Archive for category DIY

Maker Faire 2012

Come visit us at Maker Faire!

I just got the confirmation email that I’ve been accepted to have a booth at this year’s Maker Faire.  The booth is called A Sense of Things, as it was last year, and is numbered 7443.   I hope to visit with all my sensor friends on Saturday and Sunday, May 19th, 20th.

I’ll be showing our latest development on a low cost wireless sensor network designed for the “everyman” or “everywoman” who wants to track things in and around their homes.  Please stop by for a visit.

To sign up for the maker Faire:  http://makerfaire.com/be-a-maker.csp

 

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Maker Faire Surprise

On the drive to Maker Faire on Friday, I had a few dark moments wondering if anyone would really care about the work I’ve been doing on wireless sensor networks.  I imagine that there are all these sensors struggling to be heard and I’ve been constructing a platform to help facilitate that.  But would anyone share that vision?   On I drove…

My friend, Terence, helped get us set up with the booth and finally with no hope of getting any internet access (seems it was over-taxed most of the time), we retired to the Friday evening’s beer and paella dinner.  We met a lot of wonderfully creative Makers.  The Maker Faire is such a wonderful collection of creativity in all it’s myriad forms.  It is inspirational and gives me hope.  Terence made a good point that Obama should have come to the Maker Faire to see an example of what makes America great.

Well I have to say I was very surprised to see how many people came to our booth to learn about wireless sensor networks.  I’m exhausted and my voice is shot but I feel very satisfied to see so much interest in what we have built.  Thanks to all who came by the booth.  I hope that this experience can be the beginning of an exchange of ideas to make more robust sensor networks that can provide meaning to those who seek to extend what we can know about the world around us.  I heard so many great ideas and I hope we can keep the them coming.

Now that the Maker Faire is over, I plan to focus on this web site for the next couple of weeks and get the tutorials in order.  I’ve started some of them and have not yet published some others.  I promised everyone who I spoke with at the Maker Faire to get these completed and that’s where I’ll be focused.  If anyone wants info about any particular part of the platform, sooner than later, please let me know and I’ll be happy to move that to the front of the line.

Thanks to all who came by the booth, to Terence, to my friends who’ve been supporting my efforts to Make my vision, to Aurora for putting up with my project clutter, and thanks to the folks at Maker Faire for putting on a great show.

(the original post about Maker Faire)

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OSHW – Open Source Hardware

I support the Open Source Hardware Definition v1.0

A cool new logo has been defined for Open Source Hardware (OSHW).

Here are the principles of what is being attempted in open source hardware (from the site):

Open source hardware is hardware whose design is made publicly available so that anyone can study, modify, distribute, make, and sell the design or hardware based on that design. The hardware’s source, the design from which it is made, is available in the preferred format for making modifications to it.  Ideally, open source hardware uses readily-available components and materials, standard processes, open infrastructure, unrestricted content, and open-source design tools to maximize the ability of individuals to make and use hardware. Open source hardware gives people the freedom to control their technology while sharing knowledge and encouraging commerce through the open exchange of designs.

Read more here…

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Maker Faire! May 21, 22

There was a call for Makers, I applied and got accepted. So this year, instead of being in the stands, I’ll be out on the field having fun. My booth will be called The Sense of Things, as a play on the concept of The Internet of Things.

I will be showing what I’ve learned in the last year regarding wireless sensor networks.

Short Description: Wireless sensor networks, data acquisition and analysis; a discussion about building wireless sensor networks based on open source software and hardware (OSHW) for use in things like home energy, air quality, and elder care.

Long Description: Exploring sensor networks, data acquisition and displaying data.

This project will demonstrate what I have learned in the last year from others on the internet. Open source software has lead to open source hardware (OSHW) and makes it possible to build wireless sensors, open source wireless gateways, data logging data services and charting applications.

With this kind of system we can monitor things like energy used in a home, indoor/outdoor temperatures, wind speed, dangerous gases, the presence of a person in a room, etc.

We will discuss how various online tutorials and technologies (Tweetawatt, xBee, Asus wifi with OpenWRT, data logger, web services, Pachube, Adafruit, MightyOhm, etc) were used to develop the test system.

Web site: TinajaLabs.Wordpress.com

Please come by for a visit.

Saturday, May 21st – SHOWTIME :  10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Sunday, May 22nd – SHOWTIME:  10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

 

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Wireless Sensor Networks

This is going to be a base post (I’ll make it sticky) to hold the outline of tutorials related to various aspect of wireless sensor networks.  From the sensors and radios, to a gateway,  to web services, data logging and eventually, charting and analysis.  Look at this overview of Wireless Sensor Networks on Wikipedia.

Our interest is in developing a wireless sensor network platform that is inexpensive and simple to use.  There is a sweet spot between super high tech and older outdated technology where we believe there exists a meaningful set of technologies that will fit our goals.

XBee, Wifi, Sensors

XBee, Wifi, Sensors

What we’ve discovered is that we can use radios, like the xBee radios from Digi, with up to 4 sensors hooked up to each one, as our remote sensor boards.  We have also discovered that we can transform a wifi router into a tiny, low powered computer running an embedded, open source, operating system called OpenWRT.  Many wifi routers have a serial port available on the main pcb inside the device to which we can hook up a coordinating xBee radio; the counterpart to the ones on each sensor board.  Then we install a scripting language, Python, into the Linux operating system.  Finally, we install python scripts which can be used to collect the data being transmitted from the sensor boards and send that data to web services like Cosm (formerly Pachube), ThingSpeak, Open.sen.se, Paraimpu, etc.

So we have wireless sensor boards sending sensor data to a radio wired into the serial  port of a wifi router.  The wifi router has been re-flashed with an open source embedded Linux operating system, OpenWRT, and to that we’ve added Python as an easy to use scripting language.  We have then added various scripts to bundle the incoming data and send it to the internet for further processing, charting, and so forth.

It is an inexpensive, flexible, easy to use, wireless sensor network platform.

In this ongoing quest to learn more about sensor networks I’ll add links to the Resources Page.

Tutorials:

Here’s a list of notes we’ll be updating with information about how to build you’re own wireless sensor network.

  • WSN: Sensors: this is where is all begins.  The sensor responds to some environmental events and generates a voltage or a digital signal.  I’ll be going over a few sensor types that I’ve built; Tweet-a-watt, Temperature, Gas (example of indoor air quality), and a Force Sensitive Resistor (FSR) as an example of Elder Care.
  • Radio: XBee – Radios allow us to create the wireless part of sensor networks.  The XBee radio is very accessible to beginners even if configuration is a bit challenging.  I’ll describe the various aspects of XBee radios that I’ve used.
  • Gateway: Wifi Router – in the original design for the Tweet-a-watt the output from the sensor’s transmitter sent data to an XBee receiver hooked into a PC (via FTDI-USB).  The approach I describe uses a low powered (about 4 watts) Asus wi-fi router in place of a PC.  I’ll describe using OpenWRT as a replacement OS and adding a USB memory stick to extend the storage memory of the device.  I’ll also show how I added python with web service calls in order to send data to the internet.
  • Client facing site: a site for users to register their gateway devices and manage the sensors associated with each.  Also the place to look at the charts and subsequent analysis for the sensor data.  This is an MVC web application written in C# and ASP.NET using Visual Studio 2010 Express and SQL Server 2008 Express.

Next: WSN: Sensors

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