Brixo Provides a New Toy for IoT Hobbyists
Michael Alba posted on June 29, 2017 | 1850 views
Brixo allows engineers of all ages to build and control wireless circuits. (Image courtesy of Brixo.)
Brixo allows engineers of all ages to build and control wireless circuits. (Image courtesy of Brixo.)

Last month, we wrote a story about Interstacks, a series of modular blocks that snap together to enable Internet of Things (IoT) designs. That story was titled Lego for the Internet of Things.

As it turns out, Lego for the IoT is a pretty popular concept. And Brixo, a crowdfunded concept for IoT-enabled building blocks, takes this concept to heart. Unlike Interstacks—which merely evokes the comparison—Brixo is Lego, but with an IoT twist. Since the blocks are entirely compatible, Brixo enables anyone to add wireless functionality to their Lego creations.

Brixo allows you to build simple electrical circuits using four kinds of blocks. First, a specialized Brixo battery block provides 9 V of power to your designs. Second, so-called “connector blocks” take the place of wires, as they’re coated in a thin film of chrome to conduct electricity. Third, “trigger blocks” allow for input to the circuit, and include light, proximity and sound sensors. Finally, “action blocks” control the output of the circuit, and include motors and LED lights. 

Three types of Brixo blocks, not including the battery block. (Image courtesy of Brixo.)
Three types of Brixo blocks, not including the battery block. (Image courtesy of Brixo.)

Probably the coolest aspect of Brixo is that the trigger blocks are Bluetooth enabled, allowing your IoT creations to be controlled with your smartphone (or any Bluetooth-enabled device, such as Arduino or Raspberry Pi). And with some simple knowledge of IFTTT, you can set your Brixo circuits to respond to a wide variety of external events. Brixo’s Indiegogo campaign page gives some examples of the types of designs that Brixo can be used for:

“You can set your phone's alarm clock to only shut off when you build a pyramid. Or you make a treat dispenser that gives your pup a treat every time he goes to his crate when there’s a knock at the door. Or help your kid build a nightlight that turns on when he says, "heebeejeebee."… You can even use it to replace high end automated IoT processes, like setting your Nest profile and turning on all your smart home devices just by hanging up a Brixo keychain on a Brixo board by the door. The possibilities are pretty much endless.”

I have to admit, the kid in me loves the idea of playing with smart Lego, and the engineer in me loves the idea of rapidly building useful designs. It seems that I’m not alone in my intrigue, as Brixo was crowdfunded for just under $1.5 million last year. Although backers are still awaiting their Brixo kits (at the time of writing), the blocks have been on display at festivals like EdTechX, and seem to live up to the hype.

However Brixo pans out, anything that helps consumers to better understand the IoT is a good thing in my book.

Have you tried Brixo? Let us know in the comments below. Or, for more IoT tinkering news, read The Engineering Entrepreneur’s Journey with Ben Heck and element14.

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