Blink(1) - A USB Status Light
Written by Harry Fairhead   
Saturday, 14 July 2012

This product is either total genius or quite insane. Which it is depends on your point of view.  It is a tiny USB enclosure that houses a USB chip and a full color LED.  You plug it into a USB port and it can be controlled by software to respond to various conditions.

For example, you could make it flash red when an email arrives or a tweet or ... well you get the idea. The LED is supposed to be very bright and you can use it to signal events using color, intensity and by flashing it on and off.




The device is implemented as a standard USB HID device, so it doesn't need any special drivers. What it does need, however, are apps that let users set the events that trigger the LED. The company, ThingM, says that it has a number of GUI applications that allow end users to work with the Blink(1). They also have low level interface libraries that constitute an API.  As the Blink(1) is supposed to work with Windows, Mac, Linux and embedded Linux such as DD-WRT (a router OS) and some Android phones, a lot of apps are going to be needed.




The project is open source and you can hack both the hardware and the software. ThingM is already well known for their BlinkM smart LED, so the Blink(1) fits in. It has a Kickstarter project to fund the launch of the device and has already reached its target of $29,000 which suggests that quite a few people thing that a flashing multicolored LED is quite a cool idea. However, in a world that is already stuffed with flashing LEDs and other ways of alerting a user, is a pluggable LED really what we need?

It sounds reasonably convincing in theory, although I'm not sure about the rack of servers each one with a Blink(1) plugged in - surely ID LEDs are enough when coupled with some management software?




There is also the question of just how much fuss is involved in setting the Blink(1) to respond to an event, and for this we will have to wait to see the apps and the API.




What would make this a really useful device is if the alert followed you around. For example, you plug the Blink(1) into your home computer while at home, then into your phone while traveling, and in your office machine when you get to work, and the same alert fires the LED no matter where you are. This sounds do-able but not easy.

More Information

ThinkM Kickstarter 

raspberry pi books



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Last Updated ( Saturday, 14 July 2012 )