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With the recent  launch of the new Android Wear OS and the gazillion fitness bands and Smartwatches, wearable tech is the new hot trend in consumer electronics right now.

Last Sunday, I met with MbientLab co-founders Laura Kassovicand Matt Baker at their office in San Francisco where they developed the $30 MetaWear tiny board featuring a Nordic Bluetooth LE and ARM Cortex M0 SoC (System-on-Chip) that will allow enthusiasts with expertise and startups to build their wearable devices more rapidly at a lower cost.

CTO Matt Baker estimates that, even with a small team of veteran hardware professionals (although with no Bluetooth expertise), by using MetaWear, a startup could save roughly 50k and 4 to 6 months of development, including testing time and FTC certification costs.

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MbientLab started its kickstarter campaign last Tuesday, the money  will be used to manufacture the first batch of MetaWear chips and if the campaign reaches $75K, the San Francisco-based hardware company will be able to add a heart rate sensor to the ki.. The product has been quite popular, in a week it has raised over $35,700, way above its initial $8,000 goal.

CEO Laura Kassovic, told me that, below the 5,000 units mark, the SoC will be manufactured in the US. According to her, MetaWear is the smallest board to feature both Bluetooth LE and sensors, for instance a 3-axis accelerometer and a temperature sensor. It measures only 17mm x 26mm!

Out of the box, the board is production ready, since it ships with an app and a “developer friendly” API, that allows you to control  the MetaWear board from an iOS or Android App. The API is allows Bluetooth LE connectivity and leveraging sensor data from the MetaWear board to any Android or iOS Smartphone.

To start right away, you just have to download MbientLab’s documentation and sample Apps from Github here: https://github.com/MbientLab. The team has just released its first example project, an iOS controlled mood lamp, built in 30 minutes using MetaWear, you can find it here: http://www.hackster.io/metawear

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Left Metawear board, right Texas instrument board

She showed me an equivalent Texas Instrument (TI) chip which is priced around $99 and is way larger than the quarter-sized MbientLab’s design. Additionally, Laura told me that the Nordic SoC they used has better performance than the one offered by TI, which is merely a development board.

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It is possible to add a micro-USB connector on the side of the board – see the connector on the MetaWear board

The complete kit includes the small board with the two sensors and the Bluetooth SoC, a vibrating round coin motor (photo above top left), a simple 32kHz Buzzer (photo above top right) and a  3.7V battery (photo bottom center). The board is USB ready and a micro-USB connector can be added on one side (see photo). See the complete specifications list at the end of the article or on the Kickstarter page.

MetaWear can be used both for rapid prototyping or final production of various wearable devices, its small size opens a lot of opportunities to create small connected objects of all shapes.

What connected objects would you build with this?

Specifications:

MetaWear Board + Kit

  • Nordic Bluetooth and ARM Cortex M0 SoC
  • 3.7V Long lasting battery
  • Micro-USB rechargeable
  • 2 digital I/O pins
  • 3-axis accelerometer
  • Tilt, orientation, and freefall detect
  • Bright RGB LED with animations
  • Vibrating round coin motor
  • Simple 32kHz Buzzer
  • Temperature Sensor
  • Micro push-button

    MetaWear App + API
  • Download the Android or iOS App from GitHub
  • Works right out of the box
  • Simple API calls to connect with Bluetooth
  • Turn IO pins on and off
  • Activate different LED animations
  • Turn the buzzer on and off
  • Turn the coin vibrator on and off
  • Read X,Y,Z values from the accelerometer
  • Supports ANCS and iBeacons
  • 3D print CAD models from Shapeways
Filed in Cellphones >Featured >Gadgets . Tags: hardware, wearable and Wearable Tech.
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