Maker Bas Pijls has come up with a novel, and colorful, approach to communicating information from an embedded device to an external system: the LED-based blinking RGBeacon.
“One thing that always remains a nuisance is to find your device on the world wide web of connected computers by determining its IP address. To obtain the IP address, a user must often resort to having a display or opening up another communication channel to your device, typically a serial connection,” Pijls explains.
“I have this problem quite often when students have to connect a large number of devices simultaneously in a classroom setting. This made me start looking for an answer to the following question: How can I communicate a device’s IP address or other unique identifier to an end-user?”
There are a range of answers to the problem, of course, ranging from using local DNS addresses or fixed DHCP allocations and printing a simple label for each device to adding a display capable of showing the current IP address to every device or communicating it automatically to a known central server. These, however, failed Pijls’ three key requirements: That the solution be cheap; easy to use; and not require access to a router’s DHCP table.
While the project delivers a fix for the problem of determining an embedded device’s IP address, Pijls believes it could have broader uses too — suggesting its suitability for sending device ID information as well as IP address, sending small quantities of data over relatively large distances, or even for indoor positioning.
“At this point sending data using and RGB LED and a webcam is quite slow and error prone,” he admits, “but there is a lot of room for refinements and improvements.”
A full write-up of the project is available on the Fab Academy website, along with source code and a live demonstration running in-browser.