The goal of this project is to develop a multi-unit system, operating on its own hub-centric network. All application logic will be contained in the hub. The remote units will be of two types - A & B.
A type: These devices will communicate with the hub and contain both graphic display and data input capability. These will be 'dumb' devices - no data processing or data storage other than that necessary to receive data from the hub, transmit data to the hub, and display data received from the hub as necessary. A dedicated tablet like device is envisioned with perhaps a 7 - 10" display. The display needs to be easily readable in anything from darkness to bright light. The display must be non-reflective - high resolution is not necessary. Data input is envisioned as done by having an operator for each type A device, with the simple touching of one of several 'buttons' displayed on the tablet screen - two or three buttons are sufficient - (the value of these systems is in the operator knowing when to press a button). In addition to the dedicated device, an app might be developed so that a smart phone or general purpose tablet or portable computer can be substituted for a dedicated device. The dedicated device is to be somewhat rugged - certainly more rugged than common user grade tablets and portable computers. Relocation of systems from jobsite to jobsite will be frequent. These devices will be powered by enclosed rechargeable batteries with optional connectivity to 120/220 utility power.
B type: These devices will have no display beyond indicator lights showing the device is powered on and verifying network connection -(although a miniature display of video data may be later determined to be desireable). These devices receive audio and visual data from the hub and provide appropriate connections for video display devices (such as large flat screen TV/computer display or projector) and amplified speakers. These devices will be powered from 120/220 ac utility power.
The hub will interface with all type A and type B devices simultaneously - supporting at least 12 of each. This capacity could be provided in either a 'full' hub - or in a lesser capacity hub that could be expanded with one or more modules. The hub's processing speed and data storage reguirements are modest. The hub requires some data/option setup before each run. Setup data is alpha-numeric suitable for keyboard entry. However, in operation, the hub will process operator input as well as input from type A devices - operator input is probably best done with a combination of touch/graphical and keyboard entry. The hub should be battery powered with 120/220 utility adaptor.
Note: Some systems may operate close to other systems (even overlapping) each other's operating areas. They must operate independently and without interference - and with fcc approval.
There needs to be a means to distribute and install software updates to the hub and its devices. Software updates installation and version checking needs to be easy for the system operator. System operators and setup personnel are not expected to be required to have as much as even average end user tablet/computer application user skills.
That brings us to my technical questions, and likely you'll suggest some more questions I should be asking.
1) My hope is that it is eminently practical to convert the prototype to production. For example, (and ONLY as example, I don't want to bias either the discussion of the merits of this approach, or the chosen technology) Atmel Arts supplies hardware and software to facilitate translation of an arduino based prototype to production. Given the end product goals, is there a maker of production components and software tools highly appropriate for converting some prototyping environment to final production and commercial use? Who, and what prototyping environment?
2) What is the best wireless communications technology for the application - wifi, bluetooth, rf, etc? The required communication range is a minimum 200 feet, but a capability to reliably operate at 600 yards or extend the range to that is desireable.
3) What are the the top 2-3 choices for (easily) making circuit diagrams?
4) Lastly, but the first question to answer is, 'Is this the best forum for me to ask these and future questions?'