SBC Project: Andy Proctor’s iDataTruck

In our SBC Project series, we feature unique and interesting single-board computer (SBC) projects from the maker community. If you’d like to share your Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone Black, or other SBC project with thousands of other makers, complete our short form and we’ll get in touch!

In this post, we’ll meet Andy Proctor, a truck driver / marketer / Raspberry Pi enthusiast based out of the University of Ipswich, United Kingdom.

What are you working on, Andy?

My project is iDataTruck, where I connect my truck to the Internet so that it can Tweet at (but more importantly email) the office my status while I’m out on the road.

While the company has its own tracker system, we still have to phone up if we have a box on or off, or if we’ve loaded or unloaded at the customers’ premises.

This project has been my way to learn more about the Raspberry Pi and to use my skills and interest in engineering to create a practical application for the haulage industry.

How’d this project get started?

At one point, I noticed that the Twitter hashtag #M25 was automatically being retweeted anytime I used it in one of my tweets. I contacted the person handling the account, and they said they did it with a Raspberry Pi.

I ordered the model B+ as well as a SunFounder Kit and the normal accessories. I had very little programming experience but with a two-week honeymoon (and a very understanding wife), I had the time to try this wonderful computer out.

B+ SunFounder KitI managed to use Scratch to remind myself of Loops and structure of programming while controlling some switches and LED’s, a buzzer and some specific orders of many LED’s in a row.

It was then that I researched and found “Geany”, a fantastic tool for seeing the code clearly, then running it in an integral terminal window.

I researched more out about Tweepy to send Tweets to Twitter and after a few hours I managed to tweet from the RaspberryPi.  With the learning of buttons, LED’s and buzzers I was soon excited to realize I could make buttons for the truck, to Tweet the office my status.  All I had to do was work out how to Email them at the same time as I doubted they would be checking Twitter!

So when I was back in the truck, I set to making something practical – and the iDataTruck was born.

I’m very fortunate that I was an electrician when I left school so I know how to solder (‘properly’ as I had done it as a teenager but melted most of the components I soldered).  I had played around with Simon’s Basic but some very simple stuff and not many loops or ingenuity at all.  The closest I came to a project like the Pi gives us was wiring up two sheets of tinfoil in-between some match sticks and connecting it to a disassembled gaming joystick that made the screen flash and make noise when someone came up the hall (on an Atari 600XL).

What’s next?

Now that the four button Tweet and Gmail application is running, I’m working on using a bar code scanner to automatically send more data back to the office.

You know, if I can find the time!

Andy’s project was featured on BBC News Magazine’s website – you can watch the video here: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-30588704 

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