Pinoccio scout

Pinoccio scout

There’s a new project building an Arduino compatible micro controller board, called Pinocco. Pinoccio aims to be wireless like the protagonist in the children’s novel Pinoccio. Unlike many other Arduino wannabes the Pinoccio maker try to go the whole mile: The hardware runs on LiPo battery for several days, they extend the board API in order to support easy mesh networking (you wan’t many of them!) and there will be even a message broker API for the board, a MQTT based web service to publish (sensor) data to the web with a RESTful API. The only downside is the price: Starting at 49$ (including battery), its not the cheapest Arduino-like micro controller. But IMHO, given that they engineering things right, its a fair price. I looked a bit deeper at the product, and these points convinced me this is going to be a great product:

  1. Choice of micro controller: Pinoccio’s heart will be a small 8-Bit Atmel (ATmega128RFA1). Most Arduino’s have a similar micro controller, but still this one is more capable then the one on Arduino Uno. Especially the second UART is handy to have, since you still can use one to debug when using one for peripherals. And then of course the integrated radio, very nice! 32-Bit ARM’s are always faster, but ey, to do some sensor data acquisition, this one has far enough computing power and most important, the controller doesn’t need much power (and those longer battery lifetime!)
  2. Tested and improved RF radio. Anyone can put a micro controller on a board, but a good RF radio needs engineering. They’ve done that!
  3. Supply status and battery voltage can be measured from software. Also, the software can switch shield’s power supply off. This is important in order to write power optimized firmware for long battery lifetime.
  4. Open hardware and software (for most part)! The hardware schematics are already on Github. (Its done using Eagle, I uploaded a PDF of it, in case you want to have a look at it).
  5. Choice of protocol. In order to publish sensor data to the internet, they’ve chosen the existing standard message broker MQTT. There is also an open source implementation called Mosquitto (including Ubuntu packages), with client libraries available in C, Python and JavaScript.

I think this project will be a success, because the DIY world lacks such a system. You can expand any Arduino, but that’s going to be more expensive and battery won’t last very long. Well there are ZigBee solutions, but for DIY projects its getting too expensive very fast: You usually buy a whole micro controller to do the ZigBee communication, and need an extra one to do some sensor stuff. Then some other project just did not went the whole mile, using them complicated…

The Project is on the crowd founding platform IndieGogo. I just ordered the Starter Kit, can’t wait to start meshing 🙂

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