What is mono?
Mono is our take on an easy embedded developerment platform. We always wanted a platform (like Arduino), with easy access to a display and Wifi. We love Arduino, but it takes a great deal of effort to attach a display and wifi shield. Mono brings this kind of embedded programming to the masses, by an easy interface for developers. You do not need to be familiar with voltage levels, pull-up resistors, GPIO, SPI, I2C etc.
The idea of Mono started when we realized that all of our own Arduino based home-projects have ended up in a drawer somewhere. And we thought: “why is that”? There are many reasons for your Arduino project to stall, but we found the most important is battery and casing.
The ability to run on battery power, charge and stop charging when full, is not trivial to implement. It is surprisingly complex with modern Li-Ion batteries. When creating home projects we never think of battery issues, because it is not a part of our project’s goal. We wanted Mono to have built-in support for battery power and charging, so battery power will not be an issue in our projects.
The other obstacle is looks. If we want mono to be a part of the house interior, it cannot be an open hardware PCB. Very few – if any, spouses think a birds nest of wires in the kitchen is decorative. So we packed Mono in a beautiful casing, hiding the electronics. Fitting a casing is also a crucial step, home project never really reach.
Mono is really a development platform like smartphones, just on a smaller scale. It has internet access, Bluetooth, touch display and sensors, all built-in. There are no operating system, so you are in full control of want happens.
What is monoKiosk?
The kiosk is our App Store for Mono. We want a community where Mono developers can share ideas and code. We deliver all the libraries for mono and open source, and we hope our community will contribute with new libraries and functionality. MonoKiosk will be our platform for sharing mono applications, discussing problems and solutions and sharing your ideas.
We know a lot of non-programmers are excited about the Internet of Things, and we hope that monoKiosk will enable them to explore IoT with Mono.
Tell us a bit about your team.
We are a currently a team of 4 people, based in Copenhagen. Lasse and Kristoffer started in April 2014 with the vision of an Arduino with a built-in display. They teamed up with designers Ulrik, Giang and entrepenuer Emil, to refine the concept. After a summer of endless discussions about features, use cases and marketing strategies, we started to create the kickstarter content.
After the successful funding in December 2014, our team was reduced to Lasse and Kristoffer again. Luckily new team members Andreas and Jens Peter joined. Currently we are 4 people working on developing mono daily.
Lasse is a experienced hardware engineer and we has designed the PCB, selected all the IC’s and components like decoupling capacitors. He loves developing homemade Arduino clones, signal amplifiers, display systems with MCU and power control systems. Mono is basically all of these combined into one device.
Kristoffer is an embedded software engineer, with experience in MCU based programming and high level software interfaces. He has a deep insights in system architecture and framework interfaces. Knowledge that he tends to bring into the mono software framework.
Jens Peter has a Ph.d in computer science, and is a dedicated unit test spokesmen. In his pursuit for clear, stable and sound code, he has developed a passion for system integrations, automation testing and of course: unit testing.
Andreas is our whip, keeping track of component sourcing, distribution and time plans. He is an entrepreneur and first got to know us as a mentor. A mentor that found himself spending more and more with us. So he naturally joined the team.
Where do you think Mono stands among other devices?
We think of mono and being the combination between your smartphone and simpler devices, such as timers, thermostats or doorbells. We want mono to be the platform where people realize their visions of IoT devices.
Mono can be a display that shows the latest sports results, todays weather, stocks or whatever you can pull from the internet. Sure you can use smartphones for that, but the true value comes only when you mount such displays your home or workplace. We can see todays weather on your phone, after you found it in your pocket, entered the passcode and opened the app. With at display on the wall, the new XKCD is just a gaze away.
mono is just short of being a small phone. Was it a conscious decision to not include a sim card slot?
Yes. We discussed what features to put in mono, during the summers brainstorms. The true value of a sim card, comes when there are no wifi. Everbody as wifi in their homes, some also in summerhouses. Its only outside the sim card bring real value. But mono does not have a water resistant casing, its an indoor device. So we ended up rationalizing that if we had a weather proof casing for outdoors, then sim card would be a valuable feature.
Someday we might include a sim card or create a sim card docking extension. You can also develop it, using monos expansion connector interface.
What’s the startup scene like in Denmark? Would you consider relocating to London or Berlin?
There is a lot of activities going on in Copenhagen. We have partitioned a Tuesday night workshops with other entrepreneurs, and presented mono to other startups to networking meet-ups. Last autumn we were a part of Danish Tech Challenge, an incubator program for hardware startups.
There is really many people to talk to, discuss idea and business plans with. We have not thought of leaving Copenhagen in favor of Berlin or London.
What are your plans for the future? Software updates, a new version of hardware or even a whole new product?
We believe mono will be the platform where people can easily build their homegrown ideas, and test them in real life. Our ultimate goal is to enable non-programmers to test their concept with mono. We will keep working on making mono a more and more accessible platform. And we hope that a lot of third-parties will create extensions to mono, like cameras, GSM modules, GPS etc.