Hands-on with Simblee, connecting things to the cloud through smartphones

Have you ever turned a light on from a webpage? Well, I have with the Simblee chip connected to this LED, a mobile app, and a connected cloud service. (credit: Sean Gallagher)

Earlier this year, Ars Technica got a demonstration of a technology that seeks to change how we interact with embedded computing technology—tying together Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) communications, Arduino-style microcontroller technology, and mobile Internet connectivity. The chip at the core of the technology, called Simblee, allows device developers to build and deploy their own mobile applications without having to write iOS or Android code or having to publish their applications through an app store. Eight months have passed, and Simblee Corporation's eponymous chip is now shipping to pre-order customers and is for sale through electronics distributors.

Ars was given an opportunity to work with an early release of Simblee's developer kit. While we haven't yet built a mobile app-controlled, cloud-connected mobile army, we did get a chance to dive into the code that makes Simblee tick. There's still a good deal of polishing to be done—there's currently only a mobile client application for iOS, and the documentation is still being put together. But Simblee succeeds in taking a significant chunk of the work out of developing mobile-connected "Internet of Things" devices, making the technology much more accessible to a broad range of developers.

Simblee was not born out of thin air. Armen Kazanchian, Simblee's founder, also founded RF Digital—the company that created the RFduino (which Ars looked at two years ago). It's also not the only contender for the market of Arduino developers looking to build mobile applications. BLEduino, a crowdfunded product from Kytelabs, also aims to deliver a common mobile client application, though the project is still in development. Tah, another open source hardware project based on Arduino with BLE, is available now through CrowdSupply (though it's functionally more in line with the RFDuino—simply integrating a Bluetooth interface with core Arduino functionality).

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