Dear Smart Citizen,
Since our last direct communication we’ve had a couple of action-packed months, during which we’ve prepared your kits, handled parts stock, shipped (most of) your items, and dealt with all the different challenges associated being Kickstarter newbies.
It was a pleasant surprise to take a step back and look at where we are today: the project is very much alive and kicking thanks to all of you. On our end, a dedicated team of developers have worked (and shall continue to do so) countless hours to make all the necessary updates to various settings, sensor calibrations, data visualizations, and many other aspects of this complex, challenging, but extremely rewarding project.
Let all of us remember that this project encompasses mobile app development, server maintenance, web design and development, firmware optimizations, hardware design, and many other technological (and administrative!) layers that seem transparent (for the most part) to our end users.
LOOKING BACK IN TIME
From our humble beginnings to this day, we’d like to highlight:
- Started in 2011 at the Fab Lab Barcelona | IAAC and in collaboration with Hangar and MID
- The first crowdfunding campaign was in 2012 (Goteo): 156 backers, 200 sensors produced, 13,400€ raised
- Second crowdfunding campaign in May 2013 (Kickstarter in collaboration with Acrobotic Industries): 501 backers, 520 sensors produced, $68,000 raised
- One of the 6 first projects part of the Arduino@Heart program
- Featured at the IoT World Forum organized by Cisco Systems in Barcelona, October 2013
- Winner of the Innovation Award at the Smart City Expo in November 2013
- Featured by Nesta and The Guardian as one of the ‘Top 10 Digital Social Innovation Projects to Watch’ in March 2014
Even though almost two years have passed since our Goteo crowdfunding campaign, we feel that we’ve merely uncovered the proverbial tip-of-the-iceberg, and that this amazing crowd sourced sensing network–the largest in existence so far–has unimaginable room to grow. From vineyards to beehives, our devices have found unprecedented uses in a wide range of applications!
WHAT IS YOUR (THE END USER) ROLE IN ALL THIS?
As a backer of this project, you’ve become an early adopter of highly dynamic piece of technology. Not having to deal with the typical agendas of a large corporation, we’re nimble enough to address issues quickly, redefine project goals and objectives, and have quick turnarounds for making any high- or low-level modification when needed. This is why we plead for you to stay by our side during this initial ‘battle’, and we simply ask that you:
- Keep your sensors online - Give us feedback about issues and bugs you might encounter in the current forum: http://forum.smartcitizen.me
- Contribute to any aspect of our Open-Source project (e.g., using pull requests on Github: https://github.com/fablabbcn/Smart-Citizen-Kit)
- Be a Smart Citizen ambassador, and spread the word about the project wherever you are
WHAT IS HAPPENING, AND WHAT ARE WE WORKING ON?
We also want to update you on the status–both present and future–of the project:
- Smart Citizen will become a social enterprise based in London; the project applied to the Nominet Trust Fund in March 2014, and passed to the second round
- One of the team members chose the Smart Citizen project as his Ph.D. subject at the ICRI-Cities (http://www.cities.io), a collaboration between University College of London and Intel
- Future Everything and Intel are collaborating with the team on preparations for launching Smart Citizen Manchester in May 2014
- Smart Citizen Amsterdam has been launched with the support of the Amsterdam Economic Board, Smart City Amsterdam and the Waag Society, launched in April 2014
Our Team consists of 7 individuals and a few collaborators; as in many other successful Open-Source projects, most of the team members volunteer their time to the project while juggling their primary jobs’ responsibilities.
Please be mindful when we don’t immediately fix a bug, address a concern, or implement a requested feature. Also, remember that any change on any of the pieces involved in the project is likely to impact the entirety of the project (e.g., a new feature on the app may need a change in hardware, updated firmware, and an enhancement on the website).
WE KNOW, THERE ARE A FEW THINGS THAT WELL… SUCK!
And, we want you to rest assured that we are taking care of them! We can only ask for a pinch of patience while we sort them out. We encourage your participation in trying to find a solution, or providing feedback. From what we’ve seen in the forum and emails, the most pressing issues currently are:
A) Sensor calibration
This isn’t a trivial matter as many different factors are involved. We’ve solved quite a few challenges in order to get the best data possible out of each Smart Citizen device, but a few items remain on our punchlist:
1. Temperature and humidity values: these values are calibrated online, which explains why the values went haywire when we had a few problems with our database. We’ve fixed the problems and the data are back to normal.
2. Air quality units and calibration: the sensors used in our kit were chosen to keep the device at an accessible price (< $200). The CO/NO2 sensors require a specific calibration, as well as some attention after installation. Although their support team hasn’t been what we had hoped, we’ve been working with the manufacturer (SensorTech) to address our concerns. We want to make the installation/calibration/maintenance processes as smooth as possible, and when we do, we’ll post all the details in our online tutorials.
We’ve also begun working with a new sensor manufacturer (Alpha Sense) in order to build a Smart Citizen extension within the next 6–9 months. This will improve the air quality measurements, and can easily be connected to existing kits using the I2C bus on the boards.
3. Different enclosures and positioning of the sensors affect data quality, thus this needs to be standardized. This can be easily solved with better instructions on our end, and finding together best practices for setting up the sensors; to achieve this, your input is really necessary.
B) WiFly module corruption
In January, we were notified by Microchip that a firmware update in the module was performed early this year in order to avoid corruption of the WiFly module when it operates in low power mode. Our first recommendation is that you remove the solar panel from the kit, and perform a WiFly firmware update as soon as possible; we are automating this process in the new registration method in the platform. We were also notified by Microchip to get replacements for the handful of modules that became corrupted.
C) Documentation and community support
This has been a major point of concern in the forum, and we accept it, no excuses. We’ve got a new team member on board, Aitor, who is dedicating his time to explaining what’s happening, and how to solve all the issues you’re encountering. A draft of the new documentation we are preparing can be found here: http://docs.smartcitizen.me
Minor issues are being addressed at the online forum, please use it to report any bugs, and provide feedback to us about any aspect of the project: http://forum.smartcitizen.me
WHAT ARE THE GOOD NEWS? ...AND WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD IN STORE FOR ALL OF US?
As we said before, this is only the beginning of a very complex and challenging project, which we want to keep alive, improve together, and make available for anyone to work on. Our goal is to provide you with a powerful tool to positively influence your community, to learn about programming and Arduino, to use a wide array of sensors depending on the data you want to collect, and to foster online collaboration. We count on you to make this possible, not only with your patience but with your active participation. From our end, this is what we are going to be working on during the next months:
New online sensor registration process, which will fix issues with Java, USB ports and browser compatibility. At the same time this new process will detect if you have the latest Smart Citizen firmware, if not it will upgrade it, and will also upload the new firmware to the WiFly module (the latter is already implemented!).
3D printable enclosures are available for you to make at your local Fab Lab or Makerspace. Download this one if you have a V1.0 Kit (Goteo version), or this one if you have a V1.1 Kit (Kickstarter version).
There is a big platform update coming in the next 6–9 months. We are redesigning the entire platform architecture and infrastructure. The main changes are related to the database structure and API functionality. We are hoping to make a faster and more stable platform, whilst developing the new tools for making it more usable and useful for everyone’s needs. We plan to open the platform for new sensors and platforms (e.g., Air Quality Egg), but they’ll still be curated in order to maintain sensor coherence.
- Hardware is being improved.
As mentioned before, the air quality sensor of the Urban Sensor Shield is being enhanced. The plan is to offer a dedicated board that can be attached to an existing Smart Citizen Kit without removing the shield. We are also working on other sensor shields to be used in: Indoor Air Quality Monitoring, Urban Farming, Beehives (in collaboration with OSBH project, now in Indiegogo).
- Mobile app is being improved.
We’re going to do it right, and we are interviewing potential partners to make it happen. We’re securing additional funds for this, and will give you an update in the next communication we send you.
- Forming a dedicated team to oversee the project evolution.
After completing the initial deployment phase of the project, we are securing the necessary funds to have a core group of developers work on the project with 100% dedication. This will cut down the waiting time, and allow us to address issues much quicker. Note that funding is very competitive, as we’re only applying to the reduced set of sources that allow The Smart Citizen community to remain Open, and guarantee that the data will be always owned by our community.
We’ll never get tired of expressing our gratitude for the patience you’ve shown, and the confidence you’ve given us. Despite the bugs you may find, and the mistakes we might sometimes commit, we want to ask you to keep working with us, and sending us your critiques and feedback. We plan to keep making this project grow, and its complexity is not going to stop us!
The Smart Citizen Team