Raswik by Ciseco – wireless inventors kit for the Raspberry Pi

 Here is a review of an interesting product called the Wireless Inventors Kit for Raspberry Pi or it’s much shorter Raswik by Ciseco

Ciseco is well known in the geek/hacker community for their radios and for simplifying IOT technology.

I have been following them in context of my work with my edtech startup feynlabs

As a matter of transparency, I have no commercial relationship with Ciseco – but I like their ethos (Open/Hacker oriented).

I met Ciseco CTO and co-founder Miles Hodkinson at an event organised by Rob von Kranenburg founder of the Internet of Things council in London and I invited Miles to speak at an event in London on Nov 22 which I am co-chairing with Rob ( Accelerating the Open Source IOT ecosystem).

PS – The event is free and you are welcome to attend – especially if you have an interest in IOT/ Open technologies.

So, back to Raswik ..

The kit contains the following components .. which are designed to run a series of Raspberry Pi  experiments based on sensors and actuators like the temperature sensor, light sensor etc

 1 x Ciseco Slice of Radio,  1 x Ciseco XinoRF development board,  1 x 4Gb SD card with Pi OS and sample software,  1 x USB cable,  1 x Small breadboard,  5 x Red LED,  5 x Yellow LED,  5 x Green LED, 1xBlue LED, 1 x Transistor, 1 x Diode,  10 x 10K Resistor,  20 x 470R Resistor,  1 x Light Dependant Resistor (light sensor), 1 x Thermistor (temperature sensor),  1 x Piezo sounder,  3 x Push buttons,  Jump wire (assorted colours), Length of hook up wire.

 The two significant components are the Slice of Radio   and  XinoRF development board

Essentially the two components enable the Raspberry Pi and the Arduino to work together and it’s important to understand why this is significant and how it compares

The Raspberry Pi and the Arduino

The Arduino and Raspberry Pi are both inexpensive, small electronics boards, that’s where the similarity ends. The major difference is technology, the Pi is a computer and the Arduino is a microcontroller. A microcontroller is a much lower powered and simpler device than a computer. You find them all around us, from your microwave, washing machine, car ABS sytem to your TV or DVD player etc.

 The Pi is powered by a 700Mhz 32 bit processor that’s similar to what drives most smart phones, the Arduino by a 16Mhz 8 bit processor has roughly the  equivalent processing power to an 80’s Sinclair spectrum. The Pi has an operating system where the Arduino does not.

Why chose on over the other?

A microcontroller is the perfect tool for doing a single task very well, with utmost reliability for the entire life of the product,  the Pi has a whole operating system to run so is impossible to pare down to just a single process (there are tens to hundreds of processes running even when idle). The Pi would not  for example be the best choice for calculator (single task, low power) but a microcontroller is perfect. The Pi by having a full operating system has support for sound,  video, a keyboard, mouse and networking. It makes the perfect decision engine and user interface. And the Arduino makes for the perfect end node.

Having now established that the Pi and the Arduino are beneficial working together – there are several ways in which we could connect them together – which brings us to the Raswik approach ..

Using radio to communicate between the Pi and Arduino

Raswik uses a radio approach to enable the Pi and the Arduino to speak to each other.

Raswik has two components which make this radio communication possible

The Slice of Radio wireless RF trans receiver for the Raspberry Pi - At the Pi end – the Slice of Radio is two way RF transceiver for the Raspberry Pi. It comes as   a pre built module and it utilises the Raspberry Pi’s on board serial port (UART @ 9600bps) for communication and hence needs no driver.

The Xinorf 100 arduino uno r3 based dev board with radio transciever - At the Arduino end, the Xinorf 100 is a digital electronics development board composed of a hybrid of the Arduino UNO R3 and a wireless module called SRF-U. The combination provides a built in wireless (which means you don’t need an XBee shield plus radio module or similar)

Analysis

This approach of using radio to communicate between the Pi and Arduino is interesting. It reduces complexity (no need to install drivers). It provides accessories, sensors and actuators in a box – which means you can quickly start doing real physical measurements like temperature sensing etc and others ex  a series of Raspberry Pi  experiments based on sensors and actuators

There are other ways to connect the Pi and Arduino for example over the serial GPIO interface or over a USB cable  or using a stackable Arduino clone like alamode

Also, the two platforms are each a moving goal post. The Arduino Due is much in line with the capabilities of the Pi and the Intel partnership with Arduino Due makes it interesting

So, while the platforms will evolve, more complexity will be introduced.

Ironically, that means there will be a greater need for simplicity and to get it all working together in a simple way for learners –

And therein lies  the value of the Raswik kit. We got it to work quite easily .. and quickly started working with sensors. The code is open source as well. So good for learning.

We tested it out and got our temperature graph working with a Raspberry Pi

Also, the code for the Python GUIs and all the Arduino sketches is open sourced and available at this link to download