Former Ph.D Researcher At OSU Developed Stream Runoff Monitoring Sensors Using Wio-E5 to Measure The Temperature, Quality and Flow

All of life depends on water, and all of us are citizens of a watershed.

Frankly speaking, “Changes in streamflow can directly influence the supply of drinking water and the amount of water available for irrigating crops, generating electricity, and other needs. In addition, many plants and animals also depend on streamflow for habitat and survival.” United States Environmental Protection Agency mentioned in a report Climate Change Indicators: Streamflow. Furthermore, the water quality of runoff is also an important link in monitoring.

Why would someone want to make such a sensor? 

Field tech installing a sensor

This project is intended to measure how healthy the environment is.  So much of the health of our streams, rivers, drinking water, and fisheries depend on it, the streams that flow out of the mountains. Existing sensors are limited in capability, are often very expensive, and require field techs to service them.  Hence, this sensor package was developed to tell us about not only the depth and temperature of the stream, but also how clear and clean it is. This is a very uncommon measurement. Fortunately, research studies have found that the resistance of the water to electrical current (resistance) is closely related to how well fish can live and grow in the water.

But what’s more intriguing is that we happily spoke to the developer for Stream Runoff Monitoring Sensor, William Dillon, who received his PhD from Oregon State University. While there, he started working on this sensor under a grant from the United States Geological Survey (USGS).  The grant supported the development of cost-effective sensors to measure the volume, temperature, and quality of stream runoff over the course of a year. Since leaving OSU, he kept working on this project for many years along with a friend and colleague.

Moreover, this sensor can apply to a lot of different fields.  

  • Remote mountain streams
  • Water in cities and towns
  • Farming
  • Wildfire scar monitoring

Seeed Wio-E5 make it possible to have a low-power communication with many years of battery life!

The first version of the device was a TI MSP430-based design that wrote sensor data to an SD card. While this did work, William and his colleague found that SD cards can be finicky, and consume a surprising amount of power. Ultimately, they couldn’t get more than a year of logging on a set of batteries. There probably were opportunities for improvement by refining the amount, and location, of on-board capacitance. Ultimately, they couldn’t get around the limitation of the SD card: one way or another, someone has to go into the field and either swap-out the loggers, or the cards. They always wanted to have a wireless solution, but the technology just wasn’t there at the time. 

LoRa chirp waterfall diagram

Since then, LoRaWAN came out, and proved itself to be a reliable technology for Low-Power communication over great distances. William bought some development systems from Seeed studio (who has the best range of LoRa products, in his opinion) and got to work. And he developed the skills he needed to understand and work with LoRa. 

The Wio-E5 is a total game-changer, and no one needs to go into the field to change SD cards anymore. They’re also making a “base station” for the LoRaWAN network. Because these are used in the middle of the mountains, and they have to set up little independent LoRaWAN networks that all communicate using satellites.

Science for a changing world, technology for a better life! 

The first half of this sentence comes from the Slogan of USGS. There are still people in the world who are working day and night to make efforts and improve the global environmental problems. 

William and his team are the epitome of that, and there are others we actually don’t know about. One of his words always sticks in my mind, “I’ve been working on it as much as I can on weekends and at night because I believe in improving our environment as much as we can. I believe we can only succeed in improving the environment by understanding it, and measuring it.”

Recently, William read an article that described a promotion that Seeed’s Fusion business was running. They are offering PCBs and assembly for 2 prototypes for 100% free if your project is using their Wio-E5 module! He said:

Not coincidentally (did I mention that their range of LoRa products is the best I’ve found), I was using the Wio-E5 module in my designs. All I had to do was follow the instructions in the article, upload my design, and provide the coupon code they sent me.”

Take action to bring your Wio-E5 projects to the next level!

If you have an interesting concept for Wio-E5, and are willing to share it with the community, share it with us and we can help you make it a reality with Seeed Fusion’s one-stop-shop capabilities. Get 2 boards fabricated and assembled completely free with Seeed Fusion’s turnkey PCB Assembly service.

Furthermore, choose all your parts from the PCBA Open Parts Libraries (OPL) and reduce the lead time to as little as 7 working days. Meanwhile, if you have mass production requirements, we highly recommend taking advantage of the Seeed Fusion PCB Assembly service and get the Wio-E5 modules for only US$7.90 (28% discount, original price US$10.90).

Seeed Fusion provides high quality PCBA and impeccable services for anyone who wants to build a commercial product/project!

As for the design, William mentioned that it would be assembled much faster if he used components from Seeed Fusion OPL component library, which he was able to do. The other thing is, and William figured this out only after getting his boards, is that you probably should design your boards to be single-side load. That means that all the components that are reflow-soldered are on the same side of the board. 

In his case, it wasn’t a single-side load, and there were some transistors and bias resistors on the back. Seeed didn’t complain about this at all, and the assembly charges were still very reasonable. He’s had other dual-side load boards made at other CMs, and it increased the price quite a bit.

“That said, it is actually pretty cool. I’m hoping to have to make a much larger scale of these boards in future commercial projects with the help of Seeed Fusion, and I’m looking forward to being able to do it so simply and easily!”

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March 2022