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November 21, 2012

Connecting Physical Products to the Internet

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Say hello to Derek! Using some low-cost electronics and some simple programming, we have re-created some historic relics of Walsall's past - The Bayard's Colts and brought them into the year 2012.

Bayard Bayard Colts

Derek is a re-creation of a Demon head, one of a number of the Bayard's Colts that date back to the 16th century. Derek responds to a variety of different keywords on Twitter, making him an interactive demonstration of how functionality can be added to products by connecting them to the internet. This project brings together aspects of all three of the new International Institute for Product and Service Innovation’s technology theme areas - Polymer, Experience Led and Digital Innovation.

The project was part of a wider Visitor Experience project that Walsall Museum and local business Digital Native Academy were working on alongside Walsall Council and other stakeholders.

Through our expertise in IIPSI we first of all looked at how the Bayard's Colts could be made more accessible to younger audiences and identified that the use of technology could be really exciting and uncover new opportunities.

Firstly, the 3D model of the original Bayard’s Colt was created, then Computer Aided Design software was used to make the part hollow to take all of the necessary electronics. Once completed, the head was manufactured using one of the IIPSI’s Rapid Prototyping machines, which are available for use by West Midlands SMEs in the Technology Hall.

The next stage was to make Derek digitally enabled. This was achieved by using a low cost electronic prototyping board called an Arduino. A software programme was written to scan Twitter for mentions of the @IIPSIdemos username, and then respond to any commands which followed. Derek’s main party piece is to change the colour of his LED eyes on demand, but he will be developed over time to include sound, movement and to send his own Tweets.

Although this demonstrator is quite a fun idea and has been designed with the culture and heritage sectors in mind, it highlights other opportunities that exist for companies to develop new, more connected products. The inputs that Derek responds to come from Social Media, but exactly the same concept could be used to monitor the number of visitors to a trade stand or the temperature in different parts of an office building.

If you’d like to interact with Derek, then try sending some tweets to @IIPSIdemos and see if you can figure out the commands! Alternatively contact us to find out more or attend a rapid manufacture workshop for West Midlands small and medium sized businesses to find out how you can start using this technology now!


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