The applications of smartphones in daily life continues to increase outside of just calling people and sending messages. Punch Through Design is one company that tries to extend that usage to those who want to have a more hands-on approach to creating their own Bluetooth-controlled devices with its LightBlue Bean, a tiny, wireless circuit board that serves as the brain for any smartphone-controlled projects.
The LightBlue Bean was initially available only for Mac OS X and iOS users, but the company announced today it expanded its coverage to include users on Windows 8.1 laptops and Surface Pro tablets. It also launched an app for the controller called the Windows Bean Loader.
The app will be the main hub when making LightBlue Bean-based projects, and there are no wired connections needed since the LightBlue Bean is connected to the smartphone via Bluetooth 4.0 and Bluetooth Low Energy. It's where users will program most of the parameters for their projects; read and log data from the LightBlue Bean's temperature, accelerometer and RGB LED sensors; and secure the Bluetooth pairing.
Of course, a little Arduino programming language is required to use the app, but the company provided a user guide as well as a few starter projects for new users, such as an automatic bike light and a smartphone-controlled door lock. As for the board itself, the LightBlue Bean is tiny, with a rectangular dimension of 1.775 in. x 0.8 in. and is powered by an ATmega28p microcontroller with a clock speed of 8 MHz. It features an LBM313 Bluetooth Low Energy Module, six digital I/O pins, two analog pins, and it only requires three volts for its operating voltage.
According to Punch Through Design founder and CEO Colin Karpfinger, support for Windows was only added now because Bluetooth 4.0 support was nonexistent in Windows 8. (It was added later in Windows 8.1.) While the company doesn't have an official version of the app for Android, Karpfinger pointed to a user who created his own Android SDK to work with the LightBlue Bean.
The LightBlue Bean will cost you $30, but some of the DIY fanatics might go ahead and build their own board prototype. Users can enlist the help of Punch Through Design, which provided the LightBlue Bean's hardware files, preprogrammed LMB13 modules, and firmware customizations on its website.
With all the resources necessary to build a custom board so easily accessible as well as a full board available for purchase, the company seems to be doubling its efforts to get people interested in making their own Bluetooth-powered devices with the help of the LightBlue Bean.