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Discussion Starter #1
Hello Everyone,
I've had this idea for a number of years. Model trains appeal to me but I do not own a set. The idea is to automate your model. I can connect this to your computer and have all the details at your finger tips. This is the base of all this -> www.phidgets.com using these phidgets you can connect real work sensors, switches as inputs and output real world things to the model.

My idea involves the following:
1. turn on lights throughout your model, with individual control
2. have the lights turn on if they sense a certain light level.
3. switch gates
4. sense the voltage on the track at different places.
5. sense the amperage being consumed
6. have real live data show the wattage being consumed by your running train
7. ID your train using RFID which would show the train being run on the screen when it runs over, under, through an object that has the RFID receiver built in.
8. have real live data of the scale speed your train is running based on two inputs on the track at a known distance apart.

I am a database programmer, so all the above data would be time stamped for your later review either using raw data or in a graph that could compare your different models.

The automation is limitless and it would be controlled through a computer that can run Microsoft Access database program.

I've been excited to try new things with this idea. Currently I've built a cottage monitoring system (temperatures, lights, pumps) that is remotely viewed and an R&D project that senses real time strain and graphs it as it happens.

I live in the Niagara Region of Ontario, Canada. I would like to turn the above into a hobby and give it a try for someone. The idea is to make the program for you, you buy the equipment you'd like and I'd put it together with you.

Kind of a hobby left for you to play with.
If you're interested.... reply.
Konrad
 

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Do it for Fun!!

From what I can see a Phidget is a neat thing. From the electronics side I see stamp technology and robotics. Small programable microprocessors tied to sensor modules to make a programable reaction.
I would say it is too advanced for the average modeler.Today there are many companies that design build and package control systems. With a set price the modeler can purchase one within their budget.
So you have cost control, ease of installlation, technical support,completion in a short time. However there is a shortage of How to Books in electronic applications in Model RRing. One reason is the changing technology,the book is only current for a short time.
I say as a hobby go for it. make a switch controller, or engine contol system. It may not be that easy. Today you have AC and DC engines operating on a variety of voltages and scales. From what I read, wireless will be the next generation of command control.
To tell you a story, all I wanted to do was to get an LED to to blink and use it for AC applications, but I wanted to learn the electronics involved.It took me months of research, about 100 bucks in components, books, wire, and tooling.I could of spent 14 bucks on a blinker and been happy, but in my case the journey was the fun.
So my lesson is that even in fun you have controlling elements, time, money, patience, knowledge, and skill.Good Luck and we will be interested in your journey.
Bob
 

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Discussion Starter #3
That sounds great. I too understand the journey. I involve myself in as much as I can with other hobbies as well (restoring an old 1964 boat and engine). That makes a whole lot of sense.

I just thought I'd throw this out there. There is now limit to what can be automated, emails automatically sent from the wired model or an accumulation of miles run (calculated either scale or real life distances). Any way the devices are each under $100 and connect direct to the USB of a computer. The sensors and switches etc would have to be purchased separately. Yes this could add up. Just thought for the person that would like to add the next level of connectivity and sharing on-line.

Happy Modelling, hope I can help someone.
Konrad
 

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I like the concept but don't quite understand the purpose. Are you running it while you are at work or something? Also some of this is available through DCC, Digital Command Control. You really should look into that I think you will be excited at the possibilities. Some of the controllers let you channel into a PC and many of them a programable themselves with infinite possibilities. (Well maybe finate but close to infanite) I am just getting into it. Years ago there was a book out called (Hacker) and in it was a true story about the students at MIT building a layout to and using it as a study of how a computer works with the off and on switches and more. I still have the book, if you can find it you may enjoy that part of it although computing has advanced far beyond what is in the book.
 

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There are already light sensors(connected to light switches), infra red detection devices for crossings), and proximity detectors(for signal lights). been around for some time now. The Science and Industry Museum in Chicagohas a layout that utilizes the technology.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Just different point of view

Hello,
I understand that there is stuff out there. I also realize that modelling is making this from nothing in to something amazingly detailed. This takes a certain amount of involvement from painting to building and unddrestanding how things are in real life to apply to your model.
My thinking is of the same but involves computer data collection. Programming is neat to get things happening like crossings, lights, and motion detection. But my back ground is data collection and graphing speed, power consumption, voltage, current, temperature etc. A model set has alot of these opportunities. The point was that this switching, measuring and detection is put at the modeller's level with simple understandable programming. What I like is a line like 'oModelControl.Output = true' is all it takes to turn a light on using an excel spreadsheet. This is now all the control to begin imagining a touch screen to control lights, switches, programmed routes, etc. You have the control to construction the wires back to the output contact. THis is what makes computers useful to you and me and not just a person with a photo etch PCB and a IC program compiler (which I do not know how to use). It just unlocks the PC to more than word processing.

Hope this kind of explains what I meant with this.

Konrad
SCADA = Not for the many average machines out there. The alternative is to use simple MS Office apps to collect data without human intervention - On demand without complicated program layer.
PC = are fundamental machines that read inputs and provide outputs - why then did they not do just that for every day living.
Just my thoughts.
 
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