Max, what are you soldering there?

“Ouch! (his fingers obviously…hihihi…) I’m just building a prototype board to connect the TV screens in the labs space to a logical control system which we can then use for IoT purposes. And to connect this we need a special adapter, that’s what I’m just soldering.

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“How does that work? Not the soldering, the system.”

“It’s basically just a serial adapter which uses an Ethernet connector instead of a normal RS232 connector. And because we need something like this for a Raspberry Pi and we don’t want to stack three adapters in a row, we’re building it on a circuit board ourselves.”

“Tell us a bit more about why you’re doing this.”

“Our existing video solution in the labs space isn’t really satisfying with the function it provides. We want to have a video system that allows us to control all the time which video is playing so that we can use the system to display events generated by other IoT prototypes, e.g. Funky Retail. If a customer’s presence is detected,Funky Retail would normally just light up and a video would play. And this is all static, right? Meaning, the Raspberry Pi that is built into the Funky Retail System would then play a video. And what we could do is use this event ‘customer presence’ to trigger some action on any of the screens in the labs space. It doesn’t nee to be a simple video, it could be anything. Things like: you walk over from one screen to the next and the video follows you with the right seek position in the video itself.”

“How exactly did you solve the problem you had connecting to the TVs?”

“That’s what I’m doing right now. The thing is, each TV needs two connections. One is HDMI, which is no problem, and the other is a serial connection which we can use to control the screens we already have in the labs space. We could use some other technology to control the TVs, but the ones we have don’t support this technology. It’s called HDMI CEC (Consumer Electronics Control) and it only exists in consumer TV screens, but we have professional screens. That’s why we need to use the professional controlling option which is a serial connection. So we need two cables to each screen. And what I’m soldering right now is the adapter for a Raspberry Pi to control each screen. And this is done via an Ethernet cable. What happens is, each Raspberry Pi will have an HDMI connection to a screen and a serial connection. Then we’ll have one controlling Raspberry Pi for each screen.”

“And at the end we can control the screens from wherever we want through the internet?”

“Yes, that’s the point. The Raspberry Pis will then connect to a central broker system which is basically just a server on AWS. … Damn, too short! (I think I might be distracting Max here a bit…)
So, I’m just solving the hardware problems right now. The stories or the applications we can build based on this are much more interesting than the hardware. This will be included into other prototypes as an output source. We have a lot of input sources in our IoT prototypes, e.g. pick up events, presence event, etc., but most of our output events are flashing lights and web UIs. If what I’m building here works, we could utilise any TV screen that is totally independent from our other prototypes as an output. That’s the idea and we’ll have the applications pretty soon. The easiest one is just to replace the static environment for Funky Retail, which already plays a video when you pick something up, and uncouple the playback of the video from the controlling Raspberry Pi of Funky Retail. This totally makes sense.”

Thanks Max, hopefully we can celebrate the success soon! And be careful with that soldering iron…