Joel

Nanospark – A Greenhouse Sensor System

Nanospark – A Greenhouse Sensor System

The greenhouse scenario illustrates well how Nanospark with a custom app can be turned into a very user-friendly sensor system. Could you use Nanospark to run a greenhouse?  Why not.  We made a very small one- just two tomato plants.  The greenhouse has fans, a soil moisture sensor, a thermometer, and an automatic watering line.  We wrote a small app to manage things; we called it VeggieFarmer. The app listens to the soil moisture and temperature sensors and reports real-time status.  When the soil becomes dry the app will trigger a solenoid to open,  letting water trickle down the tube from the bucket to the base of the tomato plant.  When it returns to wet, the app closes the solenoid.  Of course, it’s also monitoring the level of water in the bucket.  In our scenario by a flow rate formula, in other setups it could be done with a scale, water level sensor, or even an ultrasonic sensor. The temperature sensor monitors the temperature inside the greenhouse.  When the temperature is 80°F or more the fans are turned on.  (Yes we know the fans could be located more effectively in the mini-greenhouse.)  When it’s cool the fans are turned off. We hard-coded the above parameters into the demo app we built.  However, it would be a simple matter to program an app with selection settings so that gardeners could run several zones from one controller.  Or so they could customize the app settings to accommodate a variety of plant types in their garden. If you are a hobbyist gardener, greenhouse owner or farmer, we’d be happy to help you use Nanospark to manage various functions of your...

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Industrial Timer for an Antiquated Machine | Nanospark

Industrial Timer for an Antiquated Machine | Nanospark

Industrial Timer for an Antiquated Machine We use Nanospark around our facility, as an industrial timer to do many things, such as to save electricity and wear-and-tear on one of our machines. In the tool and die part of our shop we have an old swiss machine (or screw machine).  The swiss machine is programmed with gears rather than electronics.  Whether there is bar stock in the machine or not, it’ll continue to spin and cycle through the tools. A typical bar will last anywhere from 7 to 9 hours in the swiss machine.  So at the very beginning of the shift a bar is loaded and the machine cuts all day. Then, just before leaving, we load another bar and walk away- knowing that by about 1am it’ll be spinning and flipping between tools- just cutting the air. Prior to Nanospark this would mean each night wasting about 6 hours of electricity and needless thousands of rotations for the machine and it’s tools.  Through a 5V relay, we wired Nanospark’s digitalOutput1 to the power supply creating a digital timer.  The screw machine is turned on from the digital tab of the app. Then we setup an event in the Scheduling tab to shut off the machine at 2:01 am.  In the morning when we walk in it’s quietly at rest, waiting for a new bar. This has been going so well that we’re expanding the operation.  Recently we ordered the wires and relay’s to add three temperature baths, a compressor, and a water valve to this one Nanospark’s scheduling profile. Learn more about this digital timer. ** Update on this project ** Last week one of the technicians in our shop asked if we could also regulate the air line that comes to this screw machine.  We had some 120V solenoids on hand; so, sure!  He took care of the piping, adding some adapters to the solenoid, while I grabbed a couple wires- and we were off. As you can see in the picture, the relay board that we used has 4 relays on it.  So I wired a wall plug into the second relay’s power slot and the power leg of the solenoid into the NO slot.  The grounds were tied together to complete the circuit.  Next I connected Nanospark’s digitalOutput4 to IN2 on the relay.  Now the On/Off slider on the digital screen of the app...

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Meet Nanospark – Interface Controller Extraordinaire

Meet Nanospark – Interface Controller Extraordinaire

The new Nanospark controller brings the power of the Apple mobile devices to the physical world. It will help developers and users of sensors, machines and other devices to convert them to smart devices, integrate them into the web and leverage the computing power of the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices to monitor and control their equipment.

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Industrial Automation Processes – Ice Cream Cup Lids

Industrial Automation Processes – Ice Cream Cup Lids

There are three JMP contact switches wired to digital inputs to confirm equipment and cup location. Five digital outputs trigger solenoids (through an 8-channel, 5V relay board) to actuate cylinders and a vacuum pump which place the lid on the cup, and rotary valves which move the cup through the system.

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The Intuitive Digital Timer | Nanospark

The Intuitive Digital Timer | Nanospark

There certainly are digital timers out there, so why use Nanospark in this way? Because it’s Versatile, Centralized, and Intuitive. Nanospark can act as a digital timer for up to ten different pieces of equipment; even if they run off varied voltages. And the interface to set and manage the scheduled events is simple and clear.

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Color Detection With Multiple Calculation Areas

Color Detection With Multiple Calculation Areas

We had a farmer from Australia contact us with a fascinating idea, color detection.  Could we put an iPod touch on the chemical tank of  his tractor and use the Colour Detector app to trigger the weed killer to spray only when it sees a weed?  We loved this idea not only in cost savings to the farmers, but also how good this must be for the environment. To make it happen though, we needed to tighten up Colour Detector’s gathering of RGB values.  So we separated the screen out into a grid, each looking for and reporting it’s own RGB value.  Here’s our proof of concept report. Attempt 1: The first attempt at color detection with multiple calculation areas I used six selection areas. Each area was a 160px by 160px square. Using three rows and two columns the screen was divided perfectly since the 3.5 inch retina displays measure 320 by 480 pixels. With six selection areas the results were less than favorable. When looking at solid colors or nearly homogeneous patterns the RGB reading would be pretty similar from one square to the next. The performance in this case is passable. When looking at areas that were not homogeneous though, the readings would fail to reflect the presence of an object such as a tuft of grass. I assume that the problem lay in the fact that each calculation area was too large. Each area was looking at 25600 pixels! Even if a pretty sizable object were to be inside a calculation area is would only be a portion of the total pixels. Further the other pixels are already a mix of red, green, and blue just simply in varying degrees. The colors from the object would likely fail to significantly influence the color average. Below are a few screen shots of the first attempt. Attempt 2: For the second attempt I decided to up the number of calculation areas. My hope was that the smaller calculation areas would lead to more “sensitive” averages since there would be fewer pixels involved. More sensitive calculation areas should improve performance both with homogeneous subjects and heterogeneous subjects. I split the screen into fifteen calculation areas with five rows and three columns. The 320px by 480px screen did not split up as nicely. In order to have equal calculation areas I chose to have small 1px columns and rows...

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Nanospark-Sensor Monitoring Application (Soil Quality)

Nanospark-Sensor Monitoring Application (Soil Quality)

Here’s a quick one.  Nanospark with a soil moisture sensor and a sensor monitoring application.  The two prongs send voltage between them, more moisture = higher voltage.   A nice easy read with Nanospark’s analog tab. How could you use this?  Perhaps you have a greenhouse, or some plants around the house.  You could easily setup an automatic watering system and have soil moisture sensors monitor and trigger the watering. (We did that this summer- read about it here.) The next step.  As you know different plants thrive at different moisture levels.  So with a simple app you could change at which voltage (as read by the moisture sensor) the water comes on and off....

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Remote Access and Control via Text Messaging

Remote Access and Control via Text Messaging

Using Twilio’s global text messaging API, we’ve integrated into the Nanospark Controller app SMS communication with the Nanospark board. Using Nanospark’s remote access and control capabilities you can find out the status of sensors wired to the inputs and activate equipment connected to outputs- with a text message. A distinct advantage, therefore, is that you can communicate with your equipment anywhere you can get a phone signal.

Watch a video demo of this in action

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Color Detector – Nanospark Colour Detector App

Color Detector – Nanospark Colour Detector App

One thing we like to highlight about Nanospark is how with it we can use the features on iOS devices to work with whatever sensor or actuator is wired to the Nansopark Controller. A perfect example of this is the Colour Detector. This is an app we developed to use the camera on your iPod touch, iPhone, or iPad as the foundation for a low-cost vision system.

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Nanospark – Force Sensing Resistor

Nanospark – Force Sensing Resistor

This week we wired Nanospark up with a force sensing resistor.  It’s output is 0-5V which makes for a clear display in the Nanospark Controller App of the voltage readings.  As pressure is applied to the pad the resistance is reduced so the voltage reading increases.  The wiring is simple, as you’ll see in the demo; which, I think, illustrates well the ease with which Nanospark can be used in many and varied applications. Where would you use a force sensing resistor?  Some are used to gather scientific data (Tekscan, the manufacturers of FlexiForce®, have  a customer using the force sensing resistors to measure the bite strength of lizards), others to measure the force applied to brakes.  They are also used widely in the medical field. Whatever use you may find for the force sensing resistor, imagine what you could do with the data when drawing on the features of your iPhone!  Does a colleague at the home office need the data?  Email it as it’s gathered.  Will corresponding the data with geographic location make it more useful?  Have the app connect the data with GPS coordinates before exporting.  Nanospark facilitates that link between the raw data from and the awesome power of iOS. Though the demo is simple, the potential is...

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