Lifelong Learning a blog of all the things I've learned about…

25Nov/130

Arduino in the workplace

Motorola Advisor II connected to an AdaFruit protoboard shield on an Arduino.

Motorola Advisor II connected to an Adafruit protoboard shield on an Arduino.

Recently I was faced with an interesting challenge at work. How could I monitor our paging infrastructure (pagers, yes pagers, I work in healthcare) to ensure it was up and running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? I had the ability to monitor certain portions of the system but no way to automate the monitoring of the end-to-end system, all the way out to the pager, keep in mind this technology is a one-way technology. My experience in the electronics hobby and having a developer background gave me an idea, I could attach the pager to an Arduino and write a Microsoft Windows service that would receive heartbeats and page received alerts via serial over USB and log those to a file that our enterprise monitoring system could watch. In fact, our enterprise monitoring system could send an email which gets converted to TAP via some SMTP-to-TAP software we have in use already.

So, the enterprise monitoring tool will send a page to our test pager, once the pager receives the page it'll notify the windows service using serial communications, which will in turn write the event to a log file (I could have used the event log). The Arduino will also send a heartbeat message every minute which also gets written to the log file. This will allow our monitoring tool to raise an event if the Arduino goes offline. We'll add some additional business logic in the monitoring software to page several times before opening up an incident but yes, I think this will indeed work and work quite well. How else is a company that is dependent on 1970 open-loop technology monitor it without something like this? I'm curious if others have solved a problem like this and how?

It didn't take me long to get a simple windows service built that listens on the specified COM port for serial messages from the Arduino. There are lots of examples of this being done, just google it. Hooking the pager up to the Arduino was also super simple, I just used the existing connection to the vibration motor on the pager and tied that to an analog pin on the Arduino. I also didn't want to have to bother with batteries for the pager so I hooked up a LM317 adjustable voltage regulator to supply the 1.5V the pager was expecting from the 5V on the USB line. After hooking everything up, I must say the system works quite nicely, we'll see how well it behaves long term but this project proves how useful a simple Arduino can be in the workplace. As always all the project files are attached to this post for everyone.

Till next time...

PagerMonitorProjectFiles
Title: PagerMonitorProjectFiles (281 clicks)
Caption:
Filename: PagerMonitorProjectFiles.zip
Size: 91 kB

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23Aug/110

Preparedness 101

With all the natural disasters in the news today, I thought about how so many people are becoming more self-reliant and how that's such a great thing. But then I thought about how many people must go through their day without even giving thought to what would happen if they found themselves in the middle of such disasters. Heck even the government stepped up it's attempts to educate Americans on being prepared when disaster strikes.

Being prepared is being American in my opinion and I have always striven to ensure my family was prepared for the unknown that mother nature (or fellow man) could throw at us. While I'm certain we are nowhere near as prepared as others, I do try everyday to do something to help us become more prepared.

If anything good can come from the disaster hurricane Katrina bestowed upon Louisiana, it's the knowledge that you can't count on the government to take care of you and your family in a crisis situation and you can always count on mother nature putting a whooping on ya when you least expect it. Since Katrina, I must say I stepped up my knowledge on being prepared as well as actually investing in what it takes to be prepared.

One way I've invested, is with Shelf Reliance's Thrive Q program. It's a program that lets you build (with the help of their online calculator) a food storage program for your family and then either you can purchase it all right away or set a budget and get it shipped monthly. I opted for the monthly shipments and I'm quite happy with the program. I get a shipment of food (#10 cans) each month delivered to my door, that is as close to my set budget as possible without going over. The food has an incredible shelf life (most foods are ~25 years unopened) but it's really meant to be rotated through your normal pantry items. We open and use cans from time to time, replacing them on the list as we consume them. Of all the options for food preparedness, I honestly think these guys have the best solution. The food is excellent and it's reasonably priced.

If you don't have a food preparedness plan yet, you should really check them out, it's one less thing to worry about when mother nature finally gets fed up with your polluting ass. If you don't have any idea how to even start getting prepared, you should start here.

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4Jul/110

My Bhut Jolokia Chilies

First Round of Bhut Jolokia Peppers

First Round of Bhut Jolokia Chilies

I've always been a big fan of hot foods and hot chilies have always been a staple in our garden. This past year, however, I was educated by the inter-webs that I had always assumed incorrectly that Habanero chilies were the hottest on the planet. In fact, the Bhut Jolokia is by leaps and bounds the king of heat. The Habanero chili is about 300k scoville while the Bhut Jolokia is nearly 1 million scoville. Yeah, while I haven't tried one yet, I'm expecting the worst!

I grew these plants from little seedlings and I'm super excited that I've started seeing the first round of chilies already! Apparently I'm either talented as a gardener or super lucky, these guys don't typically do well in my zone and are supposed to take forever to produce the first chilies.

I'm actually gonna try to whip up some homemade sauce with these guys as they are suppose to have a mango-like flavor under all that heat which should make for some great sauce.

Update: Well, heck fire. While I was researching a bit on the Internet for information regarding the Bhut Jolokia, I found out that there is already a new king...guess I"ll have to hunt the world over to find some Trinidad Scorpion Butch T chilies for next year..

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7Mar/110

FotoMoto Feature

FotoMoto Feature

Today was another good day! I got an email from FotoMoto letting me know that one of the photographs I had taken of the family cat was chosen to be featured on their homepage! Very cool indeed, I've always loved photography and it's nice to get any level of recognition for it! If you haven't heard of FotoMoto, check it out, it's a great way for folks to sell photographs, I had signed up so that when I get some great shots of the new baby, our family can very easily order prints if they want. FotoMoto is a great company and I'm honored to be featured for the day!

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7Jun/100

A new look for my blog…

Well, I've decided to update my blog and migrate away from my existing blog software, b2evolution to WordPress. I just think WordPress is easier to use and has a much larger user base which means more frequent updates and better plug-ins, themes, etc. I've imported all my old post but will have to go through them and clean up the issues from the import so the site will be wonky for a few days...

21May/100

The Stirling Engine

Stirling EngineSo over the last couple of days I'm been reading about these engines. Fascinating and yet so simplistic my mind goes crazy with cool things I could use it for. Well, not necessarily the most useful things, but cool none the less. One of the videos I watched actually showed a guy who had made one of these engines with soda cans and it ran really well! I'm thinking maybe I can put one of my Arduinos to use with this engine and some sensors....hmmm, I think I've got my next project! More to come...

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