It’s been a while since I’ve posted to the blog, as we’ve been very busy internally working on new content, new features, and yes, a few new products.  I’ll briefly talk about those, but only in shadowy terms, since they are being finalized.

New Content

Actually, the whole website is new.  We changed platforms in preparation for a few things, foremost being a better customer experience.  We’ve made it easier to reorder, or to see what you’ve ordered in the past. We’re adding new information too, as over the past couple of years we’ve learned more about you and what you’re looking for.

Some examples.

We’ve compiled the most frequently asked questions about Sensordrone operation, and put together a Sensordrone Troubleshooting guide.  Most people are able to operate them pretty easily, but Bluetooth can be a challenge, so we covered that in some detail.


We had a look at how carbon monoxide was viewed in different industries, and added some recommendations based on safety agency standards.  Here, we advised auto mechanics on what levels of CO they might experience in a garage.

In case you wonder about how engines can create carbon monoxide issues in an enclosed space, I made a quick video of me starting a lawn mower in an OPEN garage.  Please don’t do it with the door down!

We also added a lot of documentation for our units, from the Sensordrone to the Inspector series.  You can find that information here: User Manuals and Data Sheets.  At that link, you’ll find full specs for the Sensordrone, so if you ever wondered what’s in one, there’s your answer.

Lastly, we started exploring the data logger capabilities of the Sensordrone.  We’ve had data logging apps available for a while now, but the term data logging is becoming a frequently used expression around the office lately.  Here’s why.

New Products

Data loggers!

Based on the Sensordrone board, and with many enhancements, we’ll be rolling out a series of USB charged and driven programmable data loggers.  I don’t have a photo I can share just yet, but I will soon.  Follow me at @SensorconKevin if you want to be among the first to see it.  I’ll say a lot more about the sensor sets we will be including, and specific operational parameters in the coming weeks, so check back often.  Or again, simply follow along on Twitter.  Here’s a hint though… we may be asking what the weather is like in your area, and asking you to prove it.

The data loggers should have both consumer (citizen science, edtech) and industrial applications.

A New Version of the Inspector Series Single Gas Meter

We’re growing our handheld, wearable single gas meter family.  At some point in Q4, we will be launching both Carbon Monoxide and H2S version of the Industrial Pro Gas Monitors.  At the price point we intend to launch it, we think the Industrial Pro will be a first in class addition to the arsenal.  It will have 2 powerful new features:

  • Programmable alarm points
  • Time Weighted Average stats for judging overall exposure.

The Inspector Family

Couple that with its water proof, dust proof case, its intrinsically safe nature and rating, and the powerful MAX mode which stores and displays a highest concentration read during a session, and you’ve got one of the most powerful handhelds on the market for under $200.  We’re very excited about it.

So, that’s what we’ve been up to this summer.  How about you?



Restaurant Carbon monoxide Detector

Restaurant carbon monoxide dangers have been front page news the last several months.  From the deadly accident at Legal Seafood, to the great story of EMT  Joseph Biundo using his portable carbon monoxide meter to detect a serious situation at a Dunkin Donuts, the public is becoming more aware of carbon monoxide risks where they eat.

At the same time, many restaurants aren’t equipped to properly detect carbon monoxide situations before a serious incident occurs.  For example, a standard carbon monoxide detector, if one is even present, likely won’t alarm until 70 parts per million, which is close to the number Biundo experienced near the ovens in Dunkin Donuts that day.  He indicated that his hand held CO detector read 80 PPM in the kitchen.  By UL standards, which are the standards that govern most of the carbon monoxide detectors you’ll find in stores, an alarm isn’t required to sound for 60 to 240 minutes.  In fact, even at 150 PPM, a UL CO Detector may not alarm for ten minutes.

The standards were set up to prevent nuisance alarms. To a degree, you can see the idea behind it.

However, much more research is being done on how lower levels of carbon monoxide can affect different groups of people, such as asthmatics, Restaurant Carbon monoxide Detectorpregnant women, and other “at risk” individuals that have special health concerns.

Biundo’s personal CO detector alarmed at 35PPM when he entered the restaurant.  He was using a high quality unit (although sadly not one of ours) clipped onto his equipment.  Many CO detectors may not alarm for a FULL MONTH in those conditions.  So in the meantime, at risk individuals are experiencing what many believe to be potentially harmful air quality conditions, and they never know it.

Secondly, the presence of 35PPM in a restaurant indicates something is seriously wrong in the kitchen.  Ventilation is failing, or something similar.  35PPM can become a much deadlier number quickly in these events.  So an instant alarm at 35PPM is preferable for identifying problems.

And don’t forget, carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless.  Ahead of the headaches and dizziness, you really have no natural warning system.

Advantages of a Portable Carbon Monoxide Detector

We believe that people should have portable carbon monoxide detectors in areas that are high risk, such as restaurants.  The low level instant alarm, as well as the digital readout that measure carbon monoxide levels in real time is critical.  Most models on the market now are affordable to just about everyone.  The model Biundo was wearing comes in at around $200.  Our Inspector series starts at $129.  It’s great for restaurant use, since it’s water and dust proof, and can be worn by key personnel in the kitchen, or set/clipped somewhere highly visible.

And sometimes that instant alarm at 35PPM can be enough to alert someone to call for help.  Lower readings can alert someone that there is a pending problem, and allow them to fix it before dangerous levels are present.

Important note:  If you are working in a restaurant that deploys devices such as ours, please be sure you review policy on how to respond to a low level CO alarm.  In some cases, it may be preferable to call emergency services immediately, while in others it may just require further investigation.  It’s important to have such a policy in place, and react accordingly.  We can only provide the data: It’s up to you to decide what to do with it!

Sensordrone Integration - Blueforce Development

There’s a reason we went open source with the initial version of the Sensordrone. Whenever you create a product that has so many potential applications, it’s difficult to both predict all of them, and also create for all of them. As a result, we have a few great examples of companies working towards enterprise class integration with Sensordrone.

Case Study – Integration with Sensordrone

Blueforce Development serves the first responder and national security sectors, amongst others. From their website:


Blueforce Development Corporation is an early-stage company focused on the development of software products that facilitate the formation of arbitrary and spontaneous confederations of people, sensors, and systems using handheld devices such as smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices.

Our passion is in the delivery of network-centric computing for those requiring the highest degree of security, mobility, and interoperability.


Blueforce Development also has a robust marketplace where they offer myriad products that they have integrated with their software packages.

Sensordrone Integration - Blueforce Development

In the case of Sensordrone, we see a perfect marriage of hardware, app, and software. By equipping key personnel with a Sensordrone, and then pulling that data back to a command center suite, Blueforce is extending the informational reach of decision makers in real time.

Blueforce used our open source code to deliver all of our sensor data back to their solution; from carbon monoxide levels, to ambient and infrared temperatures, to simple weather conditions.

All of this information is easily parsed, and decisions on deployment, safety concerns, and tactics can be created or altered based on the results.

The Takeaway

The Sensordrone is first and foremost a commercial product. While it has appeal to hobbyists and hackers, and in fact has been initially marketed that way, we think there are hundreds of real world applications that it can extend and support.

From Homeland Security to EPA applications, and from monitoring your greenhouse to simply understanding your exposure levels to common gases, the Sensordrone can be used out of the box, or tailored to your specific needs.

For More Information

For more information on Sensorcon, the Sensordrone, or any of our sensor technologies, please email

Excel Formula to Calculate Standard Time from UNIX Time

Here’s a simple Excel formula to convert UNIX time to Standard People time, as I like to call it:


Excel Formula to Calculate Standard Time from UNIX Time

If you then format the new date column in your Excel spreadsheet to TIME with the date and the hour as the parameters, it will show the standard time and date.

This will be handy if you use our Android Data Logging app along with your Sensordrone.  Our logs store data in UNIX time, which is also known as Epoch time.

YardMap Website

This spring, I’m getting involved with a few citizen science projects and I thought I’d share them with you.  For those of you that don’t know, citizen science is the practice of gathering data and observations as a concerned individual, and sharing those collections with scientists throughout the world, allowing them to do larger and better research.

I happen to be a hobbyist photographer, with strong leanings towards wildlife. So it makes sense for me to get involved with citizen science projects that can make use of those skills.  So here’s what I’m going to be working on.

The YardMap

Organized by Cornell University, the YardMap Project allows anyone to map their property, or any property really, and note bird habitat, care taking steps, and other key pieces of information that help study birds and their environments.

YardMap Website

My hope is not only to contribute to Cornell’s project, but to learn more about setting up bird habitat here in Western New York that I can use to photograph more species of birds.


SciStarter is a broader concept.  It allows “real scientists” to connect easily with people in order to launch citizen science projects.  On the website, you can browse for projects that are of interest to you, and learn more about how to get involved.  Right now, two of the projects I’m interested in are NestWatch and Project BudBurst.  Primarily because I like to photograph both birds and plants.  Also, I’m really sick of snow, especially since we got 7 more inches yesterday.  Green things and feathery things would be a welcome change of pace.

SciStarter Citizen Science Projects

 Notes From Nature

This one is a bit more “mundane” so to speak, but hey, it’s important work, and we can’t go outside everyday. See: Seven inches of snow. Notes from Nature connects citizen scientists with museums, and allows them to transcribe notes into a more digestible format for further study.  This can save a museum a lot of time, and allows them to focus on research rather than “house keeping”.  It’s a great citizen science project to get involved with for those rainy days this summer when bird spotting isn’t the most comfortable option.

Notes From Nature Website

Citizen Science Projects and Sensorcon

So that’s what I’ll be doing with my spare time this summer. I’m out in my kayak quite a bit, so I plan on mapping some small specific areas where I see a lot of birds.

As for Sensorcon, we love to support these projects in part because we’re concerned citizens like you, and in part because we think our Sensordrone lends itself nicely to this kind of activity.  With its weather sensors, air quality sensors, and the water quality extensions, we hope you find a way to use it to contribute to other Citizen Science Projects that interest you.

We may even launch some of our own in the future.

Do you have a favorite project you want to talk about?  Feel free to mention it in the comments section below, or tweet it at me (@SensorconKevin).  I’d love to feature more in future blog posts.

Sensordrone Firmware Software

To be sure, I’m a sales and marketing guy.

So when I was tasked with updating my Sensordrone to Firmware 2.0, I read over the instructions, and fumbled my way through it.  The instructions are fine.  They’re accurate. And they’re boring.  And maybe make a few presumptions.

So here’s the marketing Version of the Firmware Update Instructions.

Finding the Firmware File

Simple enough.  It’s on the downloads page at  And as you would expect, the 2.0 file is in a download package called… wait for it… SDFirmwareUpdate-1.4 .

I guess that’s just the developer way to do things. Your mileage may vary. And there’s nothing wrong with it.  It is the 1.4 version of the package overall, and it DOES contain more than one version of the firmware, but more on that later.

Second, in order to have our Updater communicate with your Sensordrone, you’ll NEED to have this driver installed: Silabs.  It’s a very simple download and install.  Don’t ask me what it does.

What’s in the Updater?

The download you just completed (to your desktop, by the way, not your iOS or Android) contains a Java program and Readme files.  The readme files have a good walk through, but this blog post has pictures, and for some, that’s a big help.

If you have Java installed on your machine, double clicking on the .JAR file will launch the firmware updater application.

Now What Do I do?

Here’s what you should see:

Sensordrone Firmware 2.0 - Step by Step Instructions 2014-02-26 13-36-43

Step One: Make sure your Sensordrone is plugged in through USB. It should show Orange LEDs for Charging, or Green for Charging Complete.

Step Two: Click on the Top Left where it says “Serial Port”. A drop down appears that may list more than one port, as well as the ability to refresh the list.  Select one.

Step Three: Click “Sensordrone Port Test”. If you don’t find your Sensordrone, try another port.  Rinse/Repeat.  If you can’t find your Drone at all, leave a comment below and we’ll figure something out.

Step Four:  Select the DESIRED firmware version you wish to install from the Top Left drop down called “Firmware”. Most likely, unless you are heading backwards, you’ll want 2.0.

Step Five: Press “Upload Firmware”.  Then don’t touch anything.  Don’t unplug your Sensordrone til you see:

Sensordrone Firmware Software


Programming Complete

The upload process should take about 2 minutes maybe, and during that time you may hear alerts for you Sensordrone connecting and disconnecting from your PC.

If you have any questions, please feel free to post them below. And happy data logging!


With the weather finally showing that it isn’t always absolute zero out in Western New York, I took the Sensordrone out for some Citizen Science, and snapped a few photos.  All were taken in Oatka Creek Park in Garbutt, NY, which is really close to my house.






Mark R just posted a bunch of great updates over at the Developer site for Sensordrone.  Full text in the quote box below, but I wanted to highlight a few critical ones:

1.)  There’s now a data logging app.  Lots of folks have been looking for data logging capabilities on their Sensordrones, so check that out.  The app is used to tell the Drone what data to log.

2.)  All 7 of the apps we submitted to the Apple store are now live.

3.)  New firmware is out for the Sensordrone.  It’s running as Version 2.0.

Full Details:

All of our submitted apps to the Apple App store have been approved. That brings the count up to 7; more info about the apps and links to them on the app store can be found

There is a new firmware out! We are calling it Firmware 2.0! (You will need the SDFirmwareUpdate-1.4 installer to install it). This can be found directly at

New Firmware (2.0). Changes (from last non-beta) include
1. Bluetooth Low Energy connection time greatly improved.
2. Discoverable for 30 seconds over BT classic after reset, and then non-discoverable after. Blinks blue during this period.
3. Data logging implemented.

Just to talk a little about these points:
1) This is an improvement over the connection times for LE/iOS from the last non-beta version (this was included in the BETAs). There was a bit of a bug that could cause a (rather lengthy) delay in attempting to connect in iOS, but we seem to have squashed it.

2) We have changed the way Bluetooth behaves a bit for classic bluetooth (Android, or typical Serial Port use). Previously, the Sensordrone would broadcast its name/MAC address all the time (meaning that any time you scanned for it, it would appear). We have changed this behavior so that now it only broadcasts its name/MAC address during the first 30 seconds it has been powered on. It will also blink blue during these 30 seconds. Along with saving a bit of battery life, this also has a further implication to all of our apps (which we have recently updated).

From now on, in our, apps, you will have to have already paired the Sensordrone with your phone. Previously, all the apps scanned for the Sensordrone, and would connect if it was detected. (A slow and bit annoying process). Now they all show a list of paired Sensordrones from a list of those paired with your phone, showing up much quicker to connect to. This also means when you pair it once with your phone, it should show up in all of out apps with no extra work!

3) Data logging! We now support on-board datalogging for the Sensordrone (though any in the Sensordrone App beta Testers community have already had an early peak at this). Now you can tell the Sensordrone which sensors you want to log, at a specified interval, for a specified length of time. Come back later, and get the data! You will need an app to configure this though! That app should live (non-beta) in a few hours, and more info can be found at

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Symptoms

Carbon monoxide poisoning was front page news this week thanks to a story on 20/20 on January 17th.  In it, the deaths of several people in the same hotel room over time were attributed to carbon monoxide being present in their hotel room in incredible levels thanks to a faulty pool pump.

The video above is the 20/20 story on the Carbon monoxide poisoning deaths in hotel room 225, in the Best Western in Boone.

It’s safe to say these are very unusual circumstances, and that you shouldn’t be terrified of hotel room carbon monoxide levels every time you travel.  This was a very specific cause.  And to be sure, our condolences go out to those affected by the two Boone incidents, as well as anyone who succumbs to carbon monoxide poisoning.

At the same time, there potential threats in lots of places, including hotels, in your day to day life.

One of the chief challenges in dealing with carbon monoxide is that even the definitions of danger are wide ranging, and different people respond differently to rising carbon monoxide levels.  Most carbon monoxide alarms, such as the Nest Smoke Detector/CO Alarm, are REQUIRED to alarm at 70 PPM (Parts per million).  Generally, levels that size require a significant build up over time, or an instant catastrophic event, such as a blocked chimney, or malfunctioning equipment.  (See footnote at end of piece for the UL2034 requirements on carbon monoxide alarms)

However, it’s indicated that pregnant women should avoid elevated levels at all, since low birth weights have been associated with CO blood levels of 5PPM.  It’s proposed that these kinds of conditions can be achieved by long exposure to MUCH lower concentrations of carbon monoxide.  Elderly persons or those with heart conditions start to experience symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning at far lower levels than would be indicated by a UL2034 certified alarm.  There’s an interesting article from the Watauga Democrat on the subject here:

In the above article, it’s indicated that many States, including North Carolina, don’t require carbon monoxide detectors in hotels at all:

Isaacs wasted no time in calling for carbon monoxide detectors in hotels, noting that North Carolina codes currently do not require detectors in hotels and other commercial properties although they are mandated in new single-family and two-family homes.

For road warriors and frequent family vacationers, it may then behoove you to have a portable carbon monoxide detector with you when you go.  There are a lot of key differences in how permanently installed carbon monoxide detector alarms and portable carbon monoxide meters such as we manufacture, however.

Differences in Portable versus Permanent CO Detectors

On it’s face, the first key difference is in understanding that a detector is set to alert you at a specific threshold; generally 70 PPM.  Detectors that sound at lower levels are also available, but by no means make up the majority of carbon monoxide alarms purchased in the United States.  A carbon monoxide meter, such as our Inspector or our Sensordrone allow you to take readings of carbon monoxide PPM whenever you would like.  This makes them handy for checking things out when you arrive at a location, and then measuring them over time.

On our Carbon Monoxide Inspector unit, the low level alarm is set for 35 PPM, which is half that of most traditional UL2034 carbon monoxide alarms.  The CO Inspector Android and iOS apps for the Sensordrone mimic that capability.

As a personal benchmark I tested my basement this morning (where all of my heating equipment is located), and I was unable to register a reading greater that 3 PPM.  So that should indicate to all of us that a reading of 35 PPM should be concerning, and it definitely warrants further investigation.

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has indicated they believe that exposures to carbon monoxide in concentrations as low as 5PPM is unhealthy to sensitive persons (elderly, heart conditions, etc), and that most people shouldn’t be exposed to levels greater than 10PPM for long periods of time.  OSHA, (Occupational Safety and Healthy Administration) states that 8 hour exposures to levels of carbon monoxide greater than 35 PPM (our first alarm level) are not only concerning but considered HAZARDOUS to a worker.

When we put two and two together here, we see that a person can be in hazardous carbon monoxide conditions without most standard alarms ever sounding.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Lastly, it’s important to know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Symptoms

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Symptoms:

Generally, in order, you may experience:

  1. Headache
  2. Nausea
  3. Dizziness
  4. Breathlessness
  5. Collapse
  6. Unconsciousness

Unfortunately, headache, nausea and dizziness are not by any means unique symptoms.  So you need to be aware of your environment when these things occur.  If you watched the 20/20 video above, you’ll note that the most recent victims experienced these carbon monoxide symptoms in sequential order.

In Closing

The intent of this piece is to be informative.  We’d like everyone to be aware of the risks associated with carbon monoxide poisoning.  On average, 400 persons are killed annually in the United States by carbon monoxide poisoning.  Some of those are likely intentional in the form of suicide.

So is it absolutely necessary to travel with a portable carbon monoxide detector?  No.  However, if you fall into the sensitive category or are pregnant, you may wish to consider it.  If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them below, or tweet at me: @SensorconKevin

Footnote: From ProtechSafety

38 Sensitivity Test
38.1 General
38.1.1 A carbon monoxide alarm shall operate (alarm signal) at or below the test points specified in Part
A of Table 38.1 when using the test equipment described in 38.2.1. These test points are based on plotted
limits for the 10 percent COHb curve Figure 38.1. If the alarm employs a variable sensitivity setting, test
measurements are to be made at maximum and minimum settings. For this test, three carbon monoxide
concentrations (70, 150, and 400 ppm) are to be used as specified in Part A of Table 38.1.

Carbon monoxide concentration versus time for alarm test points based on 10 percent
Carboxyhemoglobin (COHb)
Table 38.1 revised November 14, 2001
A. Carbon monoxide concentration and response time
Concentration, ppm Response time, minutes
70 ±5          60 – 240
150 ±5         10 – 50
400 ±10        4 – 15
B. False alarm – carbon monoxide concentration resistance specifications
Concentration, ppm Exposure time, (no alarm)
30 ±3         30 days
70 ±5         60 minutes

TeamApollo picts of marshmellowman

TeamApollo picts of marshmellowman

Since we posted the pictures and brief write up of our Sensordrone kissing the face of space (post), I’ve been asked one question fairly consistently:

Why was Lego Man on the flight, and what happened to him?

Well, as it turns out, there’s one good answer, and one that creates a mystery.

I asked Jose Lopez, lecturer at MSU Denver and project particpant, why Lego Man was on the flight, and what happened to him.

The response, including info on the marshmallows near Lego Man:

The students wanted to see the behavior of the marshmallows at very low pressure. They expected them to get very big, but did not. As for the man, I encourage Artsy stuff be added and souvenirs.

So that explains the why.

But what happened to Lego Man?

Unfortunately he did not survive the balloon burst.

So now we have a mystery.

Was Lego Man a casualty? Or did someone build the Galaxy Commander, with or without appropriate sensors… and rescue him? We may never know.

Lego Galaxy Commander

To be sure, Lego has given us many blueprints for craft capable of near space flight since the dawning of the Galaxy Commander. Perhaps another vehicle could have been scrambled and launched in time to save Lego Man.

We’ll leave it a “pix or it didn’t happen” for now.

What do you think happened? Tweet with #LegoMan to let us know your thoughts….