Fog-Detection Audio Project

Using Arduino UNO

Fog reduces visibility, sometimes down to a few feet. That’s why fog horns are so important. In this article, Jeff embarks on a project that makes use of humidity sensors to detect fog, and automatically plays an audio response when fog is detected. Aside from the sensors, his project also makes use of Arduino hardware and software.

By Jeff Bachiochi

Pea soup. Not one of my favorite dishes. I just can’t see green soup. All that said, as a consistency descriptor, “pea soup” is spot on for describing fog. You don’t have to live in San Francisco to appreciate the alien qualities of the scene in Figure 1. This phenomenon is commonplace to those who reside in London, Seattle, on any lake or in any valley. All we need is the right combination of temperature and humidity, and the clouds of heaven will visit us here on Earth.

Fog consists of visible water droplets suspended in the air at or near the Earth’s surface. This moisture is often generated locally from a nearby body of water, and forms when the difference between air temperature and dew point is less than about 4°F. The dew point is the temperature at which the water vapor in air (at constant barometric pressure) condenses into liquid water on tiny particles in the air, at the same rate at which it evaporates—forming fog. A change in temperature affects the relative humidity. As the dew point goes up, so does the relative humidity, creating a smaller differential between actual temperature and dew point temperature until fog forms.

The maximum amount of water vapor that can be held in a given volume of air (saturation) varies greatly by temperature. Cold air can hold less mass of water per unit volume than hot air. Relative humidity is the percentage of water found relative to the maximum possible, at a particular temperature.

Most of us have experienced the relationship between temperature and relative humidity firsthand. When the air temperature is high, our bodies use the evaporation of sweat to cool down. The cooling effect is directly related to how fast the perspiration evaporates. The rate of evaporation depends on how much moisture is already in the air and how much moisture the air can hold. If the air is already saturated with moisture (high humidity) perspiration will not evaporate, and we remain hot and uncomfortable. Discomfort can also exist when the humidity is low. The drier air can cause our skin to crack and tends to dry out the airways.

Measuring Relative Humidity

A hygrometer is an instrument used for measuring the humidity and water vapor content of the atmosphere, the soil and confined spaces. An instrument that measures humidity usually relies on the detection of some other quantity—such as temperature, pressure, mass or a mechanical or electrical change in a substance as moisture is absorbed. Today we use the electrical change of capacitance or resistance to calculate humidity.

Humidity measurement is among the more difficult problems in basic meteorology. Most hygrometers sense relative humidity rather than the absolute amount of water present. Because relative humidity is a function of both temperature and absolute moisture content, a small temperature change will translate into a change in relative humidity.

Some materials’ properties allow humidity levels to be determined based on a change in their capacitance, resistance, thermal conductivity or mass. Many humidity sensors include a temperature sensor, which allows them to approach 2-3% accuracy in a changing temperature environment. Table 1 shows several common humidity sensors. Many of them are available on some tiny PCB modules for easy interfacing.

Table 1
These are some popular humidity sensors with similar specifications.

I’ve used both the Honeywell HIH-5031 (with a Texas Instruments TMP102 temperature sensor) and a Silicon Labs Si7021 for measuring humidity in this project. The The Honeywell sensor has analog output, whereas the TI temperature sensor and Silicon Labs humidity/temperature sensor both use I2C to communicate. If you feel uneasy writing a function to perform the process, Arduino libraries are available for many sensors. This is an advantage for newbies, because you can get a program working with a library and often a sample program to get you started. Then you can go back and write the function yourself as a learning experience.

I don’t want to base the project totally on humidity, so I have added an ultrasonic distance measuring device to the project. Because fog forms as the air becomes supersaturated with water, this should mean that the humidity has reached 100% and water droplets in the air should begin to look solid. I’m hoping ultrasonics will be reflected by the droplets and cause a normal non-returned ping to be received. The combination of these two sensors exceeding some predetermined limits will satisfy my conditions to determine the presence of “fog.”

Avast, Ye Landlubber!

In a previous article (March 2011, Circuit Cellar 248), I presented the Microchip Technology (formerly Supertex) SR10, an inductorless switching power supply controller intended for operation directly from a rectified 120/240 VAC line. This was presented in support of creating a 5 V supply for a lighthouse fixture designed using LEDs. This month’s project will build upon that 5 V light, and will add audio to protect and guide boaters who find themsleves out on a lake under foggy conditions.

Figure 2
The schematic shows the connections made between the Arduino Uno headers and the sensor/module connectors mounted on an Arduino prototyping board. The finished board is shown in Figure 4.

I’m centering this project around the Arduino UNO. While I built the prototype interface (Figure 2) using the Arduino MEGA, it only uses the pins native to the UNO. The sensors/modules that are interfaced in this project are shown in Table 2.

Table 2
Each sensor/module will add some current draw to the project. Although current can be minimized in some cases while it is not active, this all becomes important if the project will run on batteries.

Because the UNO has only a single hardware serial port, I set up two additional software serial ports—one to talk with the DRPlayer and one to the optional LCD (output only). The main port and optional LCD don’t have to be used in the final project, but there is code written to display progress on each of these devices for seeing debugging information.  .  …

Read the full article in the October 339 issue of Circuit Cellar

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Digital Signage (10/30)  Digital signage ranks among the most dynamic areas of today’s embedded computing space. Makers of digital signage players, board-level products and other technologies continue to roll out new solutions for implementing powerful digital signage systems. This newsletter looks at the latest technology trends and product developments in digital signage.

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Embedded Boards.(10/23) The focus here is on both standard and non-standard embedded computer boards that ease prototyping efforts and let you smoothly scale up to production volumes.

October has a 5th Tuesday, so we’re bringing you a bonus newsletter:
Digital Signage (10/30)  Digital signage ranks among the most dynamic areas of today’s embedded computing space. Makers of digital signage players, board-level products and other technologies continue to roll out new solutions for implementing powerful digital signage systems. This newsletter looks at the latest technology trends and product developments in digital signage.

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Tuesday’s Newsletter: IoT Tech Focus

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Embedded Boards.(9/25) The focus here is on both standard and non-standard embedded computer boards that ease prototyping efforts and let you smoothly scale up to production volumes.

Analog & Power. (10/2) This newsletter content zeros in on the latest developments in analog and power technologies including DC-DC converters, AD-DC converters, power supplies, op amps, batteries and more.

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Embedded Boards.(9/25) The focus here is on both standard and non-standard embedded computer boards that ease prototyping efforts and let you smoothly scale up to production volumes.

Analog & Power. (10/2) This newsletter content zeros in on the latest developments in analog and power technologies including DC-DC converters, AD-DC converters, power supplies, op amps, batteries and more.

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IoT Technology Focus. (9/18) Covers what’s happening with Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology–-from devices to gateway networks to cloud architectures. This newsletter tackles news and trends about the products and technologies needed to build IoT implementations and devices.

Embedded Boards.(9/25) The focus here is on both standard and non-standard embedded computer boards that ease prototyping efforts and let you smoothly scale up to production volumes.

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Microcontroller Watch (9/11) This newsletter keeps you up-to-date on latest microcontroller news. In this section, we examine the microcontrollers along with their associated tools and support products.

IoT Technology Focus. (9/18) Covers what’s happening with Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology–-from devices to gateway networks to cloud architectures. This newsletter tackles news and trends about the products and technologies needed to build IoT implementations and devices.

Tuesday’s Newsletter: IoT Tech Focus

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Wireless Weather Station Uses Arduino

And Two ASK Radios

Integrating wireless technologies into embedded systems recently has become much easier. In this project article, Raul describes his homemade wireless weather station that monitors ambient temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and wind direction. The design uses Arduino and a pair of inexpensive Amplitude Shift Keying (ASK) radio modules.

By Raul Alvarez Torrico

In this project I present a homemade wireless weather station. The system comprises two wireless nodes in a peer-to-peer communication setup: one Transmitting Node with all the weather sensors, and one Receiving Node with a display to show the received data. At the Transmitting Node, I have a low cost DHT22 sensor for reading temperature and ambient humidity, an anemometer for wind speed and a wind vane for sensing wind direction. At the Receiving Node, I connected a 0.96″ OLED display with SPI interface for visualizing the received weather readings. Both nodes have ASK transmitting and receiving radio modules, respectively. The range for these modules is around 50 m (line of sight) with a 5-V DC power supply.

Due to the inherent unreliability of wireless communications, the data are transmitted using a very simple communication protocol designed specifically for this project. This protocol allows the transmission of data packed into frames and implements basic addressing and payload error checking. This helps to determine, for instance, if a given received frame is, in fact, directed to the Receiving Node—and if the received data are error-free. A few Arduino libraries are available for wireless communication using ASK modules that implement communication protocols. I won’t be using any of them, however, because one of the objectives for this project is to show the basics about how to implement a wireless communication protocol, for those who are new to the subject.

Looking under the hood, this project is a basic introduction to the way wireless communications protocols work, using the concept of packing data into frames. I’ll also examine why adding metadata to them is important for addressing, packet identification and error checking, among other things. And, to explain what got me interested in these types of projects, see sidebar: “A Tribute to Steve Ciarcia” on page 14.

FUNCTIONAL DESCRIPTION

As I said earlier, the system comprises two wireless nodes: one transmitting and one receiving. Each are based on an Arduino Pro Mini board with a Microchip ATmega328P microcontroller (Figure 1). The Transmitting Node is the one with the weather sensors: temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and wind direction. It has also a low-cost ASK transmitter radio module working in the 433 MHz band. But 315 MHz modules can also be used. The Receiving Node has its corresponding 433 MHz ASK receiver radio module and a 0.96″ OLED display that shows the received weather data.

FIGURE 1 Wireless Weather Station block diagram

The Transmitting Node takes readings from all its sensors and sends the data wirelessly every fixed period statically defined in code—in other words, every few seconds. Meanwhile, the Receiving Node is constantly listening for incoming data. And every time it receives a valid data frame that is addressed to it, it will extract the payload containing the readings from all remote sensors and then visualize them in the OLED display. The Transmitting Node sends the data packed into frames following a very simple protocol designed specifically for this project. I will explain this protocol in detail later.

Both the transmitter and receiver are low-cost ASK radio modules, such as those used for wireless garage door openers. Why use these “toy” radio modules instead of much more sophisticated ones? For me, the short answer is: Because it can be done! I really like minimalist approaches, and I always tend to push things to the extremes to see how so much can be accomplished with so little. …

Read the full article in the September 338 issue of Circuit Cellar

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IoT Technology Focus. (8/21) Covers what’s happening with Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology–-from devices to gateway networks to cloud architectures. This newsletter tackles news and trends about the products and technologies needed to build IoT implementations and devices.

Embedded Boards.(8/28) The focus here is on both standard and non-standard embedded computer boards that ease prototyping efforts and let you smoothly scale up to production volumes.

Analog & Power. (9/4) This newsletter content zeros in on the latest developments in analog and power technologies including DC-DC converters, AD-DC converters, power supplies, op amps, batteries and more.

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IoT Technology Focus. (9/18) Covers what’s happening with Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology–-from devices to gateway networks to cloud architectures. This newsletter tackles news and trends about the products and technologies needed to build IoT implementations and devices.

Embedded Boards.(9/25) The focus here is on both standard and non-standard embedded computer boards that ease prototyping efforts and let you smoothly scale up to production volumes.

Bonus Newsletter Tomorrow: PCB Design

Coming to your inbox tomorrow: July has a 5th Tuesday . That’s means there’s an extra Newsletter this month! The bonus topic is PCB Design. The process of PCB design is always facing new complexities. Rules-based autorouting, chips with higher lead counts and higher speed interconnections are just a few of the challenges forcing PCB design software to keep pace. This newsletter updates you on the latest happenings in this area.

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Analog & Power. (8/7) This newsletter content zeros in on the latest developments in analog and power technologies including DC-DC converters, AD-DC converters, power supplies, op amps, batteries and more.

Microcontroller Watch. (8/14) This newsletter keeps you up-to-date on latest microcontroller news. In this section, we examine the microcontrollers along with their associated tools and support products.

IoT Technology Focus. 8/21) Covers what’s happening with Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology–-from devices to gateway networks to cloud architectures. This newsletter tackles news and trends about the products and technologies needed to build IoT implementations and devices.

Embedded Boards. (8/28) This newsletter content focuses on both standard and non-standard embedded computer boards that ease prototyping efforts and let you smoothly scale up to production volumes.

Next Newsletter: Embedded Boards

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July has a 5th Tuesday, so we’re bringing you a bonus newsletter:
PCB Design (7/31) PCB design tools and methods continue to evolve as they race to keep pace with faster, highly integrated electronics. Automated, rules-based chip placement is getting more sophisticated and tools are addressing the broader picture of the PCB design process. This newsletter looks at the latest technology trends and product developments in PCB design tools.

Analog & Power. (8/7) This newsletter content zeros in on the latest developments in analog and power technologies including DC-DC converters, AD-DC converters, power supplies, op amps, batteries and more.

Microcontroller Watch (8/14) This newsletter keeps you up-to-date on latest microcontroller news. In this section, we examine the microcontrollers along with their associated tools and support products.

IoT Technology Focus. (8/21) Covers what’s happening with Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology–-from devices to gateway networks to cloud architectures. This newsletter tackles news and trends about the products and technologies needed to build IoT implementations and devices.