The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) at NC State was hosting a conference: “Stewards of the future: Research for Human Health and Global Sustainability“. Along with the conference, CALS hosted its Innovation Fair. GaugeCam had its booth entitled: ‘Hydrology for all: measuring water level using webcams’.
Our booth had posters, videos, a slide show of how the system works and of results, live data streaming from the field and a display of the GaugeCam hardware.
We must admit that few people did stop by but we did obtain some true interest and that was good. Thanks to the conference, we did make quite a bit of progress on the live web site.
The metrology of the GaugeCam system was presented on Tuesday morning of the 2011 ASABE International Conference. The presentation featured images from our field cam and our lab camera, but the emphasis was on optimal system performance in the lab. We won’t present the specific findings here since we intend to publish those formally. However, we are pleased with the lab results and feel that we’ve found a “sweet spot” for camera location, angle and lens.
Since the conference had a strong academic presence, we really focused on the fine details of our lab analysis. We pointed out several sources of error that we encountered during our experimentation. Some of these sources we know how to correct (ex. glare from IR lighting), while others (ex. image distortion, unless you want to perform a nonlinear model of the image) must simply be avoided when applying this technology. Much of this material is basic knowledge to the machine vision community, but it is important to discuss with hydrologists who may want to apply the technology.
We were pleased with the turnout for the presentation, which included attendees from government agencies and universities, both domestic and international. The audience also asked some good questions about system maintenance and whether our results rival other measurement techniques.
On the official ASABE program, the contributors to this presentation were Troy Gilmore, François Birgand, Ken Chapman and Andrew Brown. Kelly Chapman contributed significantly as a lab volunteer this summer and she is currently finalizing our documentation so we can release the version of GRIME used in the study. Christian Chapman set up the original GaugeCam server. Randall Etheridge and Brad Smith worked to set up the salt marsh camera, which gave us access to some nice demonstration images. Thanks to everyone for their hard work. We look forward to seeing our results in print!
All the equipment is up and running at the ASABE Conference in Louisville, Kentucky. We experienced the usual conference equipment and software hiccups, but Andrew, Troy, and François worked it all out. Everything is up and running as planned and the GaugeCam booth is experiencing a continuous flow of interested conference attendees.
GaugeCam’s demonstrates technologies developed to measure water levels in the wild for the BAE lab at North Carolina State University. We show live images arriving at the GaugeCam booth from a solar powered, cell-phone equipped Colorado Video camera of a water scene in a coastal North Carolina marsh. The results are presented in real-time on the internet as a graph of water levels coupled with archived images. There is a second live demo that features images arriving at a server in the booth from a Microseven camera pointed at a water column in the booth and presented, again, as a graph of the water level measurements coupled with an image archive.
GaugeCam’s purpose at this conference is to present technology that retrieves images and sensor data from remote sites, presents both raw and processed data automatically on the web and allows the user to control motors, weirs, lights, and other actuators either manually or based on sensor conditions and user specified logic via the internet. The feedback we receive from conference attendees will help us refine our current commercial offerings, identify consulting opportunities, and possible even identify new product offerings.
Still to come: Troy will present the results of the NCSU research based on data gathered with GaugeCam equipment.
The GaugeCam team has been putting in long days for the last couple of weeks to prepare the presentation Troy will deliver and the demonstration of our water column at the American Society of Biological and Agricultural Engineers (ASABE) conference in Louisville, KY on August 7-10, 2011. We will plan to show a version of the laboratory column used at our NCSU laboratory to demonstrate the capabilities of our remote camera and the image evaluation software to measure water height in the wild. Troy will describe our methods and our most important results in his presentation. Anyone who would like to get a copy of our desktop software is welcome to come by our booth to see the software in operation and talk to Andrew, Francois, and Troy. We were hoping to be able to hand out copies of the software at the conference, but are making last minute “ease of use” adjustments to the software and documentation so it will be more usable by other researchers. We plan to make the software available for download b August 19. Leave your email or snail mail with us (or just drop us a line here) and we will let you know where to go on the web as soon as the alpha release version of the software is available.
We are looking forward to seeing you there!
In preparation for a presentation on Friday, I’ve been thinking back over the GaugeCam project. I’ve learned a few lessons about developing instrumentation over the past year or so. These items may be just a reminder to veterans of this kind of process, but might also be helpful to novices out there.
Ask yourself a few questions to break down the process:
- What are the absolute minimum functions we need?
- What can we already do? (As opposed to “What can’t we do?”, which would be a very long list.)
- Are there parts of this process/instrument that should be done by another party – is it more efficient to find someone with specific expertise than to learn it ourselves?
Cast a wide net to understand the problem, but learn to focus on an individual task:
- We knew we would encounter challenges in the field that would not exist in the lab. We ran a prototype in the field to determine what some of those challenges were. We simultaneously ran preliminary experiments in the lab. (Cast a wide net)
- We’ve decided to bring in some outside expertise to tackle some of the field issues. While they’re working through those challenges, we’re able to focus on fine-tuning performance in the lab. (Focus on an individual task)
I’ve also learned a lot about the software development process, but that will have to wait until a future post.
The graduate students working in our lab have started a blog! Since the GaugeCam blog is covering the machine vision and instrumentation aspects of our lab, we thought it would be fun to have a blog covering the additional ecological engineering topics we’re studying.
You’ll find it on blogspot, titled Bigeochemistry for Ecological Engineers!
GaugeCam’s Pullen Park Camera is now sending images to the Weather Underground website. Granted, our images with line find overlay are still giving us some unusual results, but there is some benefit to broadcasting on Weather Underground. One of the main features is Wunderground’s automatic compilation feature, which stores the previous 24 hours of images and automatically creates a time lapse video.
Our webcam can be found here. If you scroll to the bottom of the page, you will find a calendar with images. Click the “View Video” button under one of the images to see the time lapse video of the previous 24 hours.
Jeico has completed the paper for his senior project. Just click on the image to see the full text!
Based on our records, the GaugeCam blog has been viewed in over 60 countries since August of last year. In the US, visitors have come from all but nine states. It’s great to see that others around the world are interested in our research work.
More importantly, we have had the opportunity to work with someone who visited our blog from the Philippines. Our team has spent time helping them to develop software with much of the basic functionality we have in GaugeCam Remote Image Manager. We hope to post more details soon!
Our poster will be displayed tomorrow in Raleigh, NC.
Just click the image for a better view.