Tuesday, August 20, 2013

SparqEE: Enabling Cell phone tech for DIYers


Originally I started this blog as a more general purpose hacking site, however it’s been a little more dedicated to sports sensors and ANT+ the last few months. I’ve talked about Kickstarter a lot lately and its potential role with my powermeter project, so it goes without saying that when something cool pops up I’d let my followers know about it.

The short: Easy to use Cell phone data technology for Raspberry Pi and Arduino. Some cool additional boards too!

Keep in mind that my V3 power meter was Arduino based, so this could be a cool extension for ANT+ technology. Switch my code into receiving mode and broadcast your data for live triathlon / race telemetry for coaches, friends, and data / tech geeks like me on the web! If interested sign up for the kickstarter here. These guys have the engineering skills and creativity to make this product happen!

So what could you use it for? Followers of the Tour De France will likely know that the HTC Columbia team did something very interesting with their ANT+ enabled phone here. Their ANT+ sensors (speed, cadence, heart rate and power) talked to their ANT+ enabled cell phones and the cell phone relays that data to the HTC website. Up until now recreating this would be a very difficult prospect – few phones are ANT+ enabled (even HTC ones) and you’d have to deal with making a server to receive and display the data. Sparkfun has some cell modules but they’ve always come off difficult to me and not very inviting to use.

SparqEE is doing the heavy lift on this! They are going to have libraries for easy coding with both Arduino and Raspberry Pi as well as having a server for your projects to communicate with! This means easier cell phone enabled projects. Wouldn’t it be cool for a coach to watch your data in a competitive tri, or a hard training ride remotely?

They also have some really cool low cost add on modules to help fill out your projects in addition to the easy to use shields for using the same module on either an Arduino or Raspberry Pi. The add on board that entices me most is a relatively low cost GPS board. Low cost bicycle tracker? Call it up and find a stolen bike so long as it has GPS signal / power / isn’t in the middle of nowhere. How about a remote g-force logger – lots of sporting applications. Track that “24 hours of Lemons” race or your downhill skiing and snowboarding. People involved in SAE competitions like Formula SAE or Mini Baja can now easily add telemetry! Great experience and all for a about a hundred dollars to set it up.


Some other suggestions for the SparqEE that comes to mind:

Garmin sells a online tracker for about $200 dollars. You could easily build your own for less and add a lot of feature sets such as relaying other useful data. Track your fellow Nordic Skiers on a trail perhaps? Or your Dog?


Competitive Geocaching – track others as they get close to difficult to find / challenging to reach caches! Relay their locations to your cell phone and race them to the goal.

Or maybe do you own Top Gear Style race with a Google maps tracking. This is my favourite. I’m a cycling enthusiast but I also love spirited driving. I’d love to have a distance race between friends!

This project has a lot of potential, and I’ve been avoiding the obvious things: Household monitoring, finding your car in a parking lot, finding your significant other in the parking lot before you find your car, etc. Take a look at it and see if it suits your application here!

Some other items of interest from the team shown below

Press Release: http://www.sparqee.com/kickstarter/20130820_pressRelease.html
Pictures: http://www.sparqee.com/kickstarter/20130820_pics.html
Blog we posted: http://www.blog.sparqee.com/?p=53


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