uRADMonitor SMOGGIE – a short review

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Today I have on my workbench a brand new air quality monitor: the SMOGGIE for uRADMonitor, manufactured by the Romanian company Magnasci.

Initially developed as a radioactivity monitoring network, the uRADMonitor map now offers the possibility of viewing several environmental parameters. At present, the map can show different environmental parameters (temperature, humidity, pressure), PM2.5 and PM10 particle pollution, VOC levels, formaldehyde, and CO2.

The data is gathered by various proprietary sensor nodes. One can buy sensors ranging from the low-cost, radiation-only sensor uRADMonitor model KIT1 and up to the very complex (and expensive) INDUSTRIAL model, which can measure up to 12 environmental parameters.

Recently, Magnasci’s product range expanded with the SMOGGIE, an air quality monitor that measures PM1.0, PM2.5, PM10 particle levels, temperature, humidity, and atmospheric pressure. For 110$ DDU it’s also the cheapest in the uRADMonitor sensor range.

The sensor

The SMOGGIE is one of the smallest air quality monitors that ever landed on my workbench. The sensor features one PMSA003 digital universal particle concentration sensor from Plantower, over which a custom PCB was fitted, featuring one BME280 weather and WeMos D1 Mini ESP8266 module. The sensor is small enough to (almost )fit into a gray end-cap used for plumbing. A gray bracket also designed for plumbing installations is used to fix the sensor onto a wall.

Together with the sensor, I have also received a USB cable and a small USB charger used as power supply.

The good, the bad and the ugly

In many aspects, the sensor follows the same philosophy as the luftdaten.info node I wrote about a few days ago. It also uses ESP8266, and it has particle and weather sensors.

The PMSA003 sensor has an MTTF (Mean Time to Failure) rating of over three years. Unfortunately, in the current software version, the sensor’s fan runs almost all the time; it stops only when data is sent to the uRADMonitor map.

As a comparison, in the luftdaten.info node, the fan runs only for 20 seconds for every 150-second interval between transmissions. Thus, the SMOGGIE will have a shorter lifespan. It can be easily fixed, though, and I hope a future software revision will address this issue.

A much harder to fix issue relates to the enclosure: the sensor protrudes from the plumbing end-cap. When installed outdoors, I doubt the sensor will survive a severe weather incident. Furthermore, the textile braided USB cable is not fit for outdoor use, as it will soak with water.

There are two possible ways to fix this. The cheapest one is to get a matching plumbing pipe and cut to length, so it still fits into the mounting bracket. Of course, the sensor will now be deep inside the enclosure, and the measuring performance might be reduced.

The second way is to use a dedicated weather shield. I like this model from TFA Dostmann, and it comes with a price tag below 10 euros.

SMOGGIE with bigger weather shield

SMOGGIE with bigger weather shield

By far, the most significant issue relates to IoT security: the sensor remains with AP mode activated after it’s configured. Even when it’s connected to my WiFi network, I can still see the uRADMonitor-XX network still active, where XX is the last two digits of the unit ID.

Even worse, the WiFi password is the sensor’s unit number. So, anyone can browse the uRADMonitor map, find the unit ID, then come into proximity of the sensor and connect to it. And once connected, one can mess with the sensor: the parameters in the CONFIG page can be changed. Maybe an OTA update can be triggered. Not nice.

Again, this is an easy fix, and it should be one of the top priority things to solve in the next firmware update.

And regarding the firmware, currently there are no source files available, and there is no way to download the firmware. Not much to do, as I don’t want to brick the sensor while playing with it.

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Configuring the sensor

Configuration of the sensor requires two parameters: user-id and user-key that you will have to retrieve from uRADMonitor dashboard before configuring the sensor.

I have received my login credentials together with the SMOGGIE. If you didn’t, then you must register first at https://www.uradmonitor.com/wordpress/wp-login.php (yes, there’s a WordPress behind this). Fun fact: the antispam question is not working; it always asks what is 2x(3+4).

Then, once logged in, go to https://www.uradmonitor.com/dashboard/. Then, go to the API tab and write down the user-id and user-key. Since you are here, this is also a good time to use the dashboard to update the geographical location of your sensor so that it will show in the correct place on the map.

uRADMonitor API dashboard

Once you have the user-id and user-key, the configuration of the sensor is deceptively simple. All one has to do is connect to the uRADMonitor-XX WiFi network, where XX is the last two digits of the unit ID. The password/unit ID is on a label on the enclosure of the SMOGGIE.

Once connected, go to http://192.168.4.1. There are four parameters to set in the CONFIG page: the name and SSID of the WiFi network, the user-id, and the user-key.

That is all!

Unlike luftdaten.info, the SMOGGIE sensor can send data only to uRADMonitor. There is no integration with other online services and no other options to configure.

And, unlike the luftdaten.info, there is no .local address of the sensor node. You will have to figure which IP it uses (hint: look at the DHCP tab in your router configuration, if you know how to do it).

The uRADMonitor map

The uRADMonitor map should provide an easy way to visualize the data. But, unfortunately, there are many issues with the map service.

First, the uRADMonitor site is not responsive. When viewed from a smartphone or a tabled, I can’t change the sensor from “radiation” because the main menu covers the drop-down list. Also, navigation on the map is difficult on the tablet screen.

Another issue is with sensor data – PM10 particle values are not shown, although the SMOGGIE and similar sensors can record them.

And the big issue is how the data is shown – the default visualization mode is as clusters, with “show offline” being selected.

This is the worst way to display data!!!

Old sensors that are long inactive still bring a contribution to their cluster when “show offline” is selected. Just look at how this cluster changes when I uncheck “show offline” — what a difference.

 

In my opinion, the best way to use the map is with the visualization set as “simple” and with “show offline” unchecked. The remaining green dots on the map are the active sensors, those that are relevant to the current situation.

Single mode, “show offline” unchecked

In this mode, I could even spot a defective sensor:

uRADMonitor defective unit

The gathered data: which license applies?

Finally, a small issue with the data itself: uRADMonitor does not specify under which license terms the data can be used. The data from my sensor can be downloaded as .csv format. But who owns that data? Is it me, or is it Magnasci? And if the owner of the data is Magnasci, it would be nice to clarify the allowed use scenarios.

Acknowledgment

I would like to offer my special thanks to Sotirios Papathanasiou from See The Air for choosing me as one of the lucky ten volunteers selected to test the new SMOGGIE air quality monitor.

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