While we may not be able to fix the drought, one Maker has set out to change how we use water at home.
As many of you are aware, California is currently facing one of the most severe droughts on record. While it may be a bit difficult to enact immediate change at the municipal level, we can drastically alter how we use our water at home. With this in mind, Maker Will Buchanan recently decided that it would be a good idea to focus his energies toward reshaping our consumption habits.
“It’s possible to dramatically change our behavior simply by making us aware, but we simply don’t know where our water goes. A bill at the end of the month doesn’t give you much useful information, and it gives you the information a month too late,” Buchanan writes.
Inspired by an earlier low-cost water flow sensor project, the Maker devised a plumbing-free, home automation system that can track water usage in real-time across in-home fixtures. This was done by employing a piezo buzzer and a Pinoccio mesh networking device.
For those unfamiliar with the IoT startup, a Pinoccio Scout is a pocket-sized board packed with wireless networking, a rechargeable LiPo battery, some sensors, and the ability to expand its capabilities through shields, much like an Arduino. It is equipped with an ATmega256RFR2 and a single-chip AVR 8-bit processor, along with a low power 2.4GHz transceiver for IEEE 802.15.4 communications.
In order to get a comprehensive idea of where the water goes, Buchanan thought it would be a good idea to monitor it at the outlet as well as the inlet. Through visual queues (such as light color, duration and intensity) at each fixture, the system can inform a user as to how much water they are using at any given moment.
Beyond that, he wanted the mechanism to relay the information to the cloud, where the data could be parsed and visualized in a “household usage” dashboard using Plotly’s streaming API. To accomplish this, the Maker created a source stream via Pinoccio and a destination stream with data.sparkfun.com, while Python was used to bridge the selected data. Buchanan then uploaded an Arduino code onto his respective wireless Field Scouts.
While this DIY system may not solve the impending crisis, it is surely a start. Not to mention, the monitor may make for a great Hackaday Prize submission. So if you’re ready to save the world one drop at a time, head over to the project’s detailed page here.