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.

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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!

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

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.

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: http://www2.wataugademocrat.com/News/story/How-will-NC-fight-a-silent-killer-id-011833

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: http://blog.rileymarshall.co.uk/2012/09/19/be-safe-at-home/

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

In the fourth quarter of 2013, we launched 3 new free Android apps in the Google Play store.

2 of them require additional hardware, but the third works with the Sensordrone out of the box.

SocialDrone for Android

SocialDrone Free Android AppLaunched in October, SocialDrone allows you to post data collected from your Sensordrone quickly and easily right from your Android powered device to social media:

SocialDrone lets you take measurements with your Sensordrone, and post them to Facebook, Twitter, and Google+

Simply select Facebook/Google+/Twitter, sign in, select a sensor and post your readings!

 

This app requires no additional hardware, and is a fun way to tweet or share ambient temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure or altitude, as well as levels of any of the oxidizing and reducing gases the Sensordrone can measure with its 11 on board sensors. You can read more about the sensors here:  Sensordrone.

Water Quality Meter for Android

Most recently released is the Water Quality Meter for Android.  This app is designed to read data from your Sensordrone working in conjunction with two of our new add on modules: pH level and/or Dissolved Oxygen Levels.

Water Quality Meter for AndroidFor this app to work, you need the app, a Sensordrone, and one or both of our pH Level Meter or Dissolved Oxygen Level Meter.  You won’t be able to use the app without those, but you can still download and install the app if you want to see it “in action”.

The Water Quality Meter app allows you to use the Atlas-Scientific pH and dissolved oxygen probe add-on modules for the Sensordrone available athttps://sensorcon.com (This means extra hardware is needed to use the app!)

The pH section allows you to measure pH using the pH probe add-on module, and perform a calibration at pHs of 4, 7, and 10. For measurements, a temperature offset can optionally be set, for improved accuracy.

The dissolved oxygen section allows you to take measurements using the dissolved oxygen probe and perform probe calibration. For measurements, a temperature and conductivity offset can optionally be set, for improved accuracy.

For both add-on modules, an on-board probe ID can be set on the probe (useful if you have several probes of one type). The firmware version of the probe modules can be read as well.

All measurements made while the app is running are logged, and can optionally be exported as a csv file before the app is closed (the file is deleted when the app is closed, so be sure to save it if you need to).

Head over to our online store to read more about our add on modules for Sensordrone.

Air Quality Monitor App for Android

Last but certainly not least, in late August we released the Air Quality Monitor app for Android. The app reads carbon monoxide (CO) levels direct from your Sensordrone, as well as Carbon Dioxide levels if you’ve Air Quality Monitor for Androidpurchased the CO2 Extension from our store, here.  So, in a sense this will work with your Sensordrone out of the box, but to achieve the full functionality, you will need to purchase the additional hardware.

Air Quality Monitor (AQM) allows you to pair a Sensordrone and measure the air quality based on the amount of Carbon Monoxide (CO) and Carbon Dioxide (CO2), if you have purchased the CO2 external module.

At any time, you can tap the face in the lower left portion of your screen to request a measurement.

AQM also provides a service that can run at a specified interval automatically to log your air quality in the background (for more information please see the help menu in the “Settings” page).

All of your measurements are saved in a local database on your device, that can easily be sent as a csv file.

We’re always looking for feedback on our official apps, so please feel free to comment below if you have suggestions.

Moreover, the Sensordrone code is open source, so if you are a developer, you can create your own apps that utilize all the functionalities of our device, as well as any sensor or component you can connect to the Sensordrone through the expansion port (0-3V Analog sensor or a digital (TTL UART or i2C)).  To us, this one of the most exciting aspects of the Sensordrone.  Download the specs here: Spec Sheet, or head over to http://developer.sensordrone.com and learn more!

Thoughts or questions?

While winter isn’t technically here in North America, you’d be hard pressed to tell by looking out your window.  With the cold weather associated with winter, carbon monoxide information will start to creep into your local and national newscasts.  In most cases, that information is good and accurate.  Sometimes, however, some of the myths surrounding carbon monoxide still get passed around, even from trusted media sources.  So as far as I’m concerned, here’s the three most important things you should know about carbon monoxide.

Carbon Monoxide is Present in Your Home and Business Every Day

First off, it’s very important to understand that carbon monoxide (abbreviated as CO) doesn’t simply “show up” and cause your alarm to go off.  Unlike the smoke that causes smoke detectors to sound, carbon monoxide is always present in the air we breathe.  Secondly, even modestly elevated levels over short periods of time are not harmful to humans.

What causes problems, and what causes most modern carbon monoxide detectors to fire alerts is rising carbon monoxide levels over an extended period of time.  It’s in these kinds of situations that it can become dangerous, and in fact deadly.  To understand this, you can think of what is a common root cause of carbon monoxide poisoning: combustion engines running in confined spaces.  You may well have heard that you shouldn’t run your car in a closed garage.  Similarly, you shouldn’t use a portable generator indoors, even in a closed garage.  Those two scenarios cause rapid and consistent elevations of carbon monoxide, and very hazardous conditions for a family, and their pets.

Dangerous Carbon Monoxide Levels

Again, approximates only. Please research levels in your home carefully, and ask questions about carbon monoxide levels.

The Center for Consumer Product Safety estimates that several hundred people die in the United States annually from carbon monoxide poisoning, and several thousand are hospitalized (source)

So what is the normal level of carbon monoxide?  CO is measured in parts per million, or PPM.  This figure essentially indicates how many carbon monoxide molecules exist in a sample of 1,000,000 molecules of air.  Generally speaking, CO levels in a home are normally .5 to 5 PPM, which is obviously a very small amount.

Where you need to be careful is as you approach 70PPM.  That would be a dangerous number for some people, especially those individuals with heart conditions.  130 PPM can be potentially fatal to almost anyone.

Sources of Elevated Carbon Monoxide

As mentioned earlier, winter and cold weather tend to be common factors in carbon monoxide poisoning incidents.

In large part, this is because furnaces and fire places start to be used, and blockages in ventilation can cause dangerous carbon monoxide build ups.  So if you’re using a virtual-carbon-monoxide-inspectorportable carbon monoxide detector such as our Inspector Series, or even our Sensordrone with the CO Inspector app on your smart phone, looking around these areas with the unit is a good start.

Many times, a closed flu, whether its unintentionally left closed or somehow mechanically stuck can cause elevated CO levels in a home.  Further, build ups in chimneys can restrict air flow, and cause issues.  Check with a local chimney professional if you suspect a problem with your furnace or fire place.  NOTE:  If your CO alarm is going off, your first course of action should be leaving the home or facility, as opposed to looking for a solution.  A solution can be found later, once everyone is safe.