Category Archive:

Android and Arduino Hacks


Some clips combined into a short video of various small projects involving Android and Arduino.  This shows off the power of open hardware when combined with Android.

In summary these

  • Reading magnetic cards in Android from Arduino using the USB host shield
  • Android to Android remote control through relay shield, using socket, http and xmpp connections
  • Using xmpp to read remote readings from Android connected to a host shield
  • SHAC – smart house access control
Posted in: Android, Arduino

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Water Hackathon


 The event

This was amazing – despite it being freezing in the venue (Jacques even went home to get a small heater!), everyone stayed right to the end!  During the day the teams worked amazingly well together – no prima donnas, egos etc.  just good hacking 🙂

The venue was a stand in the exhibition hall of the African Utility Week (so very visible) and we had lots of people walking by asking what are we doing and why.  I think some of them will never get it, but we made some good friends who will hopefully join us next year.

The venue


MTN sponsored a Galaxy Note for the event and House4Hack pitched in with some gift vouchers for the winning team.   We only approached Yusuf last week about this and he immediately said yes and then personally brought it to the event after only receiving it on the morning of the event.



Body shop sponsored a gift pack which was awarded to the hackathon personality of the day. 

 The Solutions

There were three teams, one for each challenge (see at the bottom of the post for the problem description).  The challenge owner was on site to provide further details and guide the teams to a solution.

Map the poison – ( The solution was a combination of Open Data Kit (ODK) and Google Fusion tables.  Field workers can capture data using Open Data Kit and visualize it in Google Fusion tables.  These are extremely powerful tools and a great framework for future projects.  The team consisted of Gerard, Jacques, Richard, Sean and Toby.

Location of collected data

Analysis of water quality

ODK configured for map the poison

H2O Detective (winner) – (  the solution used e-breadboard ( a framework developed by Enerweb DI and released as open source.  Additionally, an Android app was developed for use by fieldworkers to identify and manage consumers with very water consumption using the geo-position of the field worker and historical water consumption patterns. The team was Marius Kruger, Lawrence Matjeni and Nathi Tshabalala.

Water usage by consumer


Open Pump Monitor – (  the solution consisted of an open hardware (Arduino) monitor, connected to an  inexpensive Android phone (Vodafone 858).  The phone acts as data logger and sends the measured power quality to a server written in Clojure.  From there SMS’s is sent via a commercial gateway and a series of reports can be drawn.  The team was Mikkel, Tom, Jabu, Tobie and Schalk

Arduino Monitor and Vodafone 858

The Winners

The combined team from Sowertech and Enerweb  with H2O detective won the hackathon!  Nathi Tshabalala from Sowertech was picked as the winner of the Samsung Galaxy Note sponsored by MTN.

Judges Peter Twesigye, Nicolette Pombo-Van Zyl, Steve Mwale and the winning team Nathi, Lawrence and Marius

The hackathon personality prize sponsored by The Body Shop went to Toby Kurien:

Toby Kurien receiving the Body Shop sponsored hackathon personality prize


Random Hacks of Kindness

Work will continue on these projects at the RHoK global event to be held 2-3 June at UNISA –


Water Hackathon Invite

Lack of safe water and adequate sanitation is the world’s single largest cause of illness, responsible for two million deaths a year.  That’s four people every minute – most of them children. 

House4Hack is helping Africa Utility Week ( to organize a 1 day water hackathon on Monday 21 May 2012.

Why you should attend

You are a social entrepreneur, innovator, open source developer,  data scientist, designer (graphical, gui, industrial etc), open hardware enthusiast, project manager or all of the above.

You would like to make a difference.

You want to meet like-minded people and have fun.


There are some really high impact challenges and here is a taste

Map the poison – This should be a web based application that will be used to map spots along a wetland system where poorly treated and potentially poisonous effluent is being discharged into the system.The program should be able to specify which kind of components of the toxic effluent are being discharged where.  The problem is that in Africa, Leather tanning and other industries are still thriving while releasing poorly treated effluent directly into our wetland systems. The reason they go undetected is lacking a GPS system that will track these activities so that the culprits are apprehended and corrected. This would go far in solving this issue.

Power surge prompt – A system that alerts plant operator on duty through their mobile phone whenever there is low, high or fluctuating voltage that could cause damage to pumps, motors etc in the plant. Report to technical manager or supervisor daily indicating time, nature of occurence and action taken as well time of normalisation of system.

Water usage map –  In order to help managers understand water use patterns and how they vary geographically, a mapping application (e.g. Google Earth app) could link water meter data with meter GPS co-ordinates.  Such maps could inform decisions around planning and investment for areas with low consumption or connection density (often poorer neighbourhoods and marginalised communities).  The ability to include additional demographic data would allow for richer analysis (  for a taste of this type of visualisation.  Overall, the ability to visualise this data on an interactive map would assist managers in their decision-making around demand management and distribution losses. They could even single out households with suspiciously high or low water usage (helping to fight leakage and corruption).


Expo Center in Johannesburg (


08h00  Registration and breakfast
09h30  Schedule and logistics announcements
10h00  Subject matter expert briefing
10h30  Begin coding
13h00  Lunch
13h30  Coding continued
14h30  Optional progress briefing, coding continued
18h00  Coding ends  / Presenting solutions
19h00  Dinner / Judging / Prize giving
20h00  End (to be continued at RHoK on 2 – 3 June 2012)


Registration now open



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Open Power Watch



The idea is to provide a real time Simcity like view of the electricity supply.  With an eagle eye view of the loading, outages and supply quality, the City can be pro-actively manage, respond to outages, shed load and plan capacity expansion. Her residents will known where problems are and see how the City is dealing with this.

Simcity View - showing hotspots

Smart Grid Solution

Smart Grid can be thought of as  “Internet of Things” but for the power grid.  OPW leverage IoT designs and technologies to measure the voltage and temperature and street level substations and mini-substations.  Temperature is the killer for transformers and cables and effective management means longer equipment life.  Voltage levels and outages are the main measure of power quality delivered and needs to adhere to legislated criteria to prevent damage to equipment and / or loss of revenue for the consumer.

Open Hardware and Software

Arduino based open hardware developed by Bushveld Labs allow measurement and GSM communication.  Open source software is used for the data storage, analytics, reporting, open data api and notifications.  This includes Android as primary mobile platform.

Open Data API

Part of the solution is an Open Data API, which could have other spin offs:

  • DownForEveryoneOrJustMe but for electricity
  • Traffic routing around areas with power outages
  • Consumer watch – Who is getting load shedded? How equitable is it?

Current Status

Sensors : Prototype developed by Bushveld Labs (an H4H startup)
Backend : First phase complete, currently receiving data from 6 sensors, including temperature, voltage, power and current
Analytics : Design complete
Visualization : Web and Android prototypes in progress

Next steps – small scale pilot

Using the monies from the competition, we want to execute a small pilot to demonstrate the concept and mature the technology.

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