Almost every hacker in the world seems to have had an idea for their own Arduino-compatible microcontroller board, but every so often you find one that is genuinely interesting. Michael Tedeschi's ChainDuino closes its Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign this week with nearly $10,000 - four times its original $2,500 goal - to build Uno-style Arduino boards with integrated power-over-Ethernet (PoE) and RS-485 serial connectivity. The reason? To build smart sensor and control networks from daisy-chained boards over distances of up to 1,000 feet using nothing more than cheap CAT5 twisted-pair cabling.
Isn't RS-485 old technology? If by old, you mean "has 3 decades of bullet-proof reliability", then yes. Despite being invented over 30 years ago, RS-485 has been proven very reliable and is still used globally in industrial automation today. Keep in mind that RS-485 can support bus lengths up to 4,000 feet, data rates up to 10 Mbps at shorter distances, and now supports over 250 devices on a single bus.