New York — Smart Land, Smart Water: The two categories for Keysight Technologies' <a href="https://www.iotchallengekeysight.com/"target="_blank">IoT Innovation Challenge. Three teams from around the world competed in each category with each having a winner plus a grand-prize winner, plus a special prize for student diversity. As one of the judges, let me start by saying how impressed I was by all of the finalists. Even more impressive is that these students — from juniors to PhD candidates — were able to design and build their connected devices while attending to their regular studies.

Each team had a few minutes to describe their product and ten minutes for a demonstration. All projects required connectivity and had to be designed to provide power to operate for one year unattended.

Smart Land: berrySmart (MIT) A team of four juniors from MIT — Gsabriaeela Garcia, Nikil Murthy, Irin Ghosh, and Sunny Tran — presented first. They developed berrySmart, an open-source device whose sensors make measurements that include temperature, moisture, light, and humidity. A mesh network connects the devices, which then communicate with each other. Only one sensor node needs to communicate with a base station to transmit data to a cloud service.

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Nikil Murthy and Gabriella Garcia from MIT describe the berrySmart concept. Image: Martin Rowe
Such a system could save water, of which farming uses a large percentage. By measuring farming conditions, water can be used where it's most needed and reduced to avoid over watering. It all depends on the crops in a given area. The module below uses a solar panel to provide power to charge its battery.

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The berrySmart module designed by students from MIT monitors farming condition in an effort to save water. Image: Martin Rowe.
Smart Land: CAIRNet (Climate Air Information Real-Time Network (Massey University) Poor air quality causes sickness and even death, so Tyrel Glass, Badan Parr, Darryn Wells, and Madhav Kruthiventy of Massey University (New Zealand) developed the CAIRNet, a network of stations that monitor the air for contaminants at a drastically lower cost than today's equipment.

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Tyrel Glass (left) and Baden Parr of Massey University describe the CAIRNet (Climate Air Information Real-Time Network. Source:
The city of Auckland has just seven air-quality monitoring stations. That could change because these modules monitor carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, particulates, and temperature at a drastically reduced cost. Even so, it's solar powered, weather resistant and the stations communicate over Wi-Fi.

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The CAIRNet sytem use sensors to monitor carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. Image: Martin Rowe
Smart Land: Malaria Detection Using Foldscope (Institute of Engineering and Management) Malaria is a killer that's concentrated in ten African countries and India. Early detection is crucial for people with the disease to get medical care, but medial personal need an easy way to identify the malaria parasite. Kishore Charan, Gaurav Barua, and Harsh Prasad of the Institute of Engineering and Management (India) took an origami-based microscope (Foldscope) developed by Manu Prakash at Stanford and combined it with a Raspberry Pi and wireless connectivity to send images over the internet where medical professionals anywhere can analyze samples.

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Gaurav Baura (left) and Kishore Charan from Insttitute of Engineering and Management (India) explain their malaria-detection system. Image: Martin Rowe
In further work, the students plan to integrate servo motors with the Foldscope, which lets the system perform automatic focusing and panning. With a Raspberry Pi connected to a camera module, the system can take images of microscopic specimens and upload them to the cloud. Uploading can take place through a cellular network or through a LoRa link, for remote areas that lack other forms on wireless communication.

Smart Water: IoT Detachable Monitoring device with LoRa & Self Sustainability (UTAR) The team of Yap Sheng Yao, Lim Wen Qing, Tan Kai Siang, Khor Jun Bin, and Au Jin Cheng from Universiti Tanku Abdul Rahman (Malaysia) developed a unit to monitor measure acidity, temperature, total dissolved solid, turbidity and conductivity in rivers.

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UTAR students Lim Wen Ching (left) and Au Jin Cheng describe their system for monitoring waterways for pollution and sending data to a cloud-based server. Image: Martin Rowe
The impetus for the project came when over 2500 people became ill from toxic gas caused by illegal dumping in a river. The system communicates over a LoRa link, which is needed because of its relatively low frequency (915 MHz) and a range of up to 10 km. Because the unit floats, it can take advantage of wind, water, and sun to harvest energy for its batteries.

Smart Water: Immersible IoT Sensors for Cloud-based Water Quality Monitoring (Stanford) Many pollutants harm waterways. Ammonia, often from farm runoffs, enters streams that flow into rivers. Stanford graduate students Max Holliday, Anand Lalwani, and Valmik Lakhani used a novel ammonia sensor developed by three Stanford professors that eliminates the chemical and laser process used to measure ammonia levels in water samples today. There's currently no way to measure ammonia levels in waterways and get the data to the could for monitoring.

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Stanford students Max Holliday (left) and Anand Lalwani describe how they developed a wireless system with an immersible sensor for monitoring ammonia levels in waterways. Image: Martin Rowe
By combining the sensors with some inexpensive electronics, the team was able to develop a wireless system with a parts cost of just $29. The sensor is immersible and connectivity is through a mesh network. If a node is lost from the network, it can store packets until such time that it reconnects. Position precision is to within 1 m by using time-of-flight calculations of the wireless signals, That's more precise that you can get from GPS and doesn’t require a GPS receiver. The team claims a three-year lifetime on a battery.

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Stanford's water-quality monitoring system consists of an ammonia sensor and wireless data-acquisition board (click image to enlarge). Image: Martin Rowe
Smart Water: Watsyn (Université de Technologie de Compiègne)
The final entry came from Raphael Jaures, a student at Université de Technologie de Compiègne (France), who engineered a sensor network plan called Watsyn, which can analyze waterways and detect how and when affect them.

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Raphael Jaures holds his Watsyn sensor network node. Image: Martin Rowe
A solar panel and water turbine let the Watsyn harvest its own energy. Watsyn nodes measure temperature, pH, conductivity and turbidity through commercially available sensors. Its turbine lets Watsyn measure water flow as well. Watsyn performs water spectrophotometry analysis through an LED and photocell. Such analysis can lead to detection of pollutants.

Using LoRa, Watsyn can communicate with data-collection receivers that transfer data to the cloud. Jaures claims that Watsyn can operate for up to 20 days on a battery charge. Using a solar panel and turbine, it should run autonomously for years.

The results

First Prize for Smart Land Massey University in New Zealand. Students Tyrel Glass, Baden Parr, Darryn Wells, and Madhav Kruthiventy of for CAIRNet (Climate Air Information Real-time Network)

First prize for Smart Water Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) in Malaysia. Students Lim Wen Qing, Yap Sheng Yao, Tan Kai Siang, Au Jin Cheng and Khor Jun Bin for their entry, IoT Detachable Waterway Monitoring Device with LoRa and Self-Sustainability

Each team receives $25,000 USD in cash and $25,000 USD of Keysight test equipment to their university:

Special Prize, The Keysight Diversity in Tech Award went to MIT students Nikhil Murthy, Sunny Tran, Gabriella Garcia, and Irin Ghosh Smart Land entry berrySmart. The team also received $25,000 USD in cash and $25,000 USD worth of Keysight test equipment to their university.

Grand Prize Winner Anand Lalwani, Max Holiday and Valmik Lakhlani. Stanford University students who engineered the Immersible Internet-of-Things (IoT) Sensors for Cloud-based Water Quality Monitoring. The team went home with $50,000 USD in cash plus $50,000 USD worth of Keysight test equipment for their university.

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Keysight's Chief Marketing Officer Marie Hatar and Test Gear Expert & Content Strategist David Bogdanoff announce the winners. Image: Martin Rowe
While I didn’t take home a prize, I did get this photo from the train on my way home.