How Smart Surface Prototyping Tools Are Transforming Product Development

At Bare Conductive we develop tools and technology that are great for a range of use-cases. From small personal projects, to large professional installations, as well as for prototyping a smart surface and experimenting with smart materials. We’ve featured many a design project in the past, some of which have led to smart surfaces product development on our part, like the Interactive Wall Kit. At other times, our boards and Electric Paint have been used by individuals or companies in studies, testing and product development, both in academic settings, for ideation, or for commercialization.

What are smart surfaces & smart materials?

Smart materials are any materials that have a visible or tangible reaction to external stimuli. Bare Conductive’s Electric Paint is a special kind of smart material within the smart materials market. While our paint itself doesn’t react to external stimuli, it can be used to create printed sensors and specifically printed capacitive sensors. These form new sort of smart materials by using the electrical conductivity, manufacturing and form-factor freedom of our paint. Sensors can be embedded within flat surfaces as well as within a 3D shape. So when we speak about smart materials, we are talking about the parts that are used to create a smart surface or product, like paint or textiles.

Smart surfaces can be created by integrating smart materials to create a smart product or environment. Some examples include a smart table, a smart wall, smart floor, or an instrument panel, all of which can contain printed sensors, made with Electric Paint or some other conductive material.

Smart surface technology is typically hard to access and even more difficult to use. Early on, we recognized that the key to developing new applications for smart surfaces was in making the technology accessible to the widest possible range of users with easy to use tools, an abundance of resources and inspirational projects. Engineers and designers have embraced these tools to develop products and solutions ranging from interactive walls to home products to children’s games. The two trends that we see growing the fastest are the use of our prototyping tools to create interactive displays for in-person events and prototyping of touchless user interfaces integrated into the surfaces of buildings and furniture. In both instances, an otherwise passive surface is made smart by using Electric Paint and a Touch Board or Pi Cap. The wide variety of form factors available for the interactions and the numerous outputs gives creators the freedom to bring every idea to life. It’s equally easy to prototype a button on a wall to control the playback of an audio clip in a museum display or create a touchless lightswitch on a table.

How Bare Conductive’s prototyping tools enable the development of smart products

Through our technology and development kits, we empower individuals in our community to develop their own smart objects and smart surfaces. Many have used the Pi Cap or the Touch Board as smart surface technology to build or prototype their own touchless light switches, together with our Electric Paint and other electronic components. The key is in developing products that are accessible and easy to use, so anyone can prototype, test, and iterate their version of the smart building or product.

Unlike other industrial chemicals, our paint is safe and easy to source, you can buy it directly online without requiring documentation or an authorised business account to place an order, it’s non-toxic, cures at room temperature, and requires no expensive equipment for use. As for our hardware, the Touch Board can easily be reprogrammed with Arduino, and the Pi Cap comes with 3 different libraries to choose from, allowing users to quickly prototype and test ideas. The Light Up Board, our introductory board for capacitive sensing, has been used in countless projects to develop smart product concepts.

We have seen some great examples of how our community uses our products to prototype and quickly resolve smart product ideas. One example is the Alba lamp, created by Nil Peguero for his final year design project. Nil used the Light Up Board’s electrodes to create an interactive lamp that lights up and dims. Our technology allowed him to create a smooth surface, so users can change the lamp settings by touching the lid of the lamp. For his product design, Nil used a 2500 mAh battery and an Adafruit 500 Powerboost to power the Light Up Board. You can read more about Nil’s project on his Behance page.

What functions can smart surfaces provide?

Most often we think of smart surfaces as interfaces. Even interactive walls made with the Interactive Wall Kit, are smart surfaces, with the Electric Paint acting as buttons. But smart surfaces and smart objects don’t just have to be a user interface. They provide much more potential, such as occupancy sensors or fluid level sensors. These kind of surfaces are less active, and instead are more passive, as they can gather data and report on changes in an environment. We can extend this thinking to smart surfaces within floors, walls, steps, windows, furniture and even a vehicle interior. Occupancy sensors can be used for monitoring how many people are in a room or how many visitors came into a store and fluid level sensors can be used to detect leaks in a space. And all of these applications can be easily prototyped by anyone using our materials, hardware and development kits.

What are the advantages of products made using smart materials?

Smart materials allow users to make mundane objects smart. Ordinary furniture, walls in a room, the car interior, all can be turned into IoT devices, adding functionality to become interfaces and gather data which can increase efficiency, comfort, and safety. The world is becoming smarter every day. But too frequently the technology that we use defines the spaces in which we live. Smart surfaces give us the opportunity to quietly and elegantly incorporate technology into our products, buildings, and cities. Bare Conductive is putting that power into anyone’s hands. With a coating of our Electric Paint, any object can embed a sensor and turn smart. Within the smart surfaces market, our technology stands out as it’s easy and inexpensive to test out any ideas and accessible to all.

If you want to explore smart surfaces within your product development and include innovation within your design, our development kits and electronics provide an easy starting point for prototyping smart surfaces. To explore more community projects make sure to check out our Blog and Resources pages, where you can find more inspiration and information on how to use our products.

If you have any questions or want us to feature your project, feel free to contact us at info@bareconductive.com.

For more information on how we work with industrial partners to develop scalable solutions make sure to visit the Technology page.