Category Archives: Internet of Things

The wireless is the same, only without the cat (Meetup 2014/01/22)

 

The wireless telegraph is not difficult to understand. The ordinary telegraph is like a very long cat. You pull the tail in New York, and it meows in Los Angeles. The wireless is the same, only without the cat

Last night we had our “Internet of Things” project night. Internet of Things has been a pretty huge buzzword the past year and there are various projects around the internet and crowd funding campaigns. This is our take on an “Internet of Things” project.DSC_5059 (Medium)

 

The project basically consists of a very low power sensor that can take various sensors and then report the value of that sensor to a base station. Most IoT modules talk directly to wifi/gsm but while it does work easily and is standalone, the problem is that most of these aren’t really low power. I mean who wants to change/charge the battery every week.

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Our solution is to create a low power sensor node that reports back to a base station. The base station can then migrate the information onto the internet. The advantage of this way is that the rf module we are using uses less power than for example a wifi module. Currently the first sensor node that was built has been running for the past 5 months and it’s still going strong measure temperature at regular intervals.

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For the micro controller of the sensor node we used an msp430. Why not an arduino? While the arduino is very easy to use and has a lot of great support on the internet, it does not make for the best low power option.

So how does the msp430 compare to the arduino in terms of programming? Well, actually almost as easy thanks to Energia. The Energia project is essentially an attempt to bring the Wiring and Arduino framework to the Texas Instruments MSP430 based LaunchPad. This means that most of your arduino sketches can be compiled directly for the msp430 without too much (if any change).

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The other big difference is that the msp430 does not have a easy to use bootloader like the arduino so you do need some extra hardware to program it. Fortunately it comes in the form of a cheap development board called the Launchpad. It looks pretty much like a red arduino, except that it has the msp430 chip on with a programmer section. The programmer section can be used to program other boards with the msp430. Since we needed a launchpad to program the sensor node, it also made sense to use it as a simple base station connected to a pc.

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So last night everybody basically built a sensor node, connected another wireless module on the base station (aka, launchpad dev kit) and had information sending between them :)

Add a 3d printed battery holder into the mix and your have neat little sensor node ready for more sensors

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For more detailed information on the project, have a look at the project page.

We still have lots of plans to build on this project, including interfacing various sensors to it.

Thanks to everybody who attended our project night last night, including Philip and Michael that came from far far away 😉

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In other news, we now have a new keg system at the new space. The beer was sorely missed at our last two meetups.

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We had the guys from Trophy Robotics visit us, hope to see more of the stuff you guys do.

Wynand and Gys spent a while hacking away at some old motherboards removing components for a 3d printer ‘psu upgrade’

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All in all a fun evening. Thanks to everyone who joined us and hope to see everyone next week!