Unboxing and first look at IoT sensors

“Easy to set up and surprisingly powerful” is the main impression at first look at the mini wireless sensors designed by Norwegian technology company, Disruptive Technologies. At TechHQ – when opportunity permits – we not only love writing about business and technology, we also enjoy testing products. This includes sensors for the Internet of Things.

In September, we spoke with Øystein Moldsvor, co-founder and vice president of engineering at Disruptive Technologies, to discover the story behind the company’s hardware—capable of collecting building data right out of the box. And he was willing to send a sample so that we could test the technology ourselves.

What’s in the box?

When you open the sensor starter kit, you’ll find five stickable devices that together offer temperature and humidity measurement, as well as proximity, touch, and water detection. Data from each sensor is sent wirelessly to a small hub that can be wall-mounted (bracket and screws included). The hub is equipped with an Ethernet connection—although in our review version this was simply used to supply power. Connected to the cloud via 4G using a pre-installed internal SIM card.

Small footprint: The sensors are only 19 mm square, comparable in size to the keys on a laptop. Image credit: JT, TechHQ.

The advantages of miniature devices include not only their small size, but also safe data transmission. Information is encrypted from the device itself all the way to the user’s account environment in the cloud. Also, thanks to the cleverly designed communication protocol and device architecture, the sensors have a battery life of up to 15 years. In practical terms, this means that operators do not have to waste time replacing batteries or spend extra money on installing electrical power.

To get up and running, users first plug in the hub (cloud connector) and then are directed to the account registration page on the web to enter some basic details. It took a couple of minutes to receive the necessary confirmation email after completing the information, so don’t worry if this message doesn’t arrive right away. Clicking the “Verify your email address” button takes you to “DT Studio” – a web app for setting up devices, accessing sensor data, and more.

Finally, scanning the QR code on the box (or entering a short product ID) registers not just the hub, but all of its sensors. And you are ready to go. In a September interview, Moldsfor stated that a small team could easily install 1,000 sensors per day. Disruptive Technologies’ customers include London’s Royal Opera House, which is equipped with 283 of the company’s sensors – 65 of which are used to warn of water leaks that could damage ceilings and decorations.

Internet of Things sensors

Stock view: Screenshot showing the list of cloud sensors and connectors.

It turns on in 5 minutes or less

At TechHQ, we use the suite to monitor our office environment. It was impressive to see how fast the setup process was. Five minutes after unpacking the box, we were already collecting temperature, humidity, and other data. The DT Sudio web app makes it easy to check that everything is working as planned. Each device can be named on the dashboard, and simply clicking on the physical sensor will highlight the item in the list of assets. This feature makes it easy to track any device – for example, if you are installing multiple temperature sensors connected to a single hub.

Internet of Things sensors

First data: Screenshot showing the office temperature at TechHQ.

The data itself can be viewed directly on the web application or exported. And there are other options too, which we’ll cover in our long-term review of the suite. Nothing beats having real hardware to test ideas out and experiment with, and that’s where a sensor starter kit definitely comes in. Use cases listed by Disruptive Technologies include environmental monitoring, space occupancy (the company offers additional proximity and motion sensors), property damage, as well as feedback and service capabilities.

Internet of Things sensors

CSV export: sensor events are logged (and tagged with unique identifiers) and raw data is easy to download. In the example here, we extracted the timing details to ensure that the logs are captured every 15 minutes.

The capabilities of a wireless sensor solution go beyond data logging. It is also possible to set up a wide range of alerts. For example, the touch sensor can be configured (using the notification generator in the web app) to send an email when pressed. This is just scratching the surface. You could imagine being able to sound a reminder when supplies run out (perhaps touch sensor detection). Or use the proximity sensor to trigger an alert when the last but one tile is removed. There are so many possibilities to explore here.

Internet of Things sensors

Notification Builder: Widgets make it easy to set up triggers and receive alerts.

After spending just a few hours with the group, it’s clear that IoT sensors have many industrial prospects. These productivity gains are helped by having devices that are easy to set up and use. We’ll continue to dig into the details, so be sure to check back in a few months for our long-term test results. And – as another reminder – if you’re reading this tech review and have a product or service you’d like TechHQ to put to the test, feel free to get in touch using the email along with the article.

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