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New in the Maker Shed, the Redpark Breakout Pack for Arduino and iOS is the first general-purpose serial cable that Apple has approved for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. On one end, it’s got a dock connector to plug into your iOS device. On the other, it has an RS232 port that you can easily connect to Arduino or any other gadget that speaks a serial protocol.

We’ve put together a pack that includes the cable, an RS232-to-TTL serial adapter (so you can connect the Redpark Serial Cable for iOS to an Arduino), and the Mintronics Survival Pack (to supply you with components and sensors to play with). With the pack and an Arduino, you’re ready to build apps that connect your Arduino and iOS device. Supplies will be limited for the next few weeks, so grab ‘em while you can in the Maker Shed! (You can also buy individual cables in the Maker Shed).

We’ve also prepared a guide for Make: Projects to take you through a simple project with this kit: controlling the Arduino’s onboard LED with a switch button on the iOS device’s screen:

Connect an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to Arduino with the Redpark Serial Cable

To obtain the SDK, head over to Redpark’s product page, and click the Download SDK link. You’ll need to supply your email address to receive the SDK, but that’s it (no NDA, no requirement to be in Apple’s MFI program).

Brian Jepson

I’m a tinkerer and finally reached the point where I fix more things than I break. When I’m not tinkering, I’m probably editing a book for Maker Media.


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Comments

  1. Nice that apple approved it but $79 a bit steep for something you can build for much less…

    1. Anonymous says:

      That’s the point … you CAN’T build it for much less. This cable has a special chip inside to authenticate itself to the iOS device. More information here: http://developer.apple.com/programs/mfi/

      Jailbreaked devices can use the serial port on the dock connector without needing this chip …

      1. Hon says:

        It’s not a problem, Apple users love pay high prices for nothing.

    2. Anonymous says:

      If you buy the cable by itself, it’s cheaper ($59). But iOS accessories are pricey because there are costs associated with getting Apple approval, and they require an authentication chip, which is also an additional cost. This is the cheapest way you’ll get a non-jailbroken iPhone wired directly to homebrew electronics, though.

      1. Anonymous says:

        I should have said “wired through the dock port” because there are some great hacks to communicate with microcontrollers over the microphone port, such as HiJack. That uses an MSP430, but you could connect the MSP430 to an Arduino or anything else.

        The only thing I know of that comes close to the Redpark solution would be Apple’s iPad Camera Connection Kit ($29) combined with a USB MIDI adapter ($15-$30+) and a MIDI shield (or just hack your own connection), and then you’d use the MIDI framework to communicate with the Arduino. But that’s iPad-only as far as I know, and you’ll have to frame any communications you have as MIDI messages.

        1. The camera connection kit worked at one point with the iPhone 4, but I think Apple closed off that loop hole some time around 4.3(ish).

      2. Anonymous says:

        I should have said “wired through the dock port” because there are some great hacks to communicate with microcontrollers over the microphone port, such as HiJack. That uses an MSP430, but you could connect the MSP430 to an Arduino or anything else.

        The only thing I know of that comes close to the Redpark solution would be Apple’s iPad Camera Connection Kit ($29) combined with a USB MIDI adapter ($15-$30+) and a MIDI shield (or just hack your own connection), and then you’d use the MIDI framework to communicate with the Arduino. But that’s iPad-only as far as I know, and you’ll have to frame any communications you have as MIDI messages.

    3. Anonymous says:

      If you buy the cable by itself, it’s cheaper ($59). But iOS accessories are pricey because there are costs associated with getting Apple approval, and they require an authentication chip, which is also an additional cost. This is the cheapest way you’ll get a non-jailbroken iPhone wired directly to homebrew electronics, though.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Now, this is for speaking TO the phone FROM the Arduino, right? You can’t use it to go to the Arduino to program it from the phone?

    1. Anonymous says:

      I want to answer “no”, but only because there isn’t any software that would allow you to do this. But, if you were determined to do so, you could create an app that would load compiled AVR code onto the Arduino (it’s just a serial connection). It would not be easy, though, because you’d need to also get the compiler running on the iPhone.

      1. The cable allows bi-directional serial, so the Arduino can talk to the iPhone, and the iPhone can talk to the Arduino. 

        Right now there is no way to upload a sketch to the Arduino from the iPhone. However I think it should be possible, although you’d more or less have to write an AVR compiler in Obj-C. A version of the Arduino development Environment for iOS?

        It’s a thought… Hmm…

  3. Sso you can’t use this to make apps for release on the app store currently. Hopefully adafruit/make will lay the pressure on apple to get them to be more friendly to the homebrew crowd.

    A bounty on bypassing the chip would be more useful than the one on the kinect, there are a lot more iphone people out there.

  4. I did something like this with a SkyWire cable to TTL to Arduino, and it worked good. You can transfer data from your App to your Arduino/XBee/whatever and vice versa :) Now that there is an SDK, using this with the new Redpark Serial Cable should be pretty awesome! This is really exciting!

  5. I did something like this with a SkyWire cable to TTL to Arduino, and it worked good. You can transfer data from your App to your Arduino/XBee/whatever and vice versa :) Now that there is an SDK, using this with the new Redpark Serial Cable should be pretty awesome! This is really exciting!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Cool dudes! To pricy though, hope the comunity sticks to opensource as the arduino open philosophy has changed many lives. Cheap andriod phones will hopefully do to arduino what the nokia 3310 etc family of phones did for the first moble integrated systems of the 90s. Well in south-africa in my case. Android and arduino makes for a classic combo,. Ps i am not an apple hater, this is written on my ipad and i have an iphone. It should just be easier to itegrate these things, even android is still a bit of a mission. We are getting there quickly though, ….. The product here will find a market and make it easier in the long run for the whole “my phone should friken control evrything” movement to gain early traction.

  7. Rich d'Rich says:

    You know there are Bluetooth and WiFi adapters in the sub-$50 range?

    I’ve got a bare-Atmel based box that bootstraps over Bluetooth from my laptop. It’d be feasible to swap desktop for Smartphone. (Esp on an Android, as it’s Java code). No wires or boxes. 

    1. Anonymous says:

      Yes. I used the Bluetooth Mate Silver when I built this project. iOS won’t do rfcomm over Bluetooth the way Android will. Wi-Fi modules work well with iPhone projects, though. Sometimes you want a wire in your project, sometimes you don’t.

    2. Dan Overholt says:

      Use a ‘WiFly’ module instead – only $42 and provides a simple serial interface to an Arduino or whatever-you-have-on-hand microcontroller …
      http://search.digikey.com/scripts/DkSearch/dksus.dll?Detail&name=740-1036-ND

      I’ve documented using this WiFly module with a CUI32 board here:
      http://overtone-labs.ning.com/profiles/blogs/wireless-for-cui32-bluetooth

  8. Rich d'Rich says:

    You know there are Bluetooth and WiFi adapters in the sub-$50 range?

    I’ve got a bare-Atmel based box that bootstraps over Bluetooth from my laptop. It’d be feasible to swap desktop for Smartphone. (Esp on an Android, as it’s Java code). No wires or boxes. 

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  11. Rodney McKay says:

    An absurdly-expensive WIRED(!!) connection. In this day & age?! You’re joking, right?

  12. Rodney McKay says:

    An absurdly-expensive WIRED(!!) connection. In this day & age?! You’re joking, right?

  13. Rodney McKay says:

    An absurdly-expensive WIRED(!!) connection. In this day & age?! You’re joking, right?

  14. Given how anti-maker Apple has become in recent years I’m left wondering why anyone would try to build anything with an iOS device rather than something more open. Between the App Store approval quagmire (can you even distribute apps that work with this cable?) and the inflated price (because of the artificial need for an “authentication chip”!?) it seems like you could waste a lot less time and money by using something that was more open to begin with.

    Before I get pegged as an “Apple hater”: I actually like Apple products. I’m typing this on a MacBook Pro and before I’d become aware of the problems with Apple’s App Store policies I’d purchased an iPhone and was planning on also getting an iPad. The iPhone and iPad are both nice devices, but for me as a maker, their closed nature negates any benefits they have over competing products.

    1. Anonymous says:

      Some makers use iPhones, and a lot of makers like Arduino. If you’ve got both an iPhone (or an iPad or an iPod touch), and an Arduino, you’ve no doubt thought how cool it would be to make them talk to each other. If you’re not willing to jailbreak your iOS device to accomplish this, and you’d prefer to have them talk over a wired connection rather than Wi-Fi, this cable’s for you. Otherwise, you have other options. And if you’re using Android, you have a whole different set of options.

      But this cable isn’t intended for people who want to create a product, and you can’t put these apps in the app store (at least you can’t right now–perhaps that will change). So this is for people like me, who want to work on private, one-off projects. There are ways of distributing apps (ad-hoc, which is very limited; Enterprise, which costs you $299/year instead of $99/year; Academic, which is free but limited to people you are collaborating with).

      - Brian

      1. My point is that if you’re a maker, why would you get an iPhone (or other iOS device) with the intent to make anything out of it? Between the draconian App Store policies (and no legitimate alternative to distributing apps), the requirement for an “authentication chip” in the cable, and even going as far as to try and make it illegal to jailbreak your phone, Apple has made it pretty clear that they *don’t* want makers “tampering” with their devices.

        Why buy their products and support their ecosystem when they’ve gone out of their way to make life more difficult for you, especially when there are competing options that actually encourage individual creativity?

        1. Anonymous says:

          That’s a perfectly reasonable question, and everyone is going to come to a different answer. Personally, I use an Android phone as my main phone. I also have an iOS device, and one reason I have it is because I know makers who chose an iPhone and I want to be able to show them how to make cool stuff.

          But one of the problems is that when you do choose a cell phone, you’re generally stuck with your decision for two years. So I’ll encourage them to switch when the time comes, but heck, even Android has its issues (http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2011/08/android-least-open-platform/).

          1. I never said anything about Android. :-)

            I do agree that Android could be more open than it is, though that article you linked to is a bit misleading. Most of the projects compared in that study aren’t “mobile platforms” in the same sense as Android, and many of the major mobile platforms (iOS, Blackberry, webOS) weren’t compared at all. You can’t go and buy a “Linux phone” or an “Eclipse phone”, for example. And actually, both Webkit and Firefox can run on Android. (The standard Android browser is Webkit based, and Firefox is in the market.)

            The main issue with Android’s openness discussed in that article doesn’t really hamper ones ability to make things with Android devices. The area where Android is less open than it could be is that the development isn’t done “in the open”. This means you can’t easily contribute to the next version of the OS or even see what’s going into it. There was also the unfortunate decision to not release the Honeycomb source yet, but they have said that it’ll be released by the end of the year. But none of this is likely to have a significant impact on makers. In fact, if Android was completely closed source but still allowed APK installation, that alone would make it a far more maker friendly option than iOS.

            There is another issue with Android that *does* affect makers (that I didn’t see mentioned in the article): some of the handset manufacturers go out of their way to make their devices hard to root or even disable APK installation. I recommend makers stay away from those handsets and instead find one that’s known to be maker friendly. The things to look for are the ability to install non-market APKs, being rootable, and being ADK compatible. I believe Google’s Nexus phones meet all of these criteria, and HTC has said that they plan on making their future devices “root friendly”.

          2. Anonymous says:

            It’s true, it was an odd comparison. Although I am very curious about Meego. Even if it doesn’t go anywhere in the market, I find it really enticing to have a shell and a fully stocked /usr/bin instead of a bunch of BusyBox commands :-)

            And sideloading is a very big deal, as you say. I’ve managed to avoid the phones with serious restrictions on them, but it wasn’t always cheap (I’m using the Nexus S right now and used the Nexus One before that).

            - Brian

          3. Anonymous says:

            It’s true, it was an odd comparison. Although I am very curious about Meego. Even if it doesn’t go anywhere in the market, I find it really enticing to have a shell and a fully stocked /usr/bin instead of a bunch of BusyBox commands :-)

            And sideloading is a very big deal, as you say. I’ve managed to avoid the phones with serious restrictions on them, but it wasn’t always cheap (I’m using the Nexus S right now and used the Nexus One before that).

            - Brian

        2. Anonymous says:

          That’s a perfectly reasonable question, and everyone is going to come to a different answer. Personally, I use an Android phone as my main phone. I also have an iOS device, and one reason I have it is because I know makers who chose an iPhone and I want to be able to show them how to make cool stuff.

          But one of the problems is that when you do choose a cell phone, you’re generally stuck with your decision for two years. So I’ll encourage them to switch when the time comes, but heck, even Android has its issues (http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2011/08/android-least-open-platform/).

  15. How do you keep the iPhone charged while running the app, I want to use mine for a boat monitor app where it would run continuously, can the phone be charged while this is connected somehow?

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  17. rodrigo says:

    soy de argentina, donde puedo comprar este cable?