I use the Cloudbit in a sensors/Internet of Things design and prototyping workshop I run, and it’s the primary reason I use Littlebits as a design tool. But, it seems like the Cloudbit is no longer generally available:
- The Cloud Control service was unavailable recently, and others have reported substantial downtime
- The main Littlebits site is experiencing a lot of 404s and lots of old content links are broken
- The Cloudbit is no longer listed in the shop index
- The Cloudbit is marked as Sold Out if you visit its page directly
I’ve spent a couple of days evaluating the Arduino, BLE, and Proto bits as alternatives to the Cloudbit, and I’m interested to know if it will be coming back, or if not, if others can think of other alternatives I’ve missed.
For me, a Cloudbit alternative primarily needs to be able to trigger IFTTT without traditional programming by the user. Receiving data from IFTTT or elsewhere is secondary. Visual programming like the Codebit’s Code app is fine. Any computer application needs to be cross-platform.
If the Cloudbit hardware is no longer generally available, then @Hixie’s localbit software isn’t a viable alternative, since it requires a Cloudbit to run it on.
The Codebit is not a viable alternative, because the Code app can’t hit IFTTT in response to input.
If you tether the Arduino bit to a computer, it can be a viable alternative:
- Using the Chrome browser (the last browser with Flash available), it appears you can import @khanning’s Littlebits extension (or his Arduino Firmata extension), as well as an IFTTT extension, into ScratchX, and trigger IFTTT in response to Arduino inputs. (You still need to flash the Arduino bit with either his Littlebits-Scratch-specific Arduino sketch, or the Standard Firmata sketch, but that only has to happen once. You also need to install the Chrome plugin and helper app)
- Using the Node-RED visual programming environment (more commonly used for Raspberry Pis), you can install an Arduino Firmata node, and an IFTTT node, and visually wire up a trigger in response to Arduino inputs. (Again, the Arduino bit has to be flashed with the Standard Firmata sketch, once. Getting Node-RED running is not straightforward, however.)
- Scratch 3.0 will support many browsers and tablets, being no longer reliant on Flash or Java. If the extensions get ported to it, that would be much easier to get running.
Of these three, I think only the Node-RED option has the capability to receive notifications back from IFTTT to trigger an output.
With the new Avengers kit including the standard Bluetooth Low Energy bit instead of the new Control Hub like the Droid or Space Rover kits, I wonder if that’s a more reliable bit to use than even Arduino? It’s also a viable alternative if it’s connected to a computer:
- @khanning has a BLE extension for ScratchX also, although I couldn’t get it to pick up my BLE bits. Perhaps the UUID differs between bits?
- Node-RED has BLE nodes available, although they don’t work on Mac. (That may be fixable by developers eventually.)
- A programmer could make a web site that uses the new Web Bluetooth feature in Chrome to connect directly to the BLE bit, and trigger IFTTT, all from a browser (Chrome only).
Finally, it seems plausible that the Proto bit could be used to plug directly into a Raspberry Pi 3 or ESP8266, both with onboard wifi, and trigger IFTTT that way.
If the Cloudbit is going away, what other alternatives to the Cloudbit are there?