You Too Can Join the Internet Of Things @ NYTimes.com… Another ARM article in the NYT, 2 days in a row – this one leaves out one big detail though…
Called mbed, the research effort puts a kit for a microcontroller – sort of a basic, low-power computer on a chip – in the hands of engineers and hobbyists for about $59. Then, ARM provides a set of software tools for bringing that microcontroller to life and linking it with other interesting items like accelerometers, gyroscopes, cameras, displays and thermometers.
Simon Ford, the ARM researcher leading mbed, said that the package of hardware and software he had created should open microcontrollers up to a new audience by removing some of the technical headaches associated with programming the chips.
The mbed device can plug straight into a U.S.B. port on a computer, appearing as a flash drive to the PC. People can then create programs or download existing modules from the mbed Web site and get off and running in a matter of minutes.
mbed requires an online compiler, so that you are dependent on them forever. You cannot do anything without using their online site. We would like to see mbed change this policy, release some open source hardware, allow OSS toolchains, etc— (they like Arduino shields, why not join in the community? It could be awesome!)
We like the hardware in the mbed, the cortex series is great (it’s why we carry an ARM Cortex M3 board now) – but the ARM complier used with mbed costs about $5,000 so maybe it will never be anywhere but online. This is why we really like the ARM dev board we carry, it’s OSHW, the firmware libraries are all BSD licensed, you can use an OSS tool chain and like the mbed you can drag and drop a compiled program. We’re also considering carrying a lpc1768 version of the board (let us know if you’d like that!)
mbed will be at the Open Source Hardware summit & Maker Faire, we’ll see if they’re up for this – post your comments / suggestions in the comments and we’ll pass them along as well.
Update: Great comments brewing! Jump in!!
I really like the mBed, on spec. I will never use it because of their online policy. It’s great for ease, but bad for someone who doesn’t have internet access all the time. What if I need to debug onsite and I’m out in the field? At any rate, if you carry a board with the lpc1768, that would be great. I like the peripherals, USB, Ethernet, SPI, I2C, all in one tidy little package. I also like the mBed form factor as it’s easily bread boarded.
I considered the mbed but discounted it for the very reasons you point out here. Its a cool little device but the thought of being dependent on a tool chain that I don’t ‘own’ was crazy to me. If they ever open the system or come up with a way of doing builds with an open tool chain I will consider it, but for now it really doesn’t matter. Between the Arduino and the LPC1343 board here at Adafruit (and the LeafLabs Maple I also have) I don’t ‘need’ to use something like the mbed.