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Posts Tagged ‘sensor’

Evercell Thermal Energy Harvester to Power Battery-less IoT Wireless Sensors

January 31st, 2018 7 comments

In order to be successful the Internet of Things needs to be extremely inexpensive per node, and the problem is that most remote sensors are non powered by batteries, which either needs to be replaced or recharged, which involve maintenance costs. One ideal solution is battery-less IoT sensor nodes, that do not need any battery, and instead rely on energy harvesting.

The idea is easier said that done, especially if you intend to do it cheaply. While there have been solutions provided over the years for example using vibration energy harvesting or water flow, battery-less devices are still not that common, but companies still bring new energy harvesting devices to market. One of those is Face International’s Evercell thermal energy harvester that leverages the temperature difference within a material to generate electricity, as long as ambient temperature is above absolute zero.

The company plans to manufacture various models of their harvester with different capacities, size, and thickness, for example (expected features/performance):

  • 5μW device
    • 34mm x 34mm x 1mm
    • 1.2V output
    • 4.2μA continuous current
  • 480-nW device
    • 30mm x 30mm x 0.2mm
    • 1.2V output
    • 400nA continuous current
  • 960-nW device
    • 50mm x 75mm x 0.1mm
    • 1.2V output
    • 800nA continuous current

The video embedded below shortly explains how the technology works.

 

Face has partnered with BRIDG, an industry-led public-private partnership for advanced technologies and manufacturing processes, in order to further develop and manufacture the Evercell power cell. In the press release, we learn that an Evercell prototype has already been tested for 16 months with undiminished performance, and producing enough electrical output to power a typical wireless sensor. Furthermore, Evercell power cells are said to be “inexpensive to produce, consume no fuel, have no moving parts, and contain no toxic materials”. If the collaboration produces the expected results, mass production should start in 2019 at BRIDG facility located in NeoCity, Florida in the US. Further information may be found in Face’s Evercell product page.

Via Power Electronics News

BigClown is a Battery Powered Modular Wireless IoT Kit for Makers (Crowdfunding)

January 24th, 2018 No comments

BigClown IoT Kit is designed to be as easy to use as building a castle from LEGO bricks or an IKEA cabinet. The open source kit is comprised of a coreboard module with STMicro STM32L0 Cortex M0+ micro-controller, and a sub GHZ (868/915MHz) radio for wireless communication, that accepts one or more compatible modules (currently ~30 different options), and communicate to a gateway such as Raspberry Pi or Turris Omnia where you’d connect BigClown RF USB dongle, although it’s also possible to include a Sigfox module for communication, and , LoRa & NB-IoT module appear to be planned.

That’s for the hardware…The kit then connects to your chosen gateway via MQTT, which in turns accesses cloud services such as Ubidots, Microsoft Azure IoT, AWS, IFTTT, etc… , and you can monitor the data or control the kit through a web based dashboard or your own application.

Core Module specifications:

  • MCU – STMicro STM32L083CZ Arm Cortex M0+ MCU with 192KB flash, 20KB RAM
  • Connectivity  – sub-GHZ Radio (868/915 MHz)
  • Sensor – Temperature, 3D accelerometer
  • Security – Security chip

They also offer a compact version of the Core module called Cloony with the same chips, except it lacks the 3D accelerometer, and measuring only 23×23 mm for easy integration into your own board.

Then you can select modules & tags (smaller boards) as needed from the following list:

  • Communication – Sigfox module, NFC tag,
  • Sensors – CO2 module, climate module (temp., humidity, light, and pressure), PIR module, temperature tag, humidity tag, lux meter tag, barometer tag,
  • Interfaces – Sensor module (analog or digital I/O), 1-wire module to connect I2C devices, Tag module for up to 6 Bigclown I2C tags
  • Power – Mini battery module (2x AAA), battery module (4x AAA), power module (5V DC power source + 230V/16A relay)
  • Others – Button module, LCD module (128×128 resolution), relay module, encoder module, breadboard module, probe modules

3D printed enclosures, and covers are also available, so fully assembled kit will look like as the ones below.

Firmware is written in C language to make sure battery-life is optimal. The company – HARDWARIO – has also release a firmware SDK to make development easier, and including an API that “feels like working in a high-level language.” The project is mostly open source with firmware, gateway software, SDK, and hardware files (PDF only) released on Github, together with the company’s website…

BigClown IoT has been launched on Indiegogo aiming to raise $30,000 from a flexible funding campaign. Perks start at $69 for the minimal kit with a core module, mini battery module, mini cover module, 3D printed enclosure, and the USB RF dongle. The link I provided should also have a “Premium Kit – Secret Deals” for $249 with 5 core modules, 5 enclosures, a suitcase, and some Ubidots credits. If you want to get all modules, then you’d have to go with the $599 Ultimate Kit including 7 core modules and enclosures, all modules and tags listed above, a suitcase, and more Ubidots & Blynk Energy credits. Shipping adds nothing to $49 depending on the selected rewards and destination country. People based in Europe won’t have to pay for extra custom duties since everything is shipped from Europe. Delivery is planed for August 2018. More details may be available on the official website.

Pulurobot is a Low Cost Open Source Raspberry Pi based Load Carrying Autonomous Robot

January 23rd, 2018 3 comments

Earlier today I wrote about FOSDEM 2018 schedule, and among the various talks I selected for my virtual schedule was “How to build an autonomous robot for less than 2K€”.  Some excerpt from the abstract including a short description of the project, and its “open-sourceness”:

PULUrobot solves the autonomous mobile robotics complexity issue without expensive parts, without compromise. By fearless integration and from-scratch design, our platform can do SLAM, avoid obstacles, feed itself, and carry payload over 100kg, for less than 2,000 EUR.

Application ecosystem can be born around it, as we offer a ready-made Open Source (GPLv2) solution in a tightly coupled HW-SW codesign.

So I decided to have a closer at this project, which can be used as a robot maid/helper of sort, and other applications.

The robot was made by a brand new (July 2017) startup called Pulu Robotics Oy and based in Finland. They have three models:

  • Pulurobot S – Small version capable of carrying up to 100 kg
  • Pulurobot M – Mid-sized version capable of carrying up to 130 kg
  • Pulurobot L – Larger model designed for factory floors and capable of carrying up to 300 kg

S & M model are similar in design, except the latter is larger, while the L model appears to be in a earlier stage of development. Pulurobot M comes with the most documentation, so that’s the model we’ll look at in details with the specs of the sixth revision of the prototype:

  • Controller board
    • MCU – STM32 microcontroller for sensor management & low-level navigation
    • SBC – Slot for Raspberry Pi 2 or 3 for running mapping (SLAM) & route finding algorithms
    • Connectivity – WiFi and/or 3G/4G
    • Sensor –  MEMS gyroscope, accelerometer, compass
    • Motor controllers –   4pcs BLDC motor controllers, 700W peak, to support four-wheel drive computation
    • Power Supply – 5V/10A
    • Charger – 100W Lithium ion charger
  • Vision
    • 2D 360 degree LIDAR
    •  Low-cost off-the-shelf 3D Time-of-Flight camera (SoftKinetic DepthSense) for mapping close obstacles
  • Chassis
    • Riveted, laser-cut aluminum chassis
    • Robust suspension: always four wheels on the ground
    • Two-wheel drive, BLDC hub motors (similar to hoverboards)
    • Supports 130kg loading
  • Battery – 18650-based lithium ion battery
  • Charging –  Can find and mount to its charger automatically

The company is however working on improvements to lower the cost / improve functionality, and will replace expensive off-the-shelf vision parts with their own 3D vision system supporting 360-degree x 40-degree true 3D vision with 100 000 distance measurement points, 5 to 10 fps. They’ll also add the ability for the robot to find any standard wall outlet to charge itself automatically, and redesign the chassis for lower cost, high-quality mass manufacturing.

Click to Enlarge

While the project is supposed to be open source, they have not released anything yet, but maybe we’ll find out more once FOSDEM is underway. We just know they decided not to use ROS. Applications for such robots include delivery boy, cleaner trolley, recycle bin, coffee trolley, night guard, telepresence, and more.

While development is still in progress, they’ve already sold 25 units they plan(ed) to deliver this month. It’s unclear whether the sub 2,000 Euros price is for the S or M model, as I don’t know the price for such robots. Pulurobot M availability is planned for Spring 2018. More details can be found on the company’s website. You can also watch a demo of Pulurobot M prototype version 4 carrying 58 kg of weights.

HiKey 960 Android Development Board Gets a 4GB RAM Version for $250

January 13th, 2018 8 comments

Hikey 960 development board is one of the most powerful Arm boards on the market thanks to Huawei/Hisilicon Kirin 960 octa-core processor with four ARM Cortex A73 cores, four Cortex A53 cores, and a Mali-G71 MP8 GPU, fast storage with 32GB UFS 2.1 flash, and 3GB LPDDR3 memory. Like the earlier Hikey (620) board, the board is also an official reference board for AOSP, so you should be able to run the latest Android version, and also play with sensors using Neonkey SensorHub 96Boards mezzanine board.

If you are somehow limited by the 3GB RAM on the board, you can rejoice as Seeed Studio has just launched a 4GB RAM version selling for $249, or about $10 extra. Note that shipping is only scheduled for February 2, 2018, so those are pre-orders.

The rest of the specifications for Hikey 960 4GB RAM version are unchanged:

  • SoC – Huawei Kirin 960 octa-core big.LITTLE processor with 4x ARM Cortex A73 cores @ up to 2.3 GHz, 4x Cortex A53 cores @ up to 1.8 GHz, and a Mali-G71 MP8 GPU @ up to 900 MHz
  • System Memory – 4GB LPDDR4 SDRAM @ 1866 MHz
  • Storage – 32GB UFS flash storage + micro SD card slot up to 2TB (SD3.0, SRD104)
  • Video Output / Display Interface – 1x HDMI 1.4 up to 1080p; 1x 4-lane MIPI DSI connector up to 3840×2400 @ 60 Hz via HS expansion connector
  • Video Decode – H265\HEVC MP/High Tier, Main/High Tier, H.264 BP/MP/HP, MPEG 1/2/4, VC-1, VP6/8, RV8/9/10, DIVX, H265 up to 4K @60fps
  • Video Encode – 4K @30fps H.265/H264
  • Audio – Via HDMI, Tensilica HiFi 3.0 DSP audio subsystem
  • Connectivity – Dual band 802.11 a/b/g/n/a WiFi and Bluetooth 4.1 with two antennas (TI Wilink 8 WL1837 module)
  • USB – 2x USB 3.0 type A host ports, 1x USB 2.0 type C OTG port
  • Camera – 1x 4-lane MIPI CSI, 1x 2-lane MIPI CSI via HS expansion connector
  • Expansion
    • PCIe Gen2 on M.2 M Key connector
    • 40 pin low speed (LS) expansion connector with +1.8V, +5V, DC power, GND, 2x UART, 2x I2C, SPI, I2S, 12x GPIO
    • 60 pin high speed (HS) expansion connector: 4L MIPI DSI, 2L+4L MIPI CSI, 2x I2C, SPI (48M), USB 2.0
  • Misc – LEDs for WiFi & Bluetooth, 4x user LEDs, power button, reset button
  • Power Supply –  8V-18V/2A via 4.75/1.7mm power barrel (EIAJ-3 Compliant); 12V/2A power supply recommended; PMU: Hi6421GWCV530, Hi6422GWCV211, Hi6422GWCV212;
  • Dimensions – 85mm x 55mm
  • Weight – 60 grams

Click to Enlarge

Hikey 960 is purely an Android development platform, as even though there are references to Debian Dekstop/Developer images, there don’t seem to be available for download, so AFAICS there’s no Linux support. Beside information provided in Android developer’s website (linked above), you’ll also find software and hardware documentation on 96Boards Github account.

Haven Open Source App Transforms Your Old Android Smartphone into a Smart Security Camera

December 23rd, 2017 3 comments

About two years ago, I wrote a post asking what to do with old devices instead of throwing them away. My own proposals included giving them away, reselling them on eBay, recycling them for other purpose like servers or download clients, or scavenging some parts. Other people also comments what they did with theirs, for example setting up a Linux cluster with old TV boxes.

Another way to recycling an old (Android) smartphone – albeit you could always buy an inexpensive one – is to install and run Haven, an open source app that transforms your phone into some sort of smart security camera, but instead of only using the camera from the phone, the app also logs audio events using its microphone (array), as well as data reported by sensors.

Click to Enlarge

One of you first reaction might be: “cool! somebody may an app that would allow hackers or government to make spying on your ever easier”. But actually, the app was initially intended to protect journalists against raids, or more exactly record their occurrence (as proof), and is released by the Guardian Project that aims to “create secure apps, and open-source software libraries that can be used around the world by any person looking to protect their communications and personal data from unjust intrusion, interception and monitoring”.  Haven can also be used to monitor anything you care about, or even as a baby monitor for instance.

While audio and video is continuously monitored, the app only logs the data inside the phone if “thresholds” are exceeded (e.g. motion sensing, audio level…). If you decide to enable notifications, it does not transform your smartphone into another IoT device that relies on the cloud, but instead leverages Signal secure communication app, and the Tor network via Orbot app. A SIM card is not needed, unless you plan to use the optional (and less secure) SMS options.

Commercial Products vs Haven – Click to Enlarge

The app only runs in Android, but iPhone users can still receive notifications via Signal + Tor, they’d just need to buy a cheap Android phone acting as the “camera”. You may want to check out the presentation slides for a quick overview, and visit the app page for more details.

The app can be downloaded from the Google Play Store, F-Droid, or as an apk, and the source code can be cloned from Github.

Mediatek Unveils Sensio MT6381 6-in-1 Biosensor Module for Smartphones

December 15th, 2017 1 comment

Nearly exactly two years ago, Samsung unveiled S3FBP5A bio-processor for fitness tracking wearables with five analog frontends measuring PPG, ECG,skin temperature, BIA, and GSR data, and that is (or was?) expected in the company’s S-Patch3 health tracker.

Mediatek has now come up with something with similar functionalities, but instead of being a standalone bio-processor for wearables, Sensio MT6381 biosensor module is designed as a companion chip for smartphones, and capable for delivering 6 different types of heart and fitness data in about 60 seconds.

MediaTek Sensio key features and specifications:

  • Integrated R and IR LEDs for reflective PPG measurement + 1-channel ECG analog front-end
  • Health Data
    • Heart-rate in heart beats per minute
    • Heart-Rate Variability (variation in the time between heartbeats).
    • Blood Pressure Trends
    • Peripheral Oxygen Saturation (SpO2) – amount of oxygen in the blood.
    • Electrocardiography (ECG) – electrical activity of the heart over a period of time
    • Photoplethysmography (PPG) – change in volume of blood.
  • I2C /SPI digital interface
  • Dimensions – 6.8 mm x 4.93 mm x 1.2 mm OLGA 22-pin package
  • Total External BOM – 4 caps + 2 electrodes

The company explains roughly how it works, and how the user will be using the solution once embedded in a smartphone:

The module uses light emitting diodes (LEDs) in conjunction with a light sensitive sensor to measure the absorption of red and infrared light by the user’s fingertips. By touching a device’s sensors and electrodes with your fingertips, MediaTek Sensio creates a closed loop between your heart and the biosensor to measure ECG and PPG waveforms.

MediaTek Sensio will be available in early 2018. Visit the product page for a few more details.

Build your own Digital Scale with this DIY Kit

December 11th, 2017 6 comments

Electronics DIY kits are easy to find from either Arduino kits, or robotics kits, to oscilloscope kits among others. But I can’t remember ever seeing digital scale kits, maybe because I did not look for it, but that’s exactly what I found on ICstation for $27.99 with a scale that can measure weights up to 10 kilograms with a reported one gram accuracy. The DIY scale can also be pruchased on eBay for $29.99.

Main items in the (Trans–CRS–162DZC) kit and features:

  • MCU – STC MCU Limited STC89C52 8-bit (80C51 compatible) MCU in 40-pin DIP package
  • RTC – DS1302 8-pin DIP chip + CR1220 socket and battery
  • EEPROM – AT24C02 serial EEPROM (DIP chip)
  • Display – LCD1602 16×2 digit display
  • Keypad – 4×4 matrix keypad
  • Sensors – DS18B20 one-wire temperature sensor, “C3 high precision” 10kg strain pressure sensor
  • Boards – HX711 load cell amplifier module, printed circuit board for the MCU, RTC, EEPROM, etc…
  • Misc – Buzzer, transistors, various passive components
  • Enclosure and accessories
  • Power Supply – 5V DC
  • Dimensions – 15.2cm x  14.1cm x 6.5cm (assembled)
  • Weight – 500 grams

Follow the assembly guide to build the scale yourself, and you should be good to good to use your own scale/clock/alarm/thermometer toy.The scale could also be the starting point to make your own design either programming the STC89C52 micro-controller with your own program (AFAIK source code is not available so you’d have to start from scratch), or possibly “IoTize” the scale by replacing the MCU by a Bluetooth or WiFi (ESP8266) module.

Categories: Hardware Tags: diy, electronics, sensor

Anavi Light pHAT Adds RGB Light Strip Support to Raspberry Pi Boards (Crowdfunding)

December 10th, 2017 15 comments

He works as a software engineer for his main job, but Leon ANAVI is apparently enjoying his hobby of designing open source hardware, as after RabbitMax Flex home automation HAT, and ANAVI Infrared pHAT with IR transmitter and receiver, he has come up with as third project: Anavi Light pHat, an add-on board for Raspberry Pi 3/Zero (W) that adds support for RGB light strips.

Light pHAT specifications:

  • Compatible with 40-pin Raspberry Pi header
  • EEPROM with board manufacturer information and a device tree fragment
  • Terminal block for a 12V RGB LED strip
  • 3x 4-pin I2C headers for sensor modules
  • 1x 3-pin header for PIR motion sensor
  • 1x 4-pin UART header for debugging
  • Dimensions – pHAT form factor

You first need to connect the pHAT to your board, and then LED strip, and you can then control the lights using Home Assistant open source home automation platform, with the strip integrated as an MQTT JSON Light component.

Documentation will be provided to use the kit. It’s not available yet, but based on my past experience with his boards, documentation is usually good and easy to follow. Just like the other boards, Light pHAT was design with KiCAD, and you’ll find the hardware design files on Github.

If you want to control the light based on detection of movement, a optional PIR motion sensor is available, as well as three I2C sensor modules: BH1750 light sensor, HTU21D temperature and humidity sensor, and APDS-9960 RGB color and gesture detection sensor.

The project has launched on Crowdsupply with a target of $1 funding since it’s mostly a hobby project, and it will happen whatever the amount raised. A $25 pledge is asked for the Light pHAT only, but you could also consider pledging $35 to get a kit with a 1-meter RGB LED strip, or $59 for the board, LED strip, and all 4 sensors mentioned above. Shipping is free worldwide, and delivery is planned for February/March 2018 depending on selected reward.

Leon also told me he had a spare board he used for testing together with a one meter LED strip, that he’d like to giveaway to one of CNX Software readers. The contest is open worldwide, and Leon offered to pay for shipping, so the only thing you have to do is to leave a comment with #giveittome hashtag. I’ll draw the winner with random.org in about two days on Tuesday 12, 2017 @ 16:00 (GMT+7). Make sure you use a valid email, and can answer within 48 hours.