Sorry, this entry is only available in 日本語.
A few weeks ago we gathered in Aizu with a crew of Safecast volunteers to celebrate hitting 10 million datapoints though we actually had a productive goal for the weekend as well. We held what will hopefully be the first of many bGeigie workshops based on our new bGeigie Nano kit. The idea being, get a bunch of people together in one room and build bGeigie Nano’s – and everyone can help each other along and it can be an awesome experience for everyone. Plus, it generates lots of new bGeigies to go out in the world and collect more data.
The workshop was a huge success, we built 14 bGeigies in total which is a testament to how simple and easy the new kit is to put together. Keep in mind, it used to take us a week to build 2 or 3 of these things. And some of the people building them had never soldered anything in their lives before this. Exciting to say the least. Our plan is to hold the next of these in Los Angeles sometime later this year, but ideally we’ll have them popping up all over the world soon. If you’d like to join us for the build in Los Angeles, or want to host a build in your own city – please get in touch. In the meantime you can order your own bGeigie Nano kit here for $450.
(Photos by Pieter, Jurgen and Sean.)
The above video is a hexacopter with an onboard bGeigie Nano taking radiation readings in flight and broadcasting live via wifi. It’s the result of the just finished week long Safecast hackathon that just took place in Cambridge, MA.
There were a number of reasons to focus on a drone during this hackathon. Of course drones are cool and exciting, so that helped to keep people interested. On a practical level there’s also a need for something like this that would enable us to take measurements in a location that would be too dangerous or just plain unreachable for people, such as a steep hillside or a contaminated area. We could also plot out a flight path and let a drone measure a huge field much quicker than a person might be able to navigate the area. Thinking about our data in relation to a drone also allowed us to consider some existing issues from a different perspective and tackle them with renewed vigor.
The concept of a Safecast Air Force – that is a modular drone platform with a number of interchangeable elements – was originally suggested by Ray Ozzie and and over the week Safecasters Naim Busek, Joe Moross, Pieter Franken, Steven Wright, Ariel Levi Simons, Haiyan Zhang, Paul Campbell, Anthony DeVincenzi, Samuel Luescher and I took it from idea to reality.
We started off with a prebuilt Hexacopter from 3D Robotics and then upgraded the motors and blades, as well as giving it a more robust DJI Flame Wheel Frame. With Ardupilot (an open sourced arduino based autopilot system) providing the brains and Safecast providing the payload, we built quite a full featured flying machine.
While this is certainly our flagship at the moment, we also looked into using the Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 Quadricopter as a prebuilt platform as well. We have a lot of work to do reducing weight of devices for that to work, but if we can prove a concept works on a more expensive design and then scale it back to a minimum viable product that easier for people to contribute to that’s an exciting prospect as well.
If we step back for a moment, this modular system becomes quite elegant. The drone is the “platform” but could easily be swapped out for a bike, a car, or carried by a person. The “sensors” for this proof of concept were radiation, but could also be swapped for air quality or anything else you wanted to monitor. We were using wifi to “upload” the data, but there are any number of other data transfer methods that could be deployed here. We’ll continue to develop this program and are excited to see how it helps spring board our other initiatives.
A handful of earlier test flight videos can be found after the jump.
Earlier this year we held what will hopefully be the first of many Safecast Hackathons. Since Safecast has such a fantastic team of volunteers working together, we thought it might be beneficial to bring everyone together in one city for a week to hash through ideas and cross things off the todo lists. While the ability to have a distributed team is amazing, there’s immense value in getting everyone together face to face. We did this for the first time in January – brining team members from Los Angeles, Boston and Dublin over to Tokyo to work closely with those already in Tokyo as well as volunteers from elsewhere around Japan.
We took over two (sometimes three) floors at our offices in Shibuya (thanks to Loftwork & FabCafe for letting us) and worked on wide range of Safecast related issues. Hardware, software, devices and mobile issues. Our data upload area has been completely redesigned and our map now updates hourly with refreshed data from our servers so it’s incredibly up to date – more so than it’s been in over a year. These were both major milestones that we’re very happy to have pulled off. We also walked away with a firm grasp of some next steps. We’ve already begun planning for our next Hackathon which will likely take place in April in Boston. Lesson learned from this one is to have more focus on fewer areas as things got a little chaotic in Tokyo, but each one of these will teach us something and we’re looking forward to the progress we continue to make. Below is the final toast, one of the volunteers brought some amazing Sake from Fukishima for everyone, as well some photos from the week.
(Photos by Pieter Franken and Sean Bonner)
We kicked off the first hackathon of 2013 today in Tokyo. In many ways today was a planning session for what the rest of the week will look like. We ran through the issues lists on several key Safecast repositories on GitHub and created some milestones of things we’d like to solve this week, as well as discussed what new needs to happen and when it needs to happen by. Some of the team is still rolling into town and I expect the next few days to increase in productivity and intensity. With people flying in to Tokyo from Dublin, Boston, Los Angeles and joining with those from all over Japan it’s fantastic to get everyone into one room to brainstorm, problem solve and plan courses of action. I know we have a spectacular collection of talent working on this project, but days like today make it so apparent.
I’m incredibly excited to see what this week brings, we’ll be updating as we go and broadcasting parts live here and there for people who might like to join. Follow @safecast on twitter for specific info when we do it.
At Safecast, we have been talking about our distributed team(s) and how beneficial it is when we can get people in the same room to actually hack on things. Not just bring each other up to date on what we’ve been working on, but actually get our hands dirty and build stuff. And then when we go back to our corners of the world the motivation from that progress helps keeps things moving. Upon realizing this we decided that we really needed to start having regular hackathons. Tentatively, we’ll have 4 a year, one in each quarter and each time in a different location around the world. That’s the idea anyway, we’ll see how it plays out in practice, but for the moment we have the first one to announce:
In January, we’ll meet up in Tokyo for a week and take a big bit out of our collective to do lists. We’ll start with the public GitHub issues and move on to new issues as they arise. And while a hackathon is kind of without structure, we’ll have some kind of opening event where we set up some goals and directions, and some closing event where we see how well we did. This will take place physically in Tokyo, but we’re going to try to live stream some of it as well as use IRC and shared web based documents to allow anyone from anywhere to participate if they feel motivated. I’ve put up a google doc with some tentative details – if you’d like to participate please check that out and add your info. I hope this will be the start of something awesome.
I gave a presentation about Safecast at the Medicine X conference at Stanford today. There was a mix up with some of my slides and I’m not sure if I hit all the points I wanted to, and several people asked me afterwards if the presentation would be online so I thought I’d post it for reference. The slides are largely photo-based (truth is I was going to go no slides until about 72 hours before the talk) so on their own they might not mean much. I’m including the raw notes/text for my speech below as well – forewarning, the text was written just for my own use and meant to be ad libbed a bit so take it with a grain of salt, and please excuse sentences that end weird or misspellings.
full speech text after the jump.
If you are in Tokyo this week please stop by Radiex2012 (Sept. 24 – 26) and see us at Booth #118. We have lots of devices on display!
We’ll be at Radiex 2012 this week in Tokyo. If you are there, come see us!
Last night we had our first “Hey Safecast team in Tokyo, come hang out at the new office!” event. It was exciting and awesome to get everyone in the same room and talk about some of the future plans. As you can tell from the last few posts it’s been a productive week to begin with and last night Levi and Steve got the first Safecast Air Quality sensor working so this was a great way to wrap up the week. Today (Saturday) is the open house so we’ll be rushing back over to clean up wine bottles and get things into non-embarrassing shape shortly, and then hanging out all day hacking on things and answering questions and hope to have some new stuff to show off later tonight as well.
Last night was the first time Nav (new device firmware), Yoko (Software, db) & Steve (Air Quality Dev) had met the rest of the team in person. Very good stuff.
We’re really excited about these new offices, the productivity they’ve enabled just in the last week has been amazing, and we expect even more to come from that.