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Gadget lovers rejoice: Introducing the Node – an amazing device that can measure just about anything, all via your iPhone
The unassuming three-inch tube has a range of sensors that measure moisture, temperature, light, and colourThe basic motion-sensing device is already on sale at just over 90, with the screw-on sensors ranging from 16 to 47
19:00 GMT, 14 December 2012
It can take your temperature from two feet away, scan your house for leaky insulation, and determine the dampness of your basement.
George Yu, a 30-year-old engineer living in Houston, has invented a multifaceted gadget called the Node, which he describes as 'a little Swiss Army knife of sensors'.
The three-inch tube records the world around it and beams the data to an iPhone via Bluetooth.
Simple but effective: The Node is compatible with iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, iPod Touch 5th Gen, iPad 3, iPad 4, iPad Mini and Macbook
The Node has so far caught the attention of hobbyists, who’ve bought 450 of them. Now, Yu is marketing the device to industries ranging from home improvement to health care.
The body of the Node consists of a tiny circuit board with three attached motion sensors inside a small plastic cylinder.
A range of sensors that measure moisture, temperature, light, and colour can be attached to each end.
Yu’s innovation is combining the sensors in one flexible system and developing a compatible smartphone app that displays the environmental data the sensors pick up.
The 30-year-old engineer, whose family emigrated from China to Houston when he was 11, says he 'took apart every toy my parents ever bought me'.
Yu got his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Georgia Tech in 2008.The next year he went to work on a Department of Homeland Security project at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, designing an iPhone plug-in attachment to detect toxic gases.
Paint scanning: Just one ingenious use of the Node's multifaceted technology
Though NASA killed that project, he thought phone-linked sensors could have broad applications.
The basic motion-sensing device costs just over 90, with the screw-on sensors ranging from 16 to 47.
It has already been put to some curious uses. One customer who raises parrots uses Node to measure temperature and humidity in his incubator.
The Node also facilitates temperature mapping via the addition of its therma module
Marcus Ekeroos, who flies hot air balloons in Gothenburg, Sweden, measures his altitude and velocity with the device.
He says he wants to use the Node’s readings to create 'an advanced flight computer for [the] iPad made for hot air balloon pilots.'
Finding a mass market for the Node will be a challenge, says Jonathan Collins, a home automation analyst with tech industry researcher ABI Research.
'When you’re looking at business and corporations and critical infrastructure, it’s not always their key focus to have something available for a cell phone,' he says.
Yu plans to build more sensor attachments (a gas sensor is in the works) and thinks Node’s flexibility will appeal to businesses.
Behr, a paint company, is evaluating Node’s colour sensor for a paint-matching app, and Yu says the thermal sensor can help building contractors find heat and moisture leaks.
He has also made tools that allow developers to plug Node into their own apps. 'We know we cannot build all the software,' he says. 'There’s a lot of brilliant minds out there who have their own ideas.'