The GaugeCam system was recently used in Bangladesh during experiments related to Arsenic dissipation in irrigation channels. These experiments were conducted by Dr. Polizzotto, Mr. Lineberger and Dr. Birgand in December 2012. These experiments were done to generate preliminary data to evaluate the ability of ecologically engineered systems to strip Arsenic from water in small irrigation channels.
One of the factors at play is the height of the water column above the substrate in the channels. We thought it would be nice to use cameras and the GaugeCam system to measure the levels in the channels. So that is what we did! The system set up can be seen in the picture to the right.
Our original GaugeCam camera is dedicated to transferring images on a real time basis to our server. Our camera can also save images on an SD card. The ratio quality/size of the images is outstanding and that is the reason for our preference.
For short term experiments, we only needed the SD card writing capabilities. In fact we believe this might be the case for many people!
We have explored the capabilities of using hobby type of equipment (Arduino based systems) to build a camera able to take time lapse pictures.
Thanks to Dr. Kyle Aveni-Deforge, we have built such a camera, which we now call ‘mini-GaugeCam’ for a cost of about $150 for parts.
Obviously, the quality is not nearly as good as our original camera, but one can still obtain some very decent images. In fact, we had no problem finding water lines (see picture above).
As it turns out, our experiments lasted less than 30 min each and at constant flow. So in the end we decided to read the water heights directly on the gauge staff.
Thanks to our ‘mini-GaugeCam’, we were able to very easily set up the camera, the background and the gauge staff and obtain 1-min interval pictures and verifiable measurements! This, we think, should interest a lot of people! More on the mini-Gaugecam later.
Even though the blog has been fairly quiet for the last while, a lot of work has been performed to improve the capability of the GaugeCam water level measurement camera system. We will now start posting more frequently to discuss some of these improvements and talk about planned future improvements. There are three categories of improvements where we have made significant advancments. These are:
- The real-time web interface – This is the movement of images from the camera to the webserver, the application of the algorithm to create measurements, and the presentation of graphics and measurments on the internet. You can see some of the results of this work on this web page that shows the water level in a tidal marsh on the North Carolina coast as measured by one of our cameras. Andrew is responsible for our software systems and infrastructure.
- Camera, remote power, mounting, and target hardware – One of our hardest tasks is to develop a truly remote camera system that generates its own power, withstands the weather, provides its own light at night, is phsically stable, etc., etc. François is responsible for this in addition to his maintenance of the lab and our test cameras. Up until now, his improvements to the hardware have taken place behind the scenes, but expect to see a dramatically improved set of hardware on this blog in the very near future as we move to our first prototype camera production run.
- Vision algorithms – Up until the marsh camera was put into place and started shoveling images out to our web site, the requirements of the image processing software were not really well known because there were no images with which to work other than what we gathered in the lab. Therefore, we made our best best a what was required, wrote the algorithms and deployed them. They really work quite well, but now that we have a “real” and continuing stream of images, we know a lot more about what the vision algorithms will have to handle. I (Ken) am responsible for making the improvements to handle things like fog (See Image 1 below) and dirty high water marks (See Image 2 below). I will write about these and other improvements to the vision algorithms as they are developed and deployed.
Image 1. Fog
Image 2. High water line
At GaugeCam, we’ve followed along as the “NCSU Eagle Cam” has taken on a life of it’s own. Several sponsors are involved, but the Departments of Biology and Computer Science have taken the initiative at NC State. Their website details some of the technical expertise, equipment, and hard work that has gone into the project.
The Eagle Cam serves live video. At GaugeCam, we’re currently capturing environmental data using still images. However, many of the same barriers to entry exist regardless of the final image product. That’s why we’re so focused on providing a comprehensive, robust, and easily installed camera package. This system can be set up in very remote locations with a small up-front investment and minimal maintenance. We’re doing the hard work behind the scenes so you can focus on the environmental data you desire.