New Product Friday: Just in Time


First off a few orders of business. Last night, mother nature decided it didn't look enough like Christmas around these parts and sent a pretty strong storm our way. So far, Boulder has received around 12 inches of snow and it's still snowing at a rate of about one inch an hour. Due to this inclement weather, SparkFun is officially closed today. Unfortunately, that means no orders will be shipping out today. We apologize for the inconvenience. We will also be closed tomorrow, December 23rd and Monday, December 26th for the holiday. Stay warm everyone and happy holidays! Now, back to the product post.

It's Christmas this weekend and we wanted to do something a little special for the New Product Post this weekend. I've been a bit busy lately and we haven't had time for the usual shenanigans or projects in the videos. However, this week we decided to create a project for the video this week. Enjoy.

When I first looked at the LED strips, I wanted to resist the temptation to use them as Christmas lights as much as possible. We came up with the idea for the SHAPER (sensory heart-rate aerobic polar exercising rope) through just brainstorming. Nick is working on a tutorial so everyone can see how the SHAPER works and what all went into it. I'll post the tutorial when it's finished and make mention of it in a future New Product Post.

The SHAPER consists of an Arduino Pro Mini, Polar Heart Rate Monitor Interface, LiPower, battery, and an RGB LED Chain. We slapped it all together, laser cut some plastic and coded it up. With some more complex  code we could have taken more advantage of the individually addressable LEDs and created better feedback for the user, but we ran out of time.

Hopefully this gives people some ideas to make something similar or make something even better! Let's see what else we have this week.

If any of you have been to a recent Maker Faire, you might have seen this watch floating around. The Big Time Watch Kit debuted as a kit at Maker Faire earlier this year and was a big success. After some tweaking and getting it ready for larger scale production, we're ready to release it as a regular product. It uses a pre-programmed ATMega328 at its core and even includes the Arduino bootloader as well as an FTDI header so you can custom program your watch. It includes everything you need to solder your own watch from scratch.

We've added yet another addressable LED product, the RGB LED Chain. Consisting of 20 individually addressable RGB LEDs and measuring about  7 feet in length, the RGB LED Chain looks a lot like a string of Christmas lights. Thankfully, they even use the same WS2801 IC that all of our other addressable lights use, so all the example code applies to these as well. And if that wasn't enough, they're even IP66 rated so you can use them in wet conditions.

Due to the shortage of XBees caused by the flood in Thailand, some of you might be interested in a drop-in replacement. The RN-XV doesn't work with the zigbee protocol, but rather Wi-Fi. The RN-XV has the same footprint as an XBee, but allows you to connect to your wireless network. We already carry one with a wire antenna, but if you want longer range, we now carry them with a U.FL connector as well as an SMA connector.

You can't have the RN-XV without the RN-171. The RN-171 is the Wi-Fi module found on the underneath side of the RN-XV modules. It's low power, low cost, and easy to use. What more could you ask for? A breakout? Yeah, it's coming. (I knew you'd ask...)

A card reader is a good thing to have sitting around your desk since a lot of products now use some sort of memory card for storage. We have a new card reader which is simple and cheap. It plugs directly into your USB drive on your computer and reads the most popular formats. Use it for your camera, GPS, cell phone, MicroSD Shield, or OpenLog.

And lastly, we have another retail product to talk about this week. The Piezo Drum Kit combines 4 piezo elements with a pack of 1M ohm resistors. The piezo elements sense vibration (taps, knocks) and translate them into a high-voltage electrical pulse. Using a 1M ohm resistor, you can easily read them into a microcontroller to create a lot of different projects. Use them for drum pads, knock sensors, or switches.

From everyone here at SparkFun Electronics, we'd like to wish you happy holidays and we'll be back next week with more new products and our last product post and video for the year! Thanks for reading and see you next week!


Comments 58 comments

  • Thank you for flying the U.S. Flag!

    Where can I get a SparkFun flag? :-)

  • I’d like to thank the folks at Sparkfun, and the United States Postal Service, for getting my order to my door today. Now I can play through the holidays and then place another order.

  • Do you always read the time on your watch upside down? :)

  • Nate’s not riding in on a V8 snowblower today?

    http://v8snowblowers.ca/

    In other news, those RN-XV’s look good. I don’t know if a breakout is actually a good idea as your cost difference between those and the raw module is only $5.

    • I need one of those! My Mazda 3 is woefully under prepared for days like this.

      • Nate- why don’t you get one of those V8 Snowblowers for SF?

        Set it up to use XBee remote and have snowblower races out in the parking lot? I know Boulder doesn’t always get that much snow, but you could use it on days like this. Who knows you could use it as an Tutorials on Wireless comunication.

        IF I am hearing my weather man right, next year should be another La NiƱa year.

      • Just don’t name the cylinders after Santa’s Reindeer.

    • He’s waiting until the AVC to unveil it!

    • people will want to use them for things other than xbee replacements. another form factor will be nice for some people.

      • RobertC- have you seen any of the pictures of the XBee plants under water? Also, has SF had any contact with Digi? And what are their plans for recovery?

        Maximum PC (Magazine) had an article on the flooding of the different electrical parts plants {http://www.maximumpc.com/article/features/floods_flops_and_failures_21_techs_worst_disasters#slide-7}, and asked why these companies had all their eggs in one basket?

        Also see IDC Predicts Thailand Flooding Will Negatively Affect HDD and PC Shipments into 2012 >> http://www.maximumpc.com/article/news/idc_predicts_thailand_flooding_will_negatively_affect_hdd_and_pc_shipments_2012

  • Anyone else notice they posted this on THURSDAY?

    • I read this on thursday….

    • i would assume, like WordPress, that they are able to draft something, and then have their CMS (Sparkle, I think) post it at the time in the future that they set.

  • I want that shirt!!!

  • So let me see if I got this straight. The Big Time Watch Kit is Sparkfun’s version of Spikenzie Labs kit, and you have changed the IC?

    The reason I ask is I’m a bit confused why Sparkfun would make an almost exact copy of something thought up by another company. Unless Spikenzie is one of your companies as well?

    • Well the deal is that the Solder:Time kit isn’t OSHW and we thought it was a shame that no one could hack the thing. So, with permission, we made an Open Source spinoff and simplified the design by replacing two ICs with one. We also made it Arduino compatible and broke out an FTDI header.

      Basically, if you just want to build a functional, super nerdy watch. The Solder:Time is a great kit. But if you think that you may want that watch to do other, even nerdier things in the future, then you gotta hit the Big Time.

      Also, I have my suspicions that it was just a good excuse for Nate to play with power-saving/sleep modes/etc. He’s got that thing sipping power.

      • This isn’t 100% accurate. The Solder:Time watch is open source - non commercial use. The code is available and there are programming break-out pads on the bottom of the Solder:Time PCB especially for people to hack it!

        Simplifying the design reduces the manufacturing cost (and using an ATmega makes hacking a bit easier for people coming from the Arduino platform), but it also reduces some hacking possibilities. The RTC clock chip used on the Solder:Time has a bunch of untapped features; date with day, seconds, month, and year, AM/PM, 12/24, Alarm 1, and Alarm 2.

      • Thanks, that does make sense. I was assuming that since their watch had been displayed at the Maker faire, it would be open source.

        So the Solder:Time kit can’t be tinkered with, in order to add new functions, but yours can? Off the top of my head I can imagine a few functions that would do well with the display, such as an alarm, a stopwatch and displaying the date in US and EU format, but just day and month of course.

  • Did anyone else think POV Jump Rope!?

  • “When I first looked at the LED strips, I wanted to resist the temptation to use them as Christmas lights as much as possible.”

    Why would you resist that temptation?? It’s a great temptation!

    • I always try and do projects that are less obvious. I’d like to think it makes people think outside the box a bit.

      • Yeah, but now you won’t have a Christmas Tree that goes “Dun dun dun” and flashes it’s lights whenever someone takes a present out from under it.

        You know you want one.

        • /me is madly digging through parts bin

        • OMG!!! I WANT!!!!

        • Haha… So next year I guess my x-mas tree will actually be a mesh network of “smart” ornaments…

          sigh better start now

        • That would be AMAZING!!!

          • Now we know what will be on next year list->

            SF’s Santa"s Multi Ultrasonic Range Finder Christmas present thief detector with ten 20 Addressable RGB LED Chain lights**, GPS Clock, loud sound detector and MP3 Player Shield, plus Audio Amplifier Kit for your favorite sounds and songs for the holiday - you supply the speakers.

            *NORDAD Emergency Horns, Grandpa"s whoopie cushion sounds, Grandma got run over by a Reindeer theme and Aunt Mary falling over Christmas tree with authentic cat screeches sounds not included.

            ** Suggested for medium tree. Up to 20 chains for large tree, or as many as you want.

  • I’m jealous that SFE can take a day off and I can’t.

    I live just north in Longmont, and I live a little over a mile away from work, so what do I do? I walk in 8" to 10" of snow. (Mind you the path I take to work is was not plowed). Great workout, let me tell you.. Until I feel in a dried up creek…

    On the plus side, I am sitting my cube, listening to music and working on my version of the FPGA Bitcoin Miner code and doing odd-jobs around the office. What a great last day before shutdown week.

    • At least you didn’t have to shovel… It’s just over 13 inches at my house at the moment, and still snowing.

      • I luckily live in a apartment complex, so shoveling is not an issue for me! MUAHAHAHA

      • yeah, I’m waiting to shovel until it slows down a bit. it’s still coming down pretty hard.

        • hah. can you make the snow move to idaho?? PLEASE? It hasnt been a white christmas for 4 years…

          • 4 years ain’t nothing. I haven’t had a white Christmas in 32 years!

            *thinks being Australian may have something to do with it.

          • Last time there was any substancial amount of snow in Florida (There has been sleet) was in ‘79, it is currently 68" out side.

  • YES YES YES YESYES!!!!!! You guys got the big time watch. If I dont get the solder time watch for Christmas I will definitely snatch one of those up! You guys rock! (lol, I also like the friday post on thursday :) )

  • So, with the RN-XV, I could basically use this with my XBee shield and then use it to connect to the internet as opposed to going through an Ethernet shield right? Hmmm…this could be useful.

    • pretty much. the protocol is a tad different, but essentially. if you use an RN-XV with an xbee shield, it will be almost like just using the wi-fly shield.

  • I’m going to shoot myself…. Why didn’t I make my order 2 days ago?!? WHY?!?!?

    BTW in those RN-XV does the WiFi thing reduces its range, compared to a normal xbee?

    • I’m not sure what you mean. it’s a wi-fi module in the form factor of an xbee. they do not communicate with other xbees if that’s what you mean.

      • hmmm, I’m going to rephrase it.. What is the wireless range of the RN-XVs ?

        • that’s hard to answer. there’s 3 different modules, two of which can have external antennas. there are going to be a LOT of variables.

          • hmmm nevermind thanks for the quick answer. But i suppose those are more difficult to set up than an xbee am I correct? (sorry for my ignorance…)

            • yes. you need to connect to a network and do a whole lot of other things ;-)

              the xbee is just a wireless serial link, which is much easier to use. but there are pros and cons for each. it might be easier to do a mesh sensor network with wifi (if you already have a network setup in your house) than it would be with xbees.

  • Hooray for shenanigans with TJ! This represents a new level for SF,Brilliant!

  • I love that you’re closing for the weather. Much love to Sparkfun senior management for putting employee safety above all.


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