Electricity Monitoring with a Light-to-Voltage Sensor, MQTT and some Duct Tape

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When it comes down to energy management, having real-time data is key. But rarely is up-to-the-minute kilowatt hour information given out freely by a Utility company, which makes it extremely hard to adjust spending habits during the billing cycle. So when we heard about [Jon]‘s project to translate light signals radiating out of his meter, we had to check it out.

From the looks of it, his hardware configuration is relatively simple. All it uses is a TSL261 Light-to-Voltage sensor connected to an Arduino with an Ethernet shield attached. The sensor is then taped above the meter’s flashing LED, which flickers whenever a pulse is sent out indicating every time a watt of electricity is used. His configuration is specific to the type of meter that was installed by his Utility, and there is no guarantee that all the meters deployed by that company are the same. But it is a good start towards a better energy monitoring solution.

And the entire process is documented on [Jon]’s website, allowing for more energy-curious people to see what it took to get it all hooked up. In it, he describes how to get started with MQTT, which is a machine-to-machine (M2M)/”Internet of Things” connectivity protocol, to produce a real-time graph, streaming data in from a live feed.

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Long Range Wireless Sensors for the Home-Area-Network

7785441404784533190 In the near future, we will all reside in households that contain hundreds of little devices intertwingled together with an easily connectable and controllable network of sensors. For years, projects have been appearing all around the world, like this wireless sensor system that anyone can build.

[Eric] hopes his work will help bring the truly expansive Home-Area-Network (HAN) into fruition by letting developers build cheap, battery-powered, long-range wireless sensors. His method integrates with the pluggable OSGI architecture and home automation platform openHAB along with using an Arduino as the lower power, sensor node that is capable of utilizing many types of cheap sensors found online.

[Eric]’s tutorial depicts a few examples of the possibilities of these open-source platforms. For instance, he shows what he calls a ‘Mailbox Sentinel’ which is a battery-powered mail monitoring device that uses a Raspberry Pi to play the infamous, and ancient AOL sound bite “you’ve got mail.” It will also send an email once the postman cometh.

In addition, he lists other ideas such as a baby monitoring sentinel, a washer/dryer notification system, water leak detectors, and security implementations that blast a loud alarm if someone tries to break in. All of this potential for just around $20.

The key to making this project work, as [Eric] states, is the MQTT binding that ties together the Ardiuno and openHAB platform. This allows for simple messages to be sent over the Ethernet connection which is often found in IoT devices.

So all you developers out there go home and start thinking of what could be connected next! Because with this system, all you need is a couple of ten-spots and an internet plug, and you have yourself a strong foundation to build on top of. The rest is up to you.

This open, connected device is [Eric's] entry for The Hackaday Prize. You can see his video demo after the break. We hope this inspires you to submit your own project to the contest!

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