HubBoxes, Gateways, and a SPARC to light your way
Well, it’s been a while since we’ve posted an update here, and that’s because we’ve been working like crazy on a brand new, totally revamped, hardware/software platform. It’s a line of fully autonomous wireless algae pond and PBR monitoring and control systems. This new hardware line is in a word, awesome, and customers are loving it. We’ve now incorporated rugged, outdoor-ready, low power, monitoring modules within a fully autonomous wireless network, with simple tablet and phone access on site. Today I’ll talk about the new hardware, and in a following post we’ll look at the new software which was also re-designed from the ground up using all of our customers’ inputs.
The new wireless system is comprised of the AlgaeConnect HubBox, the Gateway, and remote SPARC boxes at each pond or PBR.
The HubBox is an industrial grade central server and dashboard for the AlgaeConnect Monitoring and Control system. It communicates over standalone wireless frequencies with up to 10 ALS-SPARC2 controller boxes or repeaters, via the Gateway. The HubBox natively runs the AlgaeConnect software, providing dashboard access to up to 100 sensor parameters or controls from a central location. On site with WiFi, tablets and phones can connect directly to the AlgaeConnect software running on the HubBox. This allows technicians to roam the site with the ability to read all sensor and control status values in the farm from their phone. Off site, remote access can be enabled with port forwarding. The HubBox is heat resistant but not waterproof.
The ALS-SPARC2 controller wirelessly monitors and controls your remote ponds. SPARCs are powerful enough to take care of the core issues of your pond or PBR, but simple, small, and low cost enough to be deployed at scale. The SPARC boxes are lightweight, low power, water proof and heat resistant, and can be powered with a single solar panel for autonomous power. The SPARC has 4 sensor ports for up to 8 sensed parameters, and two output ports with internal relays to actuate your key devices such as CO2 valve, pump, or LED bank. Use one SPARC per pond for small ponds/PBRs, or for large ponds use several SPARCs at different locations.
The SPARC boxes communicate wirelessly with the central server over a mesh network, meaning each SPARC unit can act as a wireless repeater to its neighbors, greatly extending the total range. They run autonomously, so that even if the HubBox is turned off, they maintain their control duties with regards to pH levels, temperature, lights or any other devices.
As before, the AlgaeConnect software can export real time values of all sensor and control values to your external software packages over Ethernet, so that users can embed the monitoring and control features of AlgaeConnect directly into their own software packages such as SCADA or others.
The new wireless AlgaeConnect line has been in deployment since May 2016, with customers on 4 continents, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. For existing customers, the software improvements have addressed most of the limitations of the previous generation. For new customers, the ability to communicate wirelessly with ponds over longer distances and the convenient tablet access has been a real differentiator.
“AlgaeConnect was developed specifically for the algae industry. It has evolved over the years and is now one of the best products available for controlling your algae culture. The equipment takes full advantage of the current wireless technology to send sensor data from the SPARC unit directly to the controller. You can even monitor the units from your tablet or phone! The algae industry is evolving and it is great to have products evolve with it!” -Jeremy Weir of Commercial Algae Professionals.