Add a smartphone to your application

Add a smartphone to your application
One of the biggest hypes of the moment is of course (or should I say still?) the Apple iPhone. I do not have one, so I do not have an opinion about it, but it seems that many users are crazy about it. This is due to all the non-phone things you can do with it. Recently several electronics related apps have come to my attention but I have my doubts about the usefulness of those. Reading a datasheet on a smartphone? Usually when I need a datasheet I also have a proper computer nearby so why bother using a smartphone for that? I must be missing something here.

But now I heard about an electronics app for iPhone that seems pretty cool, even to me. It is more than an app as it needs a piece of hardware to function. Actually, it is the other way around: it is a piece of hardware that needs the iPhone app to function. Now that is not exactly right either as it is a piece of hardware that can be controlled by the app. Let me rephrase this properly: it is a small computer module that uses the iPhone as a display.

That’s right, the DIL/NetPC DNP/9265 from SSV is an embeddable ARM9-module (Atmel AT91SAM9263) with 32 MB flash and RAM. If you need more, just add an SD card. To connect the module to its environment 3 UARTs, an I2C, an SPI, a CAN, a USB Host interface and several GPIOs are available. Smartphone access is over a 10/100 Mbps Ethernet port. The board runs embedded Linux with extensions developed by SSV.

The smartphone app is developed as a web application using only established Web standards such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript and AJAX. The Apple iPhone SDK based on (proprietary) Objective-C is not needed, meaning that the app can also work on smartphones running Android. Furthermore, installing the app on the phone does not involve Apple’s App Store, but uses simply the on-board Web server. This of course makes life much easier.

An OEM integration kit including the DNP/9265 with lots of tools and documentation is available for application developers. An example application that visualizes system resources and that lets you play with configuration data is preloaded. Communication between the module and the phone is over a 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi connection. In case you didn’t have one already, a WLAN access point is included in the kit.

I can’t wait to get one of these kits for evaluation. Ho, wait a minute, I don’t have an iPhone…