Project Apollo

Internet-Connected, Remote Location Environmental Monitoring for Everyone

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Taking advantage of the Internet of things and open source technology, small highly reliable networks of sensors in specific high-risk eco systems and areas of environmental concern can be connected to the internet to allow continuous, remote monitoring of any environmental conditions a sensor can be created for! These may include but are not limited to, air quality, water quality and chemical content, Soil and Water PH, Particulate Counts, Gas Concentrations, etc. Even Sun exposure and Temperatures! Giving more Individuals and organizations access to a low cost, reliable, easy to use system to participate in environmental data collection in any location greatly expands our ability to analyze our impact on the environment around us. Previously, systems like this have been proprietary, and only available at significant cost, thereby severely limiting the scope of current data gathering. This project will attempt to rectify this situation.

The problem:

Currently, remote continuous environmental data gathering has been scoped to very few organizations or companies with large budgets and staff, and sometimes ulterior motives. It is my thought, that bringing these abilities to more individuals and organizations will enhance our ability as a whole to analyze and monitor our impact on the environmental conditions around us. Project Apollo will attempt to leverage Open Source tools to provide an inexpensive and easy to replicate system that will allow anybody from a Land-Owner, curious about the stream that runs on his property, to a School or University, or even a small start-up Company or Hacker Space, to set up and build their own internet connected environmental monitoring system.

How do we bring this kind of tech to the masses?

Project Apollo aims to use easily obtainable parts, such as Raspberry Pi's, powerful micro-controllers, cellular and satellite modems, Solar panels, and some open source, reproducible PCB's, Hardware and code, to create a solution that solves many of the difficulties of remote internet connected environmental monitoring.

Some specific examples are as follows:

  1. Gathering data in a reliable fashion - Project Apollo will include wireless, low power, highly flexible sensor nodes that can accept data from custom built or off the shelf environmental sensors, and forward that data to a nearby 'Base station', for posting to the internet via cell, satellite, or possibly even amateur radio.
  2. Self sufficiency - The system will be able to provide continuous power for itself through alternative means, such as solar and rechargeable batteries or other sources, enabling it to be deployed in a remote location, disconnected from the grid, thereby alleviating the need for time consuming and labor intensive periodic site visits.
  3. Data Aggregation and Management - Having a simple reliable protocol, tested and proven wireless technology, and easy to use and understand WEB back-end for data aggregation and sensor management are key to this system. Project Apollo aims to create a simple back-end that can be deployed on its own, on a small home server, or used as a model to create a larger, more comprehensive API and Data Center in the future.
  4. Data Traceability - We hope to be able to provide some measure of confidence through calibration, self monitoring, and authentication and encryption, thereby allowing those who use the system to have a degree of confidence in the data they are gathering. GPS, timing, system health, and other data will also be gathered by the base station and nodes to aid in sorting, tracking, and categorizing the data gathered by any deployed sensor node networks.
  5. Continuous Round the clock Data Gathering - Currently, without using an expensive proprietary system, environmental data collection typically involves many man hours of work, requiring somebody to go to the remote site and collect samples, check instruments etc. This results in large windows of time where the actual conditions of a particular site may be completely unknown, causing gaps in coverage and requiring assumptions to be made to deduce true conditions. Having round the clock data enhances the ability to determine actual conditions.

  • 2 × ATSAMR21E17: Zigbee capable Radio Chip with CORTEX M0 Minimum 2 per sensor network (1 node and one base station) - additional 1 per node
  • 1 × Raspbery Pi (A+ variant) Base Station Controller for internet connectivity and local data aggregation
  • 1 × Cellular Modem Type to be determined
  • 1 × Orbcomm Modem (Optional) If Satelite Connectiivity is desired
  • 1 × Amateur Packet Radio Transciever (Optional) If Amateur Radio connectvity is desired

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  • Sadness...

    x3n0x05/05/2015 at 22:36 0 comments

    Well, Some stuff came up that will pretty much prevent me from working on this project at the pace needed to make it in time for the hackaday prize... I plan on working on it still thought so don't lose hope, if you wanted to see it progress! Basically it boils down to paying bills and feeding the family. This project COULD payoff, but I have sure paying work that WILL payoff. So the WILL payoff wins out logically, even thought it would be really cool to compete in this contest. TLDR: This project is NOT DEAD! It will see the light of day, just not quick enough to make the deadlines needed for the Hackaday prize.

  • It begins... The PLAN...

    x3n0x03/17/2015 at 15:28 0 comments

    Thus begins the journey. My samples have arrived! While ironing out some of the details of this project, I was looking for parts to use for it. Turns out that this company makes a really cool Zigbee compatible radio transceiver that also has a Cortex M0 Micro-controller in it! Bonus! I was thinking I would have to use two separate parts... I know Zigbee modules are available all over the net, but I thought that in the interests of form factor and power consumption, it would be better to roll my own. The aforementioned company also includes a software stack when you use their parts, and I already use and own a lot of their tools for working with arm based parts, so it was a natural fit! Several companies make parts that fit this bill, but none seem to offer the stack and the IDE like this one does...

    Well, now that some of the parts have come, it is time to finish up system level design and get to schematics. I am in the process of creating a block diagram to explain the overall system function, and hope to be shooting a video here soon to introduce the project. I hope to be introducing my collaborator soon who will be helping with some of the Web programming (That is what he is good at) as I am more of an embedded and hardware kind of guy.

    NOW, for the evil plan: Project Apollo will have four main phases of development that will follow the basic outline given below:

    1. Phase 1: This phase will include sensor node design and testing. This includes schematics, boards etc. This is probably one of the most difficult parts of the project because the code developed here will be a starting point for the low level base station control code, so it is important to get it right. The base station basically builds on the functionality of a sensor node, combining radio with extra system management functions. It is estimated that this will take about 1-1.5 months to complete.
    2. Phase 2: Raspberry Pi Hat development. The raspberry Pi will be the WEB 'brains' so to speak, running python and whatever else is needed to communicate with the internet. The Hat will need to incorporate GPS, power management(Run by a Cortex M0+Radio part), timekeeping, cell connectivity (unless USB is used), and any other essential functions related to low level control of the base station. The end goal is a driver package that can be loaded by the raspi using the HAT protocol and specification developed by the Raspberry Pi Foundation, in the name of making this easy for anybody to build and reproduce. This phase will include Boards, schematics and some code for both the raspi and the micro present on the HAT. Testing will also be done to verify connectivity between the hat and some sensor nodes. It is estimated that this also will take about 2-2.5 months to complete, simply due to the scope of work involved.
    3. Phase 3: Web Back-end development. This phase will be the real turning point in this project. This is where the whole thing starts to come together. The server side application will be created and tested, as well as the client side application. As mentioned before, we plan to use python or something similar to make the network code. Not the most efficient, but there are tons of libraries available, and python is relatively easy to use, so we hope it will make the code more accessible. We estimate this part will take under a month.
    4. Phase 4: If we are still on schedule at this point, we hope to be able to deploy one of these things and get some real world results with it. We may try to work with local agencies to secure a spot where the device can be tested for a limited time, to prove feasibility, work out bugs etc. This will take the balance of the time left at this point, whatever it happens to be, based on the results of the previous phases.

    Here we go! Its gonna be a wild ride!

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x3n0x wrote 10/02/2017 at 18:34 point

Note to all who are following or have liked this project:  Thank you very much!  Sadly, life has a habit of getting in the way of things you want to do sometimes, so I have currently shelved this project, but if there is sufficient interest, I will revive it!  I am looking for some participants who would like to contribute to its development, as the local guys who said they wanted to work on it, kinda bailed on me.  If you are interested, please let me know!

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