After a week of soldering, programming and teamwork, a cheer went up when 21 sensors, brought in from all corners of Africa, came online and started submitting their measurements to the internet. The sensors were designed by the winners of the TAHMO Sensor Design Competition.
Their price: to join researchers from Delft University of Technology (the Netherlands) for a week in Nairobi, Kenya and work together on integrating all winning sensors into one big weather station. From Monday 29 July to Friday 2 August 2013 this Final Challenge of the TAHMO Sensor Design Competition was held in buzzing iHub (http://www.ihub.co.ke/). Twelve selected participants from Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Spain worked together to create a “for Africa, from Africa” weather station.
TAHMO Sensor Design Competition
The TAHMO Final Challenge is the closing of the TAHMO Sensor Design Competition, a contest run in 2013 at (mainly) African universities. The first round of the competition (http://tahmo.info/about-competition) was open to any academic or research group in Africa and asked for the design of an innovative robust sensor, capable of measuring a weather related variable. In total 26 designs coming from 15 different teams were received. The top thirteen teams with the best designs (http://tahmo.info/selected-entries) received a ‘Maker Package’, an extended electronics kit, that allowed them to build and test their sensors. Based on videos an pictures of their prototypes, the top eight teams were selected (http://tahmo.info/selected-participants-tahmo-final-challenge-nairobi), resulting in twelve participants attending the TAHMO Final Challenge in Nairobi, together with water management professor Nick van de Giesen and MacGyver scientist Rolf Hut from Delft University of Technology, and Adam Gleave from the Raspberry Pi Foundation.
During five days, 21 sensors brought by the participants, measuring variables such as rainfall, temperature, humidity and wind were integrated into an experimental weather station. All sensor were connected to one Raspberry Pi (http://www.raspberrypi.org/), a low-cost microcomputer, that functioned as the heart of the integrated weather station. The Raspberry Pi sent all data obtained by the sensors to the internet through MQTT (http://mqtt.org/), a messaging transport that is ideal for connecting small devices connected on networks with minimal bandwidth. IBM’s system Intelligent Operations for Water (IOW, http://www-01.ibm.com/common/ssi/cgi-bin/ssialias?infotype=AN&subtype=CA&htmlfid=897/ENUS212-451) stored the data from the 21 sensors in the cloud and nicely visualised measurement values on a map.
A video and pictures of the TAHMO Final Challenge in Nairobi can be found on http://tahmo.info/tahmo-final-challenge-nairiobi-2013 and https://www.facebook.com/TAHMO.initiative.
Trans-African Hydro-Meteorological Observatory
The TAHMO Sensor Design Competition is part of the Trans-African Hydro-Meteorological Observatory (TAHMO) project, a joint initiative of Delft University of Technology (the Netherlands) http://www.tudelft.nl/en/ and Oregon State University (US) http://oregonstate.edu/. TAHMO aims to install a dense cost-effective network of 20,000 hydro-meteorological measuring stations in Africa, each one costing just $500. This network will measure all standard meteorological variables (rainfall, radiation, temperature, humidity, wind speed and wind direction). The data will be combined with models and satellite observations to obtain much more insight into the distribution of water and energy stocks and fluxes in Africa.
Up and running in 2018
Funding permitting, the aim is to have all 20,000 stations up and running in 2018, located at schools and integrated in the educational programs. The weather stations will give local people access to climate data that is relevant to their daily lives, provide climate scientists with a large new amount of data, help understand the possibilities the African continent offers for agriculture and other water-related activities, and also train a new generation on how to do weather measurement. TAHMO might also help tackle the global food crisis: http://www.trust.org/item/20130612154314-hx4wf/.
Business aspects – new competition
Apart from the challenges regarding designing a low-cost weather station, data management and integration in the educational, an important issue that needs to be addressed is developing and rolling out viable business development. One important goal is to make the TAHMO initiative financially sustainable. Together with Africa Gathering (http://www.africagathering.org/) two brainstorm sessions were organized mid-July in respectively Accra, Ghana, and Dakar, Senegal on the business aspects of TAHMO. Participants were African entrepreneurs, meteorologists and technologists. During these two events, a competition has been launched (http://www.africagathering.org/competition/) to generate business ideas, specifically around the ownership of the weather stations and potential buyers of the obtained weather data. The competition closes end of August 2013. The best entry wins 5,000 EUR to develop the idea further.