Introduction: Automated House Plant Care. Flora First Aid
This project was built as part of the Intel Edison Roadshow Hackathon in Berlin 2015. We started at 2pm on Saturday and finished at 2pm on Sunday. The team is made up of 3 guys who met at the event.
-The Student, The Graduate and the Salesman
We want to automate the care of household plants, make updates of the plants progress shareable and provide a plant owner notifications when the plant needs their personal attention. The result we are aiming for is a basic prototype to show our concept.
The computational base for the project is the Intel Edison. The 'patient' is the very cute strawberry plant. Not the average household plant but it is definitely here and available for the project.
The idea of using computers to monitor plants and track their care is not a new one. We want our device to be small and unobtrusive enough to add it to a potted household plant. This way it can be used in small flats to look after gifted plants which many people struggle to keep alive and provide a way to update and thank the giver. It can maintain small plants while their owners take holidays. Aid the elderly and the disabled with maintaining household plants. Manual mode provides a way for those with limited motor skills to water and provide light to a plant getting them more involved in the plants wellbeing so they have a sense of accomplishment when the plant flowers or bears fruit.
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Step 1: Unboxing the Intel Edison
The first step for us was unboxing the Edison and laying out all the sensors so we could feel like kids at Christmas.
The Edison itself is impressively small and easy to install on the expansion board.
Step 2: Installing the New Firmware
Then it was time to set up the Edison. Flash the latest firmware and hook it up to WiFi. This was a remarkably easy process so I won't reinvent the wheel here. See this link for video's and photo's on this process.
Step 3: Getting the Pieces Together
After running the Blink example to make sure we could supply our code to the Edison we tested the light sensor and devised a case to be sent for 3D printing.
The light sensor here has a threshold setup so that when the light drops (ie put our finger on the sensor) the LED will switch. This will be used as the basis for light measurement and the software will decide if the plant requires more light and switch on a grow light.
One of our team members did a great job of designing the stand for the components which were printed at the Hackathon by 3D Hub.
Step 4: Setting Up the Water Pump and Circuit
The water pump was gave us a little trouble with one of the team members missing out on a lot of sleep to get it done in the time available.
We were really happy to get our hands on a pump, but unfortunately there was no relay left. This led to unsuccessfully trying several different circuits using transistors or a Dry-Reed relay. The GPIO pins of the Edison can only deliver 10 mA which leads to problems when trying to control a part needing about 1 Ampere.
Fortunately we eventually found someone willing to donate a relay, but to drive this we still needed a transistor, since 10 mA were not enough to switch it.
To avoid overloading the Edison's voltage regulator circuit we built our own using a 12 V voltage supply and aM2576S/5.0.
It turned out connecting the 5 V switched by the relay to the pump actually caused it to draw too much current, so we added some diodes to drop the voltage and make sure it could handle the current.
After many frustrating hours, seeing the circuit work and starting the pump using the Edison was definitely a relief.
Step 5: Putting It All Together
Finally we put the pieces together. This included an arm from a 3rd hand tool to hold the 'glow light' over the plant and part of the Edison box to hold the water pump. We also had to drill some extra holes to move the mounting of the board as there wasn't enough room to plug in the power.
Finally we made it to the presentation phase working right up to last few seconds.
In the time available we weren't able to get the cloud connectivity and data analytics working. Aside from this we felt the project was a success. There is much more work to do in relation to software development to make this really functional but we succeeded in our goal of proving the concept.
We even found a suitable logo which was part of the packaging for the Edison.