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littleBits Smart Home Kit Review: Internet of Things for DIYers

By Shawn Knight · 11 replies
Jan 27, 2015
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  1. diy internet littlebits smart home kit

    Retrofitting an existing home with so-called "Internet of Things" gadgets isn’t exactly cheap. A Nest Learning Thermostat, for example, will run you $250 while connected appliances such as a refrigerator can set you back $3,000+.

    Amenities like being able to remotely adjust the temperature inside your home or receiving a text when the laundry is done certainly sound appealing, but are they really all they’re cracked up to be? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just try these features out for a week or two before committing to shelling out hundreds or thousands on a standalone IoT-enabled device?

    With littleBits’ new Smart Home Kit, you can do just that.

    littleBits is an ever-growing open source library of small electronic modules that easily connect together. Created by Ayah Bdeir, it started as a tool to help designers incorporate electronics into the prototyping process. Today, it’s much more than that. Think of them as Lego bricks for the iPad generation.

    Read the complete review.

    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 6, 2015
  2. Arris

    Arris TS Evangelist Posts: 4,686   +350

    "Think of them as Legos for the iPad generation".
    Looks more like breadboarding for the ADHD generation.
  3. CredibleComment

    CredibleComment TS Rookie

    Does this somehow connect to my brain too, in order to help me to realize what do once my toilet paper inventory is out? I almost feel like I need to have dementia to justify the ridiculousness of this outsourced notification that somehow comes back full circle to my cell phone and increased data usage.
  4. stewi0001

    stewi0001 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,513   +900

    Little bits makes some pretty cool stuff (besides this smart house stuff), which I might get my kid some when he gets older. I still am not a big fan of smart home stuff that goes through the internet though.
  5. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 2,796   +1,534

    I'm holding out for the Chemistry Set version .... we had some great "over reaction events" in the old garage ... until we burned it down!
  6. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 9,169   +3,261

    This beats the hell out of the Electronics kit I had as a kid! I'd much rather had this instead, but then it also cost 10 times more.
  7. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 1,522   +514

    While this might pass for a 10-year old's educational kit, anyone serious about home automation, at least in my opinion, would laugh at this stuff. There are plenty of professional modules out there for controlling lights which will mount in the wall in place of a normal electrical outlet, and look much more professional, too. I've been interested in a level of home automation for a long time, and there are currently concerns that things on the market like the Nest thermostat are not secure.

    For the person who is serious about home automation, I would recommend doing some serious research on the net. There are internet stores like SmartHome that carry a whole array of components that make this toy kit look inferior and are also cheaper.
  8. lipe123

    lipe123 TS Evangelist Posts: 718   +236

    Uhm its target audience is Children.. seriously how do you think this is a real home automation set?
    Steve likes this.
  9. Arris

    Arris TS Evangelist Posts: 4,686   +350

    "The Smart Home Kit we’ll be looking at today is tailor-made for home automation projects. It includes 14 modules and 11 accessories, enabling a vast array of creations that can add smart functionality to all sorts of appliances and gadgets you already own, or create entirely new ones.
    The simplicity of littleBits is perhaps its biggest selling point. It is light years above the old way of building electronics, breadboarding, as there is no soldering involved – everything simply snaps together with magnets. What’s more, a background in electrical engineering isn’t a prerequisite which makes it ideal for newcomers of virtually any age."
  10. Row1

    Row1 TS Guru Posts: 343   +13

    LittleBits may be in a marketing limbo: are they marketing for kids, or for ready-to-tinker adults?

    This would be a good way for me to get into "apps" to control things. I am older - old enough to have built those Radio Shack kits as a kid. I am great with hardware - I can build my own computer and do repairs and upgrades, and I am self-taught in this; but in programming, I know very little.

    I also do not know robotics - the closest thing we had as kids was a car like a remote control car that would drive a pattern as directed by a circular cam set on top, that made a pole (unidimensional, pressing against cam - kind of like spirograph) go in or out, which caused the car to go straight, one way, or the other way. Plus, I was in the "erector set" generation, with a battery-powered DC motor to build a crane or whatever you could bolt together.

    I would goof with this thing just to have some nerdy fun - but not to build a doorbell or lamp controller.

    I would, and probably will, buy a set to teach my kids - early grade school, perfect age.

    I will buy the synthesizer kit. It is an amazing entry into modular synthesizer. you can google "littlebits" and "korg;" they developed this jointly with Korg.

    There is a ton -decades - of info on basic modular synthesis. You will quickly have a time-sink on your hands.

    You can output to the 'synth' speaker, or run a line into anything you want - DAW, amplifier, etc.

    For $110-$130, you cannot step into analog/modular synth any easier. Plus, any additional module will be as low as $7: you can get an "inverter" for $7, and I believe 3 inverters in a row will give you a ring oscillator.

    There is another company selling compatible components: "Mega Learning Bits." I have no idea whether they are legal or not, but they are supposed to work, as well.

    For basic Lego-style modular synthesis, there is another approach out there now: Patchblocks.

    Each is about $45, but you program each unit to function as whatever modular-synth component you want: oscillator, filter, etc. You then connect them in a manner very similar to the LittleBits, and run a line out.

    Each module has to be hooked to a computer and programmed to perform its function. Each component has two dials and function varies according to how it is programmed. There are supposed to be many existing program to load into these, and you are supposedly free to go develop your own, or mod those you download.

    The downside to all of this: they look addicting. Each module is just handful of bucks, but before you know it you could have bought the newest Apple laptop for what you have in Lego components.
  11. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 1,522   +514

    Actually, the article says "so easy a child could do it." But I guess you must have missed that.
  12. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 1,522   +514

    Or, for a little over twice the price of this thing, you could get something much more capable from these guys - http://www.paia.com/p9700s.asp

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