This is my first try at IOT, in this series I’ll be using the IOTA blockchain and arduino to build a time tracker and take you along for the ride 🙂
For a whole year I’ve been working full time on my own projects, namely SteemPress and more recently my blog ! And I really like to optimize my time. But without reporting, it’s pretty hard to really know what to work on. I tried to just use my phone timer to try to see how long I was doing various things (reddit/code/email/etc). But when I’m focused on various things, I often forget to start/stop it. And it also ment that I had to do a lot of reporting by hand. Which was a pain. So I figured that I would be building a time tracker using arduino and blockchain.
Here’s the project idea : I want to build a small cube/hexagon or a polygon (I’m not sure on the number of sides I want on it yet). So that if I put it on a sides for an activity. Let’s say coding. It’ll start a timer that will only stop when I put it on another side. Technically I am always doing something so there shouldn’t be a need for a “doing nothing” side.
Here’s a few ideas for sides that I had :
- Grocery shopping
- Reading/replying on slack/emails/discord
- Going out
Arduino for the time tracker hardware
Arduino is one of, if not the most accessible platform to build hardware on. It’s basically lego mindstorms on steroids. There are tons of tutorials in every possible form imaginable and tons of compatible parts that you can buy everywhere. I advise you to find a local shop and go to them to talk about your project. They will be able to give you advice and prevent you from buying tons of hardware that is ultimately useless for your project.
This was also a prime opportunity for me to start working on it since I’ve been wanting forever to work on some hardware things. And create more internet of shit (great twitter account, highly recommend that you check him out).
Why blockchain ?
If you know me (or read my github) you’ll quickly notice that I work a lot with various blockchains. So I like to see how blockchains can improve things. One big issue that I have with IOT products is the fact that it only works until the people behind it continue to run their server. So you pay 50 euros for hardware that might at any moment turn off. And I don’t want this kind of stuff. Another thing is that I want to have control over my data and not have a random company be aware of pretty much all of my activities.
The IOTA blockchain
Disclaimer : I have a small stake in IOTA
The IOTA blockchain is one of a few blockchain that’s designed for IOT usage, some would argue that it’s not a blockchain and they would be kind of right : It’s a tangle. I’ll pass the details but long story short it has super fast transaction times, transactions are free (as long as you validate other people’s transactions). Since it’s one of the biggest cryptocurrencies, there’s a lot of support online on how to do IOT with it.
I’ve been wanting to do a small projects to test out that blockchain in real conditions so this sounds like a perfect use case. And this means that :
- It’s decentralized : No need to run a server to host the data
- Anyone can run a web app to display the data. If Alice doesn’t like the default setup she can go online and make her own or try the one that Bob put online.
I believe that for an use case like this, the hardware is not the limiting factor : it’s the software, what graphs you do, how you extrapolate on the data that’s important. And If this can be made open for anyone to hack, and anyone can have their own custom dashboard with exactly what they need. This would be really cool.
“Yeah you don’t give your data to a single company, you give it to everyone instead”
Not really because if I control what I send and how I send it, I can easily put encrypted data or just send like “activity 1” instead of “programming” (Sleep would be relatively easy to spot though, so encryption might be in order). But this is far down the line.
So there are four big parts to this project. First I need to make a proof of concept using hardware, just a very basic thing using gyroscopes that displays the orientation, send that using bluetooth to my computer or phone.
Then the second phase will be saving all of that on a local database and building a basic dashboard, most likely in the form of a phone app.
Then for the third phase I’ll add blockchain support. And if everything still holds together I will buy a pcb board, the smallest Arduino that I can find. Solder everything together, 3d print my cube/polygon and actually have my finalized product.
So hang on for the ride, consider subscribing if you haven’t already to get notified when I’ll publish the next part of this series.
And before we finish I got a question for you all. If I made this, would you be interested in downloading files to create your own ? Or if you are not really the tech type, to buy a pre-assembled one ?