice a sheep or two, and *then* communicate that date to backers.

  14. The perk. I asked in September could I buy it if so good. What is the answer.

  15. 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.

    Can we buy this mysterious thing. If not why not.

    1. We briefly had the same package for sale on Grand St. We’ll be doing another Cloud Cube promotion as soon as we have a better handle on production costs and timing.

      1. Thanks please keep me informed.

  16. Any update on the cloud cube? Can it be ordered by people (ie. Me) who didn’t get it with my perk package?

    Thanks!

    1. We’re focusing on getting the Perks and pre-orders out the door for now, but we’ll have an update for everyone at some point and there will, of course, be an opportunity to order one again!

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