The Open-Source-Bluetooth-Train-Control Thread

RT_Coker Oct 17, 2014

  1. RT_Coker

    RT_Coker TrainBoard Supporter

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    This tread is for public announcements from the “Open-Source-Bluetooth-Train-Control” Group.

    You can find this group here: http://www.trainboard.com/grapevine/group.php?groupid=125
    “The initial interest of the group will be the development of Direct-Bluetooth-Locomotive-Control (hardware, embedded-software, and iDevice software) for HO scale locomotives that use this group’s TBD open-source-communications-interface. “

    It is also a place for open discussions of this group’s activities and interests.
    Bob
     
  2. RT_Coker

    RT_Coker TrainBoard Supporter

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    Initial Moderator RT_Coker

    The “Open-Source-Bluetooth-Train-Control” group is “moderated”, that is open to members who are interested in contributing to the development of Open-Source-Bluetooth-Train-Control. This group includes and encourages the participation of manufactures and members of other open-source organizations. It discourage (and will limit were feasible) the inclusion of members:

    1. That is (or appear to be) ultimately unidentifiable.
    2. That is not recognizable as an interested contributor.
    3. That fails to clearly declare their financial or other open-source interests to this group.
    4. That publically releases this group’s information without prior approval from this group.
    5. That meets other criteria as determined by this group.

    I am the initial moderator (by default and by being the initiator). It is my intent to only be the moderator as needed to get this group up and running.

    It is my intent to start a more formal organization of the group by vote of the majority of the members of the group, when the group has more than 20 active members.

    I have no (and plan to have no) financial interest related to this group’s interests. My only other connection to open-source is at Atmel Spaces.

    I am an old retired embedded programmer/systems-engineer, and am new to the hobby (~3 years). You are welcome to research my posts as a poster named RT_Coker on this train forum and others. My main interest is as a user and in the embedded-software that executes on the Bluetooth-Locomotive.

    I have taken exception to the past business practices of one hobby manufacturer, but I would not hinder them from joining this group. After all, I have a lot of their DCC products, and a strong desire to help the users of such products.

    If you have questions about joining this forum that you want me to try and answer, I suggest that you post a message in this thread or send me a private-message on this forum.

    Thank You!
    Bob
     
  3. RT_Coker

    RT_Coker TrainBoard Supporter

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    Why Open-Source-Bluetooth-Train-Control?

    Would you like to be able to control your trains wirelessly and directly from an iDevice or computer? [No more strange delays in your train’s responses to your commands.]

    Would you like to be able to read and change CVs simply and directly from an iDevice or computer? [No more motor-pulse detection and decoding. No need for programming tracks and etcetera.]

    Would you like to be able to temporarily change CVs without affecting their permanently stored values?

    Would you like to be able to run your trains on DCC, DC and AC powered track without even a CV change?

    Would you like your train’s speed to be controlled accurately across the entire speed range with a simple CVs adjustment? [No tricky Back-EMF CVs!]

    Would you like to have all you trains run at the exact scale speed specified by the train-controller? [No more speed-matching for good consists.]

    Would you like to be able to synchronize the chug sounds on your steam engines to the piston motion across the entire speed range?

    Would you like to be able to command your trains to go a specific scale distance at a specific maximum scale speed?

    Would you like to be able to set your trains up to autonomously execute a set of stored commands while they send status messages, and accessory control messages to the iDevice or computer? Were the accessory messages would request, control, and then relinquish such things as track segments and turnouts from and through the iDevice or computer.

    Would you like to be able to command your trains to stop when they reach a designated spot beside the track so that they are at a know track position and can accurately keep repeating a set of stored commands?

    This is not a put-down of DCC [or any current model train technology]! Yes, it could eventually put DCC products at risk [including my own recent expenditures].

    If you or your organization is interested in one or more technical area [train H/W, embedded S/W, Apps, or ...] of this open-source approach,
    I open to ideas. I am retired and actively building a working demonstration of this approach.

    Bob
     
  4. RT_Coker

    RT_Coker TrainBoard Supporter

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    *** Attention DCC Decoder Manufactures ***

    Assuming that I did not misread something, you can do the Bluetooth-Licensing thing here: https://www.bluetooth.org/en-us/members/introduction-to-membership. You may want to get started before the existing Bluetooth car, airplane, helicopter, ... manufactures jump in to the model train control business.
    Bob
     
  5. DCESharkman

    DCESharkman TrainBoard Member

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    Not necessarily a viable technology. It would only allow control of one locomotive per control device. It is a paired partner technology. If you had 30 locomotives on the layout you would have a heck of a time finding the one locomotive you needed to stop before going against the points or a cornfield meet. You would have to un pair to throw turnouts unless they are all manual throws. And then pair back to get your locomotive again.
     
  6. RT_Coker

    RT_Coker TrainBoard Supporter

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    David,
    Thanks for the input!

    I believe you are thinking about the typical pairing available for sound that is limited by implementer chose and not by Bluetooth technology.

    From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bluetooth#Communication_and_connection.
    “A master Bluetooth device can communicate with a maximum of seven devices in a piconet (an ad-hoc computer network using Bluetooth technology), though not all devices reach this maximum.”

    And the newer 4.x Bluetooth’s from: http://www.medicalelectronicsdesign...ose-best-wireless-technology-your-application
    “As with Classic Bluetooth technology, Bluetooth low energy technology is based on a master connected to a number of slaves. However, in Bluetooth low energy technology the number of slaves can be very large; how large depends on the implementation and available memory. The new advertising functionality makes it possible for a slave to announce that it has something to transmit to other devices that are scanning. Advertising messages can also include an event or a measurement value.”
    Bob
     
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  7. DCESharkman

    DCESharkman TrainBoard Member

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    Wikipedia is not always correct. It is not a good reference because of all the errors found there.

    Even with a master that can work with 7 slaves, that greatly limits the functionality of an automated layout. You would use up several of those connections just on an MU of locomotives and have little left for controlling turnouts etc.

    The new generation may be too new for any real support just yet. And then there is the whole level of system integration and design to consider. And those costs plus the entry to market could make this a tough sell. You have to count on selling to folks who are not into DCC yet as your market because those of us deep into DCC have too much invested to go a different way.
     
  8. RT_Coker

    RT_Coker TrainBoard Supporter

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    David,

    If you do not believe Wikipedia or me about the 7 slaves, you are certainly welcome to check other resources.

    The new-Bluetooth is already here; announced and demonstrated by a major HO manufacturer. You can buy the new-Bluetooth-interface-boards off of eBay for ~$14 shipped.

    For those already deep in DCC as I am, the announced Bluetooth-locomotives can be added to and used with all the existing DCC things without any changes to the DCC.

    There are very extensive discussions about this on most other forums so you can verify what I am saying there if you want.
    Bob
     
  9. DCESharkman

    DCESharkman TrainBoard Member

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    Bob,

    Sorry for the confusion.... Let me clear things up please.

    1. It is not that I don't believe you about the master and 7 slaves; it is in my rumblings in Wikipedia I have found so many errors that I generally dismiss it as a source of reliable information. I have seen the Bluetooth information before in other places.

    2. The way I read the opening posts it seemed like this was to replace DCC in a way. My mistake. Sorry.

    I do see Bluetooth as a very good candidate for a wireless throttle interface, but I have some concerns about a Bluetooth decoder in the locomotives. Does it communicate with the locomotive directly bypassing the DCC controller? Or does it do both? How would you throw turnouts via Bluetooth if they are controlled by stationary decoders? A throttle is the only interface to the DCC system I see that would be viable at this time.

    Look at the other side, if you have Bluetooth controlled stationary decoders, how would the normal DCC locomotives using the DCC throttles be able to throw them. Are you also talking about dual mode stationary decoders?

    Intermixing command and control protocols can be a very risky proposition as an add-on to existing systems that never made accommodations for it. This is especially true for systems that are on par with the technology found in an IBM PC-XT, which many DCC systems are.
     
  10. RT_Coker

    RT_Coker TrainBoard Supporter

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    David,
    I am not in the habit of trusting in any single source on the web, and was not intending to “vouch” for Wikipedia. Just assumed that you expected me to go find other references and then post them.

    Influencing the replacement of DCC by Direct-Bluetooth-Train-Control is way beyond any influence that I have or would want to have. My intent is to promote open-interface and where appropriate open-source for this new application of train control. Without some meaningful influence on the major manufactures from users, small manufacturers, and “open-...” organizations, I do not see anything down the road but a proliferation of proprietary interfaces.

    My other interest is to run an open-source Direct-Bluetooth-Train-Control locomotive on my existing DCC layout without having to pass its control/information signals through the limitations of DCC signaling. Currently, I have seen nothing that leads me to believe that there will be problems between it and the DCC controlled locomotives running on the layout. There have been a lot of lengthy threads on the forums about this subject that I have been reviewing (and sometimes participating in) and I do not have the time to repeat the information here.

    Inevitably, and eventually something will come along that will be the “next” thing in model train control. Obviously it will be a slow process, and will not attract everybody, just as DCC has done in the past.

    Initially, I plan on manually throwing my turnouts (as I do now), in conjunction with information received from the Bluetooth-Locomotive. In the future, I would like to add a Bluetooth interface to the manual one. As to how all the DCC/Bluetooth coordination will eventually play out is beyond my understanding at this point. [It would not be a difficult thing to add a Bluetooth interface to one of the open-source DCC controllers.]
    Bob

    Added:
    If the current DCC community (of which I am part of as a user), what to find who to “blame” for letting the “Bluetooth-Cat-Out-Of-The-Bag”, it is not me. I am way too small of a fish in these waters. I suggest that they look for the much bigger fish that is the real source of all the excitement about this new technology.
    Bob
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 25, 2014
  11. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

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    I agree with dcesharkman, as an solutions engineer with an EE background working at a network equipment manufacturer. I don't see Bluetooth as having long term viability as a loco to throttle interface. It simply won't scale both in terms of loco count and layout size. I personally would choose 802.11 as the wireless interface with standard wired Ethernet available for stationary decoders. Ubiquitous, miniaturized, cheap and can scale.
     
  12. RT_Coker

    RT_Coker TrainBoard Supporter

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    Thanks for the input.

    That is what I thought when I first started digging into wireless applications for trains. But I am sold on Bluetooth now. I had even talk to Sprog about adding Wi-Fi to their unit.

    The latest Bluetooth-to-serial interface boards (4.x) can be bought on eBay now for ~$15. They provide what is basically a seamless wireless serial connection (COM port on a PC). It is like you had a high speed serial cable directly connected between the locomotive and the PC. And 4.x does not limit the number of connections, and it can form local networks. (When correctly implemented there would basically be no (connection or range) limitations to it use on the largest layouts.) Wi-Fi is considerable more expensive and complex to implement. Bluetooth 4.x is also being used in a wide range of applications now including critical medical equipment.
    Bob
     
  13. RT_Coker

    RT_Coker TrainBoard Supporter

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    All,
    The “Open-Source-Bluetooth-Train-Control” group is in danger of going away due to lack of interest. It would be nice to have some company in this effort besides me and one hardware developer! You do not have to be a developer to help. The group also needs: Experienced train (real & model) users. Experienced JMRI users. And somebody that can effectively lead and manage the group.

    I am currently debugging an demonstration (HO steam) engine on a USB tether to a PC and am also working with a manufacturer it try and get an initial production of about 100 Bluetooth-Loco-decoders (something like a DCC decoder, only Bluetooth). I have also already tested the Bluetooth part of this system. If successful, the first user DBTC boards would be about a year away (developer versions would be available sooner).

    Currently the development information is only being released to those helping with the development and members of “Open-Source-Bluetooth-Train-Control” group.
    Bob
     
  14. J911

    J911 TrainBoard Member

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    Would love to help in any way. Let me know. I do as well know some others that may hold an interest. I am not a programmer but tech wise.
     
  15. RT_Coker

    RT_Coker TrainBoard Supporter

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    I would defiantly like to have your help! There will be a significant information release (in a month or so) to the “Open-Source-Bluetooth-Train-Control” group members. To participate, you will have to join the group here: http://www.trainboard.com/grapevine/group.php?groupid=125. You should look at the first two posts in this thread first.
    Bob
     
  16. J911

    J911 TrainBoard Member

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    Asked to join the group. Thanks!
     
  17. RT_Coker

    RT_Coker TrainBoard Supporter

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    Well if you have come to this thread, you know that I am working to replacing (my) DCC with wireless technology (Direct-Bluetooth-Train-Control), as well as bringing newer and younger people into the hobby. I believe that DBTC is applicable down to N scale. In my opinion, sending control signals down the rails and pulsing motors to create return signals is old-technology.
    Bob
     
  18. HOexplorer

    HOexplorer TrainBoard Supporter

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    Bob, I did follow. I agree for sure that 'through the rails' is old technology. I know about the radio/dead rail guys as well. Being an old guy and not around that many more years it would be impractical for me to change for sure. But let's pretend I am forty and I may even own a Bluetooth. What I hear weekly is that Bluetooth as a brand and technology is not likely to make it in this Android/Apple world. Maybe yes, but even a big company like RadioShack closed its doors this week so these things do happen.

    I read through every word of this thread and at my age it is far beyond me to make sense and implement. Just me today! For that 40 year old maybe they have the interest in switching over, or even beginning with this Bluetooth system, but would not that 40 year old wonder the same as me, am I going buy into a product that may not be around in the foreseeable future? Best wishes. Jim
     
  19. RT_Coker

    RT_Coker TrainBoard Supporter

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    Jim,
    I suspect that you are "hear"ing from people that are very uninformed (or misinformed). Don't take my word for it. Go to eBay or Amazon and put "Bluetooth" in the search box, and take a look for yourself. By the way Bluetooth is not a "brand". It is an open-source interface organization with a membership of over 25,000 companies.
    I am not interested in trying to convince people to switch from DCC to DBTC, just “investing” in what I see as a viable future for the hobby.
    Bob
     
  20. HOexplorer

    HOexplorer TrainBoard Supporter

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    RT, Well here is proof I'm a dope! All this time I was thinking Blackberry. Sorry. Best of wishes for your success. Jim
     

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