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Low-cost USB sensors improve accuracy

Jan 17, 2008 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 4 views

Phidgets has expanded its family of low-cost, Linux-friendly, USB-connected sensing and control modules for hobbyists and experimenters. Newly shipping Phidget modules include an “1123” precision voltage sensor and “1124” precision temperature sensor, both claimed to up precision over older… models.

(Click for larger view of the new 1123 and 1124 sensors)

Phidgets are touted as easy-to-use, USB-interfaced building blocks that can be used in conjunction with a PC to implement low-cost sensing and control networks, or even to create robots. Existing Phidgets include accelerometers, motor controllers, RFID readers, and a wide variety of sensors.

Modules are connected to a PC via one of several interface kits. These have a standard USB connector and cable, plus a variety of inputs and outputs. The PhidgetInterfaceKit 8/8/8 (below left), for example, has eight analog inputs, eight digital inputs, and eight digital outputs. The PhidgetTextLCD 20×2 (below right), offered with white, blue, and green displays, includes the same bevy of inputs and outputs, plus the ability to display up to 40 characters.

The PhidgetInterfaceKit 8/8/8 and PhidgetTextLCD 20×2
(Click to enlarge)

Phidgets' 1123 Precision Voltage Sensor
(Click image to enlarge)

The new 1123 Precision Voltage Sensor (pictured, right) connects via an included 60cm sensor cable to an analog input on either of the above interfaces. It measures DC voltages from -30 to +30 Volts, with a typical error of +/-100mVolts, the vendor claims. It is claimed ten times more accurate than the earlier Phidget 1117 voltage sensor.

Phidgets' 1124 Precision Temperature Sensor
(Click image to enlarge)

The 1124 Precision Temperature Sensor (left) connects in the same manner, and is also supplied with a 60cm sensor cable. It has a range of -50 to +150 deg. C, with a typical error of +/-0.75 deg. C in the 0C to 100C range, Phidgets says. This is said to be four times more accurate than the previously available 1114 sensor.

Phidgets says its application programming interface (API) allows applications to be developed quickly in .NET, Visual Basic, VBA, LabView, Java, Delphi, C and C++. Operating systems supported include Linux, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows CE, and OSX, according to the company.

Various demonstrations of Phidgets-based projects are available on YouTube. The video below, created by robot parts vendor Trossen Robotics, shows a tethered robot being controlled via Phidgets and a laptop computer.

Phidgets can be used to control a tethered robot
(Source: Trossen Robotics. Click button to play)


All the products mentioned above are available now from the company's website, here. Priced in Canadian dollars, the 1123 Precision Voltage Sensor costs $29, while the 1124 Precision Temperature Sensor costs $15. The PhidgetInterfaceKit 8/8/8 and PhidgetTextLCD 20×2 cost $80 and $125, respectively. Phidgets also offers various “starter kit” options starting at $275.

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