Thumb up for ITP temperature sensor


David, Jedy and I was assigned the challenge of designing a networked sensor that we can give away. This meant we had to think through how anyone can use it, change the battery, and ensure that maintenance would be minimal.

Our solution was to make a simple compact networked temperature that indicates its ON/OFF state with an LED. We used a standard battery pack that is attached on the outside of the casing, so it’s easy to replace the battery.


Benedetta and the class had a lot of great feedback for us:



Water Quality Monitoring

Water quality deterioration is a big issue around the world. Contamination of water can be caused by natural occurring or man-made pollution. And it especially affects people in the developing world.

Deteriorating water quality threatens the global gains made in improving access to drinking water. From 1990 to 2011 more than 2 billion people gained access to improved water sources, but not all of these new sources are necessarily safe. Unsafe handling and storage of water compounds the problem. Water drawn from safe sources may be contaminated by the time it is ultimately consumed in households.

– Unicef

An area with water quality monitoring that I found very interesting is the use of “citizen sensors”. Essentially the network depends on regular people having access to water testing/sensoring kits, testing the water, and logging the data onto a map.


MIT Civic Media Lab’s Ethan Zuckerman blogged about an example of this in China last year:

Jack Ma, Alibaba’s billionaire founder, announced that water testing kits would be sold through Taobao for between 65-80 yuan ($10-13) and invited the public to join his employees in becoming water quality monitors. Yang Fangyi, one of the managers of the Alibaba Foundation, explained that by mapping areas of poor water quality, the Foundation can work with local environmental authorities and NGOs to work on cleanup plans.

An even bigger initiative around citizen monitoring is mWater, funded by USAID.

mWater demo

mWater demo

An example of citizen monitoring in the developed world is CATTfish from CMU Create Lab.



It’s a water monitor that sits in your toilet tank and measures temperature and conductivity to sense possible changes in groundwater quality. It’s designed for communities concerned about pollution from hydrofracking – with high quality, regularly updated data from multiple homes, a community could have an early warning system for detecting potential ill-effects from oil extraction.

However, citizen monitoring can be limited in its effectiveness in some parts of the world such as Africa, as explained in Transparency Policy, because of incentive structures and barrier to participate.


Low cost weather data network

A thematic area for the Global Center for Food Systems Innovation Competition was Weather data for climate-smart agriculture.

From background information provided by the competition, major problems in this area can be summarized as the following:

  • farmers lack access to weather data
  • there is little weather based guidance for producing better yield
  • efforts to gather weather data are not coordinated and/or high cost
  • there is a lack of two way communication between government agencies and farmers

So the objectives for the proposal includes:

  • low cost weather network at national scale
  • education program for farmers
  • two way communication system

Since we are learning about networked sensors I decided to focus my attention on low cost weather network at national scaleand research topics related to the development of such network.

Wireless sensor network: remote sensing

Before starting on anything else, I had to get a good understanding of what remote sensing network entails. Not only this is the main objective of the proposal, but it’s also what we’ll be learning in class.

Wireless Sensor Network

A wireless sensor network are spatially distributed autonomous sensors to monitor physical or environmental conditions, such as temperature, sound, pressure, etc. and to cooperatively pass their data through the network to a main location. One of the sensor node would include radio transceiver with antenna, microcontroller, electronic circuit, and energy source. And the nodes can be connected to each other and to the central computer in various types of networks, from a simple star network to a multi-hop mesh network.

There are different platforms to collect and access the data from a WSN. Since one of the other objective of the proposal is to better facilitate sharing of data between farmers and government agencies, I’m most interested in the online platforms because they would allow the data to be accessible to anyone connected to the internet. For this purpose, the Wikisensing API seems like a good resource. It’s an open sensor data management platform comprising a set of RESTful web services, and makes use of the POST, GET and DELETE methods of the HTTP protocol.

Low cost Arduino weather stations

In the background information, Arduino weather station was mentioned for prototyping proof of concept for low cost weather stations. Just to get a sense of what’s out there, I looked into this a little bit. Most of the hobbyist sites, such as Adafruit, Instructables, and PracticalArduino, provide a tutorial on building an Arduino weather station.

DIY Arduino Weather Station

DIY Arduino Weather Station

What’s interesting is that a lot of people making these DIY weather stations are using them for monitoring wind speed for kite surfing and hand gliding. Another community of DIY weather station builders is part of the home weather stations network.

Existing weather station networks

Talking about the home weather station network, I found an online platform for personal weather enthusiasts, Weather Underground. It consists of weather enthusiasts who report live weather data from weather stations located on their houses or in their backyards.

Personal Weather Station Network

Personal Weather Station Network

Other existing weather station networks includes Washington State University’s AgWeatherNet and US Department of the Interior’s AgriMet Network.

Other resources and related solutions

National Climatic Data Center (NOAA)

  • responsible for preserving, monitoring, assessing, and providing public access to the Nation’s climate and historical weather data.

Deep Thunder

  • research project by IBM that aims to improve short-term local weather forecasting through the use of high performance computing. This is the same computing that technology that developed the Deep Blue chess computer.