Digital Catapult Centre takes ‘sensor’ stage

Now that our Centre is open for business, we want to maximise its full potential to help SMEs and universities across the UK. One way we are achieving this is by using the building as a testbed for a number of organisations we are working with of various projects.

This includes Canary Care, the University of Nottingham and Newcastle University. They have kindly provided us with a range of sensors to be placed throughout the Centre, so we can measure various levels of activity and interpret the environmental data produced.

So how exactly do these sensors work?

Canary Care’s battery-operated sensors can be wall-mounted at chest height or, for the door sensors, mounted on doors to capture entry and exit data. Wall-mounted sensors have command strips for attachment and a PIR lens monitors movement.

Canary Care door sensor*

Canary Care door sensor*

The ambient temperature is monitored, meanwhile the door sensors work alongside a magnet to detect the opening/closing of doors. The data collected is transmitted to the main hub before being relayed to the user via an embedded SIM to the main server where users can view data.

Canary Care hub

Canary Care hub

The five sensors from the University of Nottingham, funded and managed by the C-TECH project, will be tracking electricity levels throughout the Centre, by using a Raspberry Pi and a custom circuit board developed in conjunction with the University of Cambridge as part of the C-Aware project. Each sensor box monitors 30 circuits with readings being taken every 30 seconds (if you’re a mathematical genius, you would have worked out that equates to 300 readings per minute!)

University of Nottingham sensor

University of Nottingham sensor

We are receiving even more data from BuildAX, a sensor platform developed at Newcastle University’s Culture Lab. These sensors not only track temperature and movement but also humidity and light to a high degree of accuracy, and use open-source technology so anyone can develop or manufacture them for research, educational or commercial purposes. In the case of BuildAX, an internet-connected logger receives and writes the data from the sensors onto an SD card for easy accessibility.

BuildAX Sensor

BuildAX Sensor

More importantly though, what can we learn from the data gathered?

In regards to the Centre, we can now manage our heating and electricity consumption more efficiently, plan our SME showcase based on the most populated areas, know if our labs and meeting rooms are in use. We can even find the best and brightest places for our office plants (click here to see a graph from Canary Care, which shows the range of temperatures across the Centre on the morning of Jan 16th).

Outside our Centre though, the sensors hold huge amounts of potential. Canary Care have designed their sensors primarily for home use, to support elderly relatives who wish to continue an independent lifestyle.

Family members can check up on their loved ones simply by logging into Canary Care’s website, where the data can be easily interpreted (like the graph above). If the sensors detect abnormal levels, an alert will be sent to inform the family.

Large residential areas and businesses and can also benefit. For example, one project the University of Newcastle is involved in aims to prevent fuel poverty and ill health by monitoring the conditions in rented homes. They are also collaborating with facilities management company MITIE to investigate how employee comfort and heating/cooling systems can be managed efficiently, and there are plans for future sensors to monitor carbon dioxide levels too.

The Internet of Things market is developing fast and these sensors are a great example of how it can help improve the environment, our health and overall wellbeing. I’m delighted and incredibly excited to see the Digital Catapult helping SMEs and universities be at the heart of this.

If you would like to find out more about our sensors, please contact:

Peter Karney is head of platform usability and support at the Digital Catapult. You can follow him on Twitter @pjcoolk – don’t forget to follow us too @DigiCatapult.

The Digital Catapult has just launched the Environmental Data Exchange – a brand new project aiming to unlock innovation and allow easy access to environmental data. For more information and to sign up for forthcoming events, please click here.

*Photo supplied by Canary Care. All other photos owned by Digital Catapult.

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