Building Blocks for DIY Projects

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After you’ve built a handful of automation projects, you’ll start to see patterns emerge. One that I recognized early on is that most systems tend to be made up of the same basic building blocks.  Here are ones I see most often:

  • Sensors that measure things such as temperature, water level in a container, humidity, light, etc.
  • Controllers that actually do something physical like turn on a light, activate a motor or open a valve.
  • Processors that interpret data from the sensors and make decisions on what the controllers should do: A Raspberry Pi, Arduino, or Particle Photon, for example.
  • IoT Platforms serve as a gateway between your devices and the web.  These handle things like administration, security, and allow you to connect to other services.
  • Displays / Alerts that give you the ability to see sensor values, for example an LED screen, an email, text or online dashboard.
  • Data storage tools that capture data in a spreadsheet or some form of database.
  • Connectivity allows your data to be sent over your network or the Internet.  Examples include WiFi, cellular and Bluetooth.

Common building blocks for IoT projects (with examples)

To be clear, not every projects is going to use each of these pieces.  For example, I have a water level sensor that let’s me know how much water is in bucket that my chickens drink from.  In this case, I’m using a sensor (a 2-level float switch in the bucket), a processor (an Arduino), and some LEDs that work similar to a traffic light.  This project isn’t connected, it doesn’t store data, and it doesn’t actually do anything like turn on a hose.  That said, I could make it do all of those things.  The bottom line is you should think of your new projects as a blank canvas (or box of Legos) and connect whatever pieces make sense for your solution.

HAVE FUN BUILDING!

-Charlie

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