First Responder (formerly Emergency) Vehicle Project


I am working some mental gymnastics, and trying to get pointed in the right direction.

The project is an Arduino Mega controlled system for my personal (volunteer firefighter) vehicle. The cost using an Arduino will be less than $200 as opposed to $2000+ for doing it with standard equipment.

The Arduino will control RGB LEDs, RGB Addressable LEDs, radios, siren, and more. Probably going to integrate OBDII as well for normal driving.

My current conundrum is interface. My original plan 4-line serial LCD and a 4x4 keypad. I may still use that, or use it as a back up. The problem is I would have to run a double setup of this (cab and bed) so I could use it in two places - the bed of the truck will be set up as a HAM shack/command post.

Some alternatives I'm thinking about are using an Android phone to control the system either through BlueTooth or WiFi/webpage. I'm fairly familiar with web design including scripting in Perl (although it's been a while). I have no experience programming for Android, but am willing to learn.

I could also potentially do this through a touchscreen tied directly to the Arduino, but am hesitant to buy another touch screen if I can do this through my phone.

I could also go with a docking-station type setup, if its possible to interface Android-Arduino through USB, which would be nice for not draining the battery while it controlled the system.

Any direction I could get would be greatly appreciated.

If you want to use Android with an Arduino and decided to use something like Mega anyway, I would recommend the Arduino Mega ADK. The main difference between the two is that the ADK has built-in USB host functionality, so no extra USB host shield is necessary to create a dock like you mentioned.

Something like this Android App based on Firmata might help you as well. It's primarily for BlueTooth interface, but USB interface is also available via a USB host shield or an Android ADK and a high enough version of Android.

Is there a problem with using a Mega? I'm using 33 digital outputs and 7 analog inputs (a number I expect to increase), and trying to avoid adding complexity by multiplexing, since I don't understand multiplexing anyway.

The project I am currently working on sort of includes a lot of what you are wanting in terms of using a mega and then using something like a smartphone for the interface.
Except what I am doing is for a renewable remote power system, but that is just the application.
So, the core control part would need to be re-written, but all the structure I think may be able to stay in place.
What I have is the Arduino doing all the control and logging to SD card while also being a webserver using Webduino.
I am using jQuery and jQuery-mobile to give a useable interface on smartphones. The web document is a 'MPD' mult-page-document, which I think makes it effective and efficient.
I will also then build up another web page for larger screens which will detail more on the one page, but this has yet to be designed.
The Arduino sends out json data messages to the client which is your up to date real time data that you want to display.
This can be all done via WiFi, 3g what have you.

If you are at all interested, then maybe check out the WebDuino library as well as the jQuery-mobile site and see if that is something you like.

Wow, I wonder how many people know what a Ham shack is, I used to be a radio amateur with aerials and wire everywhere, ah those were the days.....
You're not talking about a Ham shack as in the meat pork I hope? :grin:


Nope, Ham as in amateur radio. Need the license for a number of projects involving increased power for video/RC applications; plus I just like being able to talk to anyone I want to. Researching into expanding my capabilities led to the discovery of my current activities being "airwave piracy" so I'm getting the license.

I'll (once I get home, the wife is getting it installed while I'm deployed) have a contractor high-top shell for my truck, and the back will be well equipped - and insured!

Is there a problem with using a Mega? I'm using 33 digital outputs and 7 analog inputs (a number I expect to increase), and trying to avoid adding complexity by multiplexing, since I don't understand multiplexing anyway.

No problem at all, especially if you already have a Mega available. However, the Mega ADK would mean creating a dock with both power and a direct USB connection simpler because you wouldn't need to integrate a USB host shield into the design. It would also be slightly cheaper if you don't already have both a Mega and USB host shield that could be used for this project. To be clear though the Mega ADK has exactly the same number and type of I/O pins as a Mega or Mega 2560, it just has an additional IC chip and USB port to provide the USB hosting functionality.