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These platforms and development boards made working with electronics possible for those without a background in electrical engineering.
Restrictions of the browser
One way to work around the security blocks is to run your application outside the browser, on a server computer, from where you can stream all the required data to the front-end application in the browser. The server can trust the code running on itself and will grant access to its hardware resources.
The next step before we can start building the circuits is to write the server application that will access the USB port and handle the Arduino; an ideal task for Node.js.
The event-driven, asynchronous properties are also great for working with electronics and sensors, enabling applications that communicate through NFC, RFID or Bluetooth, all of which are currently impossible in the browser.
Using Node.js opens up new possibilities for application development using devices like the Xbox Kinect, Leap Motion, midi controllers, drones and smart home accessories like the Nest thermostat or the Philips HUE light bulb.
The development board revolution started around 2005 when the first Arduino was released. The Arduino project was started by a few Italian university teachers trying to make it easy for their students to work with electronic components and program microcontroller chips. Arduino is still by far the most popular platform today.
The microcontroller is the brain of the board that controls and manages everything. This is a low cost, low power, low-performance processor capable of running a single application at a time. The microcontroller is only responsible for managing low-level input and output electric signals and performing some basic calculations with them. This chip is capable of switching electronic components on and off, measuring electricity from sensors, and interfacing with other components.
These chips can work independently, however, development boards can streamline the building process. They help power, communicate, and interface with the microcontroller. The addition of a USB port to upload the code on the UNO and a barrel plug for powering the system from a 9V battery are both helpful. Currently, there’s an overwhelming number of boards available on the market to choose from. Most of these are Arduino compatible, so how do they all differ from each other?
As a start, they greatly differ in size. Some of the smallest boards available are the DFRobot Beetle and the Tinyduino. These are great for wearable or drone projects where size and weight are important factors. With the smaller size, you have a stripped down feature sets and fewer components too. This means fewer things to power, so they are perfect for battery-powered prototypes.
Other boards enable features like Wi-Fi, Ethernet or Bluetooth connection, while others can act as a mouse, keyboard or another USB controller when plugged into your computer. There are also boards designed for building home automation and home security systems.