Resource monitoring solution

Electricity, Gas and Water – three resources that are vital in our daily lives. Monitoring them using modern technology helps with conservation, but the real impact comes when we use the available data to reduce wasteful usage over time. [Sébastien] was rather embarrassed when a problem was detected in his boiler only during its annual inspection. Investigations showed that the problem occurred 4 months earlier, resulting in a net loss of more than 450 cubic meters, equivalent to 3750 liters per day (about 25 baths every day!). Being a self professed geek, living in a modern “connected” home, it rankled him to the core. What resulted was S-Energy – an energy resource monitoring solution (translated) that checks on electricity, gas and water consumption using a Raspberry Pi, an Arduino, some other bits of hardware and some smart software.

[Sébastien] wanted a system that would warn of abnormal consumption and encourage his household folks to consume less. His first hurdle was the meters themselves. All three utilities used pretty old technology, and the meters did not have pulse data output that is commonplace in modern metering. He could have replaced the old meters, but that was going to cost him a lot of money. reflective-power-meter-sensorSo he figured out a way to extract data from the existing meters. For the Electricity meter, he thought of using current clamps, but punted that idea considering them to be suited more for instantaneous readings and prone for significant drift when measuring cumulative consumption. Eventually, he hit upon a pretty neat hack. He took a slot type opto coupler, cut it in half, and used it as a retro-reflective sensor that detected the black band on the spinning disk of the old electro-mechanical meter. Each turn of the disk corresponds to 4 Watt-hours. A little computation, and he’s able to deduce Watt-hours and Amps used. The sensor is hooked up to an Arduino Pro-mini which then sends the data via a nRF24L01+ module to the main circuit located inside his house. The electronics are housed in a small enclosure, and the opto-sensor looks just taped to the meter. He has a nice tip on aligning the infra-red opto-sensor – use a camera to check it (a phone camera can work well).

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Time for the Prize: Environment-Related Ideas

You should already know about the 2015 Hackaday Prize, but have you submitted your entry yet? All it takes to get started is talking about one idea you have to address a problem faced by a large number of people. To help get the ball rolling we’re giving away some prizes to three entries that discuss possible solutions to Environment-Related problems.

For your chance at this week’s goodies all you need to do is document your idea on Hackaday.io and tag it “2015HackadayPrize”.

This Week’s Prizes:

time-for-the-prize-environment

On Monday, March 30th we’ll take a look at all the entries tagged 2015HackadayPrize and choose three that best fit the topic of Environment-Related. The best will receive the SmartMatrix 32×32 RGB LED matrix along with a Teensy 3.1 to drive it. The next pick will receive a Bus Pirate and probe cable. The final prize will be a Hackaday Robot Head Tee.

An Idea is All You Need for Entry

shower-toilet-tank-ideaWe’re not messing with you; all you need to win these early prizes is an idea. One of the most powerful pieces of the Hackaday Prize is the pollination of thought. Your idea might be the tipping point for someone else’s breakthrough or vice-versa. Start a project on Hackaday.io and add the tag “2015HackadayPrize”.

Pictured to the right is a whiteboard sketch by [MechaTweak] which illustrates one very simple shower water-saving idea (we think this was prompted by our column on the topic last week). The idea here is that instead of running water down the shower drain as you wait for it to heat up, the water cold be sequestered in a holding tank and used for flushing the toilet the rest of the day. This will certainly be in the running as it addresses the issue of water conservation. Going along with our Environment-related topic you might also tackle alternative energy production, helping detect or curb pollution, making recycling easier, reducing waste, etc.

As we move along we’ll be awarding bigger and better prizes. Submitting an idea now will give you an early start on your planning. You’ll still be eligible for future prizes, and you may submit as many entries as you like.


The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

2015 THP Inspiration: The Environment

It’s not as flashy as Tesla coils or electric vehicles going 200 mph, but the environment is more important than a bunch of cool baubles and sparks flying everywhere. When it comes to this year’s Hackaday Prize, you’re going to need a project that matters, and what’s a better way to do it than with something to help the environment?

While not traditionally a domain that rocks people’s socks, there are a lot of cool builds that can help the environment like this hyperspectral imager that’s a mashup of a spectrometer and a camera, or something that takes an image of an object, complete with the spectral data of each pixel. It’s useful for everything from farming, to forestry, to medicine.

aquaponicsPerhaps you want to get your hands messy by mucking about in the dirt. You’ll probably find something interesting to build for this year’s Hackaday Prize, like the modular farmer’s market we saw in Detroit last year. How about an urban farming and aquaponics setup? Tilapia do well in giant buckets, you know.

If robots are more your speed, then how about an RC tractor or an entire robotic farm? You could always eradicate invasive plants with a quadcopter if flying around is more suited to your expertise. There are plenty of ways to do something that matters for this year’s Hackaday prize, but we’d be lying if we had all the answers. That’s where you come in with your entry for The Hackaday Prize.

Arduino Gives Your Toilet Options

toilet water saver

With the severe drought going on in California with no end in sight, [TVMiller] decided he could put an Arduino and a toilet together to try and save at least a few gallons of water per day. The invention fills a toilet to the minimum level, saving around two gallons per day for the average “user”.

A typical toilet functions by using gravity and moving water to create a vacuum, sucking the waste down and out of the toilet. As long as there is nothing, uh, solid in the bowl, the toilet will be able to function on the reduced amount of water. The Arduino cuts the flow of water off before the toilet fills up the entire way.

In the event that anyone -ahem- needs the toilet’s full capacity, there is a button connected to the Arduino that fills the reservoir to capacity. [TVMiller] notes that if 1,825 hackers installed this device on their toilets, we could save a million gallons of water per year and be well on our way to saving the planet.

The project site is full of more information and puns for your viewing pleasure. We might suggest that the “2” button would be very easy to integrate with the toilet terror level indicator as well.

 

Nerds Helping Sea Turtles

Sea Turtle Nest Monitoring Device

Life as a sea turtle can be rough. Not only are turtles trying to survive predators, destruction of habitat, fishing nets, and pollution, but only about 1% of hatchlings survive to face those challenges in the first place. Enter [Samuel Wantman] and a new volunteer hacker group called Nerds Without Borders, with their first order of business of creating an egg-shaped monitoring device for sea turtle nests.

Sea turtles are protected under the Endangered Species Act, which goes to great lengths to protect certain species from human activity. The ultimate goal of the project is to help people and sea turtles better coexist under this law by more accurately predicting hatching times. A suite of sensors and a cell network antenna are placed in a plastic “egg” that can be buried in a nest after a sea turtle lays the real eggs. The sensors detect vibrations within the eggs as the embryos grow, which is an indication that the tiny turtles are about to break free of their eggs and head for the open ocean!

Click past the break for more on this project.

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Robot fish detect pollutants

If you happen to visit the Spanish port of Gijon, you may notice some giant yellow robotic fish swimming around. These 5 foot long swimmers are part of a proposed sensor network to detect pollutants in the water.  Equipped with an array of sensors, the fish can test for general water quality, or swap out the sensors for specific testing. They communicate with each other to keep from straying too far from the rest of the network and the base charging station.

The fish was designed by the Shoal Consortium, a European commission funded program that draws from intelligent minds in universities all over europe. While the fish cost over $35,000 right now, mass production should reduce that cost considerably.

You can see them swimming around in the BBC video at the link.

Arduino environment on ATmega644

Our friend [Zach Hoeken] at NYC Resistor is porting the Arduino environment to an ATmega644 chip. This doesn’t really add new functionality to the ATmega644 as it is already fully programmable, but it does add a user-friendly and familiar environment to the ATmega, allowing users to build their Arduino-based projects with more powerful hardware. The ATmega is, after all, the biggest DIP package AVR makes, featuring 64k flash and 4k RAM (both four times as much as an Arduino) and 32 I/O pins, which is 12 more than an Arduino. The video is only proof of concept, so we will let you know when [Zach] releases more details.

[via NYC Resistor]