Tag Archives: Real-Time Data

Measure the air quality in your backyard

Zymbit is measuring the air quality underneath a flight path with a custom sensor board, Arduino Zero and Raspberry Pi. 

Our friends at Zymbit are located in Santa Barbara, not too far from the county’s municipal airport. Residents of their local community were a bit concerned over how flight patterns overhead affected their environment and overall health. And so, the team decided to develop a system to easily monitor the air quality in their backyards to determine once and for all if their well-being was, in fact, was impacted by airplane departures and arrivals.


For this project, Zymbit built and deployed five air quality stations, each tasked with measuring different air quality parameters using the combination of commercial grade sensors, Raspberry Pi and Arduino. These units were then connected through Zymbit’s proprietary software to generate real-time charts. The data is further integrated into environmental analysis software from Groundswell Technologies, too. This allows the Santa Barbara residents to essentially “see the air they breathe.”

The complete system is attached to a modified solar radiation shield crowned with an IP67 enclosure, while all the sensors are mounted to a custom motherboard. Sensor data is acquired using an Arduino Zero (Atmel | SMART SAM D21) located within the top tier of the radiation shield. From there, data is packaged and sent to a Raspberry Pi via a serial connection, which is external to its waterproof IP65 housing. As Zymbit notes, this way the heat is properly dissipated and does not affect sensor measurements.


Meanwhile, the Raspberry Pi acts as the connection gateway and publishes the packaged data to zymbit.com/console. For immediate purposes, data flow is unidirectional — meaning, the unit is not subscribing to any outside streams, though this could easily be integrated. Additionally, with room to spare in the Raspberry Pi enclosure, the Zymbit crew added a PoE (Power Over Ethernet) splitter for versatility. This makes installation simple and improves overall reliability since the unit only requires a single cable connection and POE can handle wide line voltage variations. The user can then choose either a Wi-Fi or Ethernet connection. Of course, a USB cable will also work to power the unit.

At the heart of the air quality station lies a custom designed sensor board that integrates multiple sensor types, such as particulate matter, carbon dioxide, relative humidity, temperature and barometric pressure.


“The particulate sensor was the primary driver for the board’s design; it uses a small convection heater to circulate air and this requires the module to be oriented vertically,” Zymbit’s Evan Fairchild explains. “The particulate matter sensor has two channels; one for ~ 2.5 micron particles and one for ~ 10 micron particles. Each channel produces pulses which are measured and accumulated over thirty second intervals. The other sensors are managed via I2c bus and are all averaged over 15 second intervals.”

Once data is published, it is stored in the Zymbit Cloud. There, it is easy to interact with using instant dashboards or the Zymbit API. For this application, the engineers at Groundswell Technologies — who also collaborated on this project — utilized the API to pull the raw data into their analysis and visualization software.

At the moment, five Zymbit air quality stations have been successfully deployed and are active in their area of interest. Impressively, each unit only required less than an hour to install and to begin receiving data.

“Data streams from each unit are now being integrated into Groundswell’s geospatial software,” its creators add.


Zymbit hardware is self-contained and designed to operate outdoors in a nominally shaded area. For the initial pilot, connection to the Internet is established via Wi-Fi or Ethernet to host building gateway/router. For subsequent projects, Zymbit has plans to provide options for solar power and cellular connection.

Interested? You can find all of the real-time data here, and learn all about the project on its official page.

Measuring the heartbeat of wetlands with Arduino and XBee

A team of National Geographic explorers are connecting the Okavango Delta to the Internet of Things.

Drones capable of detecting illegal logging in the Amazon Rainforest. Sensor networks to help research the dwindling honeybee population. Smart solar-powered waste collection. This is all happening today thanks to the Internet of Things. Joining that growing list of applications is the latest project from a group of National Geographic explorers. Over the summer, the researchers are taking a 1,000-mile journey down Africa’s Okavango River in an effort to collect environmental data, discover new species and measure the heartbeat of one of the most remote wetlands in the world. How, you ask? With the help of Arduino, Raspberry Pi and the XBee ZigBee network.


Located in Botswana, the Okavango Delta is one of the last pristine wetland wildernesses in the world. Although it is protected as an UNESCO World Heritage Site, the water supply further upstream in Angola and Namibia is still susceptible to human interference. And so, National Geographic’s Okavango Expedition assembled a team of scientists and engineers to gather data along the river so that conservation efforts can be more effective, raise awareness and ensure that this remote wildlife sanctuary can be enjoyed for generations to come.

Since the delta itself stretches a vast 5,800-square-miles, the researchers needed to find a way to efficiently gather data across the entire area. Being such a remote location presented a few challenges, which required additional considerations like weatherproof equipment, power sources, and more importantly, how to network the sensors.

In order to accomplish this, the expedition’s lead technologist Shah Selbe created a wireless sensor network to significantly reduce the amount of manual labor required by the team to accumulate the environmental data. Now, they no longer have to use pH strips or manually check sensor readings, then record it by hand onto paper. Instead, the wireless network automates this processing by accurately collating the information.


“Shah took us from little strips and pieces of paper – writing down the water quality as we go down – to environmental sensor platforms. We’re going to be measuring the literal heartbeat of that wilderness in real-time for the world to see,” says Steve Boyes, National Geographic Emerging Explorer.

At the heart of each network lies a Raspberry Pi running a Python script. This central hub processes the data generated from multiple remote nodes and acts as a Wi-Fi gateway. The data is then directly uploaded to the web server using JSON. In some particularly remote areas, Arduino nodes are employed to relay data using the Twilio API over a cellular network. These nodes are comprised of an Arduino, multiple sensors and an XBee module, which makes it possible to connect over long distances. For power, the remote nodes rely on a solar panel and a 6600 mAH battery.


An assortment of sensors are being deployed throughout the delta, with hopes of garnering various water quality data like pH, dissolved oxygen, salinity and conductivity. The team is also seeking to better understand flood dynamics by monitoring flow rate, water level and turbidity. On the surface, sensors measure air temperature, humidity, barometric pressure and in the future the researchers plan to add sensors to detect radiation and other air pollutants. Aside from all that, they are even streaming GPS location, research observations, wildlife sightings, photos and more in real-time on their website.

As the XBee crew reveals, this is merely the first phase of the project. Continuously monitoring the delta will enable the National Geographic explorers to detect even the most minute changes in water quality. The project will also be open source, so the conservation effort can reach and preserve as many marine habitats as possible.

“Instead of connected toasters and thermostats, we can have connected forests and wetlands,” Selbe explains.

Intrigued? You can read more about the project on Digi’s original post here, or check out Selbe’s own writeup.

[Images: Shah Selbe, Digi]

Density lets you keep track of foot traffic in real-time

Yelp tells you about the quality of a restaurant, Density tells you how long the wait will be.

When you’re in a hurry or you’re starving, a long line is the last thing you want to see when you arrive at a business or restaurant. Let’s face it, a device that would tell you how crowded a place is would save a lot of time and trouble. One Bay Area startup has developed a “people counter” that does just that in a surprising way.


Density sensors are installed at a customer’s network of locations, such as a college campus, a gym or a coffee shop. The device then detects anonymous activity and foot traffic when someone passes in front of its sensors, allowing data from visitors going through entryways to be collected, combined and made available to developers through the Density API. This enables generated real-time and historical information to be integrated anywhere.

Density is comprised of two components — a base and a sensor — and uses infrared light to measure movement. With its specific design, it can’t capture personally identifiable information (like surveillance cameras do) about people that it tracks. Not to mention, it’s much cheaper and more compact.


Once a business, museum or university has signed on to Density, it can create an app using the location data that best suits their customers’ needs to help drive business in their direction, at no cost to the consumer. In fact, it has already been deployed at Sacramento-based startup Requested to allow users to ask for discounts at food stops, Workfrom to keep tabs on seating capacity information at remote working spaces, and fitness centers on the campus of UC Berkeley to monitor equipment usage.

The possibilities are truly endless: a restaurant could detect and broadcast open tables, bars can distribute coupons when foot traffic is low or supermarkets can be better prepared for congested checkout counters.

Those wishing to purchase location data from Density can do so for $25 per month, per location while the hardware and installation are free. Interested? Check out Density’s official page here for more.

Connect your Philips Hue lights to real world data with Zymbit

Change the color of your office’s Philips Hue lights based on subscribed data streams.

In today’s constantly connected world, it seems like we’re notified of just about everything from emails and missed calls to social media updates and appointments. As a result, a growing number of innovators are seeking less obtrusive ways to provide you with your daily notifications. This will enable you to keep tabs on important information without constant interupttings and having to look up at a computer screen or down at a phone.


And so, Zymbit co-founder Roberto Aguilar has devised a slick system which connects his office’s Philips Hue lights to real world data through the use of Zymbit’s pub/sub framework. Rather than having to be alerted through irritating sounds or unnecessary vibrations, the Maker has created a much more natural, less distracting way of consuming content. Take for instance, the weather or mass transportation. A blue illuminated wall can indicate that it is freezing outside, while red illuminations can denote that the subway is quickly approaching. In his case, Aguilar has employed an Arduino Yún-powered LED device on his desk that he calls Zymbob. Essentially, the Arduino subscribes to the color data stream and controls the lights.

In order to bring this idea to life, the Maker began by coding a simple app for his friends to tweet a color to his LEDs. Whenever a color is mentioned in a tweet, it is published though Zymbit’s pub/sub. According to Aguilar, at first the app knew less than a dozen or so colors, and has since been extended to over 500. Meanwhile, another app running on a Raspberry Pi Model B+ subscribes to the color messages and adjusts the bulb’s Hue accordingly. Luckily, the app is small enough and can run on the Yún (ATmega32U4) to modify Zymbob’s lights.


As for its software, the project called upon the Tweepy Python package to connect to the Twitter API, the phue Python library to sync with the Philips Hue bridge, the Zymbit Python package to pair with the Zymbit itself, as well as the Zymbit pub/sub engine. Beyond that, Arduino sketches were completed within its IDE.

“All in all, the project was quite successful! The biggest problem is the way I listen to tweets; there can be pretty long delays between sending a tweet and having the lights change colors. There’s probably a better way to ‘listen’ for tweets than constantly polling,” Aguilar writes.


Moving ahead, the Maker hopes to subscribe to more data streams, thereby allowing him to command the Hue lights directly from his Raspberry Pi rather than having to piggyback the Hue bridge.

Seems cool, right? In case you’re unfamiliar with Zymbit, the end-to-end IoT platform enables Makers, engineers and developers to transform their smart ideas into real-world, connected products in blistering speed. On the hardware side, the solution gives users the ability to transition their Arduino or Raspberry Pi proof-of-concept to a professional-grade item using its modular Atmel | SMART-basedATECC108-protected devices. What’s more, the team has designed remote management software that will let users easily connect and control their gadget from anywhere, both securely and transparently — as seen in the Hue Data Channel project.

Intrigued? Head over to Zymbit’s official page to learn more.

This French agency is quantifying everything in its office

Sid Lee is bringing everything in its office online to track coffee pours, toilet flushes, light switches, faxes sent, and more.

Do you love numbers and real-time data? Are you interested in useless facts and figures? Most likely not as as much as France-based creative agency Sid Lee Paris does.


In celebration of its sixth anniversary, the agency has tapped into the Internet of Things to track our infinitely quantifiable world using real-time data. To do so, the team had placed digital Arduino-embedded sensors throughout its Paris office to count everything that goes on, ranging from how many cups of coffee are poured in a day, to how many times the toilets flush, to how many times doors are opened, to how many steps are taken on the stairs, to how many liters of water are drunk, among countless other things.


This content is then presented in a sleek online dashboard so you too can monitor a day inside the walls of Sid Lee. Users can click on a specific measurement to compare the running statistics with other figures to date, enabling you to see some interesting patterns. Intrigued? You can check out their dashboard here. In the meantime, watch the video below.