Sensing the infrascape

Since 2013, I’ve acquired and deployed a range of environmental sensors. My initial plans for the data were to define baseline environmental (which ended up being beyond my means). Finally figured out how to merge my inner Maker with my infrastructural fascination by using environmental data streams in interactive design elements that poetically reveal hidden flows and changes or creates immersive experiences.

This concept – researching how revealing environmental conditions and technological flows along infrastructural pipes and wire in situ can generate awareness to inspire behavior change with public, combines several of my research interests and is the focus of my fall 2017 sabbatical project .

So what sensors and data loggers do I have?

HOBO U30

First online in 2013, my Onset HOBO U30 data logger is configured to collect ETo data (1@air temp/humidity, 2@ ground temp, 2@soil moisture, 1@net radiation, 1@wind speed, just missing a rain gauge) on my patio. This entry-level research-grade suite of sensors and the data logger cost about $3,000, and serves as my reference to calibrate the other sensors as needed. The U30 has the ability to control two relays and to send an alarm signal that can trigger other microcontrollers. But Onset has created a proprietary ecosystem with limited customization possible (and haven’t found anybody trying to hack them yet).

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Seeeduino Stalker v2.3

About the size of a deck of cards, the Stalker v2.3, an ATmega328P Arduino compatible wireless sensor node packaged with a 0.5 watt PV panel and LiPo battery, supporting a range of sensors and networking options. This was the microcontroller used by the students in my LA301L studio in 2014, so I now have 5 of them, a ZigBee (XBee) wireless mesh networking shield (a low energy version of wifi, that I haven’t gotten to work), a Bee GPS card, two Grove Dust Sensors, a 8×8 LED matrix, a 10 LED bar, and several other sensors.

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Image from SeeedStudio

Smart Citizen Kit

I got on board the kickstart campaign for a Smart Citizen Kit and ran into some difficulties deploying it. Instead of real-time streaming data via wifi to www.smartcitizen.me, it has been sitting in a box since I ripped the USB jack off the board (the 3D printed enclosure is too small!). This was after I used the wrong settings while configuring it and lost the ability to communicate to it via USB, which Acrobotic kindly fixed by reburning the bootloader.

Teensy 3.6

For 2017’s sabbatical project, I’m getting a $30 Teensy 3.6, an Arduino compatible development board featuring a much faster processor (32-bit 180 MHz ARM Cortex-M4 processor) and loaded with 256kb RAM plus all sorts of goodies (specs). It is powerful enough to drive thousands of LED pixels (or hundreds of animation frames), yet only 2.5 inches long!

Check out: https://youtu.be/a1UGDOdKcVg

I’ve also been eying getting 2 or more Feather M0 with RFM95 LoRa Radio – 900MHz if I need wireless networking abilities – as the LoRA protocol is supposed to be simpler to implement then ZigBee and they have a much longer range.

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