Open Environmental SensorsPublished 07 January 2016
For schools, monitoring buildings for efficiency and education is way, way harder than it should be. It’s expensive, complicated and frustrating, but worst of all, you can’t get data you need. I’m changing that, by developing cheap, simple, and (most importantly) interoperable sensors and software. Open-source, open-standards, from the beginning, means that it works with infrastructure you already own. Everyone wants to implement and learn Internet of Things (IoT) systems, but it’s difficult when there are no examples. I aim to provide an excellent example with this system; I strive to make it well-documented and well-designed by using modern, widespread standards like MQTT, providing data through an easy-to-use interface, and being modifiable at every step and level.
For example, an older measurement setup might use a special ‘basestation’ speaking a proprietary format, a ‘gateway’ to connect it to the Internet, and sensors which must be manually configured, all with a clunky web interface with some graphs but no options to download the data, much less do analytics. My approach simplifies and improves this to:
- A sensor, which turns on when you plug it in, and connects to your wifi.
- Your wifi router, with no changes or configuration (why reinvent the wheel?)
- A straightforwards web interface with a big, friendly download button for all your data in a format you can open with your favorite spreadsheet editor.
I’m writing software and designing hardware to suit the project. Each layer is modular, in that communications between each layer use a common, standard protocol, so that each layer can be modified or outright replaced independent of other layers. For example, a student might implement a new design of sensor; they could either adapt my sensor code or write their own, but so long as they use MQTT to connect to the server, the other layers will not require any modification. There are four layers:
- Sensor hardware
- Sensor software
- Data collection and storage software
- Web interface
I’ve got working prototypes of much of this working already, and expect to release the first full version later this spring. I am currently running stability tests on a couple sensors; check back to this blog to see the results.
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