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 There is a sweet spot between super high tech and older outdated technology where we believe there exists a meaningful set of technologies that will fit our goals.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
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.
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