Ninja Block sensor

BYO sensor? Mini ninjas help control devices, security systems

In a world where communications have become highly mobile and personalized, both the benefits and threats to government agencies are being revealed. Now that predicament may extend to security systems.

Ninja Blocks, from a company of the same name, essentially let users control their own Internet of Things, whether it’s setting up a security system, an alarm system or just making the lights go on and off when they should.

The units contain tiny computers called BeagleBones, which run the open-source Ubuntu Linux operating system. The devices are capable of scanning their environments and picking up input from many different kinds of sensors and data points, and they can be easily programmed to become anything from a tricked-out remote control to the heart of a building-wide security system.

Applications are built upon the Ninja Block’s API for Atoms, and outside devices can be controlled manually from the Ninja Block or automatically by setting trigger thresholds using the user-friendly Ninja Rules engine.

The Ninja Block developer kit costs $199, and it comes with several sensors and applications, though the focus is obviously using the device to create personal applications. With the base package, users get a temperature and humidity control sensor. Using that in conjunction with the plain language Ninja Rules engine, users can set when to activate HVAC units, open windows or flash warnings to users.

There is also a motion sensor, and many sensors can be combined and tied into a single unit. Users can receive warnings when motion has been detected in certain areas and then use the rules engine to have that data trigger other devices, such as cameras or alarms.

The Ninja Block developers stress that the entire system is completely open source, including all software and hardware. Each Ninja Block comes with easy-to-open Hack Me tabs, which give full access to the hardware inside. In fact, users can download all the designs for the software that runs on the block, the electronics schematics and even the enclosure design itself.

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


  • Records management: Look beyond the NARA mandates

    Pandemic tests electronic records management

    Between the rush enable more virtual collaboration, stalled digitization of archived records and managing records that reside in datasets, records management executives are sorting through new challenges.

  • boy learning at home (Travelpixs/

    Tucson’s community wireless bridges the digital divide

    The city built cell sites at government-owned facilities such as fire departments and libraries that were already connected to Tucson’s existing fiber backbone.

Stay Connected