Software just made hardware dance

Alex JonssonBlogs

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the-shell-and-the-shellshellMaking mobile apps for the Texas Instruments SensorTag was just made way easier, and so will most mobile app development for lots of IoT hardware be in the near future!

At Evothings we make it easy and fun to connect hardware and mobile software by enabling developers to create apps for IoT using JavaScript. What was previously created in firmware or in native code, is now accessible across mobile platforms using the World’s most popular scripting language.

We’ve just published a new mobile template app for the Texas Instruments SensorTag developer kit. It provides a high-level JavaScript library for developers, makers and other curious individuals allowing them to create their own mobile app functionality using the SensorTag as both sensor and actuator over a Bluetooth Low Energy connection. Many out there have got back to us the last week with comments, some praise and suggestions for new extensions and on more hardware platforms that Evothings Studio should support in the near future – suggesting where software should do its next dance on traditional hardware-centric territory, in humble analogy with Marc Andreessen’s fabled quote on the true appetite of software.

A while back, we also published a bit more generic example at Evothings, a JavaScript template where an Arduino microcontroller was made scriptable – and hence could be programmed directly – from a smartphone. It had two parts, a downright simple sketch for the Arduino basically setting its pins high or low, and its companion javascript application for the mobile device that used Chromium Sockets to communicate over WiFi. In this example you can script the Arduino’s operation in realtime, without the USB cable, without a computer and without recompiling the firmware between iterations.

The important outcome of this work – apart from being fun to do – is that developers working with the native tools suites provided by Apple and Google, no longer are the only ones who can access low-level functionality. Access to many of the APIs, the short-range radio capabilities, IP networking along with the ability to interact with peripheral hardware outside of the HTTP-based protocols is now everybody’s tools.

At Evothings, we also received a great quote the other day from one of our hardware manufacturing partners, stating that he’s “extremely happy to see the lines between hardware and software/apps getting blurred.” And we couldn’t agree more ourselves, it’s embedded in the corporate culture with all the work we do to open up software development for IoT to new, large groups of developers. Overall, there is a great need to increase availability to sensor data, to make better decisions based on aggregated information and create richer services on top of the infrastructure being built. Like it was said by Bill Buxton in the film Connecting: Makers: “Digital should be a prosthetic that amplifies what it means to human”, which for us could boil down to that by adding simplifying components, tools and open mechanisms, a multitude of new services will be created, and in turn increased ease of use, accessibility, and efficient control to data.

We look forward to hear more stories, rants on how complicated things can get easier, and we’re also on the lookout for more systems and hardware where we can work together with others to further cross out the line between hardware and software!