Monday, June 27, 2016

Maker Faire Singapore 2016

Maker Faire Singapore 2016

Efforts in Maker community and education recognized by Singapore Ministers.  

24Jun16, Received 
“Certificate of Recognition for 5 years of continuous support & enthusiasm” from Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan Minister of Foreign Affairs.

25Jun16 Received “Certificate of Appreciation” from Dr. Yaacob Ibrahim Minister of Communications and Information 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Fab Lab Fab Academy Final Project Software Defined Cooking with ESP8266

Fab Lab Fab Academy Final Project Software Defined Cooking with ESP8266

Software Defined Cooking with ESP8266

There is an idiom: the proof of the pudding is in eating it. Same applies to the successful implementation of Software Defined Cooking with ESP8266; the proof is in the egg and eating it. 

The objective of this final project to be submitted in due course for completion of Fab Academy 2016 is to design and fabricate an apparatus that display & control the temperature of a heated water bath (Sous Vide) over the Internet. DS18B20 acquire the temperature of the water bath, ESP8266 send this data via HTTP to thingspeak, and via MQTT to Node-Red server hosted on Cloud or VM. PID controller is defined in Node-Red with a set point. Output of PID is send via MQTT to ESP8266 to control the CPC1966B connected with heater.


Ever since humans discovered fire to cook food. The desire to have tasty food hot, and ready to serve without significant labour contributed to the preparation is insatiable. Progressively over different period of time, the labour required to prepare food is contracted to another person whether specialized or otherwise. By logical extension of the idea of the labour is contracted out to prepare food for humans, here comes the robot cook. Hence the notion of Software Defined Cooking meant for robots or home appliances have to be defined. An industry framework is needed to define protocols, communication standards, recipe, dispensing of food items, quality assurance and etc for Software Defined Cooking. Through observations on demonstrations in CES over the years, the software defined cooking appliances meant for smart kitchens are implemented in product silos by the respective vendors. Appliances that do not interact with other makes of smart appliances, and human owners are nothing close to the ideals of a Software Defined Cooking. 

Some vendors have disrupted the market by inventing heating mechanism meant for cooking that is controllable by software. FreeScale have invented a “solid-state, high-power output, high-operating temperature radio frequency (RF) transmitter technology” to address software defined cooking. This articlehere explains the FreeScale RF solution and addresses the following issues: 
1. “Heating is difficult to control with both thermal (heat) and temporal (time) precision. Heating elements take time to heat, are frequently not calibrated to a precisely measured numeric temperature scale, and then take time to cool to lower temperatures.”; 
2. “It is extremely difficult to track the “doneness” state of the inside of food with precision.” 
3. “The feedback loop between sensing doneness and adjusting temperature has been performed mostly by human observation, judgement and labor throughout recorded human history.” 

The article above also outline three features of a Software Defined products 
A. “Gather and analyze sensor data.” 
B. ”Maintain peak performance and health based on sensor data analysis (feedback loop).” 
C. “Communicate their analysis with other software-define products and cloud services for continuous improvement.” Besides the highlights of the 3 issues and 3 features, the article mentioned above and the product video of RFSage, an innovative appliance utilizing the FreeScale RF technology did not communicate enough details for a layman to deduce whether the RF mentioned is used for both transferring heat and communicating cooking data between different make of smart appliances in the category of software defined cooking.


A little more historical background. Back in 2011, I chanced upon sous vide while clicking away on cooking videos over the Internet, and saw a demo of thermal circulator in a chemistry lab, I have never looked back since. The essence of sous vide cooking is to maintain a water bath at precise temperature, with food placed in food safe bags submerged into this precise temperature controlled water bath. We started off with a store bought DIY kit that cost quite an arm and leg. We even went to the extent to make sous vide shield for Arduino. At that point in time, a dedicated sous vide supreme is out of the equation, it has to give way to tuition fee, rent, transport, and food. 

Sous vide solved two out of the three issues highlighted earlier. Doneness of the inside of the food is precise with sous vide, thus the inexperienced novice is spared from the labourious sensing doneness and adjusting temperature to prevent overcooking; hopefully stop food wasting from bad cooks. The other pressing issue is the calibration between heat transfer and time needed for heat to transfer is solved partially with some sous vide implementations. Some amateurish sous vide controller uses “bang-bang” algorithm for open feedback loop system, which is bad, really bad and hardly precise at the required set point. Some comes with PID controller, in which a controller for continuously adjusting the heat and time components in a closed feedback loop system. 

The three features mentioned above speaks of the cloud computing itself without mentioning the name. A server in the cloud will collect and collate information send by the sensors, perform computations on the data collected, transmit control to the actuators, and lastly communicate to user through the use of visualizations. 

Full implementation here: