Hands On With The Node, A Sensor-Packed Smartphone Dongle

As a scientist practicing actual, bona fide science, I have often found myself in need of immediate g-force readings or barometric pressure analyses for my scientific problems. Whereas before I had to use my sextant and trident and thermowhozzit, I can instead use the Node.

The Node, originally a Kickstarter project, is basically a tube of sensors. Most of the sensors are built into the tips of the tube and they include accelerometers, barometers, thermometers, and gyroscopes. You can then connect the Node to a smartphone via low-power Bluetooth 4.0 and take and record readings.

Initially created as a Kickstarter project, the Node blossomed into a fairly complete sensor array. The iPhone app, for example, offers readouts for all major sensor inputs and the readouts change dynamically as the sensors receive input. You can even record sensor inputs for a time, allowing you to see data changes in real time. They also offer an Android app.

The entry-level model is called the Kore and costs $149. Additional modules, including a thermometer and flashlight, start at $25. The platform is open source as are the apps and there is a full developer site. You can see some example measurements of me futzing around with it below. For example, I took temperature readings of stuff around me and then of my body.

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Who needs this? Well, with the thermometer built in you have an extremely handy way to spot measure temperatures in machinery and the flashlight is bright and really cool. The Kore features themselves are great for hobbyists and the barometric measurements could be helpful to those who are into barometry. Sadly, I’m not smart enough to figure out all of the potential uses but each module has a helpful description. For example, the Kore can be used for:

Motion mapping for animation or physical therapy
Motion-based cues like telling when the washer stops or the door opens
Impact testing
Use as a gesture-based remote control
Multiple, simultaneous data streams…

Obviously this takes a bit of hacking, but that’s the fun, right? I could personally see this as being useful in, say, a model rocket launch to sense the forces applied by rapid acceleration in a physics classroom or as a method to alarm my refrigerator door so my kids don’t steal my beer. Either way, it’s pretty darn cool.

The Node is available now.