Control a SmartCar connected to the Internet of Things

Written by Lovisa Johansson

The Internet of Things opens new ways of controlling toys of the future. Dr. Anwar Bashir, a teacher in computing at Middlesbrough College, has developed a SmartCar kit – a toy car that can be controlled by a smartphone via WiFi. It is the perfect way to play, learn and develop understanding about the way the internet is transforming our lives right now.

The SmartCar is a rechargeable battery powered kit that users can build and program using cloud software. "What is unique about the SmartCar is that it is a WiFi enabled toy that can be operated using an online dashboard. As well as building the car it provides a fun way to learn about STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths)", said Dr. Anwar Bashir.

The communication between the car and the mobile device is done over a message queue, using the MQTT protocol and CloudMQTT. A published message, which could be a command to turn the light on or off, or a command to make the car reverse, is sent from the smartphone to the car, via the message queue. However, users of the SmartCar do not need to be familiar with the message queuing when they start to use the car. "That’s the nice thing with IoT; you don’t need to know it all to be able to perform tasks." said Dr. Anwar Bashir. Each customer will have their instance of node-RED and a pre-configured dashboard.

With the car follows a series of courses in how users can change the behavior of the car and much more. Kids (and their parents) can change things by adjusting a flow diagram to move the car in a specific pattern and turn on/off sensors. They can change how ‘things’ operated via drag-n-drop programming. And this is just the beginning, many types of ‘next-generation’ web-apps can be built with the online wiring tool.

By doing this, Dr Bashir hopes to introduce kids and adults to IoT at an early stage, explore its amazing technologies and give them the opportunity to think outside the box.

Dr Bashir’s company, Hypersmart is distributing the car through an e-learning website called topAcademy.com. This site will guide users through the entire process of purchasing and building the car and then go on to provide a range of courses to support further learning.