The Internet of Things (IoT) is a term coined for describing devices connected to the internet. Your fitness band tracker is an IoT device, your climate control system, perhaps your lights and if you’ve got an expendable income: your fridge might be as well.
I have always loved tinkering with hardware since I was a kid. Pulling apart old devices, puting devices inside of devices. In my hardware hacking travels, I have been buying cheap Android powered touchscreen tablets off of eBay.
For less than $100 AUD you can get a no name brand Android touchscreen tablet with; GPS, Wifi, Bluetooth and support for a sim card (some even support 2 sim cards). These cheap tablets open up all kinds of possibilities for IoT connected devices.
If having GPS or sim card support isn’t important because you just want Wifi for home use, you can get tablets for around $50 AUD (with those features omitted).
- A digital kitchen assistant – Perhaps mounted to the wall or bench, a cheap tablet can serve as a digital todo list, calendar, recipe book and appointment diary. Need to convert some cooking temperatures, convert measurements or just want a cooking timer, a cheap tablet would have you covered.
In-car computer – A few years ago I put a computer into my Toyota Soarer, I cut the fascia and wired it all in. In hindsight this was a lot of work and while it turned out, installing a cheap tablet into the fascia and connecting via the auxiliary cable to the entertainment system would have been easier. Coupled with GPS and a sim card, this would give you a connected car computer for under $100. Throw in a bluetooth OBD connector and you have yourself car stats as well.
Bike computer – Another great idea is using a tablet as a bike computer. Mounting it somewhere near your handlebars, you could then use it for music (plugging in headphones), tracking and mapping your rides and as a means of entertainment on the go. The added benefit of Google Maps would also allow you to know where you’re going without needing to use your phone or stop.
Fridge computer – You have probably seen those internet fridges with their fancy touch screens. They also have a high price tag for something so trivial. By mounting a cheap tablet to your fridge (magnetically) you have your very own smart fridge. You could use it like the above kitchen assistant idea. A shopping list or reminders all there.
Cheap media centre – A lot of people already have media centre devices that allow them to stream content from their computer or Netflix (Chromecast, Apple TV) and thankfully most cheap Android tablets I have seen come with HDMI output. This means you can use a cheap tablet as a media centre device for streaming, playing games and even watching Netflix.
Device interface – A cheap Android tablet is essentially a touchscreen with some basic hardware. That isn’t to say you need to use it like a tablet. Hacking it to be used as a control interface to control other devices gives you an affordable touchscreen for controlling things like house lightning, security system or even your coffee machine.
Weather Station – If you’re a weather nerd like me, then the prospect of being able to get weather information at your tips will excite you. Using a cheap tablet, you can create your very own weather station.
car entertainment system – This is an idea I have been pondering for sometime. You know in those high-end BMW’s, Mercedes and other expensive vehicles you see a comprehensive in-car entertainment system with embedded screens in the back of the seats? Using a couple of cheap tablets and some hidden cabling, you can add a smart in-car entertainment system at an affordable cost.
As you can see, cheaply produced no name tablets might not be good for everyday use but what you get for such a low price makes them a hardware hackers candy.
While there are affordable options for hardware hackers like the Raspberry Pi which is very affordable, for a few more dollars you can get something with; Bluetooth, Wifi, Sim support, a hard drive, touchscreen and various inputs & outputs.