Working with Data (Central)

When working with data, it’s very important to make sure that all of your data is valid, and that there isn’t some external factor that is influencing your data. The same is true of data being sent down a wire, with an electrical signal. Data is sent as pulses of electricity, like Morse code, down a wire – and electrical phenomena, like static sparks, can often cause unwanted pulses that register as false data. The longer the wire run is, the more chances there are for a bit of static to slip into and interfere with messages. In our upcoming project, Data Central, long wire runs necessitate a more sophisticated method to send data to light strips. The solution we’ve developed from the ground-up in order to mitigate this problem is called the “Firefly Board.” The Firefly Board is a multipurpose lighting driver that is able to cleanly receive data over long runs of wire, as well as send back data that was collected from the on-board sensors. With an integrated microprocessor, it can not only communicate with a central node, but also display designs and interpret data on it’s own. It also protects the lighting systems from static electricity damage. Because of this, it can work as part of a large, coordinated network of lighting systems, or as a standalone lighting driver. It drives any light that can receive a digital signal, such as led strip lights, and other multi-color displays. Due to some nifty “quirks” with the communication method, it can also be used to control standard DMX stage lighting, for additional effects. Soon, it will be used to light up the side of the Center for Advanced Research Computing, in our lighting project, Data Central! Work on this board is proceeding quickly, and production of the boards should be finished with the week. If you’d like to learn more details about how the board works, see my upcoming posts on differential signaling and lighting control!