Hi all.

No, I haven't been dead these past few weeks. I've actually been spending a lot of my free time researching how to build a weatherproof enclosure for the rice farm sensing project in the Tokyo Hackerspace. I've mentioned it previously and the project takes place in Kamogawa which is about an hour and a half outside of Tokyo. The place is a complete contrast to Tokyo and has problems with monkeys, boars, poisonous snakes, and some nasty bugs. Overall, quite interesting, although I am a bit scared of poisonous snakes.

Anyways, we'll be going out there this weekend to check out the terrain and I thought it might be good to bring out a prototype of what I have in mind for the outdoor sensor network project. There's not enough time to build a finished device, but I figured that I could at least put together a mock up that's very close to the real thing. It would at least give people in the hackerspace and others involved an idea of what I mean when I'm talking about agricultural sensor networks. 

The real difficulty in keeping anything outdoors for extended periods of time is how to ruggedize it to withstand the elements. Nature has a way of decomposing anything you put in front of her, and since there's going to be issues with wild animals, it would have to withstand being hit, bitten, nibbled on, and trampled as well. 

There were a lot of decisions that had to be made including enclosure type, form factor, I/O, platform, antenna, etc. The list goes on and on, which is why at some point, I needed to stop thinking and just put together a prototype. I figure a lot of the major issues will come out once something physical exists. This build tutorial is mostly a record of the steps to make the first draft of the Tokyo Hackerspace wireless farm sensors, ie: Hatake-Net (hatake=farm in Japanese).

One of the major decisions I made is to make the system based on the Arduino . I've noticed that it's very hard to get people in Tokyo Hackerspace to participate in the software development and I think a lot of that is because the standard embedded toolchain and programming environments are intimidating for people that don't do it regularly. On the other hand, there's such a wide base of knowledge for the Arduino and many tutorials aimed at the beginner level. It's really impressive how much thought was put into the Arduino platform and environment for usability. Hopefully after a few Arduino workshops in the hackerspace, we can build up a good base of people willing to help out on the software development. One of the goals of the hatake-net project is to have everyone participate in creating the sensor network. I'm hoping that people will realize that the simple act of reading a sensor can dramatically impact a farmer's life. Of course, I added a slight twist on the Arduino by adding native wireless communication to it...heh heh heh...

Anyways, I want to mention that this build is just for a mock-up but demonstrates the approach I'm currently taking for designing a ruggedized, weatherproof, and wireless enclosure. The main base enclosure is an industrial grade, IP-65 box. In this case, IP stands for "Ingress Protection" and is an IEC standard that classifies the degree of protection provided by an enclosure. IP-65 specifies that the enclosure is dust-resistant and water-resistant (but not submersible). It's also equivalent to a NEMA rating of 4 for those familiar with the NEMA enclosure code.

Also, this build is just a first draft and the final device will probably be much different based on what we observe in real usage. If you have any comments or questions on the design, please feel free to post a comment. I'd love to hear any feedback and answer any questions.

Well, here ya go. Enjoy! 

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