He Kainga Oranga

Sensor Node : Healthy Homes for Everyone

After about 6 months of development, Sensor Node is ready! It’s been a roller-coaster of technical and logistical challenges, but in every way, it has been worth it. Let me tell you how it came about.

This all started about 6-8 months back during a conversation with a friend of mine. This may or may not have taken place in the pub (actually, it definitely did). We were blowing off a bit of steam about work, as you do. The fellow in question happens to be a very passionate and well informed advocate for healthy homes and the conversation turned to cold and damp housing in New Zealand, and the current difficulty in measuring it. For my part, I was an electronics engineer, and had recently been working on a project monitoring Kākāpō for the Department of Conservation. Between us, we came to the realisation that if you can monitor what parrots are up to, on a remote Pacific Island, monitoring people’s houses should be a piece of cake. I had also recently read Lance O Sullivan’s autobiography, which was hugely inspirational. The idea was born.

Moreover, it really needed to be done. According to the health statistics, on average 20 children die and 28,000 are hospitalised every year in New Zealand from preventable diseases like asthma, pneumonia and bronchiolitis. What was needed above all was a means of recording the temperature and humidity in at risk homes, and a reliable means of generating real time notifications if certain conditions were not met. The main complication was that, for the most part, the target homes do not have an internet connection; 3G and the like are too expensive and power hungry. The answer was Low Power Wide Area Networking (LP WAN). Of the leading technologies currently available, the best suited to our needs was Sigfox, a 920 MHz IoT network, designed specifically for carrying small packets of data, with unparalleled receiver sensitivity. Which means you can send a small message a really long way, without draining your battery too much! Perfect!

Sensor Node was the result. After 3 spins of the PCB, and a quick refresher on RF design, it was ready. Sensor Node gives accurate, reliable readings of temperature and relative humidity even in homes that do not have an internet connection. It runs for 3-5 years on two standard AAA batteries, reporting data directly to the cloud. Data is available any time, anywhere using the simple mobile app. Set-up is as easy as scanning a QR code on the device.

Sensor Node was developed in collaboration with He Kainga Oranga, the Healthy Homes Research Programme, an incredible group of passionate, talented people.

I’m really excited to have come this far. It’s been a hectic journey, punctuated with successes, failures, one major operation and a lot of fascinating R&D. We know this is a worthy project. We hope you think so too. Please share the word. Monkeytronics is on the war path against cold and damp homes. But we need your support! Together we can have a positive impact for New Zealand.