Taking Apart IKEA’s Latest Air Quality Sensor

Whether it’s because they’re concerned about worsening pollution or the now endemic variants of COVID-19, a whole lot of people have found themselves in the market for a home air quality monitor thee last couple of years. IKEA noted this trend awhile back, and released the VINDRIKTNING sensor to capitalize on the trend.

The device must have sold pretty well, because last month the Swedish flat-packer unveiled the considerably more capable (and more expensive) VINDSTYRKA. Now thanks to the efforts of [Oleksii Kutuzov] we’ve got a fantastic teardown of the new gadget, and some more information on the improvements IKEA made over its predecessor.

Certainly the most obvious upgrade is the addition of an LCD readout that displays temperature, humidity, and how many particulates the device detected in the air. There’s even a “traffic light” colored indicator to show at a glance how bad your air supply is. The other big change is the addition of wireless, though unlike the WiFi hacks we saw for the VINDRIKTNING, this built-in capability uses Zigbee and is designed to plug into IKEA’s own home automation ecosystem.

Speaking of those hacks, a GitHub user by the name of [MaartenL] chimes in to say they’ve managed to hook an ESP32 up to test pads on the VINDSTYRKA motherboard, allowing the parasitic microcontroller to read the device’s sensors and report their data on the network over a service like MQTT, without impacting the sensor’s normal operations. This is how the first hacks on the older VINDRIKTNING were pulled off, so sounds like a promising start.

But even if you aren’t looking to modify the device from its original configuration (how did you find this website?), it seems pretty clear the VINDSTYRKA is a well-built piece of kit that will serve you and your family well. Which is more than what could be said for some of the cheapo environmental sensors flooding the market.

Thanks to [killergeek] for the tip.

Breathe Easy With This Online Dust Sensor Box

It’s an unfortunate reality that for many of us, our air isn’t nearly as clean as we’d like. From smog to wildfires, there’s a whole lot of stuff in the air that we’d just as soon like to keep out of our lungs. But in order to combat this enemy, you first need to understand it. That means figuring out just what’s in the air you breathe, and how much of it. That’s where devices like the Dust Box from [The IoT GURU] can come in handy.

Inside the 3D printed enclosure is a Wemos D1 Mini ESP8266 development board, sitting on a custom breakout PCB. This board gives you some easy expandability to add your own sensors and hardware, though in this particular configuration, the Dust Box is using the BME280 sensor for general environmental monitoring and the SDS011 laser particle sensor to determine what’s in the air. Just plug it into a convenient USB power source, make sure it’s connected to the WiFi, and off it goes.

But where does all that lovely data end up? That’s up to you, but in this case, the [The IoT GURU] is pushing everything out to a web interface that allows the user to view yearly, monthly, and weekly historical data for each of the parameters the Dust Box can check. This is probably a bit more granular than most of us need, but it’s a good example of what’s possible should you need that much information.

For a similar project that allows you to take your sensors a bit farther off the beaten path, checkout FieldKit, which was recently crowned winner of the 2019 Hackaday Prize.

Ask Hackaday: How Does This Air Particle Sensor Work?

The hardware coming out of [Dr. Peter Jansen]’s lab is the craziest stuff you can imagine. He’s built a CT scanner out of plywood, and an MRI machine out of many, many turns of enamel wire. Perhaps his best-known build is his Tricorder – a real, all-sensing device with permission from the estate of [Gene Roddenberry] to use the name. [Peter]’s tricorder was one of the finalists for the first Hackaday Prize, but that doesn’t mean he’s stopped working on it. Sensors are always getting better, and by sometime in the 23rd century, he’ll be able to fit a neutrino detector inside a tiny hand-held device.

One of the new sensors [Peter] is working with is the MAX30105 air particle sensor. The marketing materials for this chip say it’s designed for smoke detectors and fire alarms, but this is really one of the smallest dust and particle sensors on the market. If you want a handheld device that detects dust, this should be the chip you’re looking at.

Unfortunately, Maxim is being very, very tight-lipped about how this particle sensor works. There is a way to get access to raw particle counts and the underlying algorithms, and Maxim is more than willing to sell those algorithms through a third-party distributor. That’s simply not how we do things around here, so [Peter] is looking for someone with a fancy particle sensor to collect a few hours of data so he can build a driver for this chip.

Here’s what we know about the MAX30105 air particle sensor. There are three LEDs inside this chip (red, IR, and green), and an optical sensor underneath a piece of glass. The chip drives the LEDs, light reflects off smoke particles, and enters the optical sensor. From there, magic algorithms turn this into a number corresponding to a particle count. [Peter]’s hackaday.io log for this project has tons of data, math, and statistics on the data that comes out of this sensor. He’s also built a test rig to compare this sensor with other particle sensors (the DSM501A and Sharp sensors). The data from the Maxim sensor looks good, but it’s not good enough for a Tricorder. This is where you, o reader of Hackaday, come in.

[Peter] is looking for someone with access to a fancy particle sensor to collect a few hours worth of data with this Maxim sensor in a test rig. Once that’s done, a few statistical tests should be enough to verify the work done so far and build a driver for this sensor. Then, [Peter] will be able to play around with this sensor and hopefully make a very cheap but very accurate air particle sensor that should be hanging on the wall of your shop.