WunderBar sensor kit gets notifications app for broader appeal

The open-source WunderBar kit is a distinctive attempt to get app developers to shift their attention to the internet of things. It takes the form of a chocolate bar, the individual pieces of which can be broken off, with each piece containing different sensor functionality, such as temperature and humidity, sound, light and proximity, and motion, and with low-energy Bluetooth tying the system together.

Whereas other systems like Spark and LittleBits are more geared toward people who like to fiddle around with little wires, WunderBar firm Relayr specifically targets app developers who are only starting to think about hardware. The system comes with software development kits (SDKs) for Android and iOS, and months after launch there are already interesting ideas springing up, such as InsulinAngel’s temperature-sensing capsule for the kits diabetics have to carry around (you don’t want the insulin to spoil) and BabyBico, a system that uses Wunderbar’s accelerometer and sound sensor to monitor babies’ sleeping patterns.

But Berlin-based Relayr, which has an international distribution deal with German electronics retailer Conrad, wants to broaden WunderBar’s appeal. To that end, on Thursday it released a new app called TellMeWhen, which makes it easy for WunderBar owners to get simple notifications when, for example, the proximity sensor is activated, or when the accelerometer and gyroscope detect movement, or when the temperature sensor’s environment gets too hot or cold.

WunderBar kit with "chocolate" casing

WunderBar kit with “chocolate” casing

“The goal of TellMeWhen was to provide immediate value for both developers and non-techies,” Paul Hopton, Relayr’s chief engineer, Paul Hopton, told me. “We have had a lot of interest from people who are not developers and would like to learn to program to be able to solve simple problems in their life with the WunderBar. We hadn’t expected that. We designed the TellMeWhen app to be able to deliver immediate value for these people. We are also reworking a lot of the documentation to cater for people who are absolute newbies.”

The app will work on any Android phone running version 4.0.3 of the OS or higher. Initially, it’s just doing direct notifications, but Hopton said Relayr hopes to fully integrate the platform with IFTTT in the second quarter of 2015. “Depending on feedback, we may also add some simple features like tweeting in the next major version of TellMeWhen,” he said.

I’ve been playing around with the WunderBar kit and a beta version of TellMeWhen and, as someone who doesn’t have the first clue about coding and breaks into a cold sweat at the sight of a breadboard, I very much like the concept. I found the WunderBar “onboarding” process – getting the system set up on my home Wi-Fi and fully communicating with the separate Relayr management app – a little shaky, with a fair amount of logging out and in again to get it to work, but once it was working it did what it promised to do.

Having recently bought a Raspberry Pi as well, I’m also glad to see that the WunderBar kit’s bridge module will plug into that (I need to get more into tinkering.) The bridge will also connect Wunderbar with the Grove and Arduino systems. With a field as new as the internet of things, and with so many low-cost toys to play with, compatibility is a definite benefit — particularly as the Wunderbar kit isn’t so cheap itself, coming in at just over $200.

This article was updated at 8.35am PT to change “Android 4.3” to “Android 4.0.3”.

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