What is a FieldKit Station?
If you’re setting out to use FieldKit for environmental sensing, chances are you’ll start by buying (or borrowing) a FieldKit station. A station is a home for sensor packs – it has ports for the packs to plug into, and circuitry to handle and store the data that they collect. Most often, a station lives inside of a weather-proof case, which keeps everything dry and has holes in the cable plate on the bottom for external instruments. A station is powered by a battery (which lives in the case), and the battery can be charged by a solar panel (which lives outside of the case).
The core of a FieldKit station is the same, no matter if you are using it to measure water quality, monitor local weather conditions, or find out how clean the air is beside your local school. Indeed, the biggest strength of FieldKit is that a station can be almost anything, depending on which sensor packs you plug into it. It can be a weather station, or a water station, or a weather-and-water station or a water-and-air system or an air-and-seismic station or a water-and-weather-and-seismic-and-soil-humidity station. We’re launching FieldKit with six sensor packs, which means with the four available ports there are almost 1,300 possible module combinations. By the end of 2021, we hope to have ten sensor packs available, offering 10,000 possible combinations. As our community grows, and more developers are contributing to building module boards, we believe there will be hundreds of thousands of possible FieldKits to be put together and put out into the world.
A FieldKit station knows which sensor packs are plugged into it. This means there’s no extra configuration necessary to add or remove a sensor pack. Your weather station can become a water station, just by switching sensor packs. There’s little extra cost to add an extra sensor pack to a station, which means you can collect more data about a place while deploying the same amount of hardware.
The data measured by the sensors is stored on the FieldKit station. If your station is near a WiFi network, data can be uploaded automatically to FieldKit.org. If your station is somewhere more remote, you can use our app (iPhone & Android) to transfer data and then upload when connectivity permits. You can also use the app to configure the station – to change how often it takes measurements, or to re-calibrate sensor packs. You can also monitor power consumption, which is particularly useful when the station is powered by a solar panel.
The module base allows for up to four module boards to be applied, and supplies power to them, as well as mechanically coupling them to the enclosure. This attaches to the lower board by way of a single connector, and the upper board connects to the lower via standard 0.1” headers.
All of the module boards for a FieldKit unit can technically be used on their own if you know how to interface with them via I2C* or SPI. However, we make it much easier for you to get data from them by giving you the brain box: powered by an SAMD51P series 32-bit low-power microcontroller, this gives you the ability to store data locally on a microSD card, or to send data back via either WiFi and/or LoRa.
We have designed a weather-proof custom case for FieldKit stations which is water and impact resistant. FieldKit stations can be used in other enclosures provided there are appropriate fastening surfaces.
Even More Technical Details
BRD files for the FieldKit core and sensor modules are available in our GitHub repository:
Module base: https://github.com/fieldkit/darwin-backplane-4
Example module board: https://github.com/fieldkit/darwin-weather-module
Questions? We’d love to hear from you. firstname.lastname@example.org