Technical Projects









The Etherwidget project is a free hardware/software project intended for engineers and artists who want to easily add Internet capability to microcontroller devices. The constant push to give everything an IP address, as well as the desire to add networking to existing projects presents technical difficulties: Ethernet cards require full computers, but computers are large, power-hungry, require software to run, etc. The other option is to go with an embedded-electronics solution. Rabbit boards are commercially available TCP/IP boards that run a networking stack on a microcontroller (in this case, the 8051) and control an Ethernet chip. The Etherwidget is similar in structure, with a microcontroller and a Ethernet chip. However, this board is meant to be 'wedged' between another microcontroller/computer and the Internet connection. This board can be driven from something as simple as a 8-pin PIC to a full-blown Pentium 3 desktop. The hardware and software are completely free for use and can be manufactured at home for a cost of about $50 each.  
Digital Translation  

For ease of use, this board takes care of the UDP/IP and Ethernet protocol handling. That means that if its used on a network with DHCP enabled (which most are) then you can simply plug it in, and start sending/receiving packets serially. All the dirty work is done by the on-board microcontroller.  
Possible Uses  

A predecessor to this board was used for the MIT Solar Initiative, a design experiment where solar panels were given the capability to transmit data on their efficiency for real-time analysis. The board was connnected to an ethernet-to-wireless transceiver on one side and to a sensor-network on the other.