Off-Grid Beaglebone Camera

Hi all. I’m working on a new project. The idea is an off-grid surveillance camera powered by the Beaglebone Black. I have a couple of challenged that I’m wondering if anyone has overcome.

  • I’m planning to transmit the photos via a cellular modem. I’m looking for a good one currently, but I know several USB versions are available.

  • I will power the device with a solar panel, sealed lead acid battery, and a buck converter.

  • I am planning to use an HD webcam to capture the photos.

Now these are the challenges that I’m working on:

  • I have no experience with set-it-and-forget-it electronics. What pitfalls should I watch out for that could cause the system to hang or malfunction?

  • The Beaglebone Black draws about 150mA when idle. Although I can overcome this with larger batteries and solar panels, I would like to minimize these expenses. I’ve read several posts where people are trying to disable certain features on the Beaglebone to conserve energy, but I have yet to see any successful examples. Is anyone aware of ways to reduce power consumption?

  • I would like to shutdown the Beaglebone when the battery voltage gets below a certain point and turn it back on when above a certain point. Are there any pre-made capes that will enable this?

Thank you!

Hi all. I'm working on a new project. The idea is an off-grid surveillance
camera powered by the Beaglebone Black. I have a couple of challenged that
I'm wondering if anyone has overcome.

- I'm planning to transmit the photos via a cellular modem. I'm looking for
a good one currently, but I know several USB versions are available.

Every usb device is guaranteed 100mA, so look for spi/usart modems.
(they do exist)

- I will power the device with a solar panel, sealed lead acid battery, and
a buck converter.

A small bank of super caps becomes helpful when there is random cloud cover.

- I am planning to use an HD webcam to capture the photos.

Now these are the challenges that I'm working on:
- I have no experience with set-it-and-forget-it electronics. What pitfalls
should I watch out for that could cause the system to hang or malfunction?

- The Beaglebone Black draws about 150mA when idle. Although I can overcome
this with larger batteries and solar panels, I would like to minimize these
expenses. I've read several posts where people are trying to disable
certain features on the Beaglebone to conserve energy, but I have yet to see
any successful examples. Is anyone aware of ways to reduce power
consumption?

- I would like to shutdown the Beaglebone when the battery voltage gets
below a certain point and turn it back on when above a certain point. Are
there any pre-made capes that will enable this?

Regards,

Well, we live completely offgrid, so my advice to you when picking battery capacity. Figure out what you need, and multiply by 10. Also, you’re going to need to observe actual power output of the solar panel, and possibly do the same. The idea here is that you want to charge your battery even on a cloudy day.

Last but not least. Either make or buy a charge controller. If you dont, your battery will be short lived.

What pitfalls should I watch out for that could cause the system to hang or malfunction?

Not what can go wrong, but one approach to dealing with it if it does:

Our system has safety implications if it should fail. It accepts messages from canbus devices, outputs to a paging transmitter and to a web server, and accepts commands from the web server. There are safety net provisions both in the app itself and in the firmware of our cape. The app continually reports various statuses to the cape firmware. Depending on the problems detected, the app itself can power-cycle the paging transmitter or canbus power to reboot those devices via relays on the cape. Likewise, the cape firmware can restart just our app, or Linux, or power-cycle the entire BBB, depending on the perceived severity of the problem.