Pattern AgentsPattern Agents wrote 01/14/2017 at 18:50 • 5 min read • Like

PatternAgents Explained:

A tailor or dressmaker is very familiar with the concept of a "pattern"; they select a pattern for the style of garment that they want to make, and then size the pattern for the customers individual measurements. This yields a repeatable garment, and gives the tailor or dressmaker all the instructions they require to fabricate it over and over.

PatternAgents applies that same concept to the field(s) of hardware, software and systems design. Take an "electric motor controller" for example; the concepts are the same for a tiny cooling fan motor controller, or a huge electric truck motor controller. Just like garments, electric motors come in a variety of "styles", such as brushed, brushless, permanent magnet, inductive, reluctance, stepper, servo, etc. By combining a "size" and a "style" for electric motor control, a reusable design pattern can be specified to give repeatable results for any electric motor controller application.

PatternAgents has developed formal methods for implementing reusable design patterns, sizing and styling them to meet our customers requirements. PatternAgents designs are useful and scaleable examples of the application of those formal methods, yielding designs that are available off-the-shelf (for standard sizes and styles). PatternAgents can also quickly customize those "design patterns" for specific applications.

I've worked at the intersection of engineering, electronics and the arts for over thirty years now,
designing integrated circuits for Cray Research, Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) and others, image processing systems for NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and digital audio sampling keyboards for E-MU Systems. If you've ever listened to Depeche Mode, Yes or Peter Gabriel, you've likely heard music from sampling synthesizers I've worked on, or if you've seen cartoons from Hanna-Barbera Productions, many were produced on imaging processing equipment that I've helped to design.

With experience ranging from supercomputers and mainframes to minicomputers and microprocessors, you begin to be able to identify repeatable patterns in technology. While technology advances and changes, these basic design patterns repeat themselves. PatternAgents is about identifying or codifying these design patterns and providing Open Source Hardware implementations of these patterns for everyone to be able to utilize.

We’ve produced several Open Source Hardware Libraries of Capacitive Sensing Widgets for creating human machine interfaces like buttons, sliders, wheels and other control surfaces using only the printed circuit board (PCB) itself with capacitance sensing technology. What we've done is distill down the expert knowledge needed to design touch control surfaces so that anyone can download and utilize these libraries to create their own custom designs and products. That's what PatternAgents is all about.

Tom Moxon speaking ot the Open Source Hardware Association

I've been working on motor control and mechatronics for the last few years, designing high-performance motor controllers for a number of electric bicycle and electric skateboard companies. It's one small thing I can do to help reduce the number of cars and the pollution they cause. Electric bicycles are the most efficient form of transportation, and adding electric assist makes it more enticing for people who need to commute, especially those with physical handicaps who might not be able to bicycle otherwise. I've also worked on a number of high performance battery systems for electric vehicles to complement those motor systems.

I've also been working on electronics to try and combat Honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). There are many factors that are contributing to Honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder including habitat destruction (loss of wild areas), pesticides (especially neonicotinoids), mono-cropping (single crops limits the bees’ pollen, contributing to a lack of food source diversity), pests and parasites (Varroa Destructor Mites and others), and viral and fungal infections.

Several of the factors can only be addressed by new laws or changes in land-use practices, but we wanted to see what factors could be addressed using technology. I worked with Eltopia for monitoring the health of the hive and for controlling the Varroa Destructor Mite life cycle. Once the Varroa Mite pierces the Honeybee exoskeleton, the Honeybee becomes more susceptible to infections and poisons. So, if we can interrupt the life cycle of the Varroa Destructor Mite, then we can reduce its effect on the health of the beehive.

I used a programmable logic processor for the rapid prototyping of a Varroa Mite control system installed within a frame of a standard Langstroth Beehive. Because many farm systems already utilize Modbus, I designed it to look like a standard Modbus RTU interface, allowing many hives to be easily daisy-chained together into a (hive) network.

Tom Moxon_5Tom Moxon_5b
A separate effort I started this year is “Beacons for the Bees,” which entails applying Bluetooth Beacons to mark the location of wild and domestic beehives using Google’s “Physical Web.” When anyone walks past a marked hive, they get a notification on their smartphone. This is primarily to raise awareness of the plight of the Honeybee and alert people to the bees in their surroundings. For example, a child who is allergic to stings would get a notification when a hive is nearby and perhaps think twice before climbing that tree. By using Bluetooth modules we can make simple, low-cost Beacons for the Bees as markers.

Stay Tuned, and please subscribe. I expect to have many interesting new designs released this year.

Happy Hacking,
Tom Moxon