Tag Archives: temperature

Atmel-powered shield measures air quality

Powered by a tinyAVR Atmel MCU (microcontroller), this Air Quality Sensor Shield measures temperature, humidity, carbon monoxide (CO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

Currently available on Tindie for $95, the shield can be connected to an Arduino board or Nanode to create a air quality station.

Developed by Wicked Device, the open source sensor shield is part of the Air Quality Egg project, which was chosen as one of the top KickStarters of 2012.

With this unit, users can make their air quality data available on the Internet, all while viewing related information other Air Quality Eggs and Shields have added in real time here.

It should be noted that air quality data is relayed in real-time to Xively, an open data service which both stores and provides free access to data. Xively offers embeddable graphs, the ability to generate triggers for tweets and SMS alerts as well as a robust API which allows devs and Makers to unlock the potential of this new dataset by building mashups, maps and applications.

Interested in learning more? You can check out the Air Quality Sensor Shield project here.

Arduino-based farming in Maine

Roberts Farm in Maine is currently testing an inexpensive Arduino-powered agricultural system that automatically monitors and waters crops. As Scott Taylor of the Lewiston-Auburn Sun Journal reports, the system has already proven itself by allowing Earl Morse, a retired teacher and volunteer at the Roberts Farm project, to successfully harvest a crop of spinach grown last winter in an exterior green house.

Photo Credit: Scott Taylor, Sun Journal

“[The system] keeps watch on the soil temperature and interior moisture through freezing temperatures and darkness. It works, not with hundreds of dollars worth of computer equipment but hobbyist-grade, [Atmel-based] Arduino boards,” wrote Taylor.

“While the farm’s goal is teach local kids about growing their own food and the technology behind farming, Morse hopes to create an automated system that not only gives the plants light and keeps them watered but extends the growing season — and does it cheaply.”

According to Taylor, Morse hopes to publicly release the open source, Arduino-based system this fall.

“What we’re trying to do is make all the mistakes now, so it’s ready for everyone else to use,” said Morse.

Photo Credit: Scott Taylor, Sun Journal

“That’s basically what we’re trying to do, make a farm robot. Maybe a robot farmer.”

Interestingly, the idea behind the inexpensive Arduino-powered agricultural system is based on an older platform Morse helped design back in the 1980s. Indeed, the first version worked with an old Atari computer, although the most stable version relies on MS-DOS, with Roberts Farm still using the Microsoft OS to run its automated hydroponics nursery.

“What it does, this 20-year-old system, lets you match the growing conditions for any location on Earth,” Morse explained.

Photo Credit: Scott Taylor, Sun Journal

“You plug in the longitude and latitude and time of the year and it matches those conditions.”

More specifically, the system controls banks of lights over seedling plants, matching the light’s intensity and time lit to conditions anywhere in the world – at any time of the year. As expected, the system also keeps the seedlings watered, utilizing water from a nearby aquarium to add moisture and fresh fertilizer in a basic hydroponics configuration.

As Morse notes, Arduino boards are perfect replacements for the PC-based version of the system. They are small, inexpensive, easy to program, adaptable and require a fraction of the electricity a standard PC needs to run.

Three versions of the open source Roberts Farm software are ultimately expected to be made open source, allowing farmers to:

  • Control the lights, monitor ambient temperatures, water plants and warn users if there’s an intruder.
Replace Morse’s MS-DOS application, enabling the farm to provide seedlings with appropriate amounts of light and water via Atmel-based Arduino boards.
  • Add livestock support, including managing a farm’s flock of chickens.

“What we want to do is be able to use every greenhouse to grow four crops per year, all year long. Summer, winter, it won’t matter,” he added. “[For the chickens, it] lets them out in the morning and in at night, keeping them fed and watered. [Plus], it has an intrusion alarm, warning you if there are predators around.”

Interested in learning more about farming with Atmel-based systems? You can browse through some of our previous stories on technology and farming including “The Internet of Things, Stalk by Stalk,” “Smart Urban Aquaponics in West Oakland“, “DIY Farming with Atmel and Arduino,” “Open Source Aquaponics with APDuino,” and “Agricultural Monitoring with Atmel AVR

EasyPlug is an Arduino sensor shield

EasyPlug — designed by InXus Interactive — is a versatile sensor shield for Arduino boards. According to a company rep, the EasyPlug allows Makers to connect a plethora of sensors to their board in just seconds.

Key shield specs include:


6 analog sensor inputs
  • Compatible with VERVE sensors
  • Supports standard “analogRead(pin#)” command
  • Uses any 3.5mm stereo cable
  • Equipped with mounting holes
  • Includes 6 unique colored cables (so sensors aren’t confused)
  • Stackable with other shields
  • No soldering required

“All of our sensors are designed to be easy to use, right out of the box. Plug in a cable (provided) and the sensor is ready to go,” InXus rep Jordan Linford explained in a recent Kickstarter post.

“We’ve picked the most useful and fun sensors for you. But we’re adding more all the time, so you should be able to find a sensor to fit your needs.”

Current EasyPlug sensors include those to measure/monitor force, touch, light, turns, pushbuttons, motion, magnets, sound and temperature.

“Last but not least is the DIY sensor. This sensor is meant for people who already have some background in electronics and want an easy way to connect their sensors to an Arduino,” said Jordan.

“The DIY sensor contains 0.1” spacing GND, signal, and 3.3V pins. It also has on-board pull-up and pull-down breakout pins that accept through-hole resistors. If you need more room or have more complicated analog sensors, you can plug the DIY sensor into your breakout bread.”

Interested in learning more? You can check out the project’s official Kickstarter page here.

Sensirion and Atmel develop smarter sensor devices

Sensirion has joined Atmel’s extensive sensor hub platform ecosystem to boost the development of smarter devices for the Internet of Things (IoT) and wearables.

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, Atmel’s sensor hub solutions combine inputs from different sensors, ranging from motion to environmental (such as Sensirion‘s humidity and temperature sensors). These sensor hub solutions not only provide real-time direction, orientation and inclination data, but now include environmental information, bringing optimized performance to a wide range of applications including gaming, navigation, augmented reality and contextual awareness.

“As devices get smarter and more connected, there is an increasing need for environmental sensors, such as humidity and temperature,” Sensirion Technology Evangelist Johannes Winkelmann explained. “By partnering with Atmel on their ultra-low power sensor hub solutions, our customers can implement always-on sensor solutions while maintaining low-power consumption to increase the battery life for many of these battery-operated devices.”

Espen Krangnes, Sr. Product Marketing Manager, Atmel Corporation, expressed similar sentiments.

“With the increasing number of sensors in consumer devices today, low power is a key differentiator specifically for battery-powered devices. The platform is the first of many devices in this series that is specifically tailored for sensor hubs. Our ultra-low power and devices features, and the flexible development ecosystem bundled with the best sensors and sensor software in the market allows customers to create unique and differentiating products,” he said.

“Collaboration with leading sensor manufacturers like Sensirion will enable Atmel to provide engineers with the most appropriate sensor and firmware solutions, thereby reducing overall time-to-market. Plus, the sensor manufacturers offer sensor extension boards (AKA wings) to connect with Atmel’s sensor hub platform. These are used to accelerate the prototyping process – along with software that is fully compatible with our development ecosystem.”

It should be noted that the the market for sensors is expected to increase to nearly $91.5 billion by 2016. Indeed, with more sensors being integrated into mobile, gaming, consumer, wearables, and healthcare devices, there is an increasing demand to offload the application processor with a standalone microcontroller tasked with fusing sensor data.

A closer look at Atmel’s Xplained kits

Earlier this summer, Bits & Pieces took readers on a brief virtual tour of Atmel’s Xplained Pro kits. Today, we want to familiarize our readers with Atmel’s Xplained evaluation kits for our extensive lineup of 8- and 32-bit microcontrollers (MCUs).

“Essentially, Atmel’s Xplained lineup consists of a series of low-cost MCU boards to help devs evaluate and demonstrate product features and capabilities for different Atmel microcontroller families,” an Atmel engineering rep told Bits & Pieces. “In addition, a rich selection of example projects and code drivers are provided in Atmel Studio, while code functionality is easily added by pulling in additional drivers and libraries from the Atmel Software Framework.

The Atmel Xplained series also includes a range of add-on boards that can be stacked on top of the MCU boards to create platforms for specific application development. This means a wide range of add-on boards is available, including inertial pressure and temperature sensors, ZigBee RF and Cryptographic authentication.

However, it should be noted that due to difference in features such as pin count or memory size, some add-on boards may not work with all MCU boards, so be sure to look at the the table below which summarizes recommended combinations.


On the X/MEGA side, Xplained kits include the XMEGA-E5 (ATxmega32E5) , XMEGA-C3 (ATxmega384C3), XMEGA-A3BU (ATxmega256A3BU), MEGA-1284P (ATmega1284), XMEGA-A1 (ATxmega128A1) and the XMEGA-B1 (ATxmega128B1 and LCD controller).

Additional Xplained kits include the UC3-A3 (AT32UC3A3256), the SAM4S (SAM4S ARM Cortex-M4), CryptoAuthentication add-on (ATSHA204) , UC3-L0 (picoPower AT32UC3L064), Temperature Sensor Xplained (add-on) and the Sensors Xplained (add-on).