On researching about rural India, we learned a shocking fact - Technological penetration is very low. Personal computers are virtually non-existent and only 3% of the rural population of India has smartphones. So the first question in our mind was, "how do we get important information from the Internet to the people who don't have connected devices?" That's how we came up with Cohere. Cohere is, in essence, a star network of various hubs. Each hub connects multiple villages and has one internet connection. Each village has a "receiver", which receives important data such as alerts, news, weather forecasts, etc. and has the ability to transmit information such as temperature and pressure telemetrics and also inquiry and harvest data ( which crops were harvested and in what quantity ). The sensors data is a useful meteorological parameter for the government. The harvest data can be used to monitor produce and maintain prices. To simulate a part of a star network, we use two Intel Galileos. One of them is interfaced with temperature/pressure sensors and a 16x2 LCD display. This is assumed as a village kiosk. The other Galileo connected to laptop. It receives data from the kiosk Galileo via I2C and sends it to laptop through serial. There were quite a few challenges for us. For starters, we were unable to configure the main board which we planned to use- the Particle Photon. This was because the Hackathon's WiFi passed through a "Captive Portal", something which is always a hurdle for embedded systems. We tried various methods - setting up a hotspot, VPN, etc. but to no avail. After wasting some time on that, we opted for a Raspberry Pi. But that was quickly ruled out as it wasn't set up and required an HDMI display. So finally, we implemented our idea on the Galileo. But even here, we were unable to open the full Linux terminal ( with SD Card ) and that limited our applications. All these took up a considerable amount of time. During this Hackathon, I learned a few things -
- Always have a backup system or hardware which you are comfortable with.
- Read the theme carefully and think broadly about it. Ideation takes time but a clear plan is well worth it.
Don't rely on a hardware hack alone - software can vastly improve and complement your hack.
As for the forward path for Cohere, we would first of all make the whole system wireless. Due to WiFi issues it wasn't possible here but that would be the top-most priority. Apart from that, we would love to test it in a real-world scenario.
Edit 1 - Nearing completion, laptop/Cloud integration and laptop to slave communication are left.