As winter is starting to loom on our pandemic-plagued society, there’s never been a better time to dabble in the Internet of Things. You can do a million projects with a million different applications, and it’s never been easier.
In the past few years, the technology has become better and cheaper, there are a million tutorials online, and the coding has also been greatly simplified. It’s bound to happen that you can get a computer board for around $25 or even less.
People have been using the Raspberry Pi (or in truth, other similar boards) for a wide variety of projects, and we’ll look at some of them here. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list or a tutorial, just something to get the ideas going.
1. Gas/emissions sensor
This is one of the simplest projects you can do, but also one of the most useful. Worried that your stove might be a bit leaky? Want to see what’s the level of pollution on your street? There you go.
All you need to do is to hook up a Raspberry Pi with a gas sensor (or several) and set up a communication system (either via a screen or via the internet — your home wifi will be useful here). You can probably get this done in an hours’ time and have a working gas or emissions detector. It’s a simple project, excellent to get you started with, and you can find all the code and documentation online.
2. Garden project
This one can get as simple or as complex as you’d like it to be. A lot of people just do things like water pumps, but you can be more creative.
You can use a moisture sensor to only trigger the water pump when it’s dry, or a temperature sensor to trigger it more often when it’s hot. You can also power it up using solar panels and use luminosity sensors to adjust the solar panels, if you really want to go deep with it.
This is a highly customizable project that can grow as big as you’d like, but the goal is to track the environmental conditions and automatize your garden.
3. Weather/environmental station
Environmental stations are without a doubt some of the most popular Raspberry Pi applications. The main reason is that it’s something we can all relate to — weather. It’s easy to have a confirmation on how it works (since you can see some of the weather effects yourself)
Here too, you can make it as simple or complex as you’d like. You can just add a temperature and humidity sensor, or you can go much broader and fit your station with a myriad of different measuring units. You can also stick to simple sensors or go for more accurate, high-end stuff.
Whether you’re working with an entry-level kit or something more expensive like temperature sensors by Pyrosales, the weather station is a great and rewarding project to get you going.
4. Garden camera trap
If your garden or porch is visited by wildlife and you’d like to take a better view of it, this is a neat little project. Camera traps have been used by conservationists for decades, but thanks to recent advances, it’s become easier than ever to design and deploy one.
All you need is a motion sensor, a small camera, a battery, and a Raspberry Pi to control it all, and all of this can fit in a small food container. Then, you set it up safely where you think animals are most likely to pop up, and you check the results.
Whether you’re looking for birds or other types of wildlife (like hedgehogs or even foxes), this surprisingly little setup can get you a glimpse of your local wildlife without disturbing anyone.
5. Solar data logger
Have a couple of solar panels and want to see how they’re doing? Or maybe you’re just curious about solar activity? This type of project might be the one for you.
It’s not necessarily a beginner-friendly project because it requires integration with external systems such as solar panels, but if you’ve worked with Raspberry Pi before and would like something more challenging, a solar data logger can be very useful.
6. Home automation
The ‘Holy Graal’ of the Internet of Things is home automation. This is already becoming a trend in some areas, but home automation systems, while efficient and very useful, can also be very expensive. This is where the Pi comes in.
With a Raspberry and a bunch of sensors, you can turn your home into a smart home. Everything from plugs to heating can be ‘smartified’ for a fraction of what these systems cost on the shelf.