Hacking for Raspberry Pi and M2M

3/28/2013

The idea behind the Raspberry Pi computer was a simple one: build a small and inexpensive device that could be used by kids around the world. Now developers are taking the product to the next level by creating programs and applications for Raspberry Pi. 

By allowing people to tinker and providing a forum for innovation, new uses can be developed for technologies. That’s the goal behind a recent event called PyCon 2013, a conference for the community using and developing the open-source Python programming language. Open-source technologies allow people to build on what others have done and share information, leading to the creation of useful new products.

At PyCon, held March 13-21 in Santa Clara, Calif., all 2,500 conference attendees were provided with a Raspberry Pi personal computer. The device supports the Python programming language, and it is about the size of a credit card. It can plug into a TV and a keyboard to allow for a variety of functions, such as spreadsheets, word processing, and games.


During the conference, two days featured free tutorials for children using the Raspberry Pi in which the children learned basic programming concepts. Additionally, following the conference talks were four days of “development sprints” where developers worked on projects. PyCon says the sprints are designed to be times of intensive learning and development on an open-source project in a team environment.

The goal of giving out the 2,500 Raspberry Pi devices was to “inspire the next generation of hackers,” according to Conference Chairman Jesse Noller.

During the conference, a new Website was announced, http://raspberry.io/, which will host user-submitted project plans for Raspberry Pi. Some of the first projects included Arduino devices and a jukebox that runs using a USB drive with music files.

By creating an environment to encourage innovation, PyCon is helping to further the technology world. Similarly, this summer’s Connected World Conference will focus on creating new and exciting M2M apps. The M2M App Challenge, held June 7-9 in Santa Clara, will challenge developers to create an M2M app in just 36 hours.

The U.S. Dept. of Energy is an official supporter of the event, as are Lit San Leandro and the City of Santa Clara. Developers will use one of three platforms to create their applications. The platforms will be provided by OSIsoft, www.osisoft.com, ILS Technology, www.ilstechnology.com, and ioBridge, http://iobridge.com/. Participants can hack individually or as a team. The solutions the hackers create will be made available in an open-source format.

At last year’s event, the top prize went to a duo of hackers from Northwestern University who created a system for moving data from devices into an enterprise application where it can be displayed in realtime. The team added an Arudino board to the project, and they demonstrated how the system could function as an electricity sensor in the home. It would show the amount of electricity used per day, per hour, and per week.

Will this year’s M2M App Challenge participants top last year’s winner? That remains to be seen. But the goal is to not only create a killer app, but to promote job growth and business opportunities in the U.S. Creating a useful application or program can lead to benefits not just for the developer, but for everyone whose life may be made easier by implementing the application. That’s the goal with hacking events like PyCon and the M2M App Challenge.

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