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PolarBear123
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Location: Westchester County, NY, USA

DIY Webcam in Finland

Sat Jan 19, 2019 8:28 pm

Hello everyone!
In short: I will try making a webcam in Finland.
I need all the help I can get because this will be a very hard project and there are many factors I have to consider.
Let me start with introducing myself. I live in New York State, in Westchester County to be exact. (In USA). In Finland we have a small house on an island near Helsinki. It would be located somewhere in the circle. Map:
Moelandet.jpg
Moelandet.jpg (103.55 KiB) Viewed 559 times
.
I want to build a webcam which sends a picture every 15 minutes or so, depending on performance (I can do with once an hour or every second, it just depends). I would be putting the webcam in our Sauna which is really close to the sea and would be sending great views. The sauna has a huge window and isn't that cold, so I wouldn't need insulation. Remember, Finland is so cold you can drive on the sea in the winter. I have a few questions and problems regarding this project:
  • There isn't any energy on the island the whole winter. This means I would need a power source which completely is not relying on energy out of the socket. Is this even possible? (solar, wind...)
  • I would need some kind of connection / application to receive the images on my computer from the island in Finland to Westchester in NY. As I don't have any internet / wifi on the island, I would need a HAT which is relying on a metered connection / data usage. I would also need to see if the accessories available are functioning in Helsinki. And with that, how will I view the images over the internet from my home in NY?
  • This is super important. IS IT SAFE? As I'm only on the island for about one month, the other eleven months would have to be without any supervision. Is it safe enough so that there is 100% chance of it not burning up :o :shock: & co? That would be a HUGE problem if it is so, I can only do all of this if absolutely nothing would happen.
Thank you in advance for all the help I might be getting. I really don't care about the price of all the accessories, but I'd love to keep it all under 200/300 $. In the end, this will really be awesome. ;)
Raspberry Pi's are cool and so are Polar Bears!

Heater
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Re: DIY Webcam in Finland

Sat Jan 19, 2019 9:06 pm

PolarBear123,

Nice idea...with some challenges...

1) Power.

Forget about solar, here in Helsinki it is pretty much dark for months on end. At least as far as power generation is concerned. Have you ever been here in the winter?

Wind might work, Helsinki is quite a windy spot. But you will have to have a system that will withstand the ice and snow. There was half a meter of snow here in one night this week.

Then there is batteries...

All in all I suspect that creating a reliable power system that will last 11 months will cost 10 or a 100 times more than your budget.

2) Connectivity.

I might assume the 3G network extends out to that island some how. It's amazing the remote places the mobile network does work in Finland. As such all you need is a 3G USB dongle to get connected. Unlike the USA data here is almost free and unlimited. Call it 100 euro for the dongle and 20 euro per month for the SIM card.

3) Safety.

Oddly enough a few years ago I set up a Pi and camera taking snapshots from my balcony every few minutes and posting them to a web server in the cloud. After a year or so it failed. When I took it down to investigate, the SD card got very hot and started smoking when I powered it up.

What can I say, be careful, have good enclosure and safe location...

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PolarBear123
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Re: DIY Webcam in Finland

Sat Jan 19, 2019 10:33 pm

Thank you for your very detailed reply. As I don't live in Finland and am only there one month a year, nearly all the time in July/August. I've never been there in the winter and I know how dark it is. My idea is it sends me a picture just for fun in the few daylight hours to spare. To come to think of it, as solar and wind probably doesn't make enough power / doesn't make any sense, I'd probably be looking at batteries. Any suggestions there, and are they really that expensive? Thanks!
[UPDATE]: I will be putting everything into a sealed plastic box. It must withstand -20C.
Raspberry Pi's are cool and so are Polar Bears!

Heater
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Re: DIY Webcam in Finland

Sun Jan 20, 2019 3:43 am

I'd be tempted to think about a big sealed lead acid battery. Perhaps a car battery. I know nothing of batteries so perhaps there are better options. I imagine a car battery would be cheapest.

So, if you have a typical 70 amp hour car battery you can run a Pi 3 for 70 hours or so. Only about three days.

That's no good.

But the Pi does not need to be powered up 24 hours per day. If it was only powered up for 1 minute every hour, long enough to take snap shot and send it to the internet, then it can operate for 60 times longer, about 180 days. Hmm... how about a snap shot every two hours or less. That could get you to 11 months of operation.

What does this require?

You will need a power supply to deliver 5v to the Pi from the 12v battery.

You will need a means to switch power to the Pi, and 3G dongle, on and off. A simple relay circuit might do.

You will need a very low power controller to be the clock and schedule the power up/power down cycles.

As you are endlessly removing power to the Pi you will need to ensure the root file system on the SD card does not become corrupted. See threads here about "read only root".

It would be neat to use the services of something like dataplicity or resin.io so that you can log in to your Pi remotely, change settings, tweak software etc.

Sounds like a fun project. Putting a Pi on an island in the Helsinki archipelago and have it run reliably for a year might be as challenging as a Mars probe. It's tough out there.

sparkyhall
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Re: DIY Webcam in Finland

Sun Jan 20, 2019 9:15 am

On top of what heater has suggested, you can also stop the Pi taking pictures when it is dark and therefore increase battery life further using something like an LDR or photo transistor as the sensor. If you do use a solar panel you may be able to use the panels output to detect when it is dark.

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PolarBear123
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Re: DIY Webcam in Finland

Sun Jan 20, 2019 5:59 pm

Yeah, so I was thinking instead of detecting when it's dark or taking a picture every hour I would power the Pi at noon every day, take a snap, and shut down. I might be using a car battery, but I would still need to look at some details. Main thing is, the battery has to be totally safe and also resistent to -20 - -30C, as cold as I believe it gets. The Pi also has to be protected from the cold. I'm quite an intermediate still in Raspberry, some programming and experience, but not really in circuits so I'll look into relay circuit and 12 - 5v, read only root (But I think I'll follow this: https://bit.ly/2HpYzdc)and the software to control it. I'll probably not be using resin/balena.io because its $99 per month but there sure are other options available, I checked. For the connectivity I'll be using something like this here (https://amzn.to/2FKkjy6) and a local sim card, that's the easy part. :)

But I think I'll make it.
Raspberry Pi's are cool and so are Polar Bears!

tpyo kingg
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Re: DIY Webcam in Finland

Sun Jan 20, 2019 6:12 pm

You can use various atronomical libraries to calculate the various twilights, such as civil twilight, and only run when there should be enough light, in theory. That won't take cloud cover during twilight into account but maybe that could be lifted via API from some weather sites. Perl has several but python may have some too as it seems to be catching up. Then you won't need a photocell or other hardware sensor.

How do you plan to deal with direct sunight? Even down there in the south the sun is going to be low enough that it might shine right into the camera.

Heater
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Re: DIY Webcam in Finland

Sun Jan 20, 2019 6:40 pm

Oh yeah, just now the sun skims the roof tops of the buildings on the other side of the road a blasts very brightly, horizontally, into here for a couple of hours each day. It's glorious, 30cm of new white snow, blue sky and blinding light!

Only down to -12C so far...

So apart from the lack of power, freezing temperatures, piles of snow, possibly suspect internet connectivity, this project should be a piece of cake.

If they can use a Pi to snap penguins in Antarctica this should be easy...

https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/penguin-lifelines/

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PolarBear123
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Re: DIY Webcam in Finland

Sun Jan 20, 2019 8:06 pm

So will powering it on every day at noon work, is noon the time when it is day regardless of the time of year?
Raspberry Pi's are cool and so are Polar Bears!

Heater
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Re: DIY Webcam in Finland

Mon Jan 21, 2019 5:03 am

Just now dawn is at 8.08am, dusk is 16.55.

Temperature this morning: -12C

On the shortest day, Dec 21st, dawn was at 9.23am dusk at 15:12pm.

You can check from here: https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/finland ... &year=2018

Powering up for a few minutes once per should give you plenty of battery life. You could start to think about having more than one Pi and camera. Get snaps from different directions.

tpyo kingg
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Re: DIY Webcam in Finland

Mon Jan 21, 2019 5:26 am

One trick I saw was to bury the bank of car batteries in a thickly insolated box under the cottage down at or under the frost line. That was only for some LED lighting but was enough for their use during the winter. However, even a Raspberry Pi Zero draws much more current than some LEDs. The lowest might be 80mA, not counting the camera or modem. A timer to turn it on or off will also draw current.

The camera's specs do not list power requirements: https://www.raspberrypi.org/products/camera-module-v2/
They do point to the Sony IMX219 sensor which also appears to say nothing about current.

Then there is the modem. Since there are other cottages nearby, there will be many other phones fighting for access to the phone tower(s) and the modem will be part of that fight and using more electricity than normal during the busy periods.

Heater
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Re: DIY Webcam in Finland

Mon Jan 21, 2019 5:48 am

80mA from a typical car battery is already almost 40 days of run time.

Let's say one amp for the whole thing, inc modem. Powered up for one hour per day is about 60 days. Powered up for one minute per day, 3600 days !

All off the top of my head, check the figures and math yourself, but I believe shows that this can be done.

Note that car batteries are designed to deliver very high currents for very short times rather than low discharge rates over a long time. There may be better options.

Provided this island is not to far out and does actually have mobile coverage I suspect it will work fine. This is Finland, mobile coverage is great. Even in the middle of the forest, 700Km from Civilization I get reliable connection.

Again, depending on which island this is, there is probably nobody there all winter to hog the band width and precious few most of the time in the summer.

tpyo kingg
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Re: DIY Webcam in Finland

Mon Jan 21, 2019 5:59 am

In the Turku archipelago, the winter has usable modem connectivity. During the summer? No. The choices during the summer are poor connectivity and worse than poor. I can't say about the Helsinki archipelago. The OP might but I'd point out that there are even more people near Helsinki, plus their kids, each with 1 or 2 active SIM cards.

Good point about using a battery more appropriate for the type of load. Which kind would be more appropriate for a low but steady drain?

Heater
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Re: DIY Webcam in Finland

Mon Jan 21, 2019 6:22 am

I guess if mobile bandwidth crowding became a problem one could arrange to snap the pictures during the day and post them to the net in the middle of the night or whatever quite time.

I'm surprised you found such a poor coverage area.

Aside: This worst mobile connectivity I ever saw was in San Jose, California. Which amazed me as the site in question was in the high tech capital of the USA surrounded by CISCO, MS, Google, etc. Almost as bad was Mountain View.

One tricky part of this project is providing a very low power, and reliable, timer to turn the Pi on and off at the required times. Suggestions anyone?

Heater
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Re: DIY Webcam in Finland

Mon Jan 21, 2019 6:39 am

You might be interested to know... It's 8:30am here in Helsinki and has just become light enough for the street lights to switch off a couple of minutes ago.

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davidcoton
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Re: DIY Webcam in Finland

Mon Jan 21, 2019 9:57 am

tpyo kingg wrote:
Mon Jan 21, 2019 5:59 am
Good point about using a battery more appropriate for the type of load. Which kind would be more appropriate for a low but steady drain?
There are lead acid batteries designed for lower, more regular discharge. Look for "Leisure" batteries, sold for caravans and trailers. Also, check the specification for the toleration of deep discharge, relevant if the timer system should fail with the Pi switched on. A failsafe switch off if the battery voltage falls to a critical level would be helpful.

I'm also a little concerned about this requirement:
PolarBear123 wrote: This is super important. IS IT SAFE? As I'm only on the island for about one month, the other eleven months would have to be without any supervision. Is it safe enough so that there is 100% chance of it not burning up :o :shock: & co? That would be a HUGE problem if it is so, I can only do all of this if absolutely nothing would happen.
Nothing is ever 100% certain, and assessing the actual risk requires statistical analysis of data that probably hasn't been gathered. Your actual acceptance level may not be 100% -- is a probability of one incident in 1000 years acceptable? What other risks are you comparing, for example a glass object focussing sunlight to start a fire? But you will certainly need means of detecting overheating, and possibly an independent fire suppression system to achieve the lowest risk.
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tvjon
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Re: DIY Webcam in Finland

Mon Jan 21, 2019 12:49 pm

PolarBear123 wrote:
Sat Jan 19, 2019 8:28 pm
...
  • There isn't any energy on the island the whole winter. This means I would need a power source which completely is not relying on energy out of the socket. Is this even possible? (solar, wind...)..
Something like:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioisot ... _generator

would be handy for this job, albeit a tad expensive...

I remember my taxi being delayed one day going to work in Tampere. I arrived at work by 10.00 am, & it was still dark, so solar, well...

As your're in the US, you could set up a trial at home using one of these:

http://www.batteriesinaflash.com/centen ... id-battery

Most approaches are expensive, so:

Do you know anybody around where your Finnish place is located?

Maybe someone is interested in photo's of flora & fauna there? Perhaps a University project could benefit?

If so, you could enlicit their help to check the installation periodically & give them access to your RPi pic's in return?

Pan & tilt may be useful to assist in that.

Good luck with the project.

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PolarBear123
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Re: DIY Webcam in Finland

Mon Jan 21, 2019 1:38 pm

Thanks. I don't know everyone, but on the part of this particular island in Finland near Helsinki, I'd probably have some relatives checking on it for free, once a month or twice.
Now, is it safe? Well, now that the Pi will be powering on every day for a minute, well, I think that should do, but I might be making some inquiries later. I didn't really mean it by 100% chance, I was just very unsure when I first wrote the post because burning up an islands not an option, specially in May, which is the month before I arrive and it's quite dry then. Thing is, it's not completely my own island. I can't go explaining to the others on the island that my camera has a small chance of burning up. I doubt that will happen, but I just have to make sure.

To the mobile connectivity, in the summer we use a little Huawei mobile WiFi hotspot with 4G which works very well. The coverage on the island isn't a problem in the summer so I guess it will be same in winter. Again, I might look into this (https://amzn.to/2FKkjy6). Then I could find some remote software, I don't think that's the problem.

Which Pi should I be using? Right now I was thinking about the Pi Zero W, but does it have enough processing power for this task? I'll probably add some other Pi's next year, as I first have to test this one if it works well (rather have one pi over heat than two ;) )

I will, as I looked at the chart, be powering it up at 12 pm every day. I've been browsing some batteries and there are huge differences: some sealed lead acid batteries cost 25 $, some 150 $, and some even 500 $. Which should I choose? Also, can someone help me with the circuit; how should I build a timer which turns the pi on every time at 12 PM and turns it off at 12:02 PM? I might be sounding like a noob but I really have never done something like this.
Raspberry Pi's are cool and so are Polar Bears!

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