EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Microcontrollers beyond Arduino: a stationary and a mobile environmental monitoring system

Daniel Beiter, Tobias Vetter, Markus Morgner, Carlo Seehaus, Stephan Schröder, and Theresa Blume
Daniel Beiter et al.
  • GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, 4.4 Hydrology, Potsdam, Germany (

In the course of the Helmholtz MOSES initiative two monitoring systems are being developed which consist of the same key components and thus functionality but with very different scopes of application. One is a stationary data logger with a classic measurement routine (on/off duty cycle) and support for various hardware interfaces (2xSDI12, 1xRS485, 2xUART, amongst others). The other is a drifting data logger that stays idle until a flood event activates the logger and carries it downstream. On-board are turbidity, EC and temperature sensors, a GPS and an inertial measurement unit (IMU) monitoring turbulence.

Advancements in electronics driven by automotive, mobile and IoT applications led to the development of very powerful, small and low power microcontrollers. This is why we decided to leave the realms of ATMega 8-bit systems (such as Arduino) and move towards ARM Cortex 32-bit systems. More precisely we used the Teensy 3.5 microcontroller development system as the core for the two systems. It is superior to Arduino in terms of performance while its developing team tries to maintain compatibility to Arduino in terms of programming vocabulary. This allows easier migration but comes also with restrictions regarding the capabilities of the hardware.
The other key component is the FiPy which supports five different wireless network types (WiFi, Bluetooth, LoRa, Sigfox, LTE-M) in one module. In comparison to most other hardware it runs MicroPython which adds more complexity to the project. Even though it is a microcontroller and features also several hardware interfaces, power consumption is far from low power, which is why it is used here only for remote communication and data transmission. In addition, several design decisions were made regarding power path routing and jumper configuration to improve the systems’ overall versatility, debugging capabilities and low power functionality, which are often key to the feasibility of a remote monitoring system.

How to cite: Beiter, D., Vetter, T., Morgner, M., Seehaus, C., Schröder, S., and Blume, T.: Microcontrollers beyond Arduino: a stationary and a mobile environmental monitoring system, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-3032,, 2020


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  • CC1: Comment on EGU2020-3032, Michael Prior-Jones, 04 May 2020

    A very interesting presentation, thank you! I'm pleased to see that you've had good experiences with LTE Cat-NB1 - I've been thinking of using it for some of my own work.

    • AC1: Reply to CC1, Daniel Beiter, 04 May 2020

      Thank you for the comment. Initially there were some issues of course but it seams that we could overcome those. From my point of view there are two main advantages:

      - Coverage for stations seems to be pretty good on a national level, data rates are alright and power consumption is lower than with regular LTE

      - As the TCP/UDP connection goes via a provider running a VPN Server, one can run e.g. a Python TCP Server on a computer within the research institute where the station directly can send its data to. No FTP push to a public FTP server necessary from where it can be fetched and made available inside the system.

      • CC2: Reply to AC1, Michael Prior-Jones, 04 May 2020

        I can see that having a direct secure connection via your provider is very convenient! Thanks very much for coming back to me. I hope you enjoy the rest of the conference!

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