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Hardware Review: Portal Media Bluetooth TPMS module

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by , 06-16-2014 at 10:31 AM (1506 Views)

What is it?

The Portal Media Bluetooth TPMS module lets you monitor tire pressure wirelessly via Bluetooth.

The Verdict:

Portal Media's Bluetooth TPMS improves on the last generation of devices by allowing wireless communication via Bluetooth. The module is sleeker and reception appears improved. Once the kinks are worked out of the Android app, the Bluetooth TPMS module will be an awesome addition to any compatible car.


Description:

Quite a few years ago at mp3Car's first national car PC meet, I was lucky enough to win a prize for having as many as 19 USB devices connected to my car PC. The prize received was USB number 20, a car PC connected tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) from Portal Media. Many years and several dead sensor batteries later, the device had served me well, but it was time for an upgrade. Luckily, the guys at Portal Media have been busy at work improving on their existing technology. For years it's seemed that the Bluetooth variant of their TPMS devices was simply an idea in our mp3Car forum, but the time has arrived, and the device really exists. I've been privileged to spend the last few weeks testing this new device out and getting to see if the wireless abilities actually improved the experience.


Let's get the obvious information out of the way first. The tire sensors required for the Bluetooth TPMS device must be professionally installed, so be sure to account for the cost of installation when considering this purchase. My cost was roughly $30/tire, but yours can vary. Also, as if this review, there is no Apple or Windows application that will work with the Bluetooth TPMS module. It's unknown whether this will be created by Portal Media in the near future, but as the mp3Car community is founded on the idea of tinkering and fitting square pegs in round holes, I'm sure solutions will exist shortly. Once the sensors are installed in the tires, the rest of the process of setting the system up is a breeze. The TPMS module is smaller and sleeker this time around, so it's easy to plug into any available 12v source and slide in a glove box or other compartment. It's recommended to install the device in a centralized location in relation to the tire sensors, but I've had far more success with reception despite installation location in comparison to the USB unit. Once the device is mounted and powered, the Android application will need to be downloaded from the Play Store. Once the app is installed, its time to begin the process of synchronizing the tire sensors to the Bluetooth module. Check out the video below on the steps required here.


The Android application for the Bluetooth TPMS is very easy to use. The user interface is very simple, and once the sensors are learned, it will quickly and accurately report sensor information. In the app settings, there are a large number of variables which control sensor alert notifications and display preferences. The app is not without faults though. I have the application installed on three of my Android devices; A Samsung tablet with QHD resolution, a Samsung smartphone with HD resolution, and the ODROID X-2 Android low resolution head unit. Each instance gives me a different take on the app. The smartphone displays the perfect scaling of text, buttons, and images. On the tablet, the buttons are very small and often a chore to press, and the vehicle image and text does not scale to make use of the added real estate. The ODROID's low resolution allows for the buttons and images to display correctly, but the text is too large for the bubble window it's presented in. Portal Media has acknowledged some of the drawbacks of the app, and is aggressively working to correct the issues.




Ultimately, the experience of being free of the installed car PC screen when dealing with my tire pressure is a much needed improvement. Rather than having to run back and forth between tires and the monitor to check pressure levels, I can take my tablet with me to each tire. I'll still receive alert notifications through my Android car PC, but the flexibility to use an additional screen when I choose is awesome.

The Positive:

Module has a sleeker and smaller profile
Tire sensor reception seems improved
Android ability allows for cross-device usage
Easy learning and setup process



The Negative:

No current iPod or Windows support
Android app is functional, but will need work



The Verdict:

Portal Media's Bluetooth TPMS improves on the last generation of devices by allowing wireless communication via Bluetooth. The module is sleeker and reception appears improved. Once the kinks are worked out of the Android app, the Bluetooth TPMS module will be an awesome addition to any compatible car.

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What is it?

The 1Sheeld is an Arduino shield that allows for smartphone sensor information to be used with an Arduino device.

The Verdict:

1Sheeld to rule them all! The 1Sheeld for Arduino is a must have component for beginners and advanced users alike. It's easy to use, easy to setup, and arms most Arduinos with a bevy of prototyping tools at their disposal. The bottom line is if you own a compatible Arduino and an Android device you should buy a 1Sheeld.


Description:

Anyone who's ever spent any amount of time with an Arduino knows of its seemingly unlimited potential. Arduino has an extremely large support community and because it's open source hardware, the number of ways you can expand are only limited by imagination. Buy an Arduino, and if you're anything like me you'll feel compelled to purchase many of the available shields add-on modules just to see what new possibilities exist. The cost of Arduino shields seem to increase based on their usefulness, so often times many of the cheaper shields you buy first simply get left out of any design when it comes to protect implementation time. What if "1 shield" could effectively replace the pile of shields you'd normally purchase during prototyping? Meet the 1Sheeld.


1Sheeld is a prototypers dream add-on. Using an Android device running 2.3+ and an awesome 1Sheeld app, your smartphone becomes your Arduino shields. 1Sheeld's job is to communicate between the Arduino and the Android. Using the built-in HC-06 Bluetooth module, 1Sheeld allows any available sensor in your smartphone to become a virtual shield, so that the sensor data can be used in Arduino sketches.


The 1Sheeld can serve as a GPS shield, Wifi shield, and most any other shield available today. In addition, it replaces smaller hardware components like LEDs, buttons, and buzzers. Want to design a sketch using a gamepad or keyboard? 1Sheeld makes this easy. Email, SMS, Facebook, and Foursquare implementation is a breeze thanks to the 1Sheeld.



With the power and flexibility the 1Sheeld affords, its easy to see an incredibly complex Android control app. I was frankly amazed at how clean and easy to use the app is. Upon first running the app, you're presented with a short tutorial, then a scan button that searches for 1Sheeld devices in the 30 foot range. Once a 1Sheeld is found, pairing is a single tap process. From there, the UI shows all of the available sensors the app has in a simple and clean manner. You can select which of the various sensors you would like to enable, and any sensors not available to the Android device are blocked immediately via toast notification. Once you've selected the sensors you want to utilize, a single button presents a screen where the selected sensors are displayed with their various values. The entire app interface is fluid, fast, and organized. There's even an included plugin for the powerful automation Android app Tasker. The available 1Sheeld library for Arduino is also top notch, with several example sketches for the various sensors the shield provides.


The 1Sheeld is designed to attach to the standard Arduino shield form factor. Connecting to an Uno or Mega is very easy. Compatibility issues do exist with Arduino's without the standard shield form factor. The 1Sheeld is also a pass-through shield, allowing access to the Arduino's input/output pins.

The Positive:

• Powerful, flexible platform
• Terrific Android app
• Arduino library all but eliminates sketch implementation issues
• Easy learning and setup process
• Standard shield form factor
• Tasker support



The Negative:

• No current Apple support
• Wont connect to Arduino's without the standard shield form factor.



The Verdict:

1Sheeld to rule them all! The 1Sheeld for Arduino is a must have component for beginners and advanced users alike. It's easy to use, easy to setup, and arms most Arduinos with a bevy of prototyping tools at their disposal. The bottom line is if you own a compatible Arduino and an Android device you should buy a 1Sheeld.