Tag Archives: Internet of things

IoT and DIP Switches

Pre-configuring equipment helps in many ways. In the field, the ability to pre-configure functionality eases installation procedures, helps in diagnostics, and reduces downtime. DIP switches are very popular for pre-configuring devices and an increase in their demand is accelerating the flexibility in their design.

Although designers nowadays prefer to use re-programmable memories and software menus in equipment, DIP switches customizing the behavior of electronic devices was have always been present. DIP switches present an easy-to-use method for changing the functionality that anyone even without software knowledge can use. An added advantage of DIP switches over software menus is the former allows change even when the equipment has no power.

Engineers developed the DIP switch in the 1970s, and their usefulness remains relevant even after five decades, for instance, for changing the modality of a video game or for fine-tuning the operation of a machine on the shop floor. Now, engineers are finding new uses for this proven technology in innovative applications such as the IoT or Internet of Things.

Depending on present requirements, manufacturers now present a large variety of DIP switches for modern applications. It is now easy to find surface mount versions of DIP switches, with SPST or single pole single throw, SPDT or single pole double throw configurations, or multi-pole single and double throw options. Piano type side actuated DIP switches, side DIP switches, and DIP switches in sealed and unsealed versions are also available readily off the shelf.

Originally, DIP switches were a stack of manually operated electric switches available in a compact DIP or dual-in-line package with pins. The configuration of the pins of a DIP switch was the same as that of an IC with leads, which made it easy for a designer to incorporate in the printed circuit board. It was usual for each switch to have two rows of pins, one on each side. The distance between the rows was 0.3”, while the pitch or gap between adjacent pins was 0.1”. By taking advantage of the same mounting technique as that of an IC, the DIP switch provided a compact switching mechanism that designers could place directly on the PCB.

By stacking DIP switches side by side, the designer could add as many switches to the circuit as necessary. The versatility of the DIP switch lay in the numerous configurations achievable. For instance, it is possible to generate an incredible 256 combinations from an eight-position DIP switch. Each switch can assume one of two ways, and an eight switches combination can assume one of 256 ways (2 to the eight power).

Earlier, digital electronics mostly used eight bits to a byte, which made the eight-position DIP switch more of a standard at the time. With advancements, digital electronics now encompasses 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, and even 256 bits, generating a great demand for DIP switches with new designs.

DIP switches are easier for the user as they offer a visual indication of the present setup.  For manufacturers, DIP switches make it easier to customize their production, at the same time, allowing the user to make changes as necessary.

Electronics for Indoor Farming

With global population growth, there is increasing concern over the sustainability of ecologically friendly farming. Farmers are now adopting innovative technologies for improving the overall efficiency of farming. Among them, the Internet of Things or IoT shows a greater promise with real-time, wireless, and remote sensing, monitoring, and control of indoor farming conditions and operations, such as humidity, moisture levels, soil pH, temperature, and lighting.

Most of the functions mentioned involve complex combinations with farmers often struggling to combine LED lighting, wireless communications, actuators, and sensors with control and mobile applications for gathering the optimum information, analyzing it quickly to generate the appropriate response, and acting upon it. Even for the technologically proficient, implementing existing product offerings is a challenge for deploying a low-power, scalable, cost-effective, reliable, and secure system.

Arrow Electronics, in combination with eInfochips and Analog Devices, offers an end-to-end, one-stop solution for the above problems in the form of the Grow House Evaluation Kit. Their starter kit has the best of technologies, including power management, converter, and signal conditioning from Analog Devices. The kit comes with sensors for moisture and pH, wireless connectivity, LED lighting with a dimming facility, along with remote accessibility via a cloud-based dashboard. All these are available on the iOS and Android platforms.

The Grow House Evaluation Kit is a smarter way to set up indoor farming operations. With wireless connectivity from Silicon Labs, LEDs from OSRAM Light Engine with dimming and color control, the cloud-based dashboard provides remote accessibility for moisture and soil pH levels through ruggedized connectors from Amphenol.

The soil-monitoring node included with the Grow House Evaluation Kit uses leading-edge technologies from Analog Devices. Included in this soil-monitoring node are the power and analog solutions for measuring the pH and moisture levels of the soil with high accuracy for maximizing crop yield.

The IoT gateway included with the kit is based on a platform from Qualcomm 96Boards. The LED node in the kit features the ability to control the color output, intensity, and the UV spectrum of the custom light engine.

Pre-certified ZigBee modules from Silicon Labs implemented with the IoT gateway provides custom control of the LED and Soil nodes. Arrow Electronics offers mobile applications compatible with iOS and Android platforms for configuration and control of the LED and Soil nodes. Arrow Electronics also offers a light engine with OSRAM OSLON Square high-power LEDs, along with design files for customization, but the LEDs are only for demonstration.

Those looking for the complete Growhouse Platform need to order three nodes independently for configuration of the Growhouse. These are the LED Node, IoT Gateway, and the Soil Node.

Vertical farming operations benefit extensively from digital transformation solutions from Arrow Electronics, thanks to their advances in technologies involving sensors and connectivity, and easy access to cloud infrastructure providing cost-effective operations. Although timer-controlled pumps, lighting, and fans do help in farming, digital transformations such as those provided by the Growhouse Platforms go far beyond the simple methods. A digital grow house based on the Grow House Evaluation Kit enables this transformation in the easiest way possible.

Sensors, IoT, and Medical Health

Increasingly, people are looking for preventive care outside of a hospital setting. Medical providers, startups, and Fortune 500 technology companies are all trying out new products and devices for revolutionizing medical care and streamlining costs. While this reduces hospital readmission rates, patients in remote areas are getting the care they need.

The evolving trend is towards remote patient monitoring, which is fundamentally improving the quality of care and patient outcomes right across the medical arena. Moreover, this is happening not only in clinics, onsite in hospitals, and at-home care, but also in remote areas, less populated areas, and in developing countries.

New technologies, new devices, and better results are driving healthcare nowadays. There are several examples of this. For instance, cardiovascular patients can have their heart rates and blood pressure monitored regularly from their homes, with the data feeding back to the cardiologists to allow them to track their patients better. Similarly, doctors are able to track respiration rates, oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, cardiac output, and body temperature of their patients.

Sensors are able to track the weight of patients who are suffering from obstructive heart diseases. This allows doctors to detect fluid retention, and decide if the patient requires hospitalization. Similarly, sensors can monitor the asthma medication of a child to be sure family members are offering it the right dosage. This can easily cut down the number of visits to the ER.

IoT can wirelessly link a range of sensors to measure the vitals in intensive care and emergency units. The first step consists of sensors that generate the data. When tools such as artificial intelligence combine with the sensors, it becomes easy to analyze large amounts of data, helping to improve clinical decisions.

Technological advances such as telemedicine offer advantages in rural hospitals that constantly need more physicians. This often includes remote specialist consultations, remote consultations, outsourced diagnostic analysis, and in-home monitoring. With telemedicine, remote physicians can offer consultations more quickly, making the process cheaper and more efficient compared to that offered by traditional healthcare appointments.

Sensor networks within practices and hospitals are helping to monitor patient adherence, thereby optimizing healthcare delivery. The healthcare industry is increasingly focusing on value-based, patient-centric care, and their outcomes.

This is where the new technology and devices are making a big impact. For instance, data sensors are helping health care providers detect potential issues in the prosthetic knee joint of a patient. The use of sensors allows them to summarize the pressure patterns and bilateral force distribution across the prosthetic. This is of immense help to the patient, warning them to the first indication of strain. The provider can monitor the situation 24/7 and adjust the treatment accordingly, while the payer saves additional expenses on prolonged treatment or recovery.

Integration of IoT features into medical devices has improved the quality and effectiveness of healthcare tremendously. It has made high-value care possible for those requiring constant supervision, those with chronic conditions, and for elderly patients. For instance, wearable medical devices now feature sensors, actuators, and communication methods with IoT features that allow continuous monitoring and transmitting of patient data to cloud based platforms.

How does LoRa Benefit IoT?

Cycleo, a part of Semtech since 2012, has developed and patented a physical layer with a modulation type, with the name LoRA or Long Range, where the transmission utilizes the license-free ISM bands. LoRa consumes very low power and is therefore, ideal for IoT for data transmission. Sensor technology is one possible field of application for LoRa, where low bit rates are sufficient, and where the sensor batteries last for months or even years. Other applications are in the industry, environment technology, logistics, smart cities, agriculture, consumption recording, smart homes, and many others.

LoRa uses wireless transmission technology, and consumes very low power to transmit small amounts of data over distances of nearly 15 Km. It uses CSS or Chirp Spread Spectrum modulation, originally meant for radar applications, and developed in the 1940s, with chirp standing for Compressed High Intensity Radar Pulse. The name suggests the manner of data transmission by this method.

Many current wireless data transmission applications use the LoRa method, owing to its relative low power consumption, and its robustness against fading, in-band spurious emissions, and Doppler effect. IEEE has taken up the CSS PHY as a standard 802.15.4a for use as low-rate wireless personal area networks.

A correlation mechanism, based on band spreading methods, makes it possible for LoRa to achieve the long ranges. This mechanism permits use of extremely small signals that can disappear in noise. De-spreading allows modulation of these small signals in the transmitter. LoRa receivers are sensitive enough to decode these signals, even when they are more than 19 dB below the noise levels. Unlike the DSSS or direct sequence spread spectrum that the UMTS or WLAN uses, CSS makes use of chirp pulses for frequency spreading rather than using the pseudo-random code sequences.

A chirp pulse, modulated by GFSK or FM, usually has a sine-wave signal characteristic along with a constant envelope. As time passes, this characteristic falls or rises continuously in frequency. That makes the frequency bandwidth of the pulse equivalent to the spectral bandwidth of the signal. CSS uses the signal characteristic as a transmit pulse.

Engineers use LoRaWAN to define the MAC or media access protocol and the architecture of the system for a WAN or wide area network. The special design of LoRaWAN especially targets IoT devices requiring energy efficiency and high transmission range. Additionally, the protocol makes it easier for communications with server-based internet applications.

The architecture of the LoRaWAN MAC is suitable for LoRa devices, because of its influence on their battery life, the network capacity, the service quality, and the level of security it offers. Additionally, it has a number of applications as well.

The LoRa Alliance, a standardization body, defines, develops, and manages the regional factors and the LoRa waveform in the LoRaWAN stack for interaction between the LoRa MAC. The standardization body consists of software companies, semiconductor companies, manufacturers of wireless modules and sensors, mobile network operators, testing institutions, and IT companies, all working towards a harmonized standard for LoRaWAN. Using the wireless technology of LoRa, users can create wireless networks covering an area of several square kilometer using only one single radio cell.

Do It Yourself Blynk Board

Those who have some experience with Do It Yourself (DIY) electronic projects, and are just starting to test the waters in the Internet of Things (IoT), the Blynk Board from SparkFun is an activity filled challenging exercise. Both experienced users as well as beginners will find this fun to set up and learn—the kit comes with more than ten projects.

Of course, you can make this board work without the IoT Starter Kit from SparkFun, but then you will have to buy the sensors and other components separately to complete the projects. The Blynk Board, based on the ESP8266, runs on a 32-bit L106, a RISC microprocessor core running at a speed of 80 MHz. It has 1 MiB flash built-in, and allows single-chip devices to connect with Wi-Fi, IEEE 802.11 b/g/n. The board has the TR switch integrated, LNA, balun, power amplifier, matching network WPA/WPA2 or WEP authentication, and can connect to open networks. Other features include 16 GPIO pins, I2C, SPI, I2S, UART with dedicated pins, and a UART (transmit-only) capable of being enabled from GPI02. The board also has a 10-bit successive approximation ADC.

Blynk Boards, based on the ESP8266, come preloaded with projects that are ideal for those just beginning on the Internet of Things and concepts of basic electronics. Arduino boards used it originally for implementing Wi-Fi enabled hardware projects; the ESP8266 has built-in Wi-Fi, making it a cheap, Arduino-compatible, and standalone development board. Many other kits use this board in different shapes and sizes, and you will find it in SparkFun ESP8266 Thing, Adafruit HUZZAH, and NodeMcu.

As the ESP8266 is useful as an open source hardware, it is a useful device for starting with the Internet of Things. It makes the Blynk Board an ideal platform for controlling single board computers such as the Raspberry Pi, and Arduino. Basically, the Blynk consists of three components—a Blynk app for smartphones, the Blynk library, and the Blynk server. The library is compatible with a large number of maker hardware.

While the Blynk library and Blynk server are open source, anyone can use the Blynk app on iOS and Android smartphones. With the Blynk app, you can build a graphical interface for any IoT project—simply drag and drop the widgets. Blynk offers several widgets such as LC display, buttons, and joystick, with which you can start hacking and you need only an IoT development board.

After collaborating with SparkFun, Blynk created the ESP8266 based SparkFun Blynk Board. They offer it fully programmed for more than ten Blynk projects. That makes the IoT Starter Kit from SparkFun with the Blynk Board such a fun project, offering a wonderful introduction to the Internet of Things technology and you do not have to learn any difficult programming.

For those who already have other ESP8266 development boards, simply reprogramming them with the firmware will turn them into DIY Blink Boards. With these, you can easily run boot camps or conduct workshops. Just adding the sensors and a few other components will help you complete the built-in projects, and these you can buy from SparkFun.

Things Gateway Ties IoT Devices Together

Project Things from Mozilla is a framework of software and services. It helps to bridge the communication gap between IoT devices. Project Things does this by giving each IoT device a URL on the web. The latest version of the Things Gateway, also from Mozilla, can directly let you control your home over the web, and manage all your devices through a single secure web interface. Therefore, if you have several smart devices in your home, you will not need different mobile apps to manage each of them. The best part of the Things Gateway is you can easily build one on a single board computer and use the power of the open web to connect off-the-shelf smart home products immediately, even if they are from different brands.

DIY hackers will find many exciting new features in the latest version. It even includes a rules engine, where you can set ‘if this, then that’ style of scenarios for making up rules of how things should interact. Other features include a floor plan view for laying out the devices on a map of your house, an experimental voice control, and it supports several new types of IoT devices. If you have a new device requiring new protocols, there is a brand new add-ons system. Third party applications that want to access your gateway can now do so, as there is a new way to authorize them safely.

On the hardware side, you will need a single board computer. Although Mozilla recommends a Raspberry Pi 3, any single board computer will do, as long as it has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support built-in. Access to GPIO ports is also necessary, as you will require direct hardware access. Although a laptop or desktop computer will also work here, using the single board computer will provide the best experience.

If your smart home devices use other protocols such as Zigbee or Z-Wave, you will also need a USB dongle. Things Gateway supports Zigbee with Digi Xstick and for Z-Wave you will have to use a dongle compatible with OpenWave. You will need the proper device suitable for your region, as Z-Wave operating frequencies vary for different countries.

For the software part, you will need at least a 4 GB micro SD card to flash the software. The Gateway already has support for several different smart sensors, plugs, and smart bulbs from various brands, which may be using Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, or Zigbee. The Wiki mentions all the tested parts, and you can contribute if you have tested other new devices. However, if you are not yet ready with the actual hardware of IoT devices, and want to try out the Gateway software, the Virtual Things add-on us your friend. Simply install it and start adding virtual IoT things to your Gateway.

Mozilla offers the Things Gateway software image for the Raspberry Pi, which you can download and flash onto the micro SD card. The safest way to do this is to use Etcher, a cross-platform image writer software, useful for Linux, Windows, and the Mac OS.

Progress in the World of Internet of Things

Although many in the electronics field lambast the Internet of Things (IoT) as an inappropriate or inadequate acronym, IoT is a space to huge to be confined to these narrow adjectives. In reality, IoT requires a blanket description, as it covers a vast arena. Problems arise from compartmentalization and although various spaces such as industrial and medical have established a big head start, others have yet to launch their true separate identities.

For the electronics designer this means taking the general palette of IoT features and functionalities and tailoring them specifically to the application at hand. The designer must be knowledgeable about state-of-the-art technologies such as those required for cloud connectivity, wireless design infrastructure, interface ergonomics, and internal power management. The designer must be familiar with the methods of manifesting them in their design, as these may be critical aspects.

For instance, there are several suggestions for scaling the IoT from smart factories to smart homes. Although there are blueprints for pollution reduction, city traffic management, and electrical energy distribution, the purveyors of industrial-grade operating systems do not yet have a detailed plan for the smart home.

According to Wei Tong, Product Marketing Manager of Dialog Semiconductors, wearable technologies can do far more than simply functioning as personal items. Using Bluetooth, a communications standard protocol, wearable devices can connect to a larger network, allowing them to communicate with other devices via beacons and sensors, thereby manifesting the larger Internet of Things.

However, despite the birth of the phrase “the Internet of Things” 18 years ago, and the first connected IoT device 35 years ago, consumers are yet to adopt wearable IoT in mass quantities. According to Nick Davis, this is due to two factors—first, ease of use, or lack thereof, and second, lacking the purpose or serving the wrong purpose.

For instance, take the case of “smart” light bulbs. Some are easy to connect to and control with smartphones, while others give users a hard time. According to Nick Davis, once people face such difficulties, they tend to give up on the entire IoT and smart device concept.

Another example Nick Davis gives is that of a smart toaster or smart refrigerator and the purpose they serve. According to Nick, most companies have not done proper market research into the actual requirement of people who use toasters and refrigerators, and what the consumers expect in such smart devices. However, several new products on the market are potentially useful to designers.

Another example of wrong purpose is the video sunglasses from Snap, the parent company of Snapchat. These are basic sunglasses with a video camera attached. They allow users to capture and post videos more easily to Snapchat. According to Nick, Snap is stuck with hundreds of thousands of their unsold spectacles. Apparently, Snap did not realize that people are not very keen on walking around taking videos with their eyewear.

Despite such debacles above, newer products are appearing on the market that help designers achieve better energy-efficient IoT products, voice recognition engines, and flexible and smart motor-control options that are also lightweight and compact.

Extending IoT with the Raspberry Pi

Recently, the Raspberry Foundation has updated its embedded Compute Module with a faster ARM processor. This will help developers and businesses build new IoT devices. The new Compute Module 3 (CM3) comes with a powerful new option and embedded compute capabilities for device makers interested in the Internet of Things (IoT).

Although not to be confused with the Single Board Computer, the Raspberry Pi (RBPi), with which the CM3 also shared the latest update, is a tiny form-factor ARM-powered SBC originally developed to help both kids and adults learn computer programming.

Launched with the same form factor as that of the RBPi, the CM3 was specifically targeted at business and industrial users. While the RBPi is a completely standalone device, the CM3, on the other hand, is a module intended for plugging into a separate Printed Circuit Board. The primary aim of the Compute Module is to let vendors and developers develop customized products quickly.

The new CM3, like the RBPi3, also uses the same Broadcom system-on-chip (SoC), the ARM BCM2837. The ARM Cortex A53 design forms the base for the SoC BCM2837, which is a 1.2 GHz, quad-core chip running on 64 bits. As a bonus, the standard CM3 has an on-module eMMC flash memory of 4 GB.

Other than the standard CM3, the Raspberry Pi Foundation also has a CM3L or Compute Module 3 Lite version. With the CM3L, users can wire up their choice of an SD card interface or eMMC memory. While the CM3L also comes with the same BCM2837 SoC, the on-board RAM is still restricted to 1 GB only.

Along with the CM3 and the CM3L, the Raspberry Pi Foundation is also releasing the new Compute Module IO Board V3 (CMIO3). This will provide developers with a starter breakout board to which they can connect their Compute Module.

The CMIO3 offers designers a starting template for designing with the Compute Module, providing them with a quick method to experiment with the hardware and to build and test a system. Once the experiment succeeds, they can proceed with the expense of fabricating a custom board. The CMIO3 also provides the necessary USB and HDMI connectors to make up the entire system that boots up and runs the Raspbian OS, or any other OS you select.

Although the Raspberry Pi Foundation has only recently released new Command Modules, next generation large-format displays based on the modules are already available from the consumer electronics vendor NEC, as they had early access to them.

The idea behind the Compute Modules is to provide a cost-effective and easy route to making customized products using the hardware and software platforms of the RBPi. The modules provided the team in the garage the same technology that the big guys already had. The Module takes care of the complexity of routing the core power supply, the high-speed RAM interface, and the processor pins, while allowing a simple carrier board provide the basics in terms of form factor and external interfaces. The form factor of the module follows that of the inexpensive, easily available, standard DDR2 SODIMM.

IOT: The Internet of Things Helps Manage Decisions

In any era, one of the characteristics of a good leader has always been their ability to take a good decision with the limited information available to them. According to the 26th US President Theodore Roosevelt, the best thing to do in a moment of decision is doing the right thing, the next best thing is doing the wrong thing, while the worst that anyone can do is doing nothing. This brings us to the IOT

Expectations are the Internet of Things (IoT) will be networking billions upon billions of things someday. Even if considering this hype, there is no ignoring the fact that IoT is already affecting management decisions worldwide. Business managers, at all levels, are receiving information that is more relevant as soon as they need it. Connected devices are making this possible, coupled with advances in collection of data and analytics. All that is affecting the decisions they are making, and business performance and operation is seeing a deep and lasting impact.

The broad range of nascent and mature technology available with the Internet of Things ranges from microscopic sensors called smart dust, to autonomous robots, to remote monitoring and RFID tags. Predictions from Gartner forecast that from the 6.4 billion connected IoT devices in 2016, the year 2020 will witness a jump to 21 billion devices worldwide. That means over the next five years, the number of internet-connected things will swell by three times.

Keeping this explosive growth in mind, Industry Week has conducted a study—the Industry Week Industrial Internet of Things Analytics Research Study. It gauges the usage of present and future state of IOT technology by US manufacturers. It also includes a special focus on data collection and analytics, as the IoT is more about the ability to collect, analyze, and use the massive amounts of data generated by the devices rather than about the devices themselves.

For their research, Industry Week has defined the Internet of Things as products and machines containing embedded electronics and sensors, with software for network connectivity that enables control and remote data collection. They also define analytics as the process of extracting insights from raw data, enabling better decision making.

The study reveals more than half the manufacturers reporting they are currently using the IoT technology for collecting machine data. Other companies say they are collecting the data from sensors embedded within their products—the percentage here is smaller, but significant at 44%. Both groups are using the data from machine and product for generating management reports and for performing root cause analysis as and when problems crop up.

According to the study, less than 25% of the manufacturers are using IoT for purposes that are more proactive. This includes improving business decision making through data mining or development of optimization models. All this indicates the presence of a potential source of competitive advantage as well as a huge opportunity.

Surprisingly, about one third of the manufacturing leaders said they did not have any strategy specifically geared towards the Internet of Things. However, most of these manufacturers reported their senior leaders are driving the organizations to be more data centric and analytical.

Use the Raspberry Pi for the Internet of Things

Barriers are coming down between operational technologies. Barriers such as were existing between industrial hardware and software for monitoring and controlling machines and the ERP systems and other information technology people typically use when operating and supporting their business. Manufacturers are having an exciting time as new opportunities are emerging every day for improving the productivity. Along with the rise in the challenges, there are innovations in creating new sources of customer value.

Data is not a new thing for manufacturers. In fact, there was enough data with manufacturers long before the Internet of Things and Big Data came into existence. Although manufacturers have been collecting and analyzing machine data for ages, they can now replace their legacy equipment and systems. With the explosion of the Internet of Things, the flow of data on the customers’ side is also ramping up. Networked products are tightening the connection between customers and manufacturers, with service capabilities expanding and creating entirely new revenue models.

With every organization wanting to participate in the Internet of Things, and IT professionals wanting to know how to add IoT skills to their resume, it is time to look at the different options for learning about IoT. Although there are many ways to gather this knowledge, nothing really can beat the hands-on experience.

The tiny single board computer, the Raspberry Pi or RBPi is one of the key learning platforms for IoT. Not only because this involves very low cost, but also because it offers a complete Linux server in its tiny platform. When you use the RBPi for learning about IoT, you will find that the most difficult thing to face is the picking the right project to make a start.
On the Web, you can find several thousand projects based on the RBPi. They involve the ambitious types, silly types, while some are really great for learning about Linux, RBPi, and the intricacies of the IoT.

When starting out with IoT projects and the RBPi, it is prudent to keep to a boundary – use some common sensors and or controller types. Custom-built hardware is fine for geeks, but for those who are just starting out with IoT, going wild with hardware builds can lead you astray.

While selecting a project, choose one that has something interesting going on for the control software. While it would be foolish to start with an epic development project, just to make a meaningful learning experience, simply calling pre-existing scripts and applications is also likely to cause a loss of interest.

Choose a fun project to start with. Of course, you will be training for the IoT. Nevertheless, training in the form of drudgery is no fun. Therefore, select a project that will want to make you move forward and continue your journey with the education.

You can buy individual sensors from the market and hook them up to your RBPi. However, as a beginner, you might be well off buying a kit for a specific use such as a single wire temperature sensor or a humidity sensor. Later, when more confident, you could move on to Hardware Attached on Top or HATs for the RBPi.