Projects

Connected Pool Monitor

Designing An IoT Product (Video Series): A Connected Pool Monitor

Project Overview

I thought it would be interesting to document the process of coming up with an idea for an "Internet of Thing" (IoT) product, designing it, making a prototype - and then seeing if there is a market for the real product.

Every Monday I will put up a video talking about what I did for work along with posting updates on my website. I'll talk through the design challenges I run into and also talk about product design and the business side of things too!

Project Goals

I put together a simple diagram to map out how I see the process going and what some of the possible outcomes could be:

Choosing a Development Platform

If we want to make an internet connected device we are going to need a development platform that has the hardware to read different types of sensors and the software support to process the sensor data and send it to a display like an LCD screen or a mobile phone.

I'm going to use the Arduino ecosystem for a couple of reasons: 1) It's easy to get started with 2) Lots of support and big ecosystem 3) I'm already familiar with it programming it. Plus I think it will be interesting to see if I hit any limitations with the Arduino that will make me move to a full embedded development platform like the Microchip PIC or ST Micro line of microcontrollers.

Coming Up with an Idea - The Pool Monitor

There are much better resources out there on how to do market research and come up with a product idea and start a business than what I'm going to talk about here.

One method I have successfully used in the past is the standard "solve your own problem" or "scratch your own itch" approach. Sometimes you can solve a problem you're having and lots of other people having the same problem want your solution.

For me a problem I'm having right now is keeping my pool clean. When you have a pool you have to watch the pH levels and adjust the chlorine and other chemicals (depending on your filter system) to have good water quality to enjoy swimming. I started out looking for something already on the market but couldn't find anything that had the features I needed - so I'm going to build my own!

The Pool Monitor - Design Decisions

To get this project started I'm going to make some design decisions up front so I can get to work on making a proof of concept and see if this product is feasible or not.

Built-in Display Screen: I think there will be a strong use case for a user being out by the pool and wanting to know how the water is doing and since they are outside may not have their phone with them. Also not everyone has or wants to use a phone. Plus if you think of a family around a pool then everyone who have to have the app on their phones installed? What about kids? So by default let's build the pool monitor with a built-in display screen.

Internet Connectivity Is Last: I'm going to build the proof of concept with no connectivity at first and get the core water quality features working first. Remember throwing data to a phone is only going to work if the product works!

Modular Packaging Design: I have a bunch of ideas on the packaging of the pool monitor but my first idea is to make it modular so I can change it later if I need to. Right now I'm thinking of using a floating "bobber" as I'm going to call it that you can put pool chemicals in. I'll add the electronics and sensors to it and attach it to the side of the pool. Later on I can decide if I want to put electronics in the bobber so it can float around or on the attached side of the pool. I'll look at this in more detail later on when I get into more product design stuff.

Here's a picture of a "bobber" so you can get an idea of what I'm talking about:

System Diagram

The system diagram shows the major components of the pool monitor and how everything is connected together.

Bill of Materials

The current bill of materials for the pool monitor.

Get Updates and Follow Along

I'm excited to get this project started and hope you will follow along with me on my Youtube channel , read my blog for regular updtes, and sign up for my monthly newsletter!

Weekly Updates

Week 1 Update - Read Full Summary