As you may or may not already know, the IMA organizes an artist residency each summer on Andrea Zittel’s Indy Island within 100 Acres. This year, the park will be inhabited by A. Bitterman and the project is called Indigenous. As part of the project, Mr. Bitterman wants to provide spectators an opportunity to track the artist.
To accomplish this, we first looked into commercial GPS solutions that would allow us to send realtime GPS data over the web that could then be plotted on a map. The closest thing we found is the Garmin Communicator API that works with select devices. Unfortunately this came with limitations on how often data could be polled, so it turned out to be less then a desirable solution.
What is this strange word and what does it have to do with tracking artists? Arduino is an open source microcontroller for scientists, engineers, programmers, and hobbyists. Stopping short of my personal opinion that this little device will revolutionize hardware like Linux revolutionized software, I will say it was exactly what we needed.
Most any store that sells an Arduino also sells what are called “shields.” These shields allow you to attach different electronic circuits to the Arduino so that you can program your software to control and utilize them. For our application, we needed a GPS shield to track our artist and a cellular GSM shield to transmit the data back to us over the cellphone network.
WARNING: the following contents are about to get very technical and nerdy. If you aren’t interested in the technical bits and just want to see where the artist is, you can jump straight to the website to “track the artist.”