Orbit Sensor Platform

The Rice Orbit platform consists of an Internet-capable mobile phone and its wireless body-area peripherals, including sensors and auxiliary user interfaces. It is intended to be an open-source (both hardware and software) research platform for mobile and embedded computing.

Orbit Sensor

The Orbit sensor is a ultra low-power Bluetooth interface for sensing devices to join the wireless body-area network of a mobile phone. Currently two versions are used. The educational/ debugging version (Orbit-EDU) is used for development and Rice Computer Engineering senior design projects; the mini-version (Orbit-MINI) is used for user and field studies. It provides standard UART, SPI, and analog data interfaces to obtain sensor data and general purpose input/output (GPIOs) for proper control, especially power management, of sensing devices.

The Orbit sensor communicates with a Bluetooth-capable device through an application-level protocol.

Orbit Sensor 2.0 with microSD

Orbit sensor 1.0: Educational and mini versions

Orbit-EDU: Open-access educational version >>More information about the Orbit-EDU

The Orbit-Watch is a wrist-worn secondary user interface that enables wireless wrist access to the computing power of the mobile phone. Its user interface consists of a 2x8 character LCD, a 3-axis accelerometer for motion sensing, multiple tact buttons (3 actually used), and multiple capacitive touch sensors. It is based on the design of the Orbit adapter and communicates with the mobile phone through Bluetooth. More information about its design can be found in the Rice OrbitWatch 1.0 whitepaper (PDF) (Watch demo video 7.7MB, released 10/9/06).

Orbit-Watch 1.0 (based on Orbit Sensor 1.0)


The Orbit-ECG is a three-lead wearable electrocardiograph sensor based Orbit Sensor 2.0. It reports data periodically via Bluetooth to a cell phone, which then relays the data to an Internet server. Orbit-ECG originated from the senior design project by Team Tangerine, which won the first place in ECE design project contest 2007. It was also demonstrated in Mobisys'07.


The Orbit platform provides a versatile platform for exploring pervasive personal applications. We are currently using it for our project in Mobile Healthcare with collaborators from the Texas Medical Center.

Published work that uses Orbit:

  • Xiaozhu Lin, Ahmad Rahmati, and Lin Zhong, " Dandelion: A framework for transparently programming phone-centered wireless body sensor applications for health," in Proc. ACM Wireless Health, October, 2010. (PDF)
  • Xiaoming Chen, Zhendong Zhao, Ahmad Rahmati, Ye Wang, and Lin Zhong, "Sensor-assisted motion estimation for efficient H.264/AVC video encoding," in Proc. ACM Multimedia, October 2009. (PDF)
  • Guang-ming Hong, Ahmad Rahmati, Ye Wang, and Lin Zhong, "SenseCoding: Accelerometer-assisted motion estimation for efficient video encoding," in Proc. ACM Multimedia, October 2008. (PDF)
  • Lin Zhong, Diana El-Daye, Brett Kaufman, Nick Tobaoda, Tamer Mohamed, and Michael Liebschner, "OsteoConduct: Wireless body-area communication based on bone conduction," in Proc. Int. Conf. Body Area Networks (BodyNets), June 2007.
  • Ahmad Rahmati and Lin Zhong, "Context for Wireless: Context-sensitive energy-efficient wireless data transfer," in Proc. ACM/USENIX Int. Conf. Mobile Systems, Applications, and Services (MobiSys), June 2007.