A while back 219 heard about the Electric Imp – a platform that claims to simplify the process of creating a wifi connected device. We decided to take it for a test drive by doing a simple demonstration project: creating an internet enabled RGB LED driver. To add to the challenge, we assigned this project to Francois – one of our engineers who has limited electronics experience and had never designed a PCB from scratch before.
The Electric Imp comes in an SD card size factor, and includes a clever mechanism for pairing it to your local network. Simply input the network name and password into the associated smartphone app and your phone communicates the information to the Imp by flashing its screen at a light sensor on the SD card. This “Blinkup” process makes it easy to pair barebones devices to wifi networks without needing an onboard keypad or screen.
For rapid prototyping there are a number of dev boards available. We chose to produce a custom board for our specific needs which was simple thanks to the extensive documentation available.
On the firmware side, code is written in a web based interface and uploaded to the device over the internet. The “Imp Cloud” provides a simple server that communicates directly with the device and allows you to process tasks in the cloud. It was surprisingly simple to get our board up and running and talking to the webpage that controls our LEDs.
Our overall experience with the Electric Imp was positive – it should allow us to produce internet connected devices faster and cheaper than ever before whether for prototypes or production devices.