UCL Connected Environments’ ‘THE’ MQTT Display Can Relay Time, News, and Environmental Data

The UCL Connected Environments (University College London) group is endeavoring to advance smart infrastructure ranging from smart houses to entire cities, where all things are connected using sensors and IoT devices. One of their latest projects comes in the form of a simple MQTT display that can stream user’s favorite news feeds, local environment information (weather, traffic, etc.), the time, or a combination of all three.

UCL Connected Environments explains, “The concept comes from a long tradition of viewing data on a screen, from systems such as Teletext, through to the beloved Chumby, onwards to the Sony Dash and then they current iterations of the Echo Show and Google Home. Yet there is a need for a simple information display that does not listen in, does not play music or videos, and does not rely on having cloud-based data. Something that displays information, at a glance using a beautiful non-lit E Ink screen, on widgets that cycle at predetermined intervals. Thus their idea of THE (Time, Headlines, Environment) E Ink was born.

THE was designed using just two components — an InkywHAT ePaper HAT (400 X 300 pixels), and a Raspberry Pi 3, although a Pi Zero can be used as well. An MQTT (Message Queuing Telemetry Transport) broker (hosted on the Pi or elsewhere) is used to garner the displayed data feeds from the user’s favorite sources via scripts created in Python.

THE can display other information from data sources as well, including smart home automation systems and SMS messages, which can keep users updated on what friends and family are doing. For those interested in creating their own THE, UCL Connected Environments has uploaded a complete walkthrough and links to the code necessary to run the E Ink display on their project page.

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