lightblue_bean

We’ve taken a couple of looks at Punch Through Design’s Light Blue Bean, including getting hands on back when the Bean started shipping to pre-order customers. One of the features that really made the Bean catch our attention when it was announced was that it was going to have the ability to write, and then upload, code directly from your phone over Bluetooth LE.

However the initial release of Punch Through’s app didn’t support that, and the company took a lot of criticism for it. They’ve slowly fixed the situation — adding first iOS and then Windows support — with support for Android, the last major platform, arriving today.

The Bean Loader app for Android.

The Bean Loader app for Android.

I’ve used the Bean in several of my own projects since getting hold of them last year, and I’ve been generally impressed with the board — the hardware architecture is well thought out, and the Bean library for the Arduino is similarly impressive. However the real stand out feature of the Bean is the cross-platform support and the ability it gives you to write and upload code from mobile platforms — something that makes the Bean unique. Right now it’s the only Arduino-compatible board, that I know about, that has support for writing, compiling, and then uploading a sketch directly from any sort of mobile platform.

However, Punch Through hasn’t stopped with support for their initially announced platforms, since we last looked at the Bean they’ve also announced support for the Node-RED development environment. If you haven’t come across Node-RED yet it’s a node.js based visual programming environment intended for the Internet of Things. It doesn’t require much coding experience, hopefully making it easier to connect physical things to both your computer and the Cloud.

Logging data from the Bean in Node-RED.

Logging data from the Bean in Node-RED to local disk.

This style of visual programming environments isn’t new — I used similar systems back in the early 90’s. However Node-RED is getting a lot of love from the node.js community right now, and rightly so, as it’s an intuitive tool for wiring together hardware devices, and online services, in interesting ways.

The Javascript community already has an interest in hardware — you only have to look at their work on nodecopter to see that — and the arrival of boards like the Tessel, alongside support for the Bean in one of their favourite development environments is only going to encourage the growth of the ‘third community.’