Introducing Solarcast

What is SOLARCAST?
Safecast has gained a tremendous amount of experience since starting our citizen-based environmental monitoring program in March, 2011. The learning curve has often been steep, but always rewarding. Conceived and designed primarily by OG Safecaster Ray Ozzie, our new Solarcast device combines everything we’ve learned deploying our bGeigie mobile radiation sensors, Pointcast fixed radiation sensors, and our recent Safecast Air beta test, and is intended to provide convenient, hassle-free, independent operation.

Main features:

  • Drop and forget: Solarcast is compact, wireless, portable, and autonomous. It can easily be deployed anywhere, globally.
  • Self-configuring: Unit identifies available communication protocols and configures itself to use them.
  • Low-power consumption: Optimized to provide long, unattended operation under solar / battery power.
  • Combined radiation and particulate: Dual radiation sensors and dual particulate sensors enhance reliability and data density.
  • Rugged: Designed for long-term outdoor use

Thanks to support from The Shuttleworth Foundation and Annenberg Foundation and built by our friends at Fabrikor in Slovenia, these devices will be deployed in and around Los Angeles, with additional coverage locations across the US, Europe, and Japan.

 

What’s in the box?

Sensors:

— Air: Each Solarcast unit has an enclosed particulate sensor module which contains Alphasense OPC-N2 and Plantower 5003 particulate sensors, measuring PM10, PM2.5 & PM1.0.

— Temperature

— Humidity

— Radiation: Dual LND 7317 2” pancake GM tubes (same as in the bGeigie and Pointcast units) with Medcom iRover high voltage power supplies

Contents of the particulate module: Alphasense OPC-N2 (right) and Plantower 5003 (left) particulate sensors

 

The dual LND 7317 2” pancake GM tubes are housed in a custom machined enclosure

Comms:

— 3G cellular
LoRa

Position:

— GPS
— Accelerometer (for orientation and movement – Particulate measurements taken only when device is not in motion)

Power:

— Solar panels
— Battery pack (trickle-charged by the solar panels)
— External AC power

An experimental roof-rack mount has been developed for the Solarcast, to enable rapid redeployment.

Additional option:
LoRa gateway: The Solarcast is LoRa capable, and can use any existing LoRa gateway it detects. We’ve designed an optional compact LoRa gateway that can be used in cases where none are available and that option is preferable. The gateway requires external power and LAN connection and can support hundreds of LoRa-enabled devices. LoRa has a range of up to 20km outdoors; indoors the signal can penetrate concrete walls at the expense of distance (i.e. there is a tradeoff between distance and penetration). It can be useful in situations where cellular connection is poor or not ideal.

About the Author

Azby Brown

Azby Brown is Safecast's lead researcher and primary author of the Safecast Report. A widely published authority in the fields of design, architecture, and the environment, he has lived in Japan for over 30 years, and founded the KIT Future Design Institute in 2003. He joined Safecast in mid-2011, and frequently represents the group at international expert conferences.