Connecting wireless sensor nodes to the cloud with the Thunderboard Sense kit

February 23, 2017 OpenSystems Media

If you’re developing an application that transfers wireless sensor node data to the cloud, the complexity of wireless sensor design may present challenges that delay the development cycle. Internet-of Things (IoT) design requires diverse skills in embedded, sensor measurement, wireless connectivity, and mobile software application development. IoT vendors are offering hardware reference designs and development kits to aid designers in accelerating their IoT development cycle.

The Thunderboard Sense kit expands the Thunderboard family, offering designers a way to develop and prototype sensor or actuator applications using BLE-to-cloud connectivity. The Thunderboard Sense is ideal for for battery operated IoT applications and provides a design friendly development and prototyping environment for IoT concepts. The ThunderboardSense system application diagram in Figure 1 illustrates sensor connectivity via an accompanying BLE mobile phone app (iOS and Android). Within minutes, the phone app can be configured to demonstrate sensor data connectivity to the cloud.

[Figure 1 | Thunderboard Sense - System Application Diagram]

The Thunderboard Sense IoT development kit sensor technology displayed in Figure 2 highlights the Silicon Labs Si7021 Temperature/Humidity and Si1133 UV/Ambient Light sensors. In addition, Thunderboard Sense provides barometric pressure, CO2, Hall effect, MEMS microphone, and 6-axis inertial sensors. Silicon Labs multi-protocol EFR32 Mighty Gecko radio provides wireless connectivity support for Bluetooth low energy, ZigBee, Thread, and proprietary wireless protocols. There’s a SEGGER J-Link interface to simplify programming and debugging support using the Silicon Lab’s Simplicity Studio Windows10 software developer’s platform.

[Figure 2 | Thunderboard Sense - Features]

The Thunderboard mobile app enables a quick proof of concept platform for IoT-to-cloud connected sensors measurement. Sensor selection and measurement streaming is configured by the mobile app. The mobile app for Android or iOS streams sensor data to the cloud, displays sensor measurement views, and provides beacon notifications.

[Figure 3 | Thunderboard Sense mobile phone app control panel and cloud sensor view environment]

The kit allows cloud data streaming of temperature/humidity, light UV index, air pressure, orientation, acceleration, speed/distance, sound level, CO2, VOC levels and also provides user control of programmable wireless-controlled lights and switches. The cloud allows analysis and sharing of real-time data in trend views, as illustrated in Figure 3. Data analysis is simplified with user configurable strip charts, which also include selectable measurement alerts and alarms. The source code is available for free on GitHub.

Jim Meeks is a Sales Channel Marketing Engineer at Silicon Labs. He holds a BSEET in electronics, a MBA in Business Administration from St. Edwards University in Austin, TX, and a MBA certificate in Telecommunications Management from the University of Dallas.

Jim Meeks, Silicon Labs
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