Yun may mean “cloud” in Chinese, there is nothing cloudy about the potential of this version of the popular Arduino platform. In fact, the Yun has quickly become a top microcontroller board of choice when I need to develop a quick, inexpensive proof-of-concept. The package delivery notification system I built to highlight the potential of the Yun was created in a single day from concept to working prototype. By integrating many features that had previously required cumbersome shields or mastering C coding tricks, it feels like Arduino has “grown up” with the Yun. The hybrid nature of the board, having the ease of hooking up custom circuits to the Atmel microcontroller side of the board coupled with the programming powerhouse of a Linux distro; greatly streamlines the development cycle. Throw in the Wi-Fi connectivity built-in and you quickly realize how things like the Internet of Things is rapidly becoming a reality. This is culminating in what I call the “app-lification” of hardware. That is to say hardware development is beginning to mirror the development trends of the open source software in that you can choose and combine ready-made component building blocks (e.g. libraries in software speak) to assemble new hardware with functionality in an incredibly short time. For me, there are five key aspects of the Yun that make it stand out:
1) Wi-Fi Built In. No longer do you have to fuss with third-party Ethernet or Wi-Fi shields and spending time tweaking the software to get basic functionality working before you even start in on your project goals. The Wi-Fi connectivity made it a breeze for my project to send emails without additional shields or having to run any Ethernet cable.
2) The new concepts of Bridge, Console, and Process gives you the ability to the offload processing intensive jobs from the Atmel side to the Linux side of the board and use powerful programming languages other than Wiring (Python being my language of choice). In my project, it was a Python script that handled putting together and sending the email.
3) The Atheros/Linux integration also allows you to take integrated applications -that have already been written- into to your project. The Yun browser-based interface makes installing these applications a breeze. This is precisely how I was able to integrate webcam functionality into this project with next to no additional coding needed.
4) The Yun comes pre-installed with the code needed to access the Temboo service (https://www.temboo.com) via what they call “Choreos” which in turn makes it quite easy for your project to interface with over 100 APIs from companies such as Google, Twitter, and Flickr, to name a few. I used Temboo to record the date/time stamps of deliveries into a Google Drive spreadsheet.
5) Finally, the Yun does not sacrifice the physical arrangement of the Arduino layout. Your boards, with rare exception, will still be compatible with the Yun. It is still just as easy to interface with electronics components via the analog and digital I/O pins and the Wiring language constructs. I selected a simple force-sensitive, resistor-based voltage divider circuit because I wasn’t concerned about knowing the exact weight of the package.
More and more “real-world” products are harnessing the power of Arduino. My local makerspace “PaxSpace” has acquired a Kossel Clear 3D printer with an Arduino Mega brain. I’ve also been following the development of many small unmanned aerial vehicles that have an Arduino micro controller for their main control board. The Yun opens up Arduino to a whole new level of possibilities for hobbyists and professionals alike.
Temboo is in the Arduino code:
Michael Parks, P.E. is the co-founder of Green Shoe Garage, a custom electronics design studio and embedded security research firm located in Western Maryland. He produces the Gears of Resistance Podcast to help raise public awareness of technical and scientific matters. Michael is also a licensed Professional Engineer in the state of Maryland and holds a Master’s degree in systems engineering from Johns Hopkins University.
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