Monk Clever Card Kit............
Les Pounder tries out English company Monk’s RFID kit, with hopes that he can automate the dog opening the door. Now we just need a robot for walkies!
Les Pounder uses this RFID kit, with hopes that he can finally automate the dog door.
For new users, the sheer volume of projects and components is bewildering. Where do you start when you know nothing about electronics or the Raspberry Pi? Well, typically you purchase a kit from one of the many businesses that have popped up to support the Pi community.
Simon Monk, author and electronics tinkerer, has a range of Monk Makes kits. The latest is an RFID card kit for all models of Raspberry Pi. RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) is often used with key fobs to track employee movements around a building by touching readers located at doorways.
Inside the kit is the RFID reader that connects to the Raspberry Pi using the GPIO utilising the SPI protocol. There’s also a series of cards and key fobs that can be read and written to, a momentary switch, and an RGB LED for use in projects. For those new to the Raspberry Pi, the GPIO numbering system can seem confusing, but presented with the kit is a “Raspberry Leaf” that fits over the GPIO and provides a quick reference for the GPIO Broadcom pin numbering.
By following the well-written guidebook we were able to quickly build our test project, which checked that the RFID reader was working correctly. This is the first in a series of six that form the majority of the guidebook. Each project came with a series of images and diagrams to explain how to connect the components, and was accompanied by code segments, which can also be downloaded from the website. All of the code for a project is fully explained and clearly presented in the guidebook.
The projects vary from the simple (reading the contents of an RFID card) to the advanced (using RFID cards instead of cash in a game of Monopoly). But what links the projects is how practical they are. All six projects can be used as the basis of another project, and by including these projects in another we can remix and reinvent, which is a common project trait.
The next level
Once you’ve mastered the six projects, the guidebook provides a reference on using the SimpleMFRC522 library that enables the RFID reader to be used with the Pi. To test how easy it was, we used Project 2 to write a website URL to an RFID fob. We then created a simple application that read the URL from the fob and opened the default web browser to that URL. This was accomplished in just eight lines of Python. Speaking of Python, it’s great to see that the projects and libraries are using Python 3.
This is a great kit that moves away from obvious topics for most starter kits. By containing all of the parts, the software and configuration steps as part of a well-paced and written guidebook, this kit will provide an exceptionally interesting routeway for those coming to the Raspberry Pi.
For those au fait with the Raspberry Pi, this is still a great kit. Using RFID readers with the Pi can be problematic, but following the guidance of this kit we were able to have a working project in under 30 minutes and the Python 3 library is easily usable. One minor nag about the library is that it needs to be in the same directory as the project code. This can be solved by copying the SimpleMFRC522.py file to /usr/ local/lib/python3.4/dist-packages/, but it would be great if that were handled automatically by the installer.
But despite that, this is a great kit to use and it’ll inspire a lot of makers! Features Performance Ease of use Value
Coming as a full kit, the Clever Card Kit offers six projects, fully supported and explained in a great guidebook. Hats off to the Monk team.