A Digital Pen In The IoT System With The DeviceHive Platform

02 July 2014
By Oleg Kruk, Embedded Research Lab Leader

Business professionals and consumers are discovering the benefits of wireless digital pens. By writing on special digital paper or directly on select computer screens, digital pen users can convert their sketches, diagrams, and any other type of handwritten communication into electronic files instantaneously. These files can integrate across devices and applications. Users can synchronize their notes with electronic calendars, provide their electronic signatures on contracts in Adobe PDF format, and create visual overlays onto web content. They can also convert handwritten notes into text, allowing mobile users to create and share “mobile notes”. The technology decreases paper usage and the need for manual electronic conversion tasks, and adds some interesting new capabilities for electronic communication.

Digital pens look a lot like normal pens and most of them can function (write in ink) like normal pens. But they also have the ability to collect, process and transmit information about a handwritten file’s author, where and when the file was created, and what kind of pen and paper were used. The basic elements of a wireless digital pen are a mini camera, a digital notepad with digital paper or “dot paper,” and a microprocessor-based data processing system. The weight, size and price of a digital pen with notepad are significantly lower than those of portable computers. What’s more, they can work for several days without needing a recharge.
So why are wireless digital pens slowly creeping into the market instead of making a full-scale explosion? Perhaps the holdup is not on the device side, but rather on the network side. Most pens come with companion software designed to allow users to send hand-written electronic content through a Bluetooth channel to a portable storage device. These devices could be microcomputers or conventional desktop computers, and the information would be stored as a standard text or graphic file. The challenge lays in developing a framework for connecting all of these devices to central servers for secure storage, and on to other devices such as printers or scanners.

DeviceHive, as an open source M2M framework, helps programmers to meet this challenge by providing the communication layer and an all-in-one technology stack, greatly decreasing development time. Incorporating digital pens and their mobile storage devices into the Internet of Things is made simpler when the underlying protocol issues for controls and security layers have already been addressed. DeviceHive’s administrative web interface provides an on-going management tool as these solutions and their applications evolve.

The picture above shows an example of the use of a wireless digital pen together with DeviceHive. In addition to controlling and monitoring, DeviceHive can be used as a platform for remotely inputting and transmitting information. The digital pen may be used in conjunction with DeviceHive Gateway and interact through the Bluetooth protocol. Information from all digital pens in the coverage area of the access point is processed and transmitted to the central server by DeviceHive Ethernet, Wi-Fi or GSM / GPRS-channels.

Using Bluetooth connectivity together with DeviceHive on a smartphone, the pen transfers its data to the internet. Here, users can review and further process the now fully realized digital copies of the completed paper forms. The electronic documents are uploaded to a document image repository along with all data. The data can be exported in any format (.DOC, .XLS, .JPG, GIF, .TIF etc.) to suit the recipient’s back office system. This solution cuts out a major step in document process, as we can work with data, received from DeviceHive cloud, directly on different gadgets and devices – smartphones, tablets, smart watches, wearables, that could be connected to the cloud.

Digital pen technology is ideal for those of us who are accustomed to “thinking on paper”. When handwritten drawings and sketches turn into tasks, the technology ties the notes in with other business systems, eliminating unnecessary recreation of the information. The algorithms and programs behind these digital pen solutions have certainly reached the level that allows practical use of them in everyday life and work. And this means everyday life is now embracing a new format for electronic communication.


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