Using the iPhone and iPod Touch for Remote Sensor Control and Data Acquisition
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19-10-2010, 01:05 PM



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Using the iPhone and iPod Touch for Remote
Sensor Control and Data Acquisition


Brad R. Geltz
Electrical and Computer Engineering
Virginia Commonwealth University
Richmond, Virginia 23284-3072

Jacob A. Berlier
Electrical and Computer Engineering
Virginia Commonwealth University
Richmond, Virginia 23284-3072

James M. McCollum, Ph.D.
Electrical and Computer Engineering
Virginia Commonwealth Universit


Abstract—

Apple’s iPod Touch1 is a powerful pocket computing
platform, allowing users to play graphics-intensive games, listen
to music, browse the World Wide Web, and communicate using
email through a Wi-Fi internet connection. Apple’s iPhone
extends the iPod Touch by providing telephone service and
high-speed 3G internet support when a Wi-Fi connection is
unavailable. In this work, we investigate utilizing the iPhone
and iPod Touch platforms for remote sensor control and data
collection. Our example design interfaces a set of switches, a set
of light emitting diodes, and a temperature sensor to the iPod
Touch through a micro-controller and allows these devices to be
controlled and monitored by a remote computer. Through this
work, we show that the iPod Touch and iPhone can provide a
low-cost, high-performance, and lightweight platform for remote
data collection and control.

I. INTRODUCTION

Implementing a multi sensor system that communicates
wirelessly with a server for data collection is a costly, cumbersome
operation. The programming and circuitry needed to interface
a Wi-Fi or 3G enabled chip with a network to transmit
the data is a daunting task. UtilizingWi-Fi enabled devices like
the iPhone and iPod Touch can greatly expedite this process
by using their systems to provide wireless communication.
Both devices have Wi-Fi capabilities and contain software to
manage network access. This allows users to easily move from
network to network and interact with a remote server.
In addition, the devices feature ample memory (between
8 and 32 GB depending on the model) which can act as
temporary storage. Data stored in this fashion can be processed
using the device itself with on-board hardware or exported to
a remote computer after data capture.
The iPhone and iPod Touch can also be used to power
microcontroller systems eliminating the need for an additional
power supply for the system. Once operational, the functional
system can be controlled using a secure shell.
In this work, we demonstrate these capabilities through
the design and implementation of an iPod Touch extension
board. The board features a temperature sensor, a set of input
switches, and a set of light emitting diodes. We document
the construction of this board and the steps required for
its integration with the iPod Touch operating system. We
demonstrate that embedded devices can easily be configuredto interface with the iPod Touch and iPhone, allowing access
to these device’s Wi-Fi, data storage, and data processing
capabilities.
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