Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Office gadget - the Fhelper

Ok, this is just for fun.

In office we have a vase with a flower.
It is hard to remember to give water to the poor flower, so often the poor plant has to survive in a very dry environment.
We need something to remember us to give water to the plant.

The fHelper

Ok, there are already TONS of automatic gadgets to monitor if a flower needs water.
But the main purpose is to have fun to design something from scratch.
So here the fHelper (flower Helper).

The idea is to use a Raspberry Pi (possibly the 3 in order to have WiFi embedded, otherwise a USB WiFi dongle is needed) and the GrovePi system of sensors, to monitor the soil moist and somehow report/alert somebody about the need to water the poor plant.
To add more fun of course is possible to use the system also to gather other environmental values, interface with an IoT server, create graphs, etc.
Also it would be nice to have the project powered by the sun.


Here a shop list :


Here a list of functionalities of this gadget:

  • monitor the moisture level of the vase to determine if water is needed
  • monitor the temperature and humidity of the environment
  • monitor the amount of light
  • host a website that shows the number of time the plant is watered, how long remains without water and other amenities
  • send an email or a slack message to the people alerting when the plant needs water
  • collect in the cloud the data monitored

Assembly platform

Connect the GrovePi to the Raspberry Pi and then connect the moisture sensor, the humidity sensor and light sensor to it.
All the necessary hardware is hosted on a plexiglass support.

The Raspberry Pi with the GrovePi board will be placed on the top of the plexiglass, also to facilitate to have the moisture sensor close enough to the vase.

The fHelper close to the vase. In this early stage setting the Raspberry Pi is powered by a 10000mAh solar battery, however this battery can not be charged if is powering something. Thus a different design is necessary for the solar power aspect.
Note the Raspberry Pi on the top of the plexiglass.


The software is based on the GrovePi system from Dexter Industries.
Basically is a modified Raspbian version  with some libraries added to manage the the specific hardware.
This is because GrovePi adds also the analog capability to the Raspberry Pi.
Once the system is ready (follow the Dexter instructions) is possible to write programs in different languages to read the sensors.
For this project Python will be used.

The fHelper app needs to perform these operations in a cycle :

  • read the moisture level of the soil
  • read the temperature and humidity
  • read the amount of light
  • store in the cloud the data read
  • send messages via slack and/or email for specific events occurrence


The software part of the project is hosted on GitHub and for the moment is private.

Moisture sensor

For few months the moisture sensor was in place in the plant while running some tests.
It ended up badly, so it is necessary to rethink how to measure the humidity.
This project is quite interesting and will probably be adopted (for the moisture sensor).
A possible choice would be to buy this sensor and try to adapt it to the Grove system.

Stay tuned for updates