August 31st Elmine and I host the 4th Birthday Unconference and BBQ-Party in our home in Amersfoort. The unconference is titled “Smart Stuff that Matters”.

So what is Smart, and what Matters?

A year ago we moved to Amersfoort. A different house, a different neighbourhood, a different city. The city where our daughter will grow up.

A new environment means lots of exploration. What makes a house a home? How can you smartly adapt your house to your needs? Who lives in the neighbourhood, how do you settle in it? What makes a city your city? Which existing initiatives appeal to you, and in what ways can you contribute to them?
Whether it’s a new habit, a new device in your home, your contacts and networks, or your approach: what are smart ways to act and contribute to your residence and environment so it supports you and the others in it? In the context of much wider developments and global issues, that is. Both social and technological, at home, in your neighbourhood, your city. It’s important to approach things in ways that create meaning, enable the important things, both for you and others. Smart Stuff That Matters therefore.

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Our house, in the middle of our street

A full day long we’ll explore ‘smart’ in all its facets.
Smart homes (and around the home), smart neighbourhoods, smart cities.
Socially, how do we learn, communicate, organise and share? How do we act, how do we contribute? How do we find the power of collaborative agency.
And also technologically, which technologies help us, which only pretend to do so, and are these technologies sufficiently ours?
We will have the Frysklab Team joining us again with their mobile FabLab, and have plenty of space to experiment with technology that way. Such as sensors, internet of things and programming. Or to build non-digital hacks for around the home.

Frysklab in da house!
Frysklab’s truck parked at our old home in Enschede during the previous unconference

Together we’ll explore what smart means to you and us.
Bring your small and big experiences and skills, but above all bring your curiosity, and let yourself be surprised with what the others bring.
Do you have ideas about what you’d like to show, discuss, present or do?
Have ideas about what you would like to hear from others about? Let us know! We’ll build the program together!

You’ll find all relevant information about the unconference on this site. You’re also welcome to join our Facebook group for the event.

Today 100 households in Amersfoort turn their gardens into a stage for in total 300 performances. Two blocks down our road a few neighbours opened up their garden too. Turns out they were both actually part of the band programmed to play there. They played in their own garden 🙂

struinen in de tuinen

Great weather, good opportunity to meet some neighbours for the first time.

Forgotten Literature

There’s a book on the window sill, next to the balcony. One can easily imagine someone reading in the open window while enjoying the sun, then putting the book down to answer the door for a friend passing by who invited the reader to a drink outside on a terrace. Returning home later in the evening, the reader closed the windows and drew the curtains. The book forgotten on the sill. Maybe if the reader wakes up, sometime after we finish our morning coffee on the terrace across the street, and opens the curtains and windows, the book will be found.

(Amersfoort city center this morning)

struinen in de tuinen

Next Sunday the yearly ‘garden jaunts’ event takes place in Amersfoort. Over 100 households open their garden to the public, and in each garden there will be performances of a local artist, musician, band or author. A paper was provided door to door with an overview, allowing everyone to plan a route. For every part of town the open garden and the programmed artists are listed. We’ll likely go to see a band play in a garden just down our street. A fun way to explore the city and meet more of our neighbours.

struinen in de tuinen
Routes in every part of town.
struinen in de tuinen
The route in our area, Vathorst

Our local gas station has a charity support system instead of a loyalty points system. Early last week I mentioned it to Patrick when we met in London, in a conversation about the various channels charities have to reach people. He asked me for pictures of the system, and today I needed to get some gas for the car, so I took some.

Next to the cash register there’s a large ‘score board’ that cycles through screens showing charities with the biggest donations, or showing different categories of charities and the accumulated donations this year.

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The ‘scoreboard’ of “Tank & Schenk”, which rhymes and means ‘fill up and donate’. The screen here is showing donations to national charities. At the bottom is the total donated, some 33.000 Euro

When you pay, there’s a tablet on the counter where you get the option to choose any local club/charity or national charity to donate your points to. The local list contains all the clubs and associations in the village and city (like the football club, or the carnival club etc), and all museums, music venues and marching bands in the city and region, as well as local charities such as foodbanks, homeless shelters etc.

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My 40 points mentioned at the top can be donated to various categories. Local music, local sports clubs, local cultural institutions, local charities, and underneath (smaller) national charities

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Opening the list of local cultural groups and institutions

When you select a charity you get a thank you screen that also shows you how much that specific charity already received this year.

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This time I selected the museum in the birth home of Piet Mondriaan, which brought the total donation to 78,41 Euro

Now that we moved from Enschede to Amersfoort two weeks ago, we are starting to participate in local activities. Today I joined a workshop to build a sensor-hut for the ‘Measure your city‘ project. Initiated by amongst others ‘De War‘, also the people who started FabLab Amersfoort, it is a project to crowdsource measurements to track climate and climate changes inside the city.

The national metereological institute does not measure inside cities as it does not provide data that can be compared with other measurements across the country. By building a dense grid of sensors across the city it becomes possible however to track the emergence of ‘heat islands’ or see how paving over gardens or making them greener influences the city’s microclimates.

The sensor-hub I built this afternoon is based on Arduino, and uses LoRaWan, by means of the The Things Network, to communicate. It currently holds sensors for temperature and humidity, but is prepared to also measure sunlight exposure, rain fall and soil humidity / aridity. It also has a GPS antenna, to capture the location of the device correctly.

It had been a good while since I last handled a soldering iron, but following the ‘fit for all’ building instructions after a while I ended up with a ready device. After loading the right software, it became sensor 51 in the Measure Your City network. The second stage was building a hut for the sensor device, so it measures adequately: shielded from direct sunlight, with air allowed to float around it. This so it matches up with the standards that normal metereological measurements adhere to. After a few hours me and half a dozen or so others had their own sensor-hut to install at home.


the finished device


the hut for the sensors

I haven’t properly installed the device yet: the hut still needs a white coat of paint to reflect sunlight, before mounting it in our garden at about 2 meters height. It is already taking measurements however, and it can be followed through the online database of the network’s measurements. If you look at the current data for my sensor 51, you see it also hasn’t measured its location yet. If that persists as I properly mount it outside, there might be something wrong with the GPS antenna. The temp readings are still in-house readings, and do not reflect outside temperatures.


hello world: first data log entries

I will be running a The Things Network gateway in the near future (when the Kickstarter project delivers) as well, and helped initiate a LoRaWan/The Things Network group in my previous home city Enschede. Building this sensor-hut is the first foray into exploring how I will use that cheap IoT infrastructure currently emerging in the Netherlands. I am looking to add other sensors, along the lines of what e.g. FabLab Barcelona and Waag Society have created with the smart citizen kit, or this project from Freiburg measuring particulate matter in the air.

UPDATE: GPS is working now that the sensor is placed outside. Still need to paint it white though.

Meetjestad.nl sensorhut
Sensor hut in its intended spot in the garden