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Radio Networks

I had a really interesting conversation this evening with a pal who’s into electronics as much as me.   I’ve been messing around with low-cost radio “mesh” networks which essentially give me the ability to read data and control outputs around the house wirelessly… 

For some time now, ever since the oil company tried to give us a mobile phone based oil sensor at which point I had to tell them they’d just screwed up for half of the UKs rural community for whom there are no mobile signals… I’ve been wondering how to make a safe remote reading mechanism for the oil tank.

Funny how you don’t put two and two together sometimes… there are available (from China as our lot are too greedy) some cheap ultrasonic sensors – like the ones you have in cars to help you not run people over.. for a couple of quid you get a little board with a transmitter and receiver and you can take the signal and get accuracy of sub-centimetre bouncing off stuff for distance measurement.  It occurred to me tonight – why not bounce off oil!  So the next step was – how to get that info back to me – well I already have home control measuring temperature – modifying a board would allow me to return how full the tank was – so using temperature as the equivalent if it returned say 10 to 30c – that’s 20 values – that’s a tank accurate to 5% – good enough….  and finally how to power all of that – well – my friend suggested a super-cap – after all it only needs to wake up once an hour – take a reading, report back and go back to sleep – and a little solar panel to keep the supercap charged.

When the board powered up it would talk to my network – which up to now looks like it can reliably send data from unit to unit back to base – I’m looking at a test rig here for the network – I have a board in front of me – the “receiver” – two boards in the garden acting as relays – and one in the living room sending out incremental numbers as fast as it can. Right now I’ve just received 700,000 packages without issue and I plan to leave it overnight on test  – hoping to hell it does not rain!!!

Could be onto a winner here… would be nice to add that to the armoury of info I have available at the touch of a button on my phone and tablet….  but it’s late at night – something for another day.

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