Supercon 2022: Irak Mayer Builds Self-Sustainable Outdoor IoT Devices

[Irak Mayer] has been exploring IoT applications for use with remote monitoring of irrigation control systems. As you would expect, the biggest challenges for moving data from the middle of a field to the home or office are with connectivity and power. Obviously, the further away from urbanization you get, the sparser both these aspects become, and the greater the challenge.

[Irak] solves his connectivity problem by assuming there is some WiFi network within range, building a system around the Blues Wireless WiFi note card. Substituting their cellular card would be an option for applications out of WiFi range, but presumably without changing too much on the system and software side of things. Leveraging the Adafruit FeatherWing INA219, which is a bidirectional current sensor with an I2C interface, for both the power generation and system consumption measurements. For control, [Irak] is using an Adafruit ESP32 board, but says little more about the hardware. On the software side, [Irak] is using the Blues Wireless NoteHub for the initial connection, which then routes the collected data onto the Adafruit IoT platform for collation purposes. The final part of the hardware is a LiPo battery which is on standby to soak up any excess power available from the energy harvesting. This is monitored by an LC709203f battery fuel gauge.

Continue reading “Supercon 2022: Irak Mayer Builds Self-Sustainable Outdoor IoT Devices”

Battery Analyzer Puts Alkaline Cells To The Test

We know, we know. Generally speaking, you should try and switch your household devices over to rechargeable cells rather than using disposable alkaline batteries. But while they might seem increasingly quaint in the lithium-ion era, features such as a long shelf life make it worth keeping a pack of disposables around. So which ones should you buy? That’s what [Moragor] wanted to find out with his personal battery analyzer.

Designed as a shield for the Arduino Mega 2560, the analyzer combines a small programmable electronic load with a INA219 current sensor, OLED display, and SD card reader. The user selects the cutoff voltage and discharge rate before the test begins, and once it’s running, data is collected every second and saved to the SD card for later analysis. Once the battery voltage reaches the predetermined value, the test is over and you’re ready to put a new cell through its paces.

After testing 27 different brands of batteries, [Moragor] tabulated all the data and produced some helpful charts to illustrate the results. With few exceptions, the performance level for most of the batteries was remarkably similar. If anything, the test seemed to show that higher tier batteries from companies like Duracell and Energizer actually performed slightly worse than the mid-range offerings. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that, when the per-cell cost was factored in, the local cheapo batteries provided a better value than anything else in the test.

While the selection of battery brands may be different from where you live, the data [Moragor] collected is still a fascinating even if you don’t recognize some of the names on the chart. Of particular note is the confirmation that lithium batteries handily outperformed any of the Alkaline cells tested when it came to high-drain applications. We’d still rather they came in rechargeable form, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.

Versatile Energy Meter Has Multiple Functions

If you are dealing with solar or battery power, you might want to have one of these little energy meters built by [Open Green Energy] around. The Arduino-based instrument measures DC voltage, current, power, energy, capacity, and temperature. The range is only up to 26 volts and 3.2 amps, but you could extend that with some external circuitry.

Of course, measuring a voltage with the Arduino is old hat. But the addition of a INA219 current sensor provides voltage, current, and power measurements in a single module that talks I2C back to the host computer.

Continue reading “Versatile Energy Meter Has Multiple Functions”