Back in 2013, we launched one of the first hackable, internet-connected, environmental data-collection system.
Although that project has been off our hands for a while, we still receive numerous suggestions/comments/pleas/insults from past, current, and potential users interested in collecting environmental data. Chief amongst the lessons learned, we have:
- From career scientists to DIYers, most users are interested in collecting data outdoors
- 3d-printed enclosures are have great DIY appeal but are impractical for outdoor use (duh!)
- Measuring gas chemistry with reasonably-priced (<$5K( is meaningless without proper and frequent sensor calibration*
- Adding a reliable power source using solar energy to most DIY-grade data collection projects involves hours of research in power consumption, and hunting down additional components for regulating, recharging, and/or monitoring power
In a quest to address all of these problems we have decided to build a kit that includes everything needed to get anyone from Zero to Measuring within one hour.
Processor and Sensors
Rather than re-inventing the wheel seeking a one-size-fits-all type of solution, the kit will be designed around the existing, modular set of electronic development boards known as WeMos. These boards provide an inexpensive platform for rapidly integrating hardware and software using the very capable ESP8266 SoC. The WeMos family of boards includes a series of breakout boards for a big assortment of sensors, flash memory storage, and rechargeable power.
Although several off-the-shelf Solar Power solutions exist, it's often left to the user to figure out the intricacies of integrating it into their instrumentation. This is particularly difficult when operating in outdoor environments where data collection systems need to operate reliably under varying weather conditions.
Our design includes a polycarbonate enclosure for the electronics that's NEMA 4X (IP66) rated. The reason for this choice is to protect the hardware against falling dirt, rain, sleet, snow, windblown dust, splashing water, hose-directed water, and corrosion; it also will be undamaged by thee external formation of ice on the enclosure.
Given the (initial) cost of custom injection molding, and the abundance of enclosures meeting our mechanical specifications, we've based the electronic design around a commercially off-the-shelf enclosure:
The selected enclosure model includes knockouts for easily adding cable glands for weatherproofing connections going in and out of the enclosure itself.