Internet of things consultancy IoTechnics pulled out all the stops recently, partnering on the design of a smart greenhouse with Advantech. This smart buildings demonstrator project was completed in just 5 weeks, for a demo at this year’s IoT Solutions World Congress – a worldwide event for the industrial internet of things (IoT) sector.

The team presented the smart greenhouse to the 13,000 visitors in attendance to show off the many different aspects of the building environment that can be automated or controlled with inexpensive IoT devices. The greenhouse included temperature, humidity, pressure and light level sensors along with actuators to control the heating, turn lights, fans and misters on and off, and open and close windows.

Using Wi-Fi to communicate to Advantech’s cloud platform, data was then transferred to a Microsoft Azure IoT Hub and then presented in a simple user-friendly one-pane view on a dashboard application written by IoTechnics.

The dashboard also offers a number of modes of operation: Purely manual where it charts the sensors’ data and allows manual operation of the actuators; an automated mode where actuator operations are controlled by a set of rules; or a Location Weather mode where it is given a location in the world and it sources weather information for that location and sets the actuators to try to optimise greenhouse environment for that location.


Live stats: The IoTechnics dashboard application displays
live information from the greenhouse sensors

 

Steve Cutler IoTechnics’ Principal Software Engineer tells us: “The greenhouse shares many similarities with other types of building including offices, schools, hospitals and warehouses. In nearly all cases there are a number of similar environmental factors that need to be sensed and a similar set of responses can be made to keep the environmental factors within acceptable limits.”

Smart buildings

The demo was also of particular relevance to general advances in smart buildings given its use of Advantech’s WISE-1520 firmware. As Steve explains: “The Advantech WISE-1520 module can also be applied to a wide range of other applications as it has sufficient general purpose I/O (input/output) interfaces to enable solutions to many different types of problems. All you need is a suitable carrier card for the specific I/O requirements. This is where IoTechnics design services can deliver just the solution you need including the hardware and software required.”

“We have almost finalised a plan to install a permanent and full-size greenhouse demo”

 

Steve adds: “If using an off-the-shelf module like the WISE-1520 does not fit the need, IoTechnics can design an integrated device where the MCU (microprocessor control unit), connectivity and I/O interfaces are all on one board. Currently there are a number of designs in progress like this, in particular, asset tracking solutions appear to be a hot topic with our customers at present.”

Catch a demo

Given the success of the greenhouse demo and its potential for showcasing other applications for the technology, it’s no surprise to hear it will also be exhibited at a Microsoft event in Germany this month. Steve adds: “In addition, we have almost finalised a plan to install a permanent and full-size greenhouse demo at Microsoft’s Innovation Centre in Munich, Germany.”

But if you don’t fancy travelling out of the UK and still want to see what IoTechnics are all about, Steve says: “IoTechnics also expects to be showing a completely different type of device at Retail Business Technology Expo in London in early May 2018. This will be an innovative RFID (radio-frequency identification) reader device which we believe will provide some great benefits to the retail market.”

You can find out more about IoTechnics latest technology and design solutions on the IoTechnics website or by checking out the IoTechnics page on LinkedIn.

Alice Whale