A User-friendly Environmental Sensor Platform for Monitoring Soil Systems

“A User-friendly Environmental Sensor Platform for Monitoring Soil Systems” by Jianing Fang, Nour Smaoui, Doug Carlson, Katalin A Szlavecz, Alexander Szalay, Tamas Budavari, Mian Wang, and Omprakash Gnawali. In Proceedings of American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting eLightning/Poster session (AGU 2020), Dec. 2020.


Physical properties of soil such as temperature, moisture, and infiltration rate play essential roles in biological cycles and warrant careful study to inform effective resource stewardship. In recent years, the acquisition of environment variables in soil has been vastly automated by advancements in wireless soil network. Despite the increasing availability of sensor networks, the costs of these systems often hamper efforts of large-scale deployment by users with budget constraints. Based on our lessons from experimenting with several generations of commercial products over the past decade, we have designed and built a far-range (700m-24km), low-cost ($30/mote), and energy-efficient hardware that can interface with a wide range of Arduino compatible sensors and automatically transfer data to a central database. While the system was proven functional in field experiments, its technical complexity and maintenance requirements create hurdles for end-users other than computer experts. Furthermore, insufficient quality control measures and potential equipment failures in the field may cause sampling gaps and data anomalies. To overcome these challenges, we developed an integrated software that enables field biologists and community scientists to leverage the power of the environmental sensor network with ease of use. With a graphical user interface, the end-user is guided through the workflow of calibrating sensors, recording relevant metadata, retrieving data from the loggers, and querying the database to generate reports. The software also automatically detects and recovers gaps in data and alerts users of issues in specific motes to minimize data loss. While data collected from loggers are stored locally to allow usage independent of an Internet connection, we also offer the possibility of uploading it to a server for sharing among researchers. Our open-source system provides an affordable and easy-to-use solution to collect soil data, allowing versatile deployments to obtain fine-grained soil data over heterogeneous landscapes.

BibTeX entry:

   author = {Jianing Fang and Nour Smaoui and Doug Carlson and Katalin A
	Szlavecz and Alexander Szalay and Tamas Budavari and Mian Wang and
	Omprakash Gnawali},
   title = {A User-friendly Environmental Sensor Platform for Monitoring
	Soil Systems},
   booktitle = {Proceedings of American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting
	eLightning/Poster session (AGU 2020)},
   month = dec,
   year = {2020}