Each October the folks at RACO have a little fun by organizing Halloween themed competitions. This year, each department was asked to work as a team and build a scarecrow. Motivated by last year’s second place finish in the pumpkin decorating contest, the RACO IT department set out to create something that was really unique and incorporated wireless technology, specifically M2M or Machine-to-Machine communication. The result of their efforts was The SMScarecrow, a talking scarecrow completely controlled by SMS or text message commands.
What They Used
- Motorola MK4000 Touchscreen Kiosk
- Multi-Tech Systems iSMS Server
- Microsoft Windows CE Speech API (for TTS)
- RACO Wireless M2M GSM SIM Card
- Microsoft SQL Server 2008R2
- Old Denim Jeans, Sweatshirt, & Raffia
How it Works
- The RACO SIM card is provisioned with an M2M data plan and SMS using RACO’s Omega Management Suite (OMS) Software. It is given a phone number with a non-geographic area code.
- RACO SIM is inserted into the iSMS Server.
- iSMS Server is configured to accept Mobile Originated (MO) text messages and insert them into a database.
- A SOAP Web Service is written that allows machines outside of the network to retrieve the messages stored in the database.
- An application is written for the kiosk that pulls data from the Web Service referenced in step #4. Each text message is processed by the application and the contents of the message are either sent to the Text-to-Speech (TTS) API or a special command is executed if the text message contains a known keyword (like LAUGH, JOKE, or GANGNAM).
- Audio and special effects are synced up with the scarecrow’s facial expressions and animation to bring the scarecrow to life.
- Kiosk is mounted on a pole and a body is constructed using the old clothes and raffia/straw.
The SMScarecrow is capable of laughing on command, telling random Halloween jokes, playing YouTube videos and of course speaking text messages. With a little more time and tools, the scarecrow could have easily been programmed to perform more complex tasks via SMS commands such as dispense candy or move its arms. The team debated creating mobile smartphone apps to control the scarecrow but chose SMS controls because they wanted to make it easy for everyone to walk up and start sending commands.
The entire project took about 4 hours to complete as most of our developers have a lot of experience building both Internet Web Services and embedded M2M applications. Check out some photos and video of the project below:
Final demonstration and testing