Give hands, ears and eyes to your PC

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Home automation or domotic are terms that conjure up the idea of luxury to many people (Noorani fine tunes his newly acquired Arduino as Avinash Meetoo watches on ).

For most of us, it is a dream to live in a smart home where the doors open upon hearing your voice or a command from you, where the lights switch off when you leave a room, where windows closes when it rains or when it gets too windy, where alarms are sounded when sensors detect the presence of intruders.

To-day this dream is at the fingertips of anyone who has a computer and ready to invest some Rs 1 000 for the purchase of an Arduino board and some more money on programming lessons.

Noorani Bakerally software manager working for Knowledge 7. is amongst the many Mauritian computer users to have joined millions of students, artists, designers, researchers, and hobbyists around the world who are equipped with an Arduino board, usually bought on e-bay.

This board, which comes with a free software, can literally give hands, ears and eyes to a computer via a number of sensors.
It can be brought, for example, to sense the level of humidity of the soil in a garden or flower pots and trigger an irrigation unit when the soil is too dry. It can be programmed to sense the house temperature and trigger the air conditioning equipment, to communicate with a mobile phone, to control robots. The tasks that can be assigned to this board are infinite.

«One has not to be a software manager to achieve these “feats”. Anyone can achieve it with&nbsp some knowledge of programming and some sensors hooked to the board», explains Noorani.

But what programming language one should learn to turn a house into a smart home via the Arduino board ?

«In fact, most Arduino users resort to what is known as Processing, an open source programming language and environment for people who want to create images, animations, art installations, and interactions. Initially developed to serve as a software sketchbook and to teach fundamentals of computer programming within a visual context, Processing has in fact evolved into a tool for generating finished professional work», explains Avinash Meetoo, director of Quatre-Bornes. (Tel : 464 74 46. Internet : www.knowledge7.com).

Processing tutorials and software are freely available for download on the web, and will allow novices as well as seasoned programmers to develop thousand of uses with their Arduino board. www.processing.org/download/

«However, that open source programming language may not be the best end solution from an enterprise perspective. So progressing to another language more robust programming language is bound to be the next step for those who have mastered Processing», says Avinash Meetoo.

In fact, Arduino and the free open-source programming language are known to have pulled thousands and thousands of kids from computer game addiction to the more healthy passion of programming.

«Processing is useful for rapidly developing ideas and boost creativity», also says Avinash Meetoo.

The study of a more robust programming language is becoming more and more available to Mauritians. Kowledge 7 of Quatre-Bornes and many other private IT schools are in fact providing short and long courses on programming languages to hobbyist and professionals at very affordable prices.

More details on the Arduino revolution and tutorials are available on thousands of sites, more particularly on the on-line Make magazine at http://makezine.com/arduino/

(Read the French version of this article in l’express dimanche of this week-end.)

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