Controlling the Humidity with an Embedded Linux System

Using an inexpensive embedded Linux board and a few extra devices, you can control things like room humidity.

The procedures shown in Listings 1, 2 and 3 form the core of the SHT11 two-wire interface device driver code. When the driver receives an ioctl requesting the humidity, the three instructions shown in Listing 4 are all that is needed to read the current humidity from the sensor.

The second device driver controls the relays and switches the 120V AC and neutral lines to the humidifier and dehumidifier. The ioctl interface for the relay driver required the following ioctl functions:

  • RELAY8_IOC_READ_RELAYS: read the current relay settings.

  • RELAY8_IOC_WRITE_RELAYS: set the relays to the supplied state.

Reading the relay settings is used to ensure that the relays are in the desired position. The relay hardware actually includes eight relays, and all eight relay values are written in one shot. The data register used to control and report the relay positions consists of one 8-bit register. This register either is read to report the current relay settings or written to change the relay settings. Unlike the SHT11 driver, the relay driver can affect a change in a relay state with one writeb Linux driver C instruction. Listing 5 shows the relay read and write procedures, along with an excerpt from the ioctl processing that differentiates between read and write. It doesn't get much simpler than this!

User-Mode Application

I wrote a user-mode application that periodically polls the SHT11 device driver for the current humidity and temperature using the ioctl SHT1X_IOC_READ_HUMIDITY and SHT1X_IOC_READ_TEMPERATURE, respectively. Depending on the desired humidity setting, the application determines whether the current humidity is either too high or too low, taking into account the tolerance of plus or minus 3.5% rH. If an actionable event is determined, the specific relays are turned either on or off using the relay device driver RELAY8_IOC_WRITE_RELAYS ioctl function. For example, when the user-mode application reads the humidity and determines that the humidifier must be turned on, it issues an ioctl RELAY8_IOC_WRITE_RELAYS function to switch on both relays that are dedicated to the 120V A/C and neutral lines of the humidifier. At the same time, the application also ensures that the two relays associated with the 120V A/C and neutral lines of the dehumidifier are switched off. Relay control can be one of three options: 1) the humidifier is turned on, and the dehumidifier is turned off; 2) the dehumidifier is turned on, and the humidifier is turned off; or 3) both the humidifier and dehumidifier are turned off. The application never turns both the humidifier and dehumidifier on at the same time. The application is loaded at Linux boot time and, like most embedded applications, runs perpetually.

Along with controlling the humidifier and dehumidifier relays, the application accumulates and saves statistics. In this control system, the actual data that is acted upon is required to be persistent—that is, the humidity data must be saved somewhere for later use. The user-mode application is responsible for saving the data for later use by a browser, and it does so with the use of the SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) support provided by the net-snmp Linux package.

SNMP is a standard set of protocols and policies for managing networks and devices. The net-snmp implementation of SNMP consists of an agent, which runs as a Linux dæmon snmpd, and a database called a Management Information Base, or MIB. A MIB is structured as a tree, with branches grouping together similar items. I extended the standard Linux MIB that is shipped with the net-snmp package and added a new branch off of the “enterprises” node, which includes all the humidity controller items that I need (Figure 4). The snmpd agent acts on the MIB at the request of SNMP clients—that is, the agent reads/writes data from/to the MIB on behalf of client get and set requests. In this architecture, there are two clients: the user-mode application and the Web browser.

In order to adapt SNMP to any application, a MIB must be defined in a standard MIB ASN.1 format. I defined a MIB for my humidity controller and called it HUMIDITYCONTROLLER-MIB, which gets loaded when the snmpd dæmon runs during the Linux boot process. The MIB contains data items that are represented by object identifiers, or OIDs. An example of an OID definition from my MIB for the humidity controller targetHumidity variable is shown below:

targetHumidity OBJECT-TYPE
    SYNTAX      Integer32(0..2147483647)
    MAX-ACCESS	read-write
    STATUS	    current
    "Target humidity."
    ::= { humidityEntry 3 }

The previous ANS.1 MIB definition phrase generates an OID with the value . This rather cryptic-looking sequence of numbers is a scheme used to identify a leaf in the MIB tree. The branch that I added to the enterprises node is identified by the integer 2200. Under the 2200 node is the node identified by a 2, which contains all of the overall humidity controller items that the system needs. The leaf node identified by a 3 is the targetHumidity.

The Linux SNMP package contains a very useful tool called mib2c. mib2c takes a MIB definition, such as HUMIDITYCONTROLLER-MIB, and generates C code that can be used to extend the standard Linux snmpd agent. Several options exist when generating code with mib2c. I used the more general option for generating C code from a MIB with the mib2c.scalar.conf configuration, which causes code to be generated for general-purpose scalar OIDs, as opposed to table-based OIDs. The generated C code is used by the snmpd dæmon. Listing 6 is a distilled example of the generated C code from mib2c for the targetHumidity OID that shows the code framework needed to support the SNMP get (MODE_GET) and SNMP put (MODE_SET_RESERVE1 and MODE_SET_COMMIT) operations.



Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

I really couldn't understand

Anonymous's picture

I really couldn't understand what a amancaes is?? what does if do anyways?? i could only understand that it indicates a very much greater degree of humidity, than at a corresponding height at Iquique, but how does it do that. Is an Amancaes also similar to Humidifier Filters. If this is so then why not keep a humidifier instead of a Amancaes. doesn't the both work same way.


Anonymous's picture

Yes an amancaes is an ingenious device that can automatically control humidity - not only local humidity, but humidity in any other part of the world, remotely. It does this using the Iquique height factor to convert local humidity control (i.e. Linux kernel version/distribution) into remote humidifier filter command words. It is frankly one of the keys to Darwin's entire theory of natural selection, based on humidity and moss observation.