Ninja Blocks

Posted: January 28, 2013 in Hacking and playing
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So time for the geek-out – Ninja Blocks arrived over the weekend!

 

Ninja Blocks are a small kit comprising a control hub and a set of sensors. The hub and sensor suite change depending upon the version of the Ninja Block that you purchase – I’ve got the v2 block. This gives me a black slightly curved hub with purple ends and a ‘Hack Me’ fabric label out of one side. My sensors are a PIR, a button, an open-close sensor and a temperature & humidity sensor.

 

Set Up
Set up is easy, literally add the hub to your network and wait for the status light to change to purple – this means that the hub is connected and has up to date software installed.

 

Now create an account on http://a.ninja.is/ and tell it the serial number of your hub. All done!

 

Use
You can add the various sensors to the hub by turning them and and assigning a name to that new device. Once you’ve got a sensor registered in the hub, you can use it to build simple rules. The rules are basic cause and effect style – if this happens, then do this, but the cause and effect can consiste of multiple statements.

 

eg ‘IF door open triggered AND time between 22:00 and 06:00 THEN send email to 1@1.com AND send tweet saying “door open”‘

 

For an indication of how easy the rules are to setup, see Marcus’ demo at Le Web 2012.

 

General Notes
Interface is ajax based JS, so it gets a little flaky on mobile devices (iPads and Android tablets) but works fine on the desktop. The dashboard appears to be mobile aware, so changes it’s layout according to screen size and orientation, but still has issues with the layout. 

I like the simplicity of the device and the sensors…. the issue I have is the lack of ‘off-the-shelf’ devices for the ecosystem. Unlike Z-Wave or ZigBee where I can (theoretically) use existing components, the RF devices that this system uses are far less common and there’s issues of compatibility. I may be wrong, but I think the 433MHz band is unlicensed in the UK so although there are devices using that band, they often use proprietary protocols for communication which makes adding them to the system an issue.

 

I know there is a UK version of the plug controller that can be controlled by this system, but attempts to get hold of it in the UK have all failed (out of stock, no longer stocked, etc etc) and it’s a bit expensive to get one via Ninja Blocks (actually re-directed to Epodia who want £11 for a single plug). Ideally i’ll get hold of one of these and try to set up an end-to-end scenario, but that will have to wait until I can get a device I can actually control of some kind!

 

Links:
Ninja Blocks – http://www.ninjablocks.com

 

 

 

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