Tag: Rajeev Jha (page 1 of 2)

Part 2: Why can’t you build a weather station for under $50?

Know Your Climate has embarked on setting up India’s first network of citizen-owned weather stations around the city of Bangalore. Each weather station costs about 35,000 rupees, and a frequently-asked question is why a weather station costs so much. It’s a question that we at Know Your Climate were asking back in 2013.

Rajeev Jha of Yuktix Technologies, KYC’s technology partner, answers. This is the second of a two-part series. [Read Part 1 here.]

In the first part of my explanation of why you cannot build a good automated weather station with $50, I talked of various components which cost more than that. Here I will be elaborating on other reasons that influence the cost of professional-grade devices – the remaining three of seven broad reasons.

At Yuktix, we have to ensure continued supply of weather stations. People can do one-off favours and customisations for cheap, but running production batches repeatedly needs good quality components that are tried, tested and readily available from distributors. This can cost significantly more.

There’s the tyranny of the “MOQ”, the minimum order quantity. If you have budget to make large number of weather stations, say a few thousand, then the whole supply chain will give you deep discounts. Everything from manufacturing to assembly to shipping to testing becomes cheaper per unit. You can afford to get components directly from the supplier instead of using a distributor. Large MOQs also allows you to approach quality vendors who otherwise would never talk to you. Setting up machines take time and no one wants to invest time in you unless you can guarantee good numbers. As a simple example, take fabrication of a metal plate. The vendor with the right machine will never do 10 units. He would like MOQ to be at least a batch in size — which could be a 100 or more units.

Short quantities mean that one has to pay a premium for good components, as well as put up with a high cost of discovery. The only alternative is a compromise on quality.

Sixth, there’s the related cost of a generic design, related to the MOQ challenge.  Managing different ‘Bill of Materials’ (BOM) is difficult for a startup. Getting one design into the market can sap out the funds and you cannot afford to keep going back to drawing board. The next best thing is to do a generic design that you can adapt to different needs in order to make money. However that also means an escalation in costs. As an example we can do a citizen weather station on cheaper PIC18F-type 40-pin chips. However same board will not work for a professional version. Hence we use a 100-pin chip that costs 1600 rupees instead of 150 rupees. The power supply story is similar: if you have the numbers, you can make designs optimised for a solar, battery, or adapter based designs. However doing a generic design that can work with Solar or Li=ion batteries or AC power means more costs again.

Finally, there are labour costs involved in assembly, installation and maintenance of the weather stations. DIY assumes your own labour to be free, and unfortunately we are unable to do that at our fledgling startup.

Rajeev Jha is the founder of Yuktix Technologies, Know Your Climate’s technology partner for the Citizen Weather Network.

Feature photo: Thejesh, the owner of the Electronic City weather station along with his niece and nephew Varsha and Jayanth.

Part 1: Why can’t you build a weather station for under $50?

Know Your Climate has embarked on setting up India’s first network of citizen-owned weather stations around the city of Bangalore. Each weather station costs about 35,000 rupees, and a frequently-asked question is why a weather station costs so much. It’s a question that we at Know Your Climate were asking back in 2013.

Rajeev Jha of Yuktix Technologies, KYC’s technology partner, answers. This is the first of a two-part series. 

You go to an American supermarket and you see a “weather station” that is selling for 50$. If look it up on websites like Alibaba.com, you see that are going round for 100$. Even well-known vendors have a kit that will sell for 200$ or 300$. So why the heck we can’t do a station for 50$?

The thinking goes like, get a 8051 chip, plug sensors that are available for 1000/2000Rs and I can have my station for 3000Rs. Sure, you can do that and we have done that. A nice station on breadboard with an LCD in place that could measure temperature, pressure and humidity and display it on LCD. If you add another thousand rupees, you can have the rig beaming data on bluetooth to your phone. Add Wi-Fi and the contraption can be online. So why not?

While working on the Citizen Weather Network, we asked ourselves this question. However, the zeroth questions to settle were, what do we want to do ? What is the end goal? Are we publishing blue-prints for the Hobbyists? Do we want to only demonstrate a proof of concept?

Or instead, do we want a neatly packaged finished product? Where we can provide guarantees on the data, where the data is reliable. Where you don’t need someone near the station at all times who can flip a switch when the station goes down? Where the station cannot be kicked, trampled or spoilt easily.

At Yuktix and at Know Your Climate, we set out to build a research-grade data acquisition platform, that can operate on solar power in remote areas, without the need for human intervention. However, we added a constraint that it should still be affordable and customised for the urban environment.

So here are the first four of six reasons how a Yuktix Automated Weather Station differs from a hobbyist weather unit, and why it costs more.

First,  there is a difference between in-house and out-in-the-wild station. A house oriented station uses your wi-fi or bluetooth, is kept indoors and is not affected by the elements on a daily basis. It is not out in the harsh sunlight and doesn’t have rain pouring on it. That is our first problem. How do we package everything in an all weather proof box? Any quality supplier (with IP65/66/67 certification) will charge you decent money for such a box.

Right now we are paying 25$ for such a weather-proof enclosure. You can surely can pick a cheaper box with gaskets in chuna mandi or Chandani Chowk but the quality is not guaranteed. It is one thing to plug your sensors into your Arduino or RPI where you know the connections and can fix it. It is quite another to put this all back in the wild without any supervision.

box-profile1

The weather-proof box that houses the weather station’s electronics.

Second, there is a cost to data. With a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth attachment, people are using existing internet connectivity, subject to its own failings. We put a GPRS SIM there because we would also like to operate in situations where there is no Wi-Fi nearby (or cannot be). We found that it was better to front-load GPRS data costs for three full years, so that the operational costs of running a weather station are next to nothing.  After all, the value of the weather information increases the longer the data is collected from the same location, year after year. The comparability is obviously superior with long-lived stations. Budget another 75$ for data.

The third factor of cost is a solar radiation shield. You cannot measure air temperature accurately without something to shield the sensors from reflected radiation. Whether it’s from a concrete surface or a whitewashed wall, reflected radiation can dramatically increase temperature and other sensor readings. Instead of measuring ambient air temperature, the sensor can start reading its own heated temperature.

What you need as a ‘radiation shield’ is an enclosure that doesn’t heat up, cuts off all stray sources of radiation (especially around the infrared band) from reaching the sensors, and allows ambient air to keep flowing through. We tried to build our own radiation shield, but one that would not survive the outside environment for long without replacement. A quality product is also one that will not turn yellow in the sun, and you would be surprised at how fast a DIY unit would do that.

The fourth factor of cost is a good rain bucket. The units that measure rainfall and wind in a weather station are typically the only ones that have moving parts, which also means that they are most likely to fail. The rain bucket first. And obviously, no indoor weather station measures rainfall. You need to be able to measure rainfall accurately, but also be able to measure large quantities of it. You want a good funnel that repels water and allows all of it to flow down. And you need to measure the rainfall quantity before the water collected evaporates. We decided to use a high quality tipping bucket weather station which can last a while without rusting or becoming inaccurate in other ways.

Add an extra $200 for both the radiation shield and the rain gauge together.

IMG_20140809_163344700_HDR

Radiation shield on the left and the rain bucket on the right in our pilot weather station.

This concludes the first half of why we can’t build a quality automated weather station for $50.

Rajeev Jha is the founder of Yuktix Technologies, Know Your Climate’s technology partner for the Citizen Weather Network.

In New Indian Express: Citizen Weather Network

The Citizen Weather Network and Know Your Climate is featured by Ashwini M Sripad in The New Indian Express today:

The project started with two stations, and now the number has gone up to seven. Five more are in the making. The idea is to have at least 30 to 40 such stations across the city.

“It is a continuous process. We need to capture real-time data for a complete year, covering summer, the rainy season and winter. We need to repeat it for some years so that we can compare the data. We get fresh insights into our climate over time,” he said.

The group is planning to link the data to Weather Underground (www.wunderground.com), which provides real-time weather information on the Internet. “They also have a mobile app through which messages can be sent to users,” he said.

Small stations could be set up at schools where kids could get to see data collection demonstrations, he explained. “There is scope to develop a mobile app showing what is happening in a neighbourhood. For instance, in Bengaluru, when it is raining in one part, the other is dry. If you know micro details, you can plan you day,” he explained.

Ashwini M. Sripad, The New Indian Express, 21 February 2015.

The New Indian Express-Bengaluru, 21 FEBRUARY 2015

In Citizen Matters: Weather Web around Bangalore

Know Your Climate and the Bangalore Citizen Weather Network is featured in Citizen Matters today.

Two young weather enthusiasts from the city have initiated the Citizen Weather Network that aims to capture real-time weather data from 30 locations in Bengaluru and make it freely available for public view over a web API. With five stations already installed in different parts of the city, they have started tracking Bengaluru’s microclimate. These indigenously developed Automated Weather Stations (AWS) house sensors for recording temperature, pressure, humidity and rainfall. Each weather station costs under Rs 50K.

The initiative, the brainchild of Pavan Srinath, Head of Policy Research at Takshashila Institution in Ulsoor, started in the form of a blog – Know Your Climate. As Srinath puts it, the blog was an attempt to make a serious study on the climate change by analysing the existing data available in the public domain, and placing it before the public in a simpler way. In 2014, Saurabh Chandra, CEO of Razorfish Neev, joined hands with Srinath to bring the idea to fruition.

Srinath says, “We approached Rajeev Jha of Yuktix Technologies to work towards building an indigenous weather station. Jha accepted the challenge and within eight months the first two Automated Weather Stations were ready.” The pilot stations were installed on the rooftop of Srinath’s house in Jayanagar and Saurabh’s house in Hebbal. Each station was developed at a cost of under Rs 50,000, much lower compared to the conventional stations that are built at a cost of Rs 2 lakh.

The modular weather stations are installed with sensors for measuring four factors – temperature, pressure, humidity and rainfall. While temperature, pressure and humidity sensors are housed within a radiation shield, the rain gauge is maintained separately. All these are connected to a main circuit board that logs all the data. The data is updated once in every three minutes which helps gauge the intensity of rain and weather pattern over time.

Jha vouches for the reliability of the data generated using the considerably cheap, but accurate sensors. “The instruments that we use in the station have been chosen after studying the specifications for an Automatic Weather Station published by the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD),” he says.

These sensors collect the sample of the environment every 15 seconds. As many as 12 samples are taken for each transmitted reading. “We provide the data in par with the standards set by the IMD and World Meteorological Organisation. I can assure data accuracy of +/- 0.1 degree,” he affirms.

Read the full article at Citizen Matters

Know Your Climate featured in Economic Times

Know Your Climate and the Citizen Weather Network is featured in Economic Times today in a piece by Krithika Krishnaswamy on how individuals and groups are taking the initiative to make India’s cities smart.

ET2

“Indian school education often focuses on the climate and geography of India and the world, but we never learn enough about how things work in our city or town,” said Pavan Srinath, who runs Know Your Climate, a not-for-profit that was started in 2011 to tell data-driven stories on Bengaluru’s weather and climate.

Know Your Climate has five weather stations up and running — 25 more to come up by the end of this year, to start recording high quality, granular weather data from the city.

Once the data is collected, Know Your Climate aims to build apps that tell people when to commute or when to bring with them an umbrella or a jacket. The group also wants to set up stations on schools in the future, such that students learn geography and climate by understanding the weather in their in own schools. 

Yuktix, a Bengaluru-based startup, has developed these weather stations at Rs 50,000, a fraction of the cost it takes to import the equipment. “The idea is to show government organisations a model for both deploying weather stations and for making data public,” said Srinath. “It is my hope that the India Meteorological Department also modernises and serves the public much better in the coming years.”

[Full Article — Economic Times, Jan 22, 2015]

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