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.

sensorcon000262592

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?

 

 

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 sales@sensorcon.com.

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:

=CELL/(60*60*24)+”1/1/1970″

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

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 developer.sensordrone.com.  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

and

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!

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 http://developer.sensordrone.com/

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 http://developer.sensordrone.com/downloads/

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 http://developer.sensordrone.com/android-apps/sensordrone-data-logger

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….

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?

It made it to 101,375 feet anyhow… via a balloon.

EOSS192 at burst see sensordrome payload

A huge thank you to Jose Lopez, a retired USAF Colonel and current lecturer at MSU Denver for sending our Sensordrone to where no Sensordrone has gone before.  Almost to the Final Frontier.  Interesting to us of course since we consider the device to be a tricorder.

Jose was kind enough to send along some pictures from the flight.  The first image, above, shows the break up of the balloon at 101,375 feet.

Full details of the launch can be found here: http://www.eoss.org/ansrecap/ar_200/recap191_192.htm

Since the Sensordrone wasn’t conceived to operate at that kind of altitude, which would include incredibly low temperatures and pressures, MSU Denver was kind enough to return the device to us (which we will replace) so we can analyze the effects of that hostile environment on our design, and the included sensors.

We’ll post those results if we can, down the road.

Thanks again to the team of EOSS 191/192 for their interest and cooperation.  More images below!

EOSS 192 16 Nov 2013 2

EOSS 192 flight map 3D

EOSS 192 flight map

EOSS-192 16 Nov 2013 1

sensordrone4 MSU Denver EOSS 192

sesnordrone1 MSU Denver EOSS192

sesnordrone2 MSU Denver EOSS192

sesnordrone3 MSU Denver EOSS192

TeamApollo picts of marshmellowman

 

Lastly, if you’re not familiar with what the Sensordrone does, here’s a really brief introductory video: