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Monitor and advise about indoor air quality (IAQ) with the help of a MAX32620FTHR, BME680, LoRaWAN, Cayenne, and IFTTT.

In our house, we do these days have a smoke alarm and CO2 detector. These are warning us for the most dangerous things we must be safe of. Even if it’s the old dump “BEEP BEEP BEEP” alarms, or a smarter device like a Nest Protect, they only alert you if there is an emergency. Why don’t we monitor and advise about Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) on the same scale?

Primitive Detection of Air Quality with a Canary
As an alert for Methane gas, miners did take a canary into the mine. Canaries were used because they have an extremely loud chirp. Additionally, the canary has the closest resemblance to the part of our nervous system that controls breathing. The miners did carry the bird in its cage into the mine. It was said that when a canary was about to die, it would start to shake the cage. If the canary did this, the miners knew to exit the mine. If the canary wasn’t making any noise, they knew to make an even more urgent exit as something had caused the canary to die.

Translating This to Modern Usage
Living in a healthy environment, but also knowing what you can change to get a healthy environment, improves our quality of living. The techniques do exist hardware wise, and in expensive devices we can already buy this.

With simple DIY tools, we are going to build our own. All you need is a microcontroller unit (MCU, we use a Maxim MAX32620FTHR), a sensor (we use a BME680), some output to warn with (we use a LED and a speaker) and a battery (we use a Li-Po 500 mAh). Also we do send the information through LoRaWAN to make this a real IoT device (we use a RFM95W on a custom FeatherWing).

And top of the bill; it will be in the form of a Canary :)

Disclaimer: no Canaries wereharmed while building and testing this project

Project Explained: Bill of Materials
I’ll first explain all the parts used and show how they are used in this project. Leaving the wires/screws/nuts/hot glue out, main components are as following:

Bird-Shaped Housing
I bought this smoke detector second hand and it probably doesn’t work anymore. It is meant to be ceiling mounted on a little branch. Perfect size and most important; non intrusive if this bird sits on your table or cupboard. Of course; until it starts chirping!”

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