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Landscape Water Waste Elimination

Landscape water waste can be reduced with current technology and enabling public participation.

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A landscape irrigation controller is WiFi enabled and levels of permissions are enabled to allow a passer-by to observe an abnormal condition and, through a internet connected device, initiate action to help correct the condition.

The first order of the day is to design a landscape irrigation controller and incorporate an integrated WiFi module. There are a number of WiFi topologies available, but the preferred is the Serial Peripheral Interface (SPI) connected modules. I prefer this as the interconnection to the PIC micro-controller which will make up the controller's central "processor".

The controller is built into a weather resistant enclosure that is capable of being mounted outside or in a marginally sheltered area. The controller will be installed in an area in which a good WiFi signal can be emanated to the outside public. This usually is outside.

A standard WiFi and router installation will make the connection to the Internet and directly to the public. Communication will be made to the controller through both the internet and public WiFi.

The public participant will use a SmartPhone or other Internet/WiFi enabled device. The exact method of communication and user interface needs to worked out. The participant will need to be educated beforehand to recognize a water waste condition and respond through the connected device. The participant may be an employee of the company using the controller, a city worker briefed in the use of the device, a resident at an apartment complex that uses a controller, etc. This public education is a work in progress.

A system or level of permissions needs to be established. The controller user may allow a passerby to leave a message saying the sprinkler head is now a fountain or the city may allow any of its workers to shut the system off with subsequent notification of a supervisor. The controller user would determine which permissions are appropriate and allow them accordingly.

There is a grand opportunity for open source software development with devices as described here connected in such a manner. I can envision a person walking, riding or driving down a street and, seeing something in the environment with which they wish to interact, pulling out an enabled wireless device and doing so. (If you think this a new and wonderful idea I would reference as a precaution to unbridled optimism the movie "Forbidden Planet" from the 1950's. There may very well be nothing new under the sun.) In addition to water waste control there are many other applications yet to be defined.

This is the text portion of the system design document. The document is in .pdf format and available on request. (There appears to be no way to make .pdf documents available in this project page.)

Landscape Water Waste Elimination

System Design Document of 20 Aug 2014 - Page 1 of 3:

The LIC portion of the project is very straight forward and of conventional design. Possible the only not so conventional addition is the WiFi module which is connected via a Serial Peripheral Interface (SPI) port to the LIC micro-controller. A conventional system was chosen because it is well established as a design. The "leading edge" of this project lies in the enabling of the communications between a person in the street who notices an abnormal water flow condition and the device controlling water flow.

Several control units of this design by this designer have been placed in the retail customer market. The design from the schematic and PCB perspective is considered working. The reason for a new schematic and PCB rendering is to avoid any possible conflict with past proprietary designs. What has not been proven is the incorporation of the WiFi module. This WiFi module is the next step toward improving the function of the LIC design.

There may be third party concerns such as patents and parts supplies issues. These will be addressed as the design proceeds. Any patent issues will be noted but the development will proceed toward a commercial version while these issues,if any, are considered. The parts supply issue will be given design consideration as the project parts are specified.

Editor's note: LIC is the "Landscape Irrigation Controller" it is initially identified in the pictorial...

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  • 1 × A WiFi enabled landscape irrigation controller A landscape controller of 8 stations is designed and built with an integrated WiFi module.
  • 1 × A local WiFi with Internet connection. The WiFi is connected to the internet through standard equipment. The WiFi may also provde an open connection to the public.
  • 1 × A SmartPhone or other Internet connected device. An application is either installed or downloaded upon connection to the network to which the controller is connected. The device user may or may not need prior knaoledge of the applicaiton. This is something that needs work.
  • 1 × A Level Of Permissions The level of permissions will need to be set by the entity using the landscape irrigation controller. This may renage form turning off the unit in real time to noting a comment that can be retirieved by the irrigation controller manager.

  • Starting the Hardware Development of the Controller

    Eugene Carlson08/19/2014 at 20:10 0 comments

    19 Aug 2014

    Landscape Irrigation Controller schematic is a work in progress. Human interface will consist of mechanical key input and character display output. There are eight stations each one a triac output for 24VAC. Power is supplied from an external wall plug in type transformer. The transformer will power up to two 24VAC solenoids simultaneously. Internally the controller uses a Microchip PIC18F87K22 as the central "processor". The WiFi module is supplied by Microchip and their standard software stack is adapted to the PIC18F87K22 instruction set.

    20 Aug 2014

    Schematic progress continues. The micro-controller has been specified and the system requirements, reset circuit, external RTC base oscillator, debug and programming port, Vdd and Vss connections, and Vcap are specified and depicted. Reviewed individual schematic parts depictions for Bill of Materials (BOM) specifications.

    20 Aug 2014 1752 PDT

    Completed System Design Documentation. This is a work in progress and subject to change. The basic items covered were the Landscape Irrigation Controller (LIC) design concept with inclusion of WiFi module. The connections to and from the LIC are depicted in a block diagram. Standard WiFI and router connections are depicted on page 2. These connections indicate communication to the controller user through the internet or direct connection between the passerby on the street and the LIC. Several methods are depicted on page of how the passerby on the street will be able to communicate with the LIC and/or the controller user. 

    20 Aug 2014 1801 PDT

    A case and form factor for the LIC prototype enclosure is determined. The deciding factors are environmental protection (the unit may be required to be mounted outside in harsh conditions while undergoing operational testing) and enclosure volume. The enclosure may be required to contain prototype materials during testing and debugging that would not normally be contained in a production unit.

    20 Aug 2014 2015

    The ports that will function as inputs have been selected based upon the necessity of pull up resistors to define a state when the switch placed on the port is in the open condition. PortB is chosen for the 6 switch inputs. The other two ports, RB6 and RB7 are used with the debugger/programmer clock and data. The SPI ports will be SDO1, SDI1, and SCK1. SS1 will be RF7. PortA will not used and will be output low. The objective is to build a basic landscape irrigation controller with no extra functions that can confuse the test results.

View project log

  • 1
    Step 1

    The first step is to decide what is included in the controller and for what function.

    1. Micro-controller PIC18fF87K22 for flexibility at specification change time.

    2. WiFi module from Microchip because the "stack" is already written and tested.

    3. Triac outputs for 24VAC operation only will keep it simple.

    4. Power Supply from 24VAC and battery backup for Real Time Clock (RTC)retention.

    The rest of the elements are support and generally included in any design. Reset circuit, power detection circuit, Triac drivers, etc. Now build your schematic. Experience will give you the correct approach. (It worked before with little or no adjustment.)

  • 2
    Step 2

    Develop the schematic starting with the micro-controller.

    1. Place the selected micro-controller symbol into the schematic. It is suggested that the micro-controller symbol be a semi pictorial viewed from the top with the pin numbers placed at their physical location on the package and associated with an abbreviated function description for that pin. It is convenient to orient pin 1 of the micro-controller on the schematic with the anticipated pin 1 orientation on the printed circuit board (PCB) layout. This makes it easier to visualize the trace routing when laying out the PCB. (For those that do not use an auto router.)

    2. Insert those circuits and their symbols that are mandated by the use of the micro-controller. These would be the reset circuit, the RTC external oscillator, the Vdd and Vss connection(s) and their bypass capacitors, the debugging and programming connector and Vcap bypass capacitor. Reserve other ports of the micro-controller as necessary such as the Serial Peripheral Interface (SPI) ports and the Slave Select (SSx) port for the SPI being used. The rest of the ports will essentially be input/output (I/O) for the controller's functions. Since some ports of this device are more suited to input functions and others to output functions  a review of the micro-controller's data sheet, particularly port specifications, will assist in the next stage.

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