Microcontrollers may be the bee’s knees of approachable and accessible modular computing, but they’re still chained to wall outlets or external battery packs. Enter the open source SODAQ (SOlar Data AcQuisition)--which, as its name suggests, runs on solar power, allowing you to build all those weird 'n wacky sensor units completely off the grid. Bonus? Its Lego-style clickable add-ons mean you can build off this thing with zero soldering know-how.
With a solar cell plugged into its dedicated socket, SODAQ claims to draw 100 times less power to connect things than an equivalently sized Raspberry Pi, so your Pi-sized projects will be much easier to deploy in the wild yonder. To relay data, the SODAQ comes with a GPRS module that plugs into the board’s Bee socket, which can also fit Wi-Fi/RF/Xbee data transmission modules. The team even mentions testing with a satellite modem hookup--how’s that for mobile?
To round out this modularity powerhouse, the SODAQ dispensed with breadboard/solder-dependent pins in favor of 12 Grove modules, which is as plug-n-play as you can get for microcontrollers (and there are tons of Grove modules to choose from!). The SODAQ has 16 MB of flash memory, plus a real-time clock, plus a microUSB port to import your code--and aside from the external solar cell (0.5W included, but supports up to 2.5W) and battery, the board itself fits into any existing Raspberry Pi case.
The SODAQ team’s Kickstarter is a quarter of the way toward its £21,000/$34,000 goal, but once funded, they’ve pledged to make their code open source and put it up on their GitHub repository. Open source? Check. Power self-sufficiency? Check. Portability/ruggedness? Check. This looks like the answer to a lot of mobile teams’ prayers.
[Image: Flickr user Ray Sawhill]