Thursday, January 13, 2011

Nodes, Lights and Switches

Well, I am happy to report some progress on the prototyping front. What you see here in this picture is a prototype for a sample "node". I know it doesnt look like much, but it will be the basis for all nodes in the system. A node is the physical control box that will control a number of devices connected to it. In a marine setup, there will be a number of these nodes, attached to a number of devices (lights, pumps, etc) throughout the boat.

This particular prototype contains a number of "virtual" devices. In particlar, it has three standard lights, three "dimmable" lights, one power switch, and one dimmer switch. In the picture, the lights are represented by the red LEDs. The three on the left are the standard lights. The three on the right are the dimmable lights (if you look carefully, they are not as bright as the others). Not seen in the picture is a plain on/off switch that acts as the power switch to all six lights. Also not seen is a potentiometer ("pot") that acts as the dimmer switch for the three dimmable lights. The LCD screen in the picture will be the main display for the node and is used to provided status of each device connected to the node. It is also used for diagnosing and debugging purposes.

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It should be noted that this prototype is not limited to six lights, and two switches. The software that is flashed on the node can easily be configured for more or less lights, switches or other "logical" devices. Careful consideration has been given to the node software architecture to make it highly modular, just for this reason. More on that later.

The next steps for this prototype are adapting it to support real devices (not just leds, but 12-24VDC incandescent lights, as one would find on a boat). Also, another step is implementing the remote control communications (like from the PC).

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