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Research Proposal: Portable Sensing and Data Recording

by Tom Kimball

April 17, 2018


1. Project Background and Description

While involved with field research, investigators often believe that campsites are receive nocturnal visitations. Trail cams have proven ineffective in collecting data, possibly due to audio and visual emanations. This project is intended to design a simple, inexpensive, and portable device for sensing, measuring, and recording camp visitation data. The intent is to use inexpensive, readily available components to construct a device. This project is intended to provide additional data beyond the capability of typical visual and audio recording devices. The device design as well as the software, once functional, will be open-sourced for the benefit of all professional and amateur researchers.

2. Project Scope

The project will consist of multiple phases:

I. Design – In this phase, the device will be designed, expectations documented, and data collection requirements specified. Included in design will be determination of helpful data types and the potential use of that data.

II. Prototyping – In this phase, a prototype device will be created and software written which controls the device and collects data.

III. Testing – In this phase, the prototype device will be field tested in order to determine functionality

IV. Final Design – In this phase, a deployable housing will be designed and the functional prototype will be reconfigured to fit in the housing.

V. Deployment – In this phase, deployable devices will be utilized by an actual set of researchers in the field. All designs, software, documentation and 3D printable plans will be released to the public.

3. High-Level Requirements

The design must be able to collect meaningful data as well as survive in standard field research conditions. Data that is collected must be recorded, timestamped, and readable by standard computing systems.

The following types of data will be collected:

  • Presence of nocturnal visitors

  • Range of nocturnal visitors

  • Humidity and changes in humidity

  • Temperature and changes in temperature

  • Ambient sound levels and changes in ambient sound levels


This project will deliver the design for a field data collection device, the plans for individuals to create a device, the files required for standard 3D printers to print a housing for the device, and documentation that instructs how the device can be used in the field.

5. Affected Parties

This device will benefit all field researchers wishing to add additional data to their research efforts.

6. Specific Exclusions from Scope

The device from this project will not be designed to record audio or visual data. Future versions may include additional types of data, including audio and visual data but the first version will not include that functionality

7. Implementation Plan

This project will be based upon a platform utilizing Raspberry Pi computing hardware. Sensor vendors will vary depending upon availability, price, and suitability of sensors. Most equipment will be purchased from on-line vendors, including Amazon. Software development will occur with free, open source development systems available for the Raspberry Pi. Initial efforts will utilize the FreePascal compiler and the Lazarus development environment.

8. Components and Design

A. Components

B. Device Mockup – 3D Printed

9. Challenges

A number of challenges will have to be addressed for the device to function successfully. Foremost among these is the ability of the device to function in wet and cold environments. Sensors will have to be chosen which are able to withstand weather conditions commonly experienced during field exercises. Weatherproof silicone will likely be required to further protect the internal computer and power from the elements.

Another significant challenge will be finding a power source sufficient enough to power the device for 8 to 12 hours. Off-the-shelf, rechargeable battery power is available but custom power options may have to be designed.

A printed enclosure may be insufficient to house the device and its power supply. Alternatives to printing an enclosure exist in the form of either ammo canisters or more costly Pelican cases. The latter may prove to be costlier but more viable.

The most complex challenge may be the analysis and interpretation of the data. Raw data will be collected but interpreting the data will be require analysis that may not be possible until all of the data has been tabulated and processed. This will likely occur in the lab following any field research. Complex mathematics will be necessary.

In order to be accurate, the use of multiple sensors will require precision in the placement of those sensors. Potentially, inclusion of a GPS in the device would help with placement but would draw additional power from the battery.

10. High-Level Timeline/Schedule

Phase 1: Completion by 07/31/2018

Phase 2: Completion by 09/30/2018

Phase 3: Completion by 10/31/2018

Phase 4: Completion by 02/01/2019

Phase 5: Completion by 06/01/2019

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