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1Sheeld with Amr Saleh

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A great talk with Amr Saleh from 1Sheeld!

1Sheeld for Arduino turns your smartphone into 40 different Arduino shields (Including things like Voice Recognition, Twitter, GPS, Gamepad, Camera and more!)

The 1sheeld consists of two parts:

  1. Physical Board – with a microcontroller and a bluetooth module to transmit data between Arduino and your smartphone
  2. Mobile App and Platform – opens your phone’s sensors and capabilities to be used as virtual shields for Arduino

Tune in and check out this interesting Arduino shield.


Show Transcript:

Michael: Hello. I hope you’re doing fantastic. This is Michael with Programming Electronics Academy. Thanks a ton for joining me this week. We’ve got a really awesome guest, his name is Amr Saleh.

He works with a company called 1Sheeld. He’s one of the founders, and four years ago they launched a Kickstarter for this Arduino shield. They’re still going strong today. It’s a really cool shield concept, as you’ll learn about in the talk. But here’s just a quick sneak peek.

The 1Sheeld, like any other Arduino shield, it fits snugly on top of your Arduino. But it allows you to access via Bluetooth features on your smartphone. You think of your smartphone, it’s got a bunch of sensors, like a proximity sensor, gyroscope, GPS, if you just think of all the stuff your phone can sense and do, the shield allows you to transfer some of that information to your Arduino or it allows your Arduino to trigger some things on your smartphone.

They have an app you load on your phone for either iPhone or Android and you can do a lot of things, so there’s a bunch of quote-unquote “digital” shields that you can use with one shield.


Michael: Amr’s the founder of 1Sheeld. That’s where we’re gonna learn a lot about 1Sheeld. It’s a shield that’s used for Arduino, and it’s actually a shield that takes advantage of all of the stuff on your smartphone, on your Android smartphone, and it allows you to interface it with Arduino. It’s really neat. We’ll learn a lot about it. To start out Amr, I wanted to talk about your background a little bit and how you ended up getting into programming electronics with Arduino.

Amr Saleh: Sure. I’m an electronics engineering graduate. I went to school here in Egypt in University , and me and my final graduation year project, we worked on this product in our startup right after college, and this is how 1Sheeld started. We used Arduino, I didn’t actually use Arduino in college. I heard about it after I graduated and I found it very fascinating tool. Yeah. This is how I learned about it.

Michael: Oh, that’s cool. Were you doing any hands-on stuff in college, like with maybe PICs or anything like that?

Amr Saleh: Yeah, exactly. The traditional way was to get a microcontroller, open a data sheet, and program it. PIC was our most-used microcontroller in college. So yeah.

Michael: Yeah, I know. And then it’s like you stumble on Arduino, you’re like, “man it’s so much easier with this.”

Amr Saleh: Yeah, to get a bootloader board, and a debugger, I mean the Arduino has got all of this in one board, and the support is huge. What I most like about Arduino is the community behind it and you can never ask a question and not find the answer on the internet.

Michael: Yeah I know, that’s fantastic. I think that’s really one of the, if not the most biggest asset of Arduino is the huge user base and the support community. It’s great.

Amr Saleh: Yeah.

Michael: So this really boiled out of a project that you were doing in college then with just some friends, essentially?

Amr Saleh: Not really. We were working on a graduation project and we built a but we pivoted to the idea of 1Sheeld. The idea we were working on was not related to Arduino although it’s in the electronics field. We were working on something called Smart Bread Board, which is a bread board that you program it electronically instead of using all the wires on a bread board, you do this through a switch matrix. But we pivoted the idea into 1Sheeld.

Michael: Okay, that’s neat. How did you float 1Sheeld, was it a Kickstarter that you ended up doing then?

Amr Saleh: Yeah, exactly. My colleague, Islam, had the idea of developing 1Sheeld. We also crafted a campaign on Kickstarter it went successful because we asked for $10,000 and got $85,000.

Michael: Nice. How long ago was that? How long has 1Sheeld been going now?

Amr Saleh: That was in May 2013 1Sheeld was shipped in the market in May 2014.

Michael: That was a pretty quick production run then it seems like a pretty good turnaround time. That’s neat. So I’m sure 1Sheeld’s been on a journey since then. Could you kind of just explain 1Sheeld to somebody who might be listening who’s kind of just getting into Arduino and they’re maybe looking at some different Arduino shields trying to think about what might help them in prototyping. What exactly does 1Sheeld do?

Amr Saleh: Sure, well if you’re into Arduino in your early stages, you might do an LED project, you might do a push button. But then when you start building projects at home or University projects, you get into some more details, it requires shields and modules like you said. An Arduino shield is an accessory board that sits on top of the Arduino and it provides you with a certain function. GPS shield provides you with a way to detect location and trigger the hardware to do something based on these locations, whereas an accelerometer sensor measures the acceleration and you can connect it to Arduino very very easily.

So what 1Sheeld does is, instead of buying all of these modules and all of these shields, this one cost you $19, this one is expensive because this is a GSM shield perhaps would cost you more than $50 and so. We combined all these shields. If you put all of these sensors, all of these hardware capabilities, you find that almost everything is already existing in your smartphone. So what we did is we treat the smartphone as an Arduino shield. It’s actually a list of Arduino shields because the smartphone has a GPS shield, an accelerometer sensor, touch screen, access to the internet so you have Twitter. You can log that on the smartphone, on the storage of the phone.

Several components, and this is the idea of 1Sheeld. It’s a board and a mobile app. The board has a bluetooth module that communicates with the smartphone and it allows transmission of data between the smartphone to the Arduino and vice versa. So 1Sheeld is basically all, or most of the Arduino shields on your smartphone.

Michael: Wow that’s really cool. … Just about everyone is carrying around a smartphone. I know somebody listening has this old flip phone in their pocket. That’s cool, I’m not judging. So everybody’s got these smartphones that they’re walking around with and it’s like hey why not use all these expensive sensors that you’ve already paid for and just hook it up to the Arduino. That’s really neat. So it communicates via bluetooth. … It works with Android phones, is that correct?

Amr Saleh: Androids and iPhones as well.

Michael: Oh, it works with … so you guys have an iPhone app too and an Android app.

Amr Saleh: Yes.

Michael: Okay fantastic. And that’s really the only differentiator, right? It’s just the app, otherwise the hardware is going to be the same I would imagine.

Amr Saleh: No not really because we use before, that was an early development so we didn’t use a BLE module, so iPhones were not supported but when we launched a newer version which is the 1Sheeld plus that came with the iPhone app. And the 1Sheeld plus has a BLE module, which also supports Android but not all the Android phones. So we still have the 1Sheeld classic and 1Sheeld plus.

Michael: Okay alright, I see. So you get the Sheeld of your preference and I’m trying to think of the different stuff on my phone. I can do a lot of stuff with my phone, but … You can take over the mic essentially, or I could take over the camera, what type of stuff can I. … I guess give me an idea of some of the stuff that I have on my phone, or sensors I have on my phone I might not even realize.

Amr Saleh: Sure, one of the most obvious sensors is the proximity sensor which, when you put the phone on your ears the screen turns off, right? This you can use, the camera you can use, the fingerprint in iPhone you can use it. The internet capability of the phone, you can use it there, you can use the phone to access the internet. Whether Facebook, Twitter. You can go pinging a hyperlink through the smartphone You can log data online. You can log data charts on a smartphone. Or to save it as a CSV file. And this is for the capability side. But the sensor side. You have accelerometer, gyroscope, gravity sensor, all of these on your smartphone. You have proximity, light sensor. … So we have over forty shields in the product. Actually over 42 now. One of them face detector for example. So you can build on top of the camera itself. The camera is a shield and the face detection is another shield.

Michael: Okay, wow that’s really neat. So basically data can go two ways. You can use your Arduino to trigger something on the phone and then you can use the phone to trigger something on the Arduino, is that correct?

Amr Saleh: Yes, that’s true, that’s true.

Michael: So I could have some type of sensor set up on my Arduino, like somebody trips a PIR sensor and then it takes a photo on my phone that I happen to have set up. I can do something like that?

Amr Saleh: Yeah. Exactly.

Michael: Okay, wow that’s really neat. Okay. So. … 42 shields, that’s crazy. Am I selecting one that I use at a time in a sketch, or in an Arduino program. Or can I use more than one at once, how does that work?

Amr Saleh: No you can use multiple shields in the same project. Like for example, one of the common projects we have, one of the most popular ones, is. … We have an intern that did this project with 1Sheeld, he put it in the core. He used the GPS sensor and the SMS capability of the phone to build a safety tracker device for his car. Because you know car theft is very very common in Egypt. We’re based in Egypt by the way, so yeah. Car theft was very very common and he built this device to turn off the car with an SMS. He would send an SMS to the phone inside the car and disable the car if it gets stolen. And how do you know if it gets stolen? Well the GPS sensor sends the data to the Arduino and you know the exact location of the car and it notifies you by SMS. So these are two shields in one project.

Michael: Oh that is awesome. Is it hard to use it then? … I’m assuming there’s like this library that goes along with the shield that you guys have written and then I’m just making function calls to different shields? Is the documentation for each one pretty straightforward? The implementation rather.

Amr Saleh: Yeah we have a very easy getting started tutorial and we have it and the beauty about the product, or the powerful thing is that we encapsulated a huge amount of code into one line of code. Like for example if you want to do voice recognition with the smartphone, you only write one line of code and you use the phone to trigger something with your voice.

Michael: Wow that’s cool. And so when you’re. … With these different shields, with some of the functions, and I haven’t dove into the functions, but are you generally getting a yes or no back from the phone, does it just matter with the app are you getting data and some string back from the phone or rays, what type of information is getting returned?

Amr Saleh: Based on the shield basically so if you’re using GPS shield for example you’re getting the coordinates. If you’re using text to speech, you’re getting text from the phone. And the text to speech is vice versa. You get the text from the Arduino to the phone to save.

Michael: So what are some of the interesting things you’ve been seeing people use this shield for?

Amr Saleh: Sure, there was this project made in Italy. This maker built a quadcopter and he put his smartphone on top of a quadcopter and he built the whole stabilizing technique using the smartphone accelerometer sensor and gyroscope, right? So he used it to stabilize the quadcopter and better, to take photos from the quadcopter itself. A drone flies and it takes photos with the smartphone on top of it. That’s one of the coolest. We’ve seen other projects like controlling cars using Pebble watch because we have tasker feature on the Android app where you can link tasker into your applications. This guy in Singapore or Malaysia, I remember. He controlled his car literally with a Pebble watch. And a lot of robotics application is very very easy to use an impact shield on the phone to control robots. I used it for once to control a robotic arm with hand gestures. So when I move my hand the robot arm moves with me.

Michael: That’s nice. So, it seems like such a handy platform for just getting up and running quickly. Maybe at some point you would want a dedicated shield for some of this stuff, maybe. But if you don’t have it on hand but you have the 1Sheeld. … Let me just start right now. See where I can get and then when my other hardware gets here, I’ll go from there. As far as just getting something up and prototyping it seems pretty neat.

Amr Saleh: Yeah exactly, it’s been good in prototyping. So like you said you get the specific shield if you want to do You can buy something smaller that doesn’t require a smartphone but for hands on prototyping, for speed, for proof of concept it’s very highly recommended to use 1Sheeld.

Michael: Alright so, Amr, 1Sheeld’s been around for going on four or five years now. What are you guys thinking about as you’re moving forward for 1Sheeld? Are you sticking with just 1Sheeld or is your company kind of becoming more than just that, I’m curious where you guys are headed.

Amr Saleh: Yeah we have other products in the pipeline and for 1Sheeld we’re still developing on it. The 42 shields didn’t come up in the first year at all. Every couple of months we release this new shield. Recently we released the IUT shield. Which is very handy in accessing the internet. Before that we released the face detector and the bar code shield, and so on. So we continue the improvements and support of 1Sheeld and we’re working on other products as well.

Michael: I guess finally, there’s people out there just getting into Arduino. I’m sure sometimes it can be challenging when you’re first getting started programming and learning about electronics. Any advice you would pass on to somebody in that situation?

Amr Saleh: I would say get your hands dirty. Everything is online now. Try to ask questions, write it on the Arduino forum online in general. Just get your hands dirty, get to work. That’s it. And something you love because this is the only way you learn. You’ve got to be passionate about what you’re developing

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