New Year’s Eve countdown clock included SMS interactivity


We remember several years back, when text messaging was first becoming popular, we went to a bar which had a huge television that would display text messages sent to a particular number. This sounds like a novelty, but in a large group of folks who know one another it’s the sandbox of social games. Wanting to tap in on that fun for his New Year’s Eve party, [James] built this countdown timer that includes an element of SMS interactivity.

The rig is projector based. A computer using Processing does the majority of the work but [James] needed a way to accepts text messages (the locale of the party had no Internet connection so this was the best bet). He grabbed a GSM shield and his Arduino Leonardo. The bulk of the evening the display showed the last few messages received, with a small countdown timer in the lower corner. As the countdown approached zero the time was given prominence as in the image above. We guess he was lucky to find a prepaid SIM card that allowed free incoming text messages. Our cell provider charges us 20¢ for each.

You might give this one a whirl next year. If it’s not quite your thing take a look around. We’ve seen a lot of fun setups like this mini ball drop.

Stacking GPS, GSM, and an SD card into an Arduino shield

A few years ago, [Phang Moh] and his compatriots were asked by a client if they could make a vehicle tracking device for oil tankers all around Indonesia. The request of putting thousands of trackers on tanks of explosives was a little beyond [Phang Moh]‘s capability, but he did start tinkering around with GPS and GSM on an Arduino.

Now that tinkering has finally come to fruition with [Phang]‘s TraLog shield, a single Arduino shield that combines GPS tracking with a GSM and GPRS transceiver. There’s also an SD card thrown in for good measure, making this one of the best tracking and data logging shields for the Arduino.

The shield can be configured to send GPS and sensor data from devices attached to an I2C bus to remote servers, or a really cool COSM server. [Phang] is selling his TraLog for $150, a fairly good deal if you consider what this thing can do.

Seems like the perfect piece of kit for just about any tracking project, whether you want to know the location of thousands of oil tankers or just a single high altitude balloon.

Tip ‘o the hat to [Brett] for finding this one.

Make cell phone calls with your Arduino

Cellular shields for the Arduino have been around for ages, but this is the first one we’ve seen that turns your Arduino into a proper cell phone.

The shield is based around the SIM900 GSM/GPRS radio module, and is compatible with the SIM908 GSM/GPRS module that adds a GPS receiver. Also on board this shield are a pair of 1/8″ audio jacks, perfect for connecting a microphone and headphones. Yes, you can actually make cell phone calls with your Arduino now.

The real star of this build is the new GSM Shield library. This library of code includes the methods necessary for an Arduino to function as a cell phone (answer, hang up, dial a number), but also includes a lot of improvements for TCP/IP communication.

Even though the cost of getting an Arduino communicating through a GSM or GPRS network is fairly high, we’re thinking this would be the perfect starting point for a completely open source, open hardware cell phone. A phone with the same functionality as an old Nokia brick that is also a MiFy would be an amazing piece of hardware, and would surely make for a profitable Kickstarter.

The excitement of ice fishing now from anywhere in the world

Now you can experience the excitement felt for centuries by ice fisherman thanks to this cellular-capable tip-up.

For the uninitiated a little ice fishing primer may be in order. The majority of what you see above is a standard tip-up rig for ice fishing. Basically it lets you set many baited lines and just watch for a flag to pop up when one of them hooks a fish. Just drill a hole in the ice and drop the line through — the orange frame rests on the surface of the ice.

The add-on here is the grey box which is hiding an Xbee device. A magnet and reed switch (which can be found at the local hardware store) complete a circuit when the flag is down. But if the flag pops up the reed switch opens (or closes, we’re not sure which) and the Xbee sends an alert to a base station, which then converts that to a text message to push to your phone. As you guessed, there’s a video after the break.

Fun and convoluted. But not entirely useless. We’d suggest swapping the Xbee/cellular hardware for a cheap microcontroller/Bluetooth setup. This way you can knock back a few cold ones in the ice house while waiting for the wireless network to alert you via an SL4A script.

[Read more...]

VGA message board displays SMS without a computer

[Achu Wilson's] latest creation is a VGA message board which is written to via SMS text messages. This doesn’t sound too interesting at first, until you find out he’s doing this with a microcontroller rather than a PC. All of the complexity is in the code that drives the VGA. He managed to do it without any jitter while using an 8-bit microcontroller.

But first, the cellular side of things. A GSM modem takes care of connectivity. To communicate with the modem [Achu] used an ATmega8. He mentions the he could have used a much smaller uC, like an ATtiny, but this is what he had lying around. When a message is received the ATmega8 feeds the characters to an ATmega16 which is driving the VGA monitor. Rather than deal with the analog voltages necessary to run a color display he simply ganged the three color lines together and drives them from one of the microcontroller pins. This results in white and black which correspond to voltage or no voltage.

You can see him showing off the system in the clip after the break.

[Read more...]

AVRphone is a barebones touchscreen cellphone

This little device is a prototype cellphone based on the ATmega128 microcontroller (translated). It boasts a 2.4″ touchscreen display which serves as the keypad, and uses the SIM100S module which takes care of the GSM radio communications. But the hardware isn’t the only attractive part. Judging from the screen shots a fair amount of time went into building the user interface too.

We seem to have a bounty of cellphone builds recently. This one is quite clean, and boasts a smaller footprint, and larger screen than this barebones example. There is a white paper available if you’re interested in digging a little deeper than the overview post. But it’s written in Czech and we didn’t see a way to provide a machine translation other than copying the text from the PDF file and pasting it into a translator.

GSM modem means wireless serial connections

By now, most of us have seen have seen one of those GSM to wi-fi hotspot bridges. They’re interesting devices, and being able to carry a small wireless router with you at all times is very handy. Surprisingly, we haven’t seen many builds featuring these portable wireless hotspots, something probably due to the effort in breaking out a serial connection on these devices. The people at Open Electronics decided to build their own small serial-enabled cell phone modem, a boon to someone wanting a serial connection to any place with a cell tower.

The Open Electronics GSM/GPRS/GPS modem includes a header for an FTDI USB serial chip and a GSM module. Plug one into your computer and after a few short commands into a terminal, you’ve got a serial connection to nearly anywhere in the world.

The cost of the setup is a little high – around 80€ or $100 USD – and you probably should buy more than one so you can also receive data. While it is more expensive than the XBee wireless boards we see often, this GSM modem isn’t limited to the 300 foot range of the XBee. We’ll probably see this in a high altitude balloon before too long.


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