Developing embedded and mobile applications in sync with Anaren Atmosphere

Before I begin, full disclosure that I am a developer on this project. With that, know that I’m also really impressed with this project. What is it? Anaren Atmosphere is a unique new developer environment for prototyping Bluetooth Smart embedded devices along with an accompanying mobile device application.  That’s quite a bit to chew on but it’s the shortest sentence I could come up with, so lets break it down bit by bit.

The core of the project currently is the Bluetooth Multi-Sensor Development Board or MSDB for short. This is sort of somewhere between an Arduino and Raspberry Pi. It comes with a bunch of sensors and toys, like IR Temp Sensor, Accelerometer, Tri-Color LED, Joystick and more. It can operate on a number of power sources including coin cell battery and the Anaren A20737 Module.  Basically this provides a number of things that you can hook up to and build a project with for prototyping something you’d like to make. Instead of investing tons of time and money into hardware development you can use this as a demo.

Well that’s all well and good but, what about actually programming it? That’s where Atmosphere comes in. The Atmosphere software suite has one downloadable, the Atmosphere Programmer Utility. This utility for Windows, Linux or Mac interfaces with the MSDB via USB and allows you to program a project onto it.

That’s also great, but what about this project? Well, Atmosphere provides a web based GUI/IDE called the Atmosphere Developer Tool. With a drag and drop primary interface developers can place and connect elements that represent both embedded functions that are programmed onto the hardware and end-user elements that will be compiled into a mobile application for Android or iOS. There is a layout tool that allows users to create layouts for different platforms like the iPhone, iPad or common Android platforms like the Nexus7. In the designer panel you create basic functionality. For advanced functionality a code view is also available that allows those more comfortable with C to edit the embedded software code.  When a project is complete you click “build” and you’re all set for a little magic.

After one has built their project in the developer tool, they use the programmer to download their build onto the hardware. The last piece of the puzzle is the Atmosphere App available on the I-Tunes Store or Google Play. When you login to your account on the app, the last project you build will load for you. You simply scan for your MSDB and connect, and voila, you are talking over Bluetooth Low Energy from your mobile device to an embedded device. Building a simple project, for example toggling the buzzer on the board with a button on the app literally takes minutes. More advanced applications take a bit more time and thought, for example controlling a robot!

The MSDB also handles GPIO, UART, PWM, SPI and I2C functionality, allowing a developer to hook up practically anything that they can think of; thermostat, lighting, external sensors of all kinds, things that me, a software guy can’t even think of… although since this project I find myself tinkering more and more with the hardware aspect on my way to becoming an actual “maker”.

For my part of the project I’ve been mostly focused on the developer tool… Perhaps I’ll get more in depth on that in my next post.

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