London-based startup, SAM Labs, secured over £125,000 via Kickstarter to create what people are dubbing the first “democratic” Internet of Things (IoT) development kit for students, hobbyists, and inventors. Founder Joachim Horn started the company in order to “find a way to make it fun for people to learn circuitry and coding,” and 817 Kickstarter backers have invested in his vision. Here is the Q&A showing Joachim’s perspective on the role of Bluetooth® technology in the Internet of Things revolution.
Smart watches, smart light bulbs, and even smart toys are bringing the Internet of Things to life. Describe how you see this trend developing over the next ten years.
The IoT will continue to become a reality of everyday life. If you imagine the amount of devices we own that already connect to each other and to the Internet, and how these devices developed over the last two years, the trends keep on increasing with the curb of growth only attainable once all objects connect.
Some of the highest projections suggest we will see 80 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2020! Individuals, families, and businesses will rely on Internet-connected devices to gather useful information for daily activities.
For businesses specifically, these devices will operate products and become a necessity in order to maximise sustainability and to stay competitive—houses regulated by the tap of an app, and streetlights wirelessly controlled by IoT devices. This is not something in the far off future, this is already happening.
How will SAM kits help make the IoT a reality and what role does Bluetooth have to play?
Our SAM kits include modules that function as building blocks and the SAM app allows you to create different relationships between the blocks without any engineering skills. SAM enables anyone to engage in electronics and learn both coding and how IoT devices function with ease. For example, one could programme modules to record the temperature outside and have one SAM module trigger another inside the house. Another application could be that of a smart fridge that records which recipes you can make with what’s left inside. SAM allows you not only to build awesome systems in minutes; it allows you to understand how these systems are coded and function.
Specifically, each module contains a Bluetooth® chip that enables the connection to be made between each of the different modules and device running the SAM app. Bluetooth enables us to make the SAM modules have such a small footprint, both in terms of size and energy, which may otherwise not have been possible. SAM is able to put IoT development into the hands of anyone who has an idea for a smart device.
How important is it for aspiring developers to learn to code “by doing”?
It’s extremely important. Traditionally, coding was taught using simple programmes that run in the command line to calculate the area of a triangle (an imaginary triangle at that!). If you don’t get it right, there is no reward.
With SAM, you see a reward from the start—it’s as easy as drag and drop, and the result is no longer conceptual, but is translated into a physical and meaningful outcome.
This helps students learning to code for the first time to stay engaged from the start and not lose interest, as is so often the case today. Once you have the hang of the basics, you can build on these skills and start coding custom relationships to make even cooler systems!
Ultimately, our vision is to open up the IoT to everyone. This way, developers from 9 to 99 years of age will be able to create and market the odd 50 billion IoT devices of the future.
How does Bluetooth Smart technology overcome the limitations of other wireless solutions?
For us the choice was only ever between a Bluetooth® or Wi-Fi based solution, as it was important to choose a technology that is widely available and supported by all major platforms. In the end, Bluetooth Smart won out because it was cost effective, easy to handle and had lower power consumption. In addition, its small footprint was a key advantage, as we wanted to keep our modules as small as possible.