Introduction: Network Strength Display

An Ambient Display which visually depicts the strength of the wifi signal. It has 2 LED strips. One for indicating the download speed, the other for the upload speed. The upload speed strip has lights flowing upwards in a set of 3, while the download strip has lights trickling down. The speed with which the light flows, indicate the appropriate strength of the signal.

This is how the intuitive color scheme and light mechanism conveys the speed information:

Low Speed:

Red Lights, Less Brightness, Slow speed in the flow

Medium Speed:

Yellow Lights, Medium Brightness, Average speed

High Speed:

Upload: Blue Lights, Bright Lights, High speed of flow and Download: Green Lights, Bright Lights, High speed of flow.

To mask the LEDs from looking like distinct bulbs, and to also make it more appealing, we have used a water dispenser to create a "Water Wall effect". This is optional and is being only used for aesthetic purposes.

Note: There is no direct 1-to-1 mapping between the signal strength in bytes/sec to the LED flow. We have identified a range for what can be considered as "High Speed", "Medium Speed", and "Low Speed" based on the standards mentioned here: Based on these ranges, we have set the LED speeds arbitrarily to a value which makes them visually distinguishable.

Step 1: Components Required

1. 2nos. 12V Peristaltic Pump:

2. RGB LED Strip:

3. Black Coloured Cast Acrylic - 1 sheet

4. Clear Cast Acrylic - 1 sheet

5. Particle Photon

6. 5V Adapter

7. Soft Ply Wood

8. 12V DC power supply

Step 2: Ambient Display - Physical Design

Some of the physical designs during the building process.

Step 3: Laser Cutting Diagrams

Imagine, Visualize, and Design your model

Make a paper prototype of the model which will help you visualize what you may need to help achieve a better stability and structure.

The Main Wall: Measure out the dimensions of the main wall as per your design. Etch out 2 equi-distant grooves with width matching the RGB LED strip. Measure out the side panels for the wall, and also the back black background wall. Cut out according to the measurements. Do account for a marginal increase in dimensions due to hardening of the glue, especially if you are using the hard glue. Try to sand out the glue to make it smoother and flatter, if your design has a shape resting on top of the glue. Once your main wall starts to look like the middle bridge of the alphabet "H", you can move on and start putting together the top and bottom cases.

Bottom Case: Measure out the dimensions of your motors. Bear in mind that the bottom case must house both your motors. Measure out the width of your tubes and provide exact orifices in the walls for the tubes. House the motors in the back wall to hide them from the view. The front part of your case must have a small tank for water collection and storage. The inlet for your motors must reach this tank. Use a sealant to seal the sides and ends of the tank to prevent leakage. Decorate the tank however you want. :)

Top Case: Measure out the exact dimensions for the LED Strips and cut out those dimensions on a flat surface. These holes must also align alongside the grooves that your have etched. So, when you slide the strips from these holes, it must sit perfectly on the face of the wall. Also, cut out 4 orifices for the silicone tubes i.e 2 pairs. (One for the tube reaching up from behind, another for the tube to reach over the wall for the waterfall effect) Fix this base to the wall. Make a top case to fit your photon and the bread-board.

Step 4: Assembling

Assembly instructions

The RGB LED requires a 5V input. So, use a 5V input to power them. Connect the adapter to a bread-board and power both the strips from the board. Each LED strip needs 3 connections.
1. Power in - connect to 5V input

2. Data in - connect to Photon to control the lights

3. Ground - connect to the ground on the bread-board

Solder and make the connections for both the strips. Connect the strips to power and also with the photon. House the assembly inside the top case. Make sure that the top case has 2 outlets. One for the connection to photon, the other one to power the LED strips.

Ensure that the strips remain fixed and don’t move around. Fill the insides of the tank with water and check for leaks. In case of a leak, dry the case, use the sealant and let it stay till the sealant dries up. Repeat the process again till there are no leaks. Slide in the inlet of the pump into the tank, and bring the outlet over from the rear and into the front of the wall. The 2 peristaltic pumps need a 12V DC input to work. Make the appropriate arrangements for the pumps’ input and provide for 2 outlets from the bottom case. Sink the inlet silicone tube into the tank. Draw out the outlet tube to the top and over the strips to simulate the water-wall effect. Connect the pumps to a 12V DC outlet.


Step 5: Coding

Refer this Github Repository URL

Simulation Code

File: networkstrength.ino
Photon C code to perform different LED operations on NeoPixel LED strip. We have used Adafruit NeoPixel LED Strip.

Directory: Components
It has all the physical components that were designed and developed during the building process.

Directory: LaserCuttingFiles
It has all the SVG files that are necessary to be laser cut the different parts of the Ambient Display.

Step 6: Videos

Step 7: Final Thoughts

General thoughts and how it can be improved.

  • Add music! Music will help drown out the small buzzing sound of the motors and also will make it more pleasant.
  • Use the water dispenser with more power. Consider using something other than a 12V peristaltic pump, so that the water flow is stronger. This may also give us the freedom of controlling the flow along with the lights so that, the water speed is also indicative of the network strength.
  • Use colored water. Using coloured water may also improve the total information conveyed.
  • Provide abilities to select which network’s signal we want to be visualized.
  • Make it cooler and bigger!

Step 8: Motivation

Water to be used a medium for ambient display:

Data Fountain: 3 fountains displaying the exchange rates of 3 currencies: Euro, Pound, and the Yen The tallest fountain is the most expensive.