The Internet of Things – a new project

It’s been a week since I attended the UBM West conference in Anaheim, and I’ve acquired a new fascination with the Internet of Things.  In fact, I’ve been more than a little fixated on it since coming home.

I have been having discussions with various friends in engineering about the IoT, and I can see that there is a lot of potential here, but also there is a lot of confusion, and companies working at cross purposes.  The consumer marketplace is quickly adopting many different IoT ideas, while manufacturing seems to be talking a great game, but is adopting the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) slowly –  if at all.

One of my software friends is pushing the Internet of Data –  the idea that the device doesn’t matter, only the data.  As part of the setup, the device explains to the network what it is, what it can do, and what data it can provide.  It is up to the network to determine how to use this information.

Unfortunately, there is not industry standard for data sharing in the IoT.  There is no real standardized Human/Machine Interface (HMI) to allow a human to interact with a local network of IoT to do useful things.  The IFTTT web service is a useful idea of how such an HMI might work, but I’m having a hard time visualizing how it would work in a local network setting –  where I could control the devices in my home through my tablet computer, or where a manufacturer could use it to choreograph several manufacturing robots to work together.

I’ve learned that there is a lot of pre-existing infrastructure and technologies for IoT, and there are several services that hook into it.  The problem is getting them all to work smoothly together.

But reading about it all is completely different from actually doing it.  And to learn, it is often best to create a project to accomplish something, and then learn from that.

So I’m starting a project.

If you know anything about me, you may know that I’m interested in permaculture.  Permaculture is the creation of sustainable agricultural systems by studying and simulating the ecological systems found in nature.  It is the idea of working with nature, fitting our society together with ecology.  There are principles of design that guide permaculture, and they are useful –  but they all boil down to a simple idea, human observation and reaction as a form of feedback is key to an agricultural system.

I’ve been writing about urban farming and aquaponics in my blog, “Fresno Backyard Harvest” for a few years now.  Aquaponics has been of great interest to me as part of urban farming and permaculture.  And I would like to better automate my urban farm, with controls that monitor plant moisture, measure water quality for my fish, and adjust water levels when necessary.  I’d also like alarms when something goes wrong, and I would like to see how much of my urban farm I can measure.

For my first project, I intend to create something that will control a small aquaponics setup.  I will use it to monitor various sensors, and report back to me.  It should also control water flow.

Right now, I’m in the planning stage.  I’ll keep a running journal of how I decide what to use, and what my designs look like.  I’ll also keep a Github repository of each project.

You’ll be able to find my progress in the “Projects” category of my blog.  Starting with this one.  As my projects split off, they’ll be given their own categories.