Dr. Michael Knieling, Director, Brick’R’knowledge – ALLNET Deutschland GmbH
Toby Ruckert: How was your experience at GITEX? It is not the first time you have participated – some of our readers would be interested in how the show has developed over the years in your opinion?
Michael Knieling: I’ve been at GITEX quite often since 6 years now with my former business – VoIP endpoints. This year I’ve presented for the first time a new business and its products. Brick’R’knowledge is an open source system to learn, teach and develop electronics. GITEX for me, was and is the best place to create business in the Middle East region. The show has become the place to be if you want to get in touch with all the players and customers in the region.
TR: We’ve seen quite a bit of Robotics and IoT devices at GITEX this year, where do you think your “Brick’R’knowledge” system will play a role in these major industry trends in the coming years?
MK: With Brick’R’knowledge, we address a global trend and movement of people to provide knowledge to our next generation, to create their own solutions and products, to understand major technology trends and to “Make” something in technology. Brick’s are not just toys – Brick’R’knowledge provides the users an ideal tool to start with electronics, to bridge the knowledge gab between hardware and software development by integration of single board computers as Arduino, Raspberry Pi or Banana Pi in the whole set up. We’ve presented at GITEX, the different types of sets to learn and prototype analog electronics, to make experiments with Arduino type of products and how to create your own IoT environment – New sets will follow soon.
We are calling kids, parents, engineers, geeks, nerds, students, teachers to join us and become part of the Brick’R’knowledge world. Everyone can develop new bricks and experiments. There is no limit and the system is open source.
TR: What does “Brick’R’knowledge” stand for and who invented it?
MK: Brick´R´knowledge is an innovative plug system which can be used to transfer electronical knowledge very easily, fast and playfully. Children can dig into the world of electronics playfully and with the help of our manuals and videos, it is just as much fun as playing with building blocks! Pupils and students get used to the theory in transferring what they learned into practice.
With our exciting plug system, students can finally try out the stuff that is normally only written on the blackboard. Teachers, professors and parents will be able to bring life to lessons! With our Bricks you can boost the creativity of your
students and motivate them to experiment by themselves. And last but not least developers and engineers can use Brick’R’knowledge for fast prototyping and documentation. The system will save time and changes your imagination of testing for ever – totally without tin solder.
Brick’R’knowledge was invented by Rolf-Dieter Klein. He is one of the German IT pioneers. Rolf-Dieter started in the nineties in the ICT industry and ran various TV shows about computers and trends.
TR: Are there different type Bricks, can you give some examples what they do/what types there are?
MK: We have more than 400 different bricks available. It starts with basic bricks for analog electronics like switches, buzzers, resistors, capacitors, diodes, transistors, coils, LED’s etc. These bricks are available as single bricks or as sets for starters or advanced users. The advanced set comes with other types of bricks as well like a brick with the famous Timer 555 or amplifiers and relays. For those interested in doing experiments and developments with single board computers we provide bricks to use Arduino, Raspberry Pi or Banana Pi types of products as part of our system. One of the latest sets that we just launched at GITEX is an Arduino coding set. It comes with an Arduino Nano brick and digital bricks like a OLED display brick, a D/A converter, 7-segment display brick etc.
Besides the mentioned analog and digital bricks we offer IoT bricks, solar panel bricks and accumulator bricks for energy harvesting experiments as well asa LED Bricks and sets to create large displays.
But as it is expected for an open source system, we provide a Do-it-Yourself-Set to make your own bricks and become a maker as well. Our vision is to create a global community of users, developers,students, teachers who create their own solutions based on our Brick’R’knowledge system. Everybody should feel free to join us.
TR: How safe is it to use? What if somebody accidentally connects the wrong bricks?
MK: The system runs on 9 Volt
and long as the included power supply brick is used for the experiments, the usage of the system is not hazardous to humans. We strictly advise never to connect any brick direct to any main power supply (115V/220V).
We provide the safety information with the handbooks and it is completely safe to use as long as the instructions are followed.
Furthermore, even if a user creates a short circuit during experiments, nothing will be happen. Only a lighting LED in the power supply brick indicates that something has gone wrong.
TR: Apart from the education sector, do you see certain usage and application possibilities in industrial electro-technological prototyping? If so, which ones?
MK: We are focused on the ‘maker’ community. Creative people with a strong focus on learning and getting their own projects done are the kind of people we are focusing on. The educational sector is our major target but we are open even to private-driven training areas for amateur radio enthusiast, in fact HAM radio is a global movement.
We are in touch with Silicon vendors interested to provide latest chipsets, sensors etc. as bricks instead of making evaluation boards. It will make it easier for engineers to create their own applications based on the latest chipsets which is our ultimate objective.
TR: Do you see a possible use case for the telecom industry?
MK: Yes, I do see a lot of application in the telecom industry. It starts
with a simple Morse Telegraph to learn the good old Morse alphabet. As I already mentioned, the IoT brick we do have the opportunity to work on Internet-Telecom-Home. As the system is open, the community can and will create new solutions for the telecom industry as well. Be it GHz devices or light communication, everything is possible.
TR: Can you give a few examples what people have built so far?
MK: I saw a complete solution for Amateur Radio Direction Finding used in a so called fox hunting competition. Try imagining metrological stations, FM Radio etc. You can find a lot of these examples at https://www.facebook.com/BrickRknowledge/ or https://www.brickrknowledge.de/en/.
TR: What is your plan for the Middle East? How are you focusing on distribution so far?
MK: We do have a strong, innovative distribution partner in the Middle East called Sitec (http://sitec.ae/) and we have been working together for many years. In addition to Brick’R’knowledge, Sitec distributes our Allnet branded products in the region as well. During GITEX we’ve had the opportunity to get in touch with many universities. We do expect to create with them, a community in the Middle East using, studying and working with our innovative Brick’R’knowledge system as well .
TR: Finally, if anybody wants to experiment with it, where can they buy a starter set?
MK: You can buy our products from our partner Sitec. Sitec is serving the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region. (http://sitec.ae/)