IoT Project Day: Ideas, Reference Boards and Prototypes

Author: Arvind Padmanabhan

Plus an exciting quiz on IoT


IoT Project Day is our quarterly event. It’s an event for exchanging knowledge, inspiring others and networking with peers. It really doesn’t matter how trivial the project, we give chance to everyone to showcase what they have built, get feedback, learn and iterate. By having college students and industry folks on the same platform, students become aware of industry trends and project opportunities. As usual, we are happy to have it at Microsoft, Bangalore, and we thank them for opening up their venue for this purpose. We also thank all presenters who gave demos and withstood the barrage of tough questions from the audience!

In today’s event, a couple of students gave demo of an Arduino-based prototype. We had two industry folks presenting technical overviews of their products and their relevance to IoT. We had a short IoT quiz that brought out the latest developments in the world of IoT. Vikas and I presented some ideas for projects: interested folks can write to to know more and collaborate. As they say, there’s no better way to learn than by doing!

Here’s a summary of the demos:

Vehicle Monitoring via OBD and GPRS

Chaitanya and Jayanth U, Dayananda Sagar University
The demo hardware used an Arduino Mega because it has three UART interfaces. These were used to connect to GPRS module, Bluetooth module and GPS module. The board could be powered from the car’s dashboard using a typical power cord. The interesting part is that every car uses potentially a different protocol to communicate over the On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) port. However, the number of such protocols is finite and well defined. An OBD adapter (available for about Rs. 300) can decode all these protocols and convert them into a single Bluetooth interface. Hence their demo unit collects the data via Bluetooth. The Arduino does some processing. The data is tagged with current location coordinates and finally sent to the cloud via GPRS. The students shared a few use cases plus challenges to make it better.

Steps to Choosing the Right Microcontroller

Sriharsha Sadaralahalli, Microchip India Pvt Ltd
Choosing the right microcontroller for your application can be a daunting challenge because, as Sriharsha pointed out, there are thousands of MCUs just from Microchip alone. There are of course tools that help you filter by features and narrow down the choice. Still, how do we start this process of choosing the right one? Sriharsha laid out a step-by-step procedure to do this. You start with your application in mind and figure out the peripherals you need. You then define the processing and memory capability needed. You may want to look at the core architecture, which was more important in the past when folks did assembly-level coding. If it’s a battery-operated device, you will want to look at different sleep modes and power consumption. Cost is always an important criterion along with part availability. Once these design choices are made, you will want to select a suitable development kit or evaluation board to speed up the development. The talk ended with a couple of demos: a weather monitoring station plus an accelerometer that indicates the tilt via colourful LEDs. This talk was definitely useful to many beginners in the audience.

Computer-on-modules and a HMI Demo

Chandrasekhar Naishadham and Manoj Kumar Verma, Toradex Systems (India) Pvt Ltd
Toradex is a Swiss company that has a strong presence in Bangalore. Hardware, software, reference designs and many other things are done in-house, which means that customers can count on good technical support. Why COM? The main processor and memory are kept independent of the real-world interfaces. This gives flexibility. You can start with a minimal product and evolve the capability without designing the entire hardware again. Toradex also guarantees long-term availability so that your design can stay in the market longer while you work on your next product. The main takeaway for many was that we often make a choice based on cost alone. It’s only when the product fails at customer premises that we start wishing we had selected better components. The talk ended with a HMI demo. Toradex also showcased many COMs that are currently on their portfolio. Currently, these are based on Marvell, Freescale or Nvdia. Soon new COMs based on Qualcomm will be out.

An Energy Monitoring and Analysis Platform

Vikas hails from Rajasthan, where he has figured out that 75% of electricity consumption in his home is coming from fans. He also knows exactly how much CFL lamps are consuming. Perhaps he can do better by changing these to LED lamps. But how exactly is he able to get these numbers? Vikas explained that he has built an efficiency monitoring energy meter. This collects current and voltage measurements. The system may also use additional sensors placed at specific power sockets or at appliances. All this data is put through ML models to do analytics. The model is able to predict the bill for the month even if we are only a few days into the month. It can offer suggestions on how to save electricity. He has also developed a React JS frontend to visualize the data via nice charts. His passion is to take up projects that can help the poor and needy.

Author: Arvind Padmanabhan

Arvind Padmanabhan

Arvind Padmanabhan graduated from the National University of Singapore with a master’s degree in electrical engineering. With more than fifteen years of experience, he has worked extensively on various wireless technologies including DECT, WCDMA, HSPA, WiMAX and LTE. He is passionate about tech blogging, training and supporting early stage Indian start-ups. He is a founder member of two non-profit community platforms: IEDF and Devopedia. In 2013, he published a book on the history of digital technology:

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2 thoughts on “IoT Project Day: Ideas, Reference Boards and Prototypes

  1. Arvind, this was a very well conducted event. All the talks were well presented and surely gave the audience a lot of thoughts and ideas to digest and explore. And the quiz, entertaining and informing in equal measure, provided a great way for participants to interact. For me, this was truly a Saturday well spent. I am surely inspired to carry this energy forward and channelize it into a tangible project. Thanks again to you and all the participants for making this event memorable.


    1. Yes, I enjoyed the content as well. Questions from the audience made it interactive. Sriharsha’s talk was excellent, a guide to beginners for selecting the right MCU for their application.


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