It is a major problem in almost all large German cities, that fine particulate matter is frequently exceeding its maximum permissible value of 50 μg/m3. In a special issue of the Make Magazine (IoT special 01/2017), I read an article about the Nova PM SDS011 sensor, which is using the principle of laser scattering to measure the concentration of particulate matter between 0.3 to 10 μm in the air. The sensor is cheap (about 20 Euro) and easy to use, since it communicates via serial connection.
For placing the sensor into an enclosure, it is equipped with a nozzle that allows to connect a hose of max. 1 m length. The UART communication protocol requires a bit rate of 9600 baud, with 8 data bit, no parity and one stop bit.
For quite a while I am monitoring temperature and humidity in each single room of my apartment. I was inspired by several Raspberry projects, featuring a “Garden Pi“, to monitor my house plants as well, using a probe to measure moisture level of soil.
On the net, one can find many low-cost sensors which are compatible with Arduino or Raspberry Pi. They usually consist of simple PCBs with two electrodes which are pushed into the earth. Moisture is determined by measuring conductivity of the soil which isn’t very reliable for long-term measurements. Cheap sensors are often affected by heavy corrosion, so that Copper ions will leach out and might poison your plants.
In contrast, sensors measuring soil moisture levels by capacitive sensing rather than resistive sensing are much more suitable, because they are made of corrosion resistant material which gives them an excellent service life.
About two years ago, a cheap five dollar microcontroller has been entering the maker scene, featuring b/g/n wireless LAN. The ESP8266 is manufactured by a Chinese company, called Espressif Systems and became soon very popular as a building-block for home-automation and IoT projects.These modules were distributed on Ebay, the Amazon Marketplace or AliExpress for a few dollars. However, communication with most of the ESP8266 modules requires an external USB-to-Serial-Adapter and a special procedure to bring the device into “flash-mode”, which can be cumbersome in some cases, especially for beginners. With the brand-new WeMos D1 Mini, the setup was significantly simplified, so that it is as easy to use as an Arduino UNO.
With a PIR sensor one can detect movements within it’s field of view and trigger other hardware, such as surveillance cameras. It is also possible to record the frequency of movements over time, e.g. to monitor motion activity in a room of your apartment.
With a PIR sensor attached to my RasPi, I recorded motion events by storing UNIX timestamps in a single-column MySQL table. I wanted to visuaize these data points as a histogram displaying the frequency of motion events over time, but this task turned out to be more complicated than expected using GNUPlot. So here’s a short tutorial how it works: