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What's in a hardware API?

It's become increasingly easy to connect people through software applications and systems. But where does hardware fit into this conversation? I'm an electronics engineer, but I'm not talking about transistors or resistors. What about hardware on a "systems" level? littleBits is the answer to that question; it's an easy, extensive way to prototype with electronics. I want to bring my work at littleBits into this discussion because I contribute to a library of electronics that has many parallels to software. My story has to do with what goes into designing an expanding hardware API and how it ultimately connects people with a common hardware language.

We can consider littleBits a "hardware API" by the way it's intentionally designed. Modules are broken into high-level categories. Each have independent functions and they snap together magnetically so circuits can be built in seconds. Just like software APIs, composability is important when designing new modules for the littleBits library. They have to own a specific function and be compatible with every other module. But because there's electronics involved there are other design rules we maintain as well. The more powerful modules we've designed, like the cloudBit, keep expanding possibilities for interactions between the hardware and software worlds. littleBits provides a platform to speak in a common language of electronics that can be understood by anyone - especially software developers.

My team gives people the tools to unleash their creativity and "speak" with electronics. I'm excited to share what part I play in that: merging electronics design with user experience to create these building blocks. I want to introduce my view on this hardware API, show how easy it can connect people, and challenge everyone at Signal to think a little differently about relating hardware and software.

Kristin Salomon
Electronics Engineer