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Use of Internet of Things for Remote Laboratory Settings

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Tagged Division

Computing and Information Technology

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Paper Authors


Abul K. M. Azad Northern Illinois University

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Abul K. M. Azad is a Professor and Associate Dean with the College of Engineering and Engineering at Northern Illinois University, US. He has been in academics 30+ years, and his research interests include remote laboratories, mechatronic systems, mobile robotics, and educational research. In these areas, Dr. Azad has over 130 refereed journal and conference papers as well as 5 edited books. So far, he has attracted around $2.6M of research and development grants from various national and international funding agencies. He is a member of the editorial board for a number of professional journals as well as an Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Online Engineering. Dr. Azad is active with remote laboratory field and is the President of the Global Online Laboratory Consortium (GOLC) as well as the Vice-President of the International Association of Online Engineering (IAOE). Dr. Azad is also active with few other professional organizations like- IEEE, IET, ASEE, ISA, and CLAWAR Association and served as Chair and Co-Chairs of numerous conferences and workshops. He was a program evaluator for the ABET and is active in evaluating research and development projects for various national and international funding agencies in US, Europe, and Australia.

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Context Traditionally remote laboratories are developed by utilizing personal computers (PC) or workstations as the main controller unit on the experiment side and a local server for database and user management. However, given the emergence of Internet of Things (IoT) and powerful embedded processors, it is now possible to replace PCs or workstation with embedded processor boards. Based on this scenario, this paper reports the development of several remote experimentation facilities where embedded processors are used within an IoT infrastructure. Within a laboratory, the experimental system(s) is connected with an embedded system. The embedded system collects all the sensor data as needed by the experiment. The collected sensor data will pass through initial processing. In some cases, the embedded processor can perform certain local control tasks. The data will then pass to the Cloud for processing and presentation to the clients via a suitable graphical user interface (GUI). The remote client can interact with the experimental system via the GUI.

Approach and Implementation The systems that will be reported through this paper are the remote vacuum cleaner, remote programming of embedded systems, coupled task system, and structure monitoring. All these are to support educational activities. The remote vacuum cleaner is composed of a mobile platform fitted with a dc vacuum cleaner along with a number of sensors for navigation. The system has three main components: a mobile platform as the remote testbed system, a local server as the gateway between the testbed and the remote clients, and the remote client. The mobile platform consists of a drive system, sensors for navigation, an embedded processor for local control and data management, an XBee for wireless communication with the local server, and an IP camera for real time video. The IP camera has its own communication route via a WiFi channel. The video is then embedded within the GUI for user monitoring. The second system describes the development of an embedded system with remote programming capability. Almost all engineering and technology programs offer one or two courses on embedded processors at various levels. The remote programming capability for an embedded system opens a new horizon in that students can use the facility 24/7 and enhance their learning process. An Arduino board, along with a number of output devices, was used for this development. The same as in the previous test case, Python was used for interfacing, GUI development, and web services. For the third system, Raspberry Pi is utilized along with Python as the main programming language to develop the required software. Python has open source modules and packages and is simple to understand syntax and easy to develop internet applications and thereby reduces the cost of program maintenance. A Python based web server through Flask is utilized to facilitate this communication and execution procedure. The last project is targeted to collect the vibrational data from the model bridge and use an embedded processor to pre-process before passing to the cloud and the server. The vibrations generated in the bridge were then captured by accelerometers and passed to a NVIDIA Jetson board. A filtering scheme was implemented within the board. The filtered data were then processed to transform from the time domain to the frequency domain utilizing Fast Fourier Transform (FFT). Both the filtering and FFT were performed on the Jetson board.

Conclusions / Summary The paper describes the design, development, and implementation of a number of remote experimentation utilizing embedded systems as well as the Cloud. There are two important features of this facility. One is the use of a single software package for communicating with the experiment and the development of the GUI as well as data processing. The second is the simplicity of client access to the system; a client simply needs a browser without installing any plugins.

Azad, A. K. M. (2020, June), Use of Internet of Things for Remote Laboratory Settings Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35443

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