The first Hack Day of 2015

By Dawid Van Graan & Hendri De Wet

At our last hackday for 2014 we dove into the realm of IoT (Internet of Things) by controlling access to our office with connected hardware controlled using Mobile applications over the internet.
The hardware we used for this was the Spark Core development Kits (Now called Particle – http://www.particle.io/prototype). Essentially it is a tiny Wifi development board that can be connected to virtually any electronic components. In addition to offering some pretty easy to use hardware this vendor also offers their Spark Cloud service which allows one to expediently access your hardware through the Internet without needing to deal with any of the boilerplate networking such as reverse DNS or port mapping etc.
For the first hackday of 2015 we decided to continue building on the foundation that was laid down end of last year. We added more sensors to know if the office lights were on or off at any give time. A Bat light (standing light with a batman logo on it) was also added that can be controlled using our apps. We also decided that we were going to add a web interface and spend time on beautifying the Android and iOS apps with the help of our talented graphic design team. After fuelling up on coffee (tea for some) and some tasty muffins we started the day with a briefing and information session as not all hackers were part of the previous IoT hackday. The briefing and information session was followed by a planning session where we decided on realistic targets for the next 2 days.

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We decided that Parse.com would be our single port of call for all things cloud related and that included using Parse cloud code for the Spark API calls. Parse.com provides a quick and easy way to store and retrieved data from the cloud using the SDKs they provided. This meant that we would have s single point of entry for our various apps to retrieve data from all our sensors.

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The plan for the day was to get Parse.com setup and get the new developers up the speed with using the Spark Core’s. We also needed to update some old wiring and add wiring for our new sensors.

Look at that Parse cloud code generation. (Dawid demanding and Anthony delivering)

 

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While the developers were busy hacking away at code, electronics and doing the wiring
our design team started work on the new app and web designs. By the end of day one we consumed a vast number of muffins, loads of pizza and litres of coffee we were able to blink the bat light and read raw data from our new light sensors and make some calls to the spark cloud via Parse.
Day 2:
As was the case for day one, day two started with Coffee (or tea) and some more fresh muffins, followed by a reporting and planning session. We were well on our way reaching our goals we set out the day before.
The main focus for this day was to implement the designs into our already working apps and make improvements as needed.

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We had an open Demo scheduled at 15h00 to allow anybody to come and have a look at what we’ve created. This meant that everybody was working at full steam to make the demo spectacular and ensure that all was still working. By demo time we had working apps and a web interface that could unlock our main office
door, control a power outlet with a light connected to it and monitor the state of several lights, temperature and the main office door. All in all the first Polymorph hackday of 2015 was a great success, we learned a lot and still only scratched the surface in terms of what is possible in the realm of IoT.