The Stannary, part of fxPlus dining facilities at Exeter and Falmouth University
Our Alpha testing journey with fXPlus begins at Falmouth and Exeter University catering facility, The Stannary.
by Colin Higgs 24th-October-2020
The Stannary is Cornwall’s largest indoor venue with an overall capacity of 1400. It can normally feed this number of students daily as well!
We are fortunate to have developed a strong relationship with the Stannary and we are looking forward to contributing to their sustainable practises that are used at the University.
Initially in going to the University we had to overcome a couple of issues:
• Poor Cellular coverage
• Unstable Code
• Poor Cellular coverage
The current building extension to the Stannary (shown below) will include a new Sustainable eating area and bar and another kitchen. The facade of this building extension is copper and meant we could not receive a signal within the waste bin area (shown below). I had to buy antennas to attach to the outside of the waste area (shown below) and test several times. The antennas are shown below one was a 5dbi Omni-directional Anteena RG174 3M Cable and the other was a Bingfu Antenna 4G LTE 7dBi Magnetic Base . The first antenna proved to be best and the second antenna broke.
The layout of the electronics and weighing device and the antenna is shown below. We are hoping to secure the electronics in one of the offices, or alternatively, if I can think of a secure box that cannot be tampered with outside. The image below shows the desired layout, with the electronics situated within an office through a slightly opened window (if possible) and the wires from the Antenna and the weighing device both feed through to the electronics in the office. See the image below expressing the same idea.
The preferred set up for the auto weighing device
Above images; We see the desired position of the external Antenna. It runs into the Stannary waste area using a existing cable entrance.
The antenna attaches onto wall using a existing metal plate that can be either be stuck or screwed into the wooden housing.
A photo of the existing waste area of the Stannary Kitchen that holds different type of waste from the kitchen.
Below that we see an Artists impression of the new extended Stannary that holds a new kitchen and dinning area.
Below that is shown an old photo of the Stannary.
Testing The Signals
We have two shown below 2 videos showing the electronics passing the signal successfully to our cloud server. One is from the outside where we managed to get a signal. The signal strength is also shown as decibel table with a RSSI Value (Received Signal Strength Indicator).
Normally, I receive values at home between 4 -10 (40% strength) and at the University I get value between 8-16 (60% strength) with the Antenna. Without the antenna I would not get a working signal. The idea of RSSI values is shown below in the table.
The videos showing signal delivery to our cloud server are shown below
The videos with the antenna and it being connected to the electronics and sending data successfully to the AWS cloud server are shown below. The antenna is fixed both onto the outside of the Stannary and also onto the inside waste entrance door (here we use sticky 3M pads). Interesting, the signal did also drop significantly from the outside value (RSSI 16-13 60% down to 8-5 40%) when attached to the inside door.
• The next step would be to get a clarification on whether the Antenna is allowed to be fixed to the external ventilator outside? Or not?
• Also, whether or not the electronics could sit within the office? If the window was partially open?
I also have to get the antenna extension lead of 10 metres so that it can fit up to the office area
and also test the changed motherboard code to ensure the data is always transferred first time to the cloud server. The last time tested it was sometimes not working properly. It would tase 2-3 times to send the data through to the cloud server which is not desired.
Why? As the motherboard memory is filled up to the brim. It can leak and have holes in the code. The solution is to re-code with as many low-level tools as possible to reduce the memory overall size. This has been done already and needs to be retested at the Stannary.
Testing the signal strength and code inside the building
We have tested the signal strength on the inside of the Stannary waste area. It was successful 8 out of 10 times. Signal strength reduced from 16 to 8. The video is shown below as well as photos of the position of the Antenna and where perhaps we can install the electronics.
The Stananry waste area
Our antenna installed above the exit waste area exit doors
Our antenna installation.
1. — 1 office closest to exit through the pipes
2. — onto a palette storage shelf
3. — into office 2 via opened windows.
Our MVP working in our kitchen hacked together
We have connected and shown our MVP working in the kitchen using our antenna.Our MVP all connected and tested: with the antenna and hacked weighing device connected to our electronics and sending the collected sensed data out to the cloud. The physical weighing device is all working and we are currently working on the back-end of the data to connect to the front-end Dashboard. The video is shown below.
Our Manufactured weighing device first rendition
We have our first draft of our proposed manufactured weighing device.
This protype design device is a redesign of a domestic weighing device that can be either be mains powered or battery rechargeable. The antenna will sit at the back of the weighing device and either be 20 cm antenna that’ll screws into the back of the device or we can sell antennas that can sit outside the kitchens and with a 10-20 metre extension lead again screw into the back of the device.
Above renders : Our proposed manufactured digital food waste weighing device. Based on a domestic weighing device with steel protective top and 40cm x 40cm x 5cm . All cellular connectivity and display and lithium battery and charger placed underneath the scales.
How do companies sign-up and get testing?
We need to make it very easy for companies to signup to our services and get measuring their food waste.
We are using our QR codes that you scan and send to your email so that when you register online with your devices will be ready to go and measure your waste. The QR codes will contain your unique Serial device number and your SIM telephone number. These will be needed to signup online so that we associate your company with a database of our weighing devices serial numbers.
Once this is done, all of the other databases and items that will be used to generate your reports are set up automatically. Then when the machine is switched on it can be detected at the backend and your company data will start flowing to the correct places.
Our Live Demo is up and running!
We have connected our electronic smart weighing device to the back-end AWS database and our front-end Dashboard summary
We have successfully managed to connect all of our electronics to a API end point that can handle upto 10,000 requests in 1 second to send data into AWS. The backend receives both the weight data and the weighing deice ID and automatically routes all the information to the correct dashboard AUTOMATICALLY.
The driving factor for all of this work comes from the SIGN-UP page. Once signed up all the relevant information we need to get your device working has been implemented. We collect a few inputs from you:
• Scan the device QR code and give us the Device Id and Telephone Number
• Your Company name. How many sites you are testing and the waste Category you are monitoring (cover/preparation/spoilage) for each site
• Contact name and address
• Contact email and telephone number
• Debit card details for device breakages £55, will be returned once the device is returned all working
We started to work with a Sustainable Designer to work on our second stage prototype smart food weighing device. Why?
Our products and services are all about being sustainable and its important for us to extend that model into practice
We want to be carful in how we practice sustainability. We want to make sure we have thought carefully about the way we manufacture and source components and materials. We decided to engage the employment of a sustainable product designer to help us in that effort and build our second stage electronics devices. In reviewing our prototypes which will be quite close to the manufactured solution we considered the following:
• We are using recyclable 3d plastic filaments for 3d printing:
This material will be used to constructor the legs and enclosure of the device.
Our Sustainable Product Designer Cristian Brandiburg
We have designed our printed circuit boards for Manufacture
We are testing the PCB (Printed Circuit Board) Design for integrity and the CAD design is ready for manufacture. We will be 3D printing the components and testing the code very soon. All of the components can be replaced and re-assembled with ease. All 3D printing is using recyclable material.
What a journey to get this far…
It has been a very convoluted journey to get our electronic devices this far; navigating the Covid pandemic, jumping onto our podcast for engagement within the industry and scrapping the internet for Electronic support for our smart prototype devices. So lovely to see them finally being manufactured on a small scale using sustainable practises and from the back of our garage!
It is quite difficult to get physical prototypes to this position.. There is little to no support for new start-ups to collaborate with prototype engineers and findings the right ones is even harder. Definitely a missing network to be enabled.
Rolling out the smart weighing construction…
Its important for us to maintain a sustainable practice:
• Making sure we are highly economical
• Using recyclable source materials for further use
• Making sure we we don’t contribute to economical and physical waste
• Thinking about solutions that are easy to repair
As part of this process we are printing 3D components that are using a recyclable source material as part of this process.Recycled PETG 3d filament.These components too can be also recycled.
Images. Stop-motion 3D printed smart weighing device feet.
CAD image with the support feet on either side of the CAD drawing
Smarter solutions and reducing costs…
It was something we thought of in order to reduce the cost of the antenna and SIM charges. Daisy chaining the devices together and sending the data from 2 slave machine to the master. Using a very simple I2C communication protocol.
The video below shows proof of this working:
We have completed the first prototype of our 2nd stage smart weighing devices
The images below show different parts of the components process and also it being assembled into the complete unit:
We are rolling out food waste monitoring tools to several beta testing partners over the summer
A Great opportunity for us!
The Logistics of Beta testing
The technical aspects of beta testing can be very challenging. Thinking through everything we need to install with minimum fuss requires thoughtful preparation.
• Preparing for the unexpected – very difficult. To think of things you have not thought of and will likely occur. Preparation before the roll out is critical. Going through the unknowns.Challenging.
• How many extension leads can we use? How can we remain within Health and Safety Guidelines
• A Video walk thru can be very useful of the placement site. Where are the power supplies? What are the health and safety pre-requisites?
• What training have we enabled to make the process go as smoothly as possible?
• Do we have the correct tools? Do we need a ladder? Hammer? Cutter?
• How do we fix to walls?
• How are we fixing things in place? Do we need a drill ? Screws and fixings?
• Do we have the correct power leads? Do we need extensions?
• What is our strategy to solve technical issues?
• Health and Safety have we considered it properly?
• Have we prepared for the unexpected?
• How do we get through obstacles, doors? stairs?
• Public Indemnity Insurance? Are we or company we work with insured for public accidents?
• Health and Safety and Electronic risk and Internal risk assessment. Critical
We still have to reduce costs and make our solutions as flexible as possible. In order to to this we need to:
• Critique current design, the good and bad points
• Consider alternatives.
• Reduce solution risks where we can.
• Weigh-up alternative connections
• Think about the development period needed.
• Can we solve all of the technical issues. Do we need further help?
The image below show 2 machines sending data between each other and communicating
• Step 1: Identify hazards, i.e. anything that may cause harm.
– Physical: e.g. lifting, awkward postures, slips and trips, noise, dust, machinery, computer equipment
– Mental: e.g. excess workload, long hours, working with high-need clients, bullying, etc. These are also called ‘psychosocial’ hazards, affecting mental health and occurring within working relationships.
– Chemical: e.g. asbestos, cleaning fluids, aerosols, etc.
– Biological: including tuberculosis, hepatitis and other infectious diseases faced by healthcare workers, home care staff and other healthcare professionals.
– Electrical: Radio waves and Electro Magnetic Radiation. Possible Shorts
• Step 2: Decide who may be harmed, and how.
Identifying who is at risk starts with your organisation’s own full- and part-time employees. Employers must also assess risks faced by agency and contract staff, visitors, clients and other members of the pub
– workstation equipment
• Step 3: Assess the risks and take action.
This means employers must consider how likely it is that each hazard could cause harm. This will determine whether or not your employer should reduce the level of risk. Even after all precautions have been taken, some risk usually remains. Employers must decide for each remaining hazard whether the risk remains high, medium or low.
Step 4: Make a record of the findings.
Employers with five or more staff are required to record in writing the main findings of the risk assessment. This record should include details of any hazards noted in the risk assessment, and action taken to reduce or eliminate risk.This record provides proof that the assessment was carried out, and is used as the basis for a later review of working practices. The risk assessment is a working document. You should be able to read it. It should not be locked away in a cupboard.
Step 5: Review the risk assessment
A risk assessment must be kept under review in order to:
- ensure that agreed safe working practices continue to be applied (e.g. that management’s safety instructions are respected by supervisors and line managers); and
- take account of any new working practices, new machinery or more demanding work targets.