Cricket is a small, inexpensive environmental sensor.  It began as a cheap, easily reproducible version of the EasyBloom Plant Sensor. I bought one of these to answer my wife’s question of “what can I plant here?”.   We live in an area my mother-in-law calls “the toolies” (see for proposed etymology on how that term came to be). We have lots of tree cover but our nominal temp is 10-15 degrees less than the nearby urban areas, so we can’t really use much of the local maps. Also, we have sun in the back yard, tree cover in the front, irrigation from the septic drain field, etc. So what grows well in the front yard tends to wither in the back. Consequently, buying a single EasyBloom wasn’t really usable. And I’d need one for inside the house. So I was already looking at purchasing three of these at $40+ each if you can find them.  That coupled with the annoyance of having to create an account just to look at my data kinda got me looking at a home-grown solution. 

The initial version was called Garden Gnome. Didn’t really look like one; looked more like a bunch of wires in a box and some circuitry and a battery and an LED readout for battery and solar voltage. Looking at it now, honestly it looks more like one of those bombs on tv shows.  

Then I had a chance meeting with a staff member of the UW Fisheries Science group. She was looking for a low-cost sensor that could be placed in water and left there long term. Since there was no way of insuring waterproofness with lights and antennas sticking out, out went the solar panel, the wireless and LED i/o and in went long term storage and heavy power management. Currently there are a couple sitting at the bottom of some stream monitoring temp swings over time. But once the seals are shut,  how do you tell if it’s still working? Enter Cricket. A single speaker provides battery, temperature and POST status with a series of beeps. Think crickets whose chirps vary according to the ambient temperature.

So the idea is to create durable, inexpensive sensors that can collect solar, temperature, humidity and soil data and relate this to local, regional and global data. 

Where does your data fit in?

Seattle version of TED talk here at Seattle Startup Week with Noah Iliinsky

Noah Iliinsky, Information and Visualization Designer.

This might be one of the most important lectures I’ve been to.

I call it a ‘stealth lecture’.  It starts with a simple, innocuous topic of “Guaranteed Successful Design” and migrated to being inspirational around climate change, a better future and how to have others be inspired by you and follow.

Steve Jobs to John Skully – “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life or do you want to change th
e world?”


An ocean of data

When you are overwhelmed with something, it’s easy to ignore it.  Even to the point of your own detriment.  Bills that pile up. Doctor appointments that always give bad news. Everyone tells you, you’re going to have to pay it eventually. Eventually may be a long long time.

Climate change is like that. There is a ton of data. Temperature studies, wind analysis, glacial shifts, stats on marine flora, fauna and animals. Much of it is like the frog in a pot of boiling water.  It gets hotter and hotter but you don’t really notice until it’s too late.

But many of us have noticed. Fire seasons are longer. Rains are more torrential. Hurricanes are more prevalent. Record high temperatures.

All of these lead not just to more time spent trying to adjust, but things like more expensive insurance. More fatigue as you slog through your day. More expensive seafood, vegetables and other groceries.

Secondarily, it lends to shorter tempers. More irritation with little things.  Tempers flare, violence ensues. Frog in a pot.

So what can you as an individual do? First thing is to figure out what you’re swatting at.  If you can see it, measure it, describe it, you are much better off figuring out how to fix it.

This is about being able to see it.