Smart Citizen: Arduino-compatible and packed with sensors


If you’re going to develop another Arduino-compatible board these days, you might as well take a “kitchen sink” approach. The Smart Citizen Kit piles it on, including Wi-Fi, an SD card slot, and EEPROM on its base. The attached shield—dubbed the “Ambient Board”—is a buffet of sensors: temperature, humidity, CO, NO2, light intensity, and a microphone for reading sound levels. The board’s intended purpose is to provide an open-source, interactive, environmental database by crowdsourcing data from multiple Smart Citizen Kits, but you can add your own stuff or yank the shield off altogether. Additional shields are also under development, aimed at providing agricultural data, monitoring biometrics, and more.

Stick the Smart Citizen somewhere and it can send sensor data to the web over a WiFi connection. The result is worth a look. Here’s the map with the real-time data from early release models scattered over Europe, most of which appear to be solar-powered with a small LiPo battery to keep them going overnight. There’s also an accompanying iPhone app that lets you set up the Smart Citizen, retrieve data from nearby sensors, and allows you to match your phone’s GPS location to any data you collect while carrying the board around.

The developers met their Kickstarter goals earlier this summer and the board has recently entered the manufacturing process, Rummage through their GitHub files here, and watch a video preview of the Smart Citizen below.

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BeagleBone SensorCape lets you measure just about anything


Here’s another entry in the 2013 Intern Design Challenge which motivates summer Interns at Texas Instruments to build something cool for one of a handful of embedded platforms. This entry, developed by [Michael Leonard] is a cape for the BeagleBone Black which has footprints for a bunch of different sensors.

Use it to turn your BeagleBone into a weather station by populating the temperature, pressure, and humidity sensors. Or perhaps you’d prefer an IMU for your next quadcopter by populating the MPU-9150 chip on the pad labeled ‘9-Axis’. This part is an accelerometer, gyroscope, and digital compass all in one. There’s also room for a light sensor and an IR remote control receiver, with the large square pads on the right servung as breakouts for input buttons. If you want all the nitty-gritty on the sensors he designed for [Michael’s] done a great job of compiling a reference manual for the board.

[Michael] didn’t send us a link until he saw the retro-gaming cape we featured on Tuesday. Come on people! Don’t hide in the basement and build stuff unless you’re going to tell us about it.

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Reading Sensors with Scratch

Scratch, a graphical programming language developed by MIT’s Media Lab, is an excellent tool for teaching programming. [Daniel] created an Arduino Sensor Shield to interface with Scratch, allowing for real-world input to the language.

This board is a derivative of the Picoboard, which is designed for use with Scratch. Fortunately, the communication protocol was well documented, and [Daniel] used the same protocol to talk to the graphical programming environment. The shield includes resistance sensing, a light sensor, a sound sensor, and a sliding potentiometer.

The main goal was to create a board that could easily be built by DIY etching. This meant a one sided board with as few jumpers as possible. The final design, which can be downloaded and etched at home, is single sided and uses only one jumper. Detailed steps on testing the board are provided, which is very helpful for anyone trying to build their own.

This board is perfect for educational purposes, and thanks to [Daniel]’s optimizations, it can be built and tested at at home.

Artificial skin lets robots feel

BioTac Artificial Skin Technology is sure to be a storm with Robotics Designers. Giving them the opportunity to add a third sense to there robotic marvels. Now they can have the sense of touch to go along with existing technologies of sight and of sound.  Thanks to the technology coming out of the University of Southern California making this possible.

They have chosen to call their sensor BioTac, which is a new type of tactile sensor designed to mimic the human fingertip with its soft flexible skin. The sensor makes it possible to identify different types of texture by analyzing the vibrations produced as the sensor brushes over materials. This sensor is also capable of measuring pressure applied and  ambient temperature around the finger tip, expect to see this technology in next gen prosthetics. Let us know your thoughts on it.

[via technabob]
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Update: many improvements to optical-sensor-based piano

[Sebastian] wrote in to update us about the optical sensor project he started a couple of years ago. You’ll find his most recent update here, but there are four different post links after the break that document various parts of his progress.

You may not recall the original project, but he was looking to add resolution and sensitivity to the keystroke of an electric keyboard. With the sensors built, he started experimenting with using the force data to affect other parts of the sound. His post back in January shows this bending the pitch as the keys receive more force from the player.

In March he installed the sensor array in an old piano. The video he posted where he plays the piano, but we hear the sound generated from the sensor inputs. We’ve embedded it after the break.

Last week he published two posts. They cover a redesign of the sensor boards, and the panelization work he’s done to help bring down manufacturing costs. The base unit was redesigned to use an AT90USB microcontroller which consolidates the separate chips used in the previous version.

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Collecting Radon data in the name of science and safety


When [Chris Nafis] built an addition onto his historical home he found that a Radon problem, previously mitigated with plenty of concrete, seemed to rear its ugly head yet again. He eventually resigned himself to installing a Radon fan and detector – the latter of which offered no way to store measurement data. He wanted to get a better feel for the short and long-term Radon measurements in his house, in hopes of finding some correlation between temperature, moisture levels, and the total amount of Radon emitted from the ground.

To do this, he disassembled a pair of Radon detectors located in different parts of his house, each of which he wired up to an Arduino. Using his oscilloscope to determine which PCB leads controlled the different LED segments on the displays, he quickly had the Arduinos scraping measurement data from the sensors. [Chris] figured the best way to keep track of his data was to do it online, so he interfaced the microcontrollers with Pachube, where he can easily analyze his historical readings.

An additional goal he set for himself is to trigger the Radon fan only when levels start rising in order to save a little on his electric bill. With his data logging operation in full swing, we think it should be a easy task to accomplish.

Sensor array tries to outdo the other guys

The team over at the Louisville Hackerspace LVL1 is not going to be outdone when it comes to collecting environmental data. They put together this Frankenstein of sensor boards that lets you collect a heap of data showing what is going on around it.

At the center-left a small Arduino clone is responsible for collecting the data. Data storage is not talked about on their write-up, but if that’s an ATmega328 chip you should be able to work out an easy way to store data on the 1k of internal EEPROM. If that’s not enough, there is an I2C bus included on the board making it easy to add a compatible EEPROM.

The sensor on the bottom left should look familiar. It’s a DHT11 temperature and humidity sensor we’ve seen popping up in projects lately. But wait, there’s also a TMP102 temperature sensor; but that’s not the end of it. A BMP085 pressure sensor also includes a third temperature sensing option. Want to see when the lights go on in the room? There’s a CdS sensor and a TSL230R Lux sensor for that. An op-amp circuit can measure the sound level in the room via one of the Arduino’s ADC pins. And finally, an RTC board is used for time stamping the data.

Obviously this is overkill, and we’re sure it’s meant as a test platform for various sensors. All of them have been mounted on the protoboard and wired up using the point-to-point soldering method.