Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Intel Edison: super duper small PC on a chip.

This is a whole PC. ~$50 retail. WiFi and Bluetooth included.
I just picked one of these up. Its an Intel Edison PC-on-a-chip widget. It can be powered for days on a small battery, if you don't have it doing much. It comes with wi-fi and Bluetooth capability built in. Its powerful enough to be used as a desktop PC for surfing the Internet.

Intel intends it as a rapid-prototyping device for kids making "Internet Of Things" projects, or robots and autonomous drones. The low power draw also makes it awesome for doing any kind of embedded control device, like adding a computer network to your car or making a solar powered weather station for the back yard. The battery out of a cell phone would keep it going all night, and it would charge up all day.

I bought one. Its pretty kewl.

The reason I bring it up is, this thing is SMALL. Like, really small. Fits inside a matchbook with its battery too kinda small. I bought it for something like $50 retail at Fry's in Phoenix, if you bought a whack of them from Intel it would be half of that.

If you wanted a throw-away PC for doing something silly, like counting every Cadillac Eldorado that crosses the Brooklyn Bridge, you could put this in an Altoids tin with a teensy camera and stick it to a bridge stanchion and leave it there forever.
Or if you wanted to seed an area with wi-fi coverage you could make up a bunch of them and stick them on lamp posts. Use a Pringles can antenna for extra distance coverage and the can is the biggest part of the thing.
Put two of them miles apart and communicate via laser.
Detect deer in the back yard by radar and squirt water at them.
Track your girlfriend's car, undetectably and wirelessly. (You know some weirdo is going to do that, right?)
Fly a camera drone up onto a building to look into a particular window... and leave it there.
Detect and report on the water level in your basement sump, and the temperature of the sump pump motor, and how many times an hour it pumps, and how much electricity it uses, and how the battery back up is doing, and if the whole system pukes it sends you an email...

All kinds of things you want a PC for, you can do in a matchbox run off a 9V battery. For CHEAP.

They didn't make it as small as they could, by the way. Its a toy, basically.

Imagine the kind of crap that could be built in to your car or TV or your cell phone or even a plain old extension cord, right now, that you'd never ever know about.

Update: Welcome Rifleman's Journal readers! Consider building a bunch of these: Pirate Box. Never know when a little bit of anonymous file sharing capability might come in handy. Make it out of an Intel Edison and then tell EVERYBODY how you did it, I don't think its been done yet.


WiFi Lunchbox Guy said...

How does this compare capability-wise to Raspberry Pis and Beaglebone boards?

The Phantom said...

I think the Raspberry Pi 2 will be faster than the Edison, but not the original Raspy. I haven't used the BeagleBone, so that one you'll be on your own with.

Raspi is kind of an apples/oranges thing with Edison though, because Raspi runs an ARM chip and Edison is X86 instruction set. You can run Windows on Edison, or any X86 Linux (if you can find drivers, of course.) Its basically a Pentium dual core built on a 22nm process. Simple, small, cheap, low power.

The thing about Edison is its -small- and extremely low power, much smaller than the Raspi.

Plus side for Raspi, its more open source and has a larger following than Edison. Intel isn't as forthcoming as they might be with their documentation and support. I don't think management really "gets it" so they're doing the usual Big Company Shuffle.

But at under $50.00, I'd have both. In fact I have a bunch of Raspis around here doing various things, and I'm looking forward to getting the Edison to do something fun. Thinking maybe it could fly a model airplane pretty nicely.

Maybe a model Facetmobile, just to be crazy and different. Look that one up if you like crazy planes, it has no wings.