Start-up, relayr distributes Internet of Things starter kit through Conrad

Start-up, relayr distributes Internet of Things starter kit through Conrad

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By eeNews Europe

Start-up company, relayr is focussed on enabling applications using connected devices, and providing the infrastructure that will allows many of the product concepts currently circulating as Internet-of-Things ideas, the get the real world and to function.

Medium- and long-term, relayr’s business model is to, in effect, ‘commoditise’ aspects such as the cloud services that will produce real and useful services from the IoT. The company is considering models similar to the “app” environment with revenue streams coming from small subscriptions or one-time payments, for IoT-based functions and services. It is developing a range of offerings such as its Open Sensor Cloud concept, which will be an environment where data from myriad smart devices can be collated and made useful by an embedded rules engine.

More immediately, relayr believes that there are many would-be IoT “application” developers for whom, “hardware is hard” – for this group, who don’t have a problem in coding functions, the practicalities of actually getting sensor measurements connected to a context where they can do “connected-device” operations, is a barrier. Therefore, the company has designed WunderBar.

In March this year, the WunderBar project successfully completed its crowdfunding campaign on the hardware crowd funding platform Dragon Innovations, where it achieved 120% funding.

The WunderBar IoT starter kit together with the relayr Open Sensor Cloud platform allows software application developers to quickly and easily begin working on wireless applications and prototype building based on data gathered from the physical world without needing to learn about hardware. The platform includes software development kits (SDKs) for iOS, Android and Node.js.

The “-Bar” part of the name allude to a chocolate bar, in that the product comes as a single PCB that can be snapped into functional “bites”. There’s a host module with a Freescale ARM Cortex-M MCU (“deliberately overkill” in terms of its performance, relayr says, leaving headroom for application code) and a Gainspan WiFi module; the host and the six detachable sensor modules each carry a Nordic Semi Bluetooth LE chip. The PCB, out-of-the-box, is in effect a little panelised assembly that has yet to be separated; before separation, there is a power path to all of the modules. You power it up with a USB lead, give it Internet access and it updates and configures all the parts. Choose your module, snap it off (then, you need to give each sensor module a coin cell battery) and it connects via Bluetooth LE.

Relayr provided a sensor set that it says spans the most-used functions; the mini-modules give functionality including light, colour, distance, temperature and humidity sensing, plus an accelerometer, a gyroscope and infra-red (IR) remote control capability. The WunderBar community of backers also chose a noise sensor (MEMS microphone) to be included on the sixth module. The inclusion of a Grove connector from Seeed Studio on the fifth module enables a wide range of additional sensors and actuators that are Arduino compatible to be interfaced with the WunderBar platform. For example, a connected relay module can switch higher power levels.

Relayr is happy to have WunderBar referred to as a “toy” – the sense that you can play with it and immediately do “fun things” – but it is a fully-professional manufactured product that will be open-source, so that yo can take circuitry and PCB layouts to incorporate into downstream products.

Relayr has set up an – initially, exclusive – distribution deal with Conrad Business Supplies to market the WunderBar offering. Conrad is in the process of growing its business-to-business distribution activity (“B2B” – already some 60% of the German, family-owned concern’s business). Conrad also has its chain of shops (“B2C” or business to consumer) and the two companies believe that they have a common interest in, and access to, the meeting point of the professional and experimenter/hobbyist sectors where IoT ideas are being explored.

“The Wunderbar lowers the barrier to entry for developers unfamiliar with hardware, helping the democratisation of the Internet of Things, and bringing software closer to hardware, and ultimately to the consumers,” said Holger Ruban, President Conrad Business Supplies. “The Internet of Things is happening, and Conrad, with its strong B2C and B2B business reach will play a key role."

Harald Zapp, founder and CEO of relayr said: "Our initial crowdfunded IoT starter kit WunderBar is now being adopted by many manufacturers to bring a new generation of Smart Devices communicating with one another through the relayr cloud platform. Industry has been talking about the Internet of Things for decades, but has only created expensive proprietary ‘islands’. With the open relayr hardware and cloud platform, the maker revolution and the app economy are converging to bring real interconnected solutions for the Internet of Everything.”

WunderBar is currently at the stage of initial production run for distribution to crowd-funding investors, and will go to production around Q3 of 2014; it is anticipated it will sell through Conrad for around €150/$200.

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