Getting Arduino-powered devices to talk to each other over long distances is going to get cheaper and easier if this Kickstarter project flies. Flutter is a wireless development platform for Arduino with over half a mile of usage range — making it suitable for outdoor projects covering greater distances than Wi-Fi can comfortably manage.
Possible use-cases could include home automation systems, flying bots like quadcopters, environmental monitoring systems and radio-controlled cars. In short any Arduino-powered project that needs to ferry data from one relatively distant point to another. Flutter’s range will be 1,000m+ (3,200ft) but its creators also intend to include a mesh networking component, so multiple devices can be positioned to cover even greater distances than the standard half mile+ range.
The plan — assuming Flutter hits its crowdfunding target of $80,000 to turn its current Kickstarter prototypes into shipping product — is to offer two main Flutter board options to network up your devices: a basic board costing $20 and a pro board with a built in antenna for $30. The boards will be powered by an Atmel SAM3s ARM CPU.
The Flutter Basic board will have an integrated (rather than external) antenna and is smaller in size thanks to having components on both sides. It also has a micro USB for power and programming, an LED, and a button, plus digital and analog I/O. The Pro board will include battery charging, a professional screw mount antenna, an additional button, and more memory for more code.
Flutter’s makers also plan to offer a few other bits of kit to flesh out their wireless system, including a variety of shields for easier plug and play (and minimal soldering); a home base station which can connect to a router via Ethernet or Wi-Fi; and a Bluetooth shield for talking to a smartphone and interfacing with a planned Flutter mobile app.
The more devices you want to talk to each other, the more boards/bits of kit you’ll obviously need but at $20/$30 a pop for the main boards the cost should scale to support sizeable projects without breaking the bank.
Kickstarter backers are being offered a veritable pick ‘n’ mix of options, starting at $25 for one basic board — rising to $475 for this “autonomous swarm” supporting haul: 5x Flutter Basic, 5x Flutter Pro, 4x RC Shield, 2x Shield shield, 1x Flutter Network Shield, 1x Bluetooth Shield, 1x Starter Kit, 10x USB and 12x (two extra) Breakouts.
Security is an obvious focus for Flutter’s creators — being as you’re transmitting potentially sensitive data over relatively large distances where it could be intercepted. Data transfers will be encrypted and the Flutter devices themselves will include a cryptographic chip to store and protect encryption keys.
The project is also open source. “Every aspect of our system will be made available, from schematics, board designs, the bill of materials, right down to the firmware and mobile app. We want to make it as easy as possible for you to build or improve upon our foundation,” they note. Plus they intend to offer a set of tutorials to open up wireless development to a broader base of makers.
It’s an ambitious project for sure, and still has a fair bit of work to do — including redesigning the prototype, gaining FCC certification for the wireless hardware, developing their supporting software and mobile apps (iOS and Android are planned) — but they are already approaching the half-way mark of their funding target with 27 days left to run on their campaign so have clearly struck a chord with the maker community. With that kind of support this is one Kickstarter project that looks all but certain to take off.
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