Hacking Your FutureStack14 Conference Badge

Now that the dust has settled after FutureStack14, we’d like to convince you to think twice before tossing your badge amongst the pile of others from conferences past. It actually contains a fairly powerful ARM-based computer amidst a wealth of neat peripherals that you can use to build new and more awesome things!

If you have a badge and want to dive right in without reading any further, just head over to the reference firmware repository to get started. There, you’ll find code to demonstrate the basic features of the badge. If you want to learn more about the badges and what you can do with them, read on…

Jason badgeThis year’s badge built on our idea of using NFC to effortlessly transfer contact details by adding an E-Ink screen for even more functionality. Most importantly, attendees were able to vote on talks directly from their badges without having to fiddle with a phone or NFC poster. This data is essential in building successful conferences so we sought to make it as easy as possible. Additionally, the screen displayed useful information such as the battery charge level, one’s score, and a Help display that explained how to use the badge and how to seek further help. Rumors even circulated on how to produce a cute cat image on the screen.

In addition to an E-Ink screen, we added some other new features like flash memory, expandable GPIO, a temperature sensor, and a rechargeable battery. All of these devices are fully accessible and measurable via the onboard Electric Imp.

Interested in hacking your badge but not sure where to start? Check out the reference firmware as a source of inspiration. It’ll teach you how to turn your badge into a simple temperature display. You might also use the NFC system on the badge to read inexpensive, passive NTAG203 stickers to tell the badge to do something neat, like FS14 attendee @gooley from Preact did. With the large amount of flash memory on the badge, it should even be possible to turn it into a tiny ebook reader. The possibilities really are endless!

How to Get Started

Hacking your badge is as simple as loading new software via Electric Imp’s browser-based IDE. You won’t need programming dongles or specialized hardware. If you want to connect external devices to your badge, we recommend you solder pins to the jumper block on the left and connect the badge to a breadboard for quick and easy prototyping. You’ll find SPI, I2C, and five GPIO pins available. If you’ve worked with a Raspberry Pi, you’ll find this is a walk in the park.

So go forth, and get hacking! If you end up creating something cool, be sure to share it with us by tweeting @newrelic. Thanks again to everyone for attending FutureStack14 and participating with the badges.

Learn more about the making of the FutureStack14 badge in this video:

A longtime fan of New Relic, Jason joined the team to contribute his user insight, dark computer magic, and knowledge of vintage boomboxes. View posts by .

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