FLORA is the “wearable electronic platform” from the people behind AdaFruit, an Arduino-compatible system based on the Atmega32u4 Breakout Board. How about that for a sartorial challenge to Gadget Masters?
The small system has four indicator LEDs (power good, digital signal LED for bootloader feedback, and data rx/tx), 14 sewing tap pads for attachment, and USB and ICSP connectors for re-programing…
Data buses are interleaved with power and ground pads for easy module and sensor attachments without worrying about overlapping traces which are not possible with conductive thread.
The power supply is deigned to be flexible and easy to use. There is an onboard polarized 2 JST battery connector with protection schottky diode for use with external battery packs from 3.5v to 16v DC in. Can be used with LiIon/LiPoly, LiFe, alkaline or rechargeable NiMh/NiCad batteries of any size. The FLORA does not have a LiPo charger included by design, this allows safe use with multiple battery types and reduces risk of fire as it is not recommended to charge these batteries on fabric.
The FLORA has onboard power switch connected to 2A power FET for safe and efficient battery on/off control. Often FETs are not included in other designs that leads to switch failure as small SMT switches are rated for only 20mA current use. The FLORA has an onboard 3.3v 100mA regulator with protection diode and USB fuse so that power is consistent and can power common 3.3v modules and sensors.
The system will set you back $25 online dollars, from AdaFruit.com.
How could you make use of this? Check out this example, of someone stepping up to the challenge – Someplace New – where he gets to work on a black cotton blazer from UNIQLO…
First step was testing the setup. Using the included aligator clip jump clips, it just takes a few minutes to get the board wired up. I downloaded the Adafruit Arduino app, updated the GPS libraries and LED libraries from the Adafruit github repo, and ran the test examples. GPS lock and blinkin’ lights achieved!
Sewing was a little harder. I’ve never had much luck stitching threads onto contact pads. Conductive thread is better thought of as conductive resister, and as such it’s reasonable at handling low speed signals, that don’t require a great deal signal integrity. The stainless thread that comes with the FLORA is the best I’ve used to date, but it still doesn’t knot very well. This is problematic if you want you connections to stay put as you’re moving around.