Beginner - Ready to start my first project, could use some tips getting started

Discussion in 'The Projects Forum' started by dmuppet, Mar 5, 2016.

  1. dmuppet

    Thread Starter New Member

    Mar 5, 2016
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    Currently I work for a cable company as a technician. One of my biggest problems is misplacing tools or equipment. I'd like to come up with a system that would alert me if anything was missing when I start my van.

    So to get started I just have a couple questions on what you think the best way to go would be. Also take into consideration a relatively small budget.

    1. For sensors, what would be the smallest, most cost effective sensor be. I'm not talking specific product, but which technology would be the easiest to incorporate.

    2. I would like to use something like a Rasberry Pi as the brains of the operation as I have some other ideas for the future that I would like to tie all together. In terms of programming language, what would be suitable for a system that could either signal an audible alert or possibly an led built into the dash. In the future, I hope to try and incorporate it into the ipads we use but that will be down the road.

    I look forward to any and all responses. I'm not sure what is bringing this all about, I was just driving and the thought popped into my head and the ideas started to snowball. I appreciate any help I can get.
     
  2. ScottWang

    Moderator

    Aug 23, 2012
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    You didn't mention what do you want for the sensors, what's device would be detected, probably you need to draw the block diagram and labeling the details, it can be make your plan more clearly.
     
  3. dmuppet

    Thread Starter New Member

    Mar 5, 2016
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    I'm starting very simple. Basically we carry very expensive pieces of equipment and I want a system that when you start your van, will alert you if anything is out of place.

    For starters the sensor would just be proximity based. Van starts, if any sensor is out of range, the driver is alerted.
     
  4. WBahn

    Moderator

    Mar 31, 2012
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    How about a much easier, low tech way that will work much better.

    Inventory your tools at the beginning and end of each job.

    With a bit or time spent up front, doing so is trivially easy.

    You make your took box up so that it consists of foam cutouts with a spot for every tool. Paint the foam before making the cutouts and at a quick glance you can confirm that every tool is there or identify exactly which tools are missing. You can inventory a tool box with literally hundred of tools in it in about half a minute. A huge secondary benefit to this is that, since every tool has its place and since it is in that place every time you start a job, you don't waste time hunting for a particular tool -- it is right where it belongs.
     
  5. GopherT

    AAC Fanatic!

    Nov 23, 2012
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    In all of your experiences, have you ever seen anything like this? What was it? How, in general did it work?

    You need to contribute a bit of a starting point. There are ways of doing this but, what is your budget (per tool monitored) and timeline for this project (including you to learn the segments of electronics needed to complete this project).
     
  6. Lestraveled

    Well-Known Member

    May 19, 2014
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    I think we forgot our manners.

    Welcome to the forum.
     
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  7. WBahn

    Moderator

    Mar 31, 2012
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    You've got a number of practical problems here. You probably have dozens, if not hundreds, of tools. That means that you have to have a means of deconflicting all of the sensors so that they don't jam each other.

    Then you have the problem of matching the range of the sensors to the confines of the van. What if one of your expensive tools is sitting on the ground right next to the van, very possibly closer to the detector than other tools that are actually inside the van?
     
  8. dmuppet

    Thread Starter New Member

    Mar 5, 2016
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    No worries, and I understand the condescension but to be honest this is the first time I've even considered taking on something like this. It's my first project and I have much bigger ideas I would just like to start small.

    I'm not trying to track every tool on my truck, only the high value equipment. While you aren't wrong, inventorying after every job should be common practice, some days we have 8-10 jobs in 8 hours, and while no excuse, couple that with my ADHD and it's very easy to leave something behind, particular things that you only use occasionally.
     
  9. #12

    Expert

    Nov 30, 2010
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    I haven't seen any of that.:confused:
    The fact that people look at both sides of the issue is not an attitude problem.

    Personally, I have a very discouraging take on this. I am a handyman and I am an ogre about protecting my tools, but I still lose some. I know what it feels like to buy my 10th thermometer. The others are probably still stuck in ductwork all over the county. That doesn't mean I can protect them with some kind of RFID chip. I think you might be correct in limiting your goals to maybe, "anything worth over $100".

    Two things have worked most of the time: 1) a helper. Anybody paying attention to the inventory is going to be more aware than I am. I'm paying attention to the job. 2) a final walk-through. When I think I'm done, I walk through every room I was in, one last time. It's a chore, and a bad day says you don't have time for an extra walk-through, but it works most of the time.
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2016
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  10. WBahn

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    Mar 31, 2012
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    Which is all the more reason to inventory ALL your tools after each job.

    When I was in the service we might have over a dozen jobs a day and the tool kits, including every drill bit, had to be inventoried at the start of the job and by someone else at the end of the job. The time spent inventorying a kit totaled by to less than 15 minutes a day and we saved FAR more than that by being able to immediately grab the tool we needed out of the kit. When the Air Force went to that system (back in the 1970's I think -- before my time but the civilians I worked with were there when it went into affect) the incidence rate of FOD (Foreign Object Damage) went down by 90% since people weren't leaving tools inside jets any more.

    But if you only want to apply this approach to the high value equipment, then it becomes even easier. Make a box or a rack or something in the van for the high-value tools and make it so that each one has a specific place it needs to go and that is glaringly obvious when it is not there. You can take this to another level by having some kind of door or bar that has to be unlocked or removed in order to access the tools and tying that into a buzzer that will sound of the ignition key is turned on while the door is unlocked or the bar is not in place. Then all it takes is a tiny amount of discipline that says that you never lock the door or install the bar unless ALL the tools are present. If the tool is in it's own box, then you also need to adopt the policy that you never set the box in it's proper place on the shelf without checking that the tool is actually in the box.
     
  11. dmuppet

    Thread Starter New Member

    Mar 5, 2016
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    I was referring to the low tech solutions that negate why I am here. I'm not here because I need to keep track of my tools, I'm here because I wan't to begin a hobby in incorporating technology into my every day life. It seemed like a fun project and I'm not looking for specifics, just ideas on what would work best for what I'm trying to achieve.
     
  12. dmuppet

    Thread Starter New Member

    Mar 5, 2016
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    I understand what you are saying and these are all great practices. The long term goal would be to have a system that could track and locate equipment that was possibly lost or stolen by techs that maybe didn't utilize the methods you are proposing.
     
  13. ISB123

    Well-Known Member

    May 21, 2014
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    This would be incredibly hard to program for a beginner.
     
  14. WBahn

    Moderator

    Mar 31, 2012
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    I'm sorry. Your first post seemed like you were trying to solve a problem associated with misplacing your tools. I was just trying to help you consider effective, simple, quick solutions to what appeared to be the problem you were trying to solve. I didn't realize that this equated to condescension in your book.
     
  15. dmuppet

    Thread Starter New Member

    Mar 5, 2016
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    It's not, it just seemed that way, because you're absolutely correct that I should inventory my tools after every job. If I was a parent talking to a child that lost a toy, I would use the same answer. And that's how I equated it to condescension. It's completely my fault because I haven't clearly explained what my ultimate goals are and your answer would have perfectly solved the problem of lost or missing tools.

    After years in the field I have my own system and rarely lose anything, the whole project is more about learning new things, and creating something from my own thoughts. While it may seem like it's overkill given the problem, I'm more focused on the journey than the result.
     
  16. WBahn

    Moderator

    Mar 31, 2012
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    Now you are talking about entirely different problems that have virtually nothing to do with each other. It is one thing to determine if a particular tagged tool is within range of a sensor mounted in a particular vehicle, but that is completely unrelated to determining that a piece of missing equipment is located at 1234 Main St in Next Town. Also, if it is stolen by a tech, and that tech knows that the tools are tagged (which they would have to in order to it serve the purpose of letting the tech know that they are about to drive off without the tool in the van), then they can simply remove the tag (and leave it in the van so that the missing tool won't be noticed until the next time that someone actually goes to use it).

    But if you want to explore the first goal -- inventorying tools -- then look into RFID technology.
     
  17. dmuppet

    Thread Starter New Member

    Mar 5, 2016
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    I'm not an absolute novice, and I want to start small. Just some advice on which language would probably be best in this application is all I'm really looking for.
     
  18. WBahn

    Moderator

    Mar 31, 2012
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    And that's not at all unreasonable, so let's accept that we aren't looking for a good solution to the problem, but rather using the problem as a means to an educational end.
     
  19. dmuppet

    Thread Starter New Member

    Mar 5, 2016
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    Those ideas are for much further down the road and that is a very valid point. Most of our vehicle thefts though are smash and grabs where they grab anything that looks valuable.
     
  20. WBahn

    Moderator

    Mar 31, 2012
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    I'd start by just trying to detect the presence or absence of a single RFID tag. Then enhance the system so that it says that it is present if it is located anywhere within the van -- which will mean that it will almost certainly detect that it is present even if it is outside, but near, the van. That should be okay since it could then sound an alarm as soon as you get a few dozen feet away from it. Once you have then, then start dealing with deconflicting multiple tags.
     
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