I've got a task in which I need to connect 5 or more ucontrollers to one PC for the purpose of sending data which will be stored in the PC. The conditions are as follows:
- The ucs in question are PIC 16F877As; each one of them is part of a system that keeps track of the number of screws used(as of now), powered by constant DCV from plugs so power is not an issue.
- the data being sent are just numbers; the current number of screws used
- the environment is that of a factory assembly line; the screw counters are used in the line and the env is generally noisy
- the data received by the PC is to be stored in a table; I figured i can take care of this part later
- the distance between each PIC is about 2-3 meters; the PC is at the end of the line, about 10 meters, the link between the PIC and PC can either be physical or wireless, although I prefer wireless as it is more hassle free(I think...), although robustness of data sent is priority
- as usual, the system must be made to be as cheap as possible without sacrificing reliability
I've successfully connected a PIC to PC using RS-232 so I know enough that you can't easily connect all 5 of the PICs directly to one PC using RS; too troublesome and distance issues. What I'm thinking is something like a hub; the 5 PICs connect to a master PIC which in return gets whatever data from the 5 PICs and sends them to the PC. I've read some stuff about I2C and I think that's doable enough. I've also looked up on wireless solutions like XBee; I got SKKCA from Cytron but I dunno how to make it handle many-to-one data communications.
Anyone got better ideas on how am I can pull this off in the least painful, cheap way possible? This entire project is a one-man show so I'd rather keep things simple and inexpensive.