Five years ago, there was a workshop on internet of things (IoT) that was held at my university. By chance, I – who was a freshman at that time – encountered the workshop banner when I was trying not to be late for a Calculus class. With an intense curiosity, I stopped by workshop even though I might get late, looked into the meeting room, and saw that no more than 20 peoples in one of the largest room at my university. Um, … That is how IoT was began at my university?
Five years later, the number of IoT applications have soared and IoT have been being a modern trend for many theses and projects at any university in my country. A lot of workshops were held and even Prof. Timothy Chou from Stanford Univ. also opened a workshop at my university to introduce some concepts of IoT applications and … to sell his new book (well, I got one but it seemed not to be useful for me, so I gave it to my roommate who have had plan to start up with IoT). The excitement of IoT have been not just on campus, many businesses and entrepreneurs have focused their researches on IoT applications, especially the IoT applications for agriculture which were expected to be one of the most fertile lands to make money in an agricultural country as my country. Nevertheless, only small minority of businesses and entrepreneurs have got successes in this new discipline, while the rest were eliminated from the game because of two main reasons: lack of patience and funds.
To be honest, when I was a junior student, my Professor used to assign me and my friend to an IoT project. Our tasks were to design an IoT device that help farmer to track some parameters such as temperature and humidity from the garden and to control a pump to water the plants. At that time, I and my friend chose Blynk which is a platform with iOS and Android apps to help us simplify the problems about smartphone apps so that we could focus on hardware development. In my opinion, Blynk really is an amazing app with lots of basic and advance widgets that allow user to build their own applications quickly without any app development skill. A simple Blynk app used to control the states of three LEDs was showed in the video below. However, there are many limits of graphic and function when we used Blynk to develop an IoT application. So, it was just a temporary plan.
After one week, we completed the design of the device and also made a prototype (see Fig. 1) for the test. It seemed to work well in a period of 1 month.
Fig. 1 The first three prototypes of the agriculture IoT device
However, there was inconvenient for user when they have to change source code if they change the SSID or the password of their wifi network. Thus, my Professor suggested us adding a function that allow people to enter their SSID and wifi password directly without change in source code.
The mission became more difficult because if we use the 4×4 keypad to enter the wifi information, the device will be larger. Concurrently, my friend was stuck in his thesis, so I had to do this project by myself. Three weeks later, I had an idea for keypad design by using potentiometer to enter the ASCII characters instead of the use of keypad. The potentiometer keypad seemed to work well when I used it to enter the wifi information (you can see that on the video below).
After two weeks, I completed the design and made a prototype as you can see in Fig. 2. Actually, I used three potentiometers to represent the ASCII characters. The first one was used for the numbers from 0 to 9, the second one was used for alphabets and the other for special characters such as ‘*’, ‘#’, etc. I also used an LCD to display which character was chose and added some button to allow user to enter their information.
Fig. 2 The prototype of agriculture device version 2
Honestly, the design was still not be optimal but it proved time and time again that it performed better than the old version.
Anyway, this project was unsuccessful because of lack of funds. Meanwhile, there was a large cooperation in my country also developed their own IoT devices for agriculture. With a large and professional team, they released their products after several months of research. Their products were highly appropriated by the local council and how about our prototypes, … um … it died itself in a storehouse.
From a sad story,