SafeDuino – Part 04: Further Afield – A Complete Redesign?

After having not had much time to work on this project in the past few months, with a major half-million dollar project going on at one of my clients, which was/is the implantation of a new computer system of my own design that will be serving them for the next 20 years or more (well the physical infrastructure will be, the PC’s wireless, network, servers etc won’t they are replaced on a 3 year cycle, again on my insistence) and with one of the suppliers delivering critical components in excess of week late it has pushed back the final deployment for a couple of months as now I can only do core works on weekends and after hours, I have not had much time for this project.

What I have been doing/contemplating is two things however, firstly is whether I need an LCD screen/buttons interface, and I have decided that I do need one, this has become evident so that I can set up the system “in place” when it is finally deployed.

The other thing I want to do is be able to deploy some sensors and control circuits remotely, including some in hard to access places, well ones that once they are in they will not be easily accessible. To this end I have come up with the idea of using network cable for limited power (5VDC for system power) and command and control signals, and where required I will use Flat-Flex Cables’ (FFC’s)  to get into those tight spots that I cannot otherwise support sensors in. 

 What this leaves me with is a system that is essentially divided into three distinct parts, the main controller (the Freeduino EtherMega) the distribution node which is connected to the EtherMega via network cable, and the sensors and control points are connected to the distribution nodes via CAT3 (telephone) cabling or via FFC’s (which are limited to 18″) where required.

This now leaves me of working out how to select which pins go to which distribution point via the network cabling, this I am still trying to solve, however jumper wires are looking like the best option at this point

SafeDuino – Part 03: The goalposts change

Ok, I admit it… feature creep has officially set in on this project.

After doing the basic designs and working out I needed the EtherMega (from Freetronics) for the SafeDuino project, and consequently purchased some (I say some as I keep changing the design) of the components I decided that it was a “waste” of a mega to only use the small number of I/O’s I needed (but more than I could get from an ethernet connected UNO), and this is where the feature creep began.

So, now what I have is more of an environmental monitor not only for the cabinet it was to maintain originally, but also for the room/building it is housed in, this will allow me to do differential monitoring for parts of the building vs the areas I am going to monitor/control individually.

So far I have determined, that beyond the original cabinet it was going to monitor, the following are going to be monitored;

  • The building itself, this is to allow for differential comparisons and fluctuations in temperature and humidity to see if the things I am putting in place to control humidity are in fact working
  • Two other cabinets, including one humidor, just because I can 😀
    • Turn on/off humidification/dehumidification equipment and fans to allow for circulation in the closed environments based upon readings
  • Possibility of wine/beer fridges
  • External temperature/humidity
  • Solar Radiation (for estimating solar panel power generation)
  • Background radiation, this is more of another because I can thing, being able to monitor radiation (Alpha, Beta, Gamma) in the background of the environment long-term will be useful in the future just to see the changes over time, I will be connecting it to one of the sensor networks that have popped up after the Fukushima accident
  • Internal and External light sensors, again to see how it affects temperature/humidity in the closed environments/building
  • Same goes for door/window openings

I am sure there is more to come, in fact I know there is, I have 40 odd pins to fill up :D.

In addition to these added features, I have decided to add some protection to the arduino itself through the use of optocouplers/optoisolators to isolate the external electronics from the device itself, where possible anyway, this will also take some of the current loading of the arduino board. So far I have confirmed that the 4N25 optocouplers work, and I have tested those which I have purchased to ensure they operate correctly.

I am still to get a few linear optocouplers for use the with the voltage divider to allow me to monitor the voltage in the battery system.

Considering ultimately that the EtherMega will be powered via POE (supplied by the switch, so a proper 801.11af regulator, which is being done to ensure monitoring will continue even if the batteries for the lights etc fail) there will be no load on the batteries apart from a few mA for sensors and alike for the most part, but I will be configuring the reed switches for example to be Normally Open (NO) so that there is no power going through them when they are not activated (apart from what is used by the resistors to keep a proper ground) I should be able to maintain this for a long period with just the batteries, and with a solar charger, I should be able to maintain this use of the system indefinitely.

SafeDuino – Part 02: (Partial) Parts test

I have now got some of the equipment for my SafeDuino, as has been mentioned previously I have selected Freetronics for much of my kit for this, sure I could make most of it manually, but I do prefer it being on a circuit board to make it that bit easier to mount.

So far I have obtained the following from a local Jaycar store

  • Freetronics EtherMega
  • RGB LED, This may yet be changed, as something I would like to do would be easier if I just had the RGB LED itself without the board, well rather easier without the IC on it, the board is prefered however.
  • Humidity sensor, Freetronics board mounted, however it is a “common” DHT22
  • Reed Switch, this came from my stash of components, but was originally from Jaycar as well
  • 2000 Ohm and 8000 Ohm resistors to make a voltage divider
  • NDriver Transitor relay, this is to allow me to turn on/off the LED light strip

Good news is all parts have so far passed testing, now its just a matter of waiting for the rest of the items to arive, in the mean time however I will not be slacking I will be using a simulator  (Simulator for Arduino from Virtronics) and the components already at hand to start work on this project.

Whats worse is I have already decided on my next project, several (as we have several locations on the property that require it) water tank level sensors, based upon the Freetronics EtherTen, this one has been chosen for that project as I can use the Cisco POE switches I have at home to power it from the network, meaning no external power requirements

SafeDuino – Part 01: Down The Rabbit Hole

Arduino, an easily programmable microcontroller has been around the traps for several years now, but having been out of this “game” since high school I have not given it a second thought until recently when I have wanted to start doing a little home automation, or rather monitoring (for now at least) for my own purposes. Out of this has been born my first Arduino project, SafeDuino (cliché, sure but hey).

As the project name may have led you to believe, it is to keep things safe, but in this case I am not talking about physical security, I am talking about things that need to have temperature and humidity controlled, recorded and alerts sent when needed. Whilst there are commercial products that can do this, and probably by the end of it, will have been cheaper than building my own, the ability of the Arduino to do other things as well is where my interest lies.

Currently what I am planning on achieving with the setup is as follows;

  • Monitoring
    • Temperature
    • Humidity
    • Dewpoint (as its a calculation based on humidity and temperature
    • Magnetic Reed Switch (Door to the cabinet where it is house opening so I can track changes in humidity relative to the door opening)
    • 2 Buttons, used in conjunction with LCD Panel
  • Outputs
    • Turn on 12vdc LED Strip Lights upon the door opening (hey I might as well put the action of door opening to good use to use)
    • Turn on a 240VAC Dehumidifier (Ultimately)
  • Displays
    • RGB LED
    • RGB LCD panel

I am also determined to output the data to an web feed, either private or semi-public so I can log it and do long term analysis on the data., to this end I have determined to use the EtherMega from freetronics for the base Arduino board, as well as their humidity sensor, perhaps there RGB LED, their N Channel Transistor to drive the LED array, the reed switch is a Jaycar special, the LCD panel and a LCD shield will be coming from makershed.

Let the fun begin….

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