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Brainium /SMARTEDGE AGILE - Review

Scoring

Product Performed to Expectations: 10
Specifications were sufficient to design with: 10
Demo Software was of good quality: 10
Product was easy to use: 8
Support materials were available: 5
The price to performance ratio was good: 8
TotalScore: 51 / 60
  • RoadTest: Brainium /SMARTEDGE AGILE
  • Buy Now
  • Evaluation Type: Test Equipment
  • Was everything in the box required?: Yes
  • Comparable Products/Other parts you considered: There are plenty of other sensors and sensor systems out there but I am not aware of any that have the ability to use AI for building models that can drive alerts and notifications.
  • What were the biggest problems encountered?: The problems encountered were around a lack of documentation for the initial setup. Once you get through the initial setup the platform performs extremely well. Battery life is a concern but you can plug the device in using a USB charger or connect it to an external battery pack.

  • Detailed Review:

    /SmartEdge Agile Meta Sensor


    /SmartEdge Agile Retail Pack

      Full disclosure, I was asked to review the /SmartEdge Agile meta-sensor in exchange for receiving the product at no cost.

    /SmartEdge Agile Meta Sensor

    It is a big name for a tiny package. The /SmartEdge Agile is a 9 sensor package that uses Bluetooth connectivity and the Cloud to store and act upon data. It comes with a rechargeable battery and USB-C port for charging, cable included.


        Close Up of SmartEdge Agile

    Measuring a mere 2.5”x1.25”x.75” and weights just 29g.

    Puts this sensor at the size of a pack of gum.

     

    Avnet SmartEdge Agile web site page

     

    Setting up the /SmartEdge Agile and Gateway

    Excited to start playing with the new /SmartEdge Agile, I opened the package and noticed that the instructions were a mere 4 step process, I thought this is promising. The included card did not have a link to a manual or further instructions so I went where the included link led me. Step 1 is to create an account. Just click on the Get Started button and follow the prompts. You will need to agree to the terms and conditions to be able to create an account. The directions do not tell you to charge your /SmartEdge Agile but now is a good time to plug it in and start charging it.

     

    Step 2 is to download the Gateway software. You can do that by going to the Google Play Store if using an Android device, going to the App Store if using an IoS device or downloading the Raspberry Pi/Linux app from the www.avenet.com/SmartEdgeAgile page. Once you have downloaded your app you need to create a Gateway Account. This account is the security side of your local app (gateway) and is separate from the SmartEdge Agile account you created in step 1. Both are required.

     

    A comment about documentation. I looked on the Avnet website for documentation and could find over views, cursory PDF's and a brief video, all of which were marketing materials and not how-to or technical documentation. The website is still lacking the instructions.

    Info Button on Brainium web page

     

    The Intro, Quick Start and User Guide, can be found on the Brainium (web) app under the Info button on the top bar of the web page. The Quick Start and User Guide ar

    After creating the gateway account you can Pair your /SmartEdge Agile with your gateway via Bluetooth. I found turning on the /SmartEdge Agile device, then my Bluetooth and then starting the Gateway software worked best and easiest.e both PDF’s so there is no good reason they can only be found within the Brainium (web) app. I am not one to read the manual before giving a product a spin but I like to have the manual around so when that spin does not spin I can fall back to doing what I should have done in the first place.

     

    The name of the Gateway app that runs on Android /IoS/Rpi is Brainium. The name of the web app that you use to control, configure, view data, create rules and actions is Brainium. The two Brainiums do not do the same thing. You can rename the Gateway and the devices to whatever you like but the app names rename the same. I found this a little confusing until I got far enough into this and realized Brainium could mean gateway or web app.


    Step 3 is linking your Brainium (web) account with your gateway account so the web app can see the /SmartEdge Agile device. You go back to the the Internet based Brainium app to do this. Once there you can create a project and link your gateway and use your new device. This process did not make a lot of sense to me but I just followed what the prompts told me to do and it worked. The documentation on the setup could be better. Having said that, once a project is created things start to make sense and you are up and running.

     

    Adding a Widget (sensor) to a project is easy, you click on Add, name the sensor and then pick the sensor you want from the list. When you start to configure the Widget you can set things like the name, the type of sensor you will be using (temp/humidity/light/etc), how frequently the data is passed from the sensor to the Cloud, what type of display: Data, Line Chart or Bar Chart.


    Once you get to the point of setting up a Widget the /SmartEdge Agile and Brainium (web app) shines. In 2 minutes I was tracking Temperature, Humidity, Battery Level, Atmospheric Pressure and Environmental Noise (sound db) all on one page. This was really easy so hats off to Avnet and Brainium for that.

    Data Collection Example

    The Sensors

    Included in the /SmartEdge Agile are 9 sensors. They are:

    • Temperature (C)
    • Humidity (%)
    • Light (lux)
    • Magnetometer (uT)
    • Noise (db)
    • Accelerometer (g -m/s2)
    • Gryoscope (% /s)
    • Proximity (cm)
    • Barometric Pressure (Pascal)

    Also included is a battery sensor so you can gauge how charged the internal battery is.

    With the exception of the light sensor, all of the sensors are STMicroElectronics sensors.Close up of Sensors

    The light sensor is made by AMS.

     

     

     

     

    The accuracy of the sensors is extremely good. The accuracy is well beyond anything I would ever need in a day-to-day, production environment. The responsiveness of the sensors is surprisingly good, with one noted exception. The exception is temperature but more on that to follow. I thought that a sensor package using Bluetooth to communicate to a local gateway and then from the gateway to a Cloud based data collection site and back down via a web page would be sluggish at best. Certainly not the case.

     

    The specs for the sensors including ranges, sampling rates, etc can be found at Sensor Specs Pdf.


    Temperature Sensor: The temp sensor is very accurate. My testing found the sensor to be as accurate as my calibrated Fluke 87 V and better than the BME280 and SI7021 sensors I use frequently. While the accuracy is very good the timeliness of the response is pretty slow. My testing showed the sensor took 20 minutes to go from room temp to outside temp, a delta of 8.3°C. Repeated tests showed this not to be an anomaly. Small temperature deltas respond quickly but larger deltas are slow. I do not know if this is by design or a limitation of the temperature sensor itself. A look at the data sheet for the HTS221TR shows the Temperature Response Time to be 15s. None of my other temp sensors respond this slowly to large deltas so I am guessing that the slow response is designed in. Maybe future firmware upgrades will improve this. This is a problem if the temperature sensor (Widget) is used for alerting as a large temp fluctuation could be missed if the temp swings faster than the sensor responds and 20 minutes for 8.3°C leaves plenty of time for a temp swing. I did test to see if the reporting was slow but the sensor was getting to the target temp more quickly. I did this by setting an alert for a temp swing of 5°C and then placing the sensor outside (which was  8.3°C cooler). The alert was not made until the reporting showed (via the web interface) that the temp had changed more than the 5°C.

     

    I also could not find a way to report temperature results in °F rather than °C. Not a big deal but I found that odd.


    Humidity Sensor: The humidity sensor was right inline with what my other sensors report for humidity in different conditions so I believe it is very accurate but I do not have a calibrated humidity sensors to compare it with. The sensor showed within 0.5% of what two BME280's read at. I trust my BME280s for humidity readings. Given the slow response time of the temperature sensor I assumed the humidity sensor would have a similar response time but it turned out to be much faster. That is odd because the humidity and temperature sensors are both on the same sensor (HTS221TR) Not instantaneous but leveled out to a large change (>22%) in under 2 minutes. Slower than the data sheet would indicate but plenty zippy.


    Noise Sensor: The noise level sensor is instantaneous, continuous and very sensitive. In a 24'x24' room with a tile floor and normal ambient background noise it reported my foot steps walking towards it from better than 15' away. This sensor could be used to detect the presence of a person or animal if placed in an appropriate location. It can easily detect the sound of a door opening or closing or a motor starting or stopping. This sensor along with the rules you can build make it a very powerful detector. The only downside I saw to the noise sensor is that it pulls a fair amount of power and shortens the battery life substantially.


    Magnetism Sensor:  This sensor was fun to play with. I have to admit my experience with magnetic sensors is limited to more on/off and not so much a true magnetometer. Measurements are take in micro Tesla (μT). The normal background magnetic field of the earth is around 50 μT and a 1/2”x1/8” round ceramic magnet reads in at 2874 μT at 1”. The sensor is sensitive enough to detect that same magnet at a distance of 5”. I was able to detect a DC current of 80mA at 5v so that is pretty sensitive. Playing with the sensor and magnetic fields introduced by a motor showed that the sensor could easily detect the running state of a motor (inductive load). Using the magnetic sensor and rules I built a simple alarm that alerted me to when a small motor was bogging down under load.


    Light Sensor: The light sensor is very sensitive and very fast acting. It can detect visible light as well as UV light. The Brainium (web) app makes a distinction between the two light ranges when building rules. I tested this by setting up Widgets for both light types and then tracking the data. Pointing a white LED flashlight at the light sensor shows a large jump in lux on the visible light and only 1 lux change in the UV light. Next I setup a UV led bank that runs at the 2700nM range and fired it up. The UV lux level went off the charts and the visible light went up by 8 lux. So the two rule sets do a good job of separating the visible and UV light ranges.


    Accelerometer/Gyroscope Sensor: This sensor is extremely sensitive and fast acting. The sampling rates range from 125 to 2000 readings per second. The accelerometer can detect up to 16g. Using the learning capability of the system you can teach it what the motion of a particular event looks like and have it act based on that set of movements. It was very straight forward to teach it what it looks like when a door is opened. Using the Motion Rules you can easily teach it what irregular motion looks like and have it alert based on that or if you prefer you can teach it what normal motion looks like and have it alert when that does not occur. The Brainium (web) learning of motion is extremely powerful.


    Proximity Sensor: The proximity sensor has a range of 400cm (approx. 13') and samples up to 50 times per second. My testing found the sensor to be within 4mm at a distance of 100cm. Worth noting the proximity detection is done from the front face (has Avnet written on it) of the device.


    Barometric Sensor:  The sensor is more accurate than any other barometric sensor I have. The sensor is accurate enough to detect the a pressure difference of about 2" (approx 5cm) rise/fall in height. Making this sensor plenty accurate enough to determine altitude or rise/fall of slope.


    Battery Sensor: The battery sensor is real time and is a very useful tool. The battery life of the /SmartEdge Agile is fairly short if you run more than one or two sensors so being able to monitor the battery is important. There are no battery level indicator lights on the outside of the unit so monitoring has to be done via the Brainium (web) or gateway apps.


    Range of Sensor: The SmartEdge requires the use of Bluetooth to communicate with the Gateway. The range of the sensor, the distance the sensor can be from the Bluetooth 5 enabled gateway max'd out at about 290'. Pretty good in my book.


    Notifications based on input from the sensors is very easy to configure. You can Alert, receive an Email or send information to IFTTT. Alerts show up in the Brainium (web) Alerts screen. You can search or filter alerts based on dates or criteria of the alert. Emails can be sent when a condition is met within a sensor.

    For example, temperature exceeding a limit you set.Creating Rules

    Notifications can be repeated at an interval you pick. Emails go to the email address you entered when you created the Brainium (web) account. IFTTT allows you to send alerts

    to your IFTTT account (IFTTT.com) and then you can do a wide variety of things with that data. IFTTT can put that data on a Google drive

    or send it to your phone as a text or send to a website or any number of other actions that you can control. IFTTT is interesting add on to Brainium (web) that makes the data coming from your sensor much more usable.

    In addition to the Rules that you use for notification (alerts/email/IFTTT) you can create AI Studio Rules. These rules are rules that you teach to the /SmartEdge Agile device. These rules are based on motion and you teach the device by having the /SmartEdge Agile do what you are looking for.


    A simple example would be if you want to know if the device is dropped you can teach it that by dropping the device several times. Remember to give it a soft spot to land on. Teaching it is a simple matter of using Motion Recognition from the Brainium (web) app. You record the motion you wish to the /SmartEdge Agile to learn several times, the system analyzes the recording for the pattern and you apply the learning to the device and tell it what you want done when it see the pattern. Pretty easy and straight forward. This is a very powerful tool that allows you go from concept to implementation in matter of minutes.


    Preventative Maintenance Rules work like AI Studio Rules but they continue to learn. These rules look for longer term patterns and anomalies. The building and applying of these rules is virtually the same as AI Studio Rules. The AI Studio Rules and Preventative Maintenance Rules are extremely powerful tools that take the /SmartEdge Agile from being just a data collection device with the ability to alert on a threshold to a device that can detect very specific motions and actions. You can even take the inverse of that, the lack of very specific motions or actions can be detected. The method of training the device to look for those motions and actions could not be easier.


    Conclusion

    The good news is that this little package comes with 9 sensors, covering most sensor needs in a single package. Once you setup the gateway and connect the /SmartEdge Agile to it, the software is pretty easy to use and understand. The unit comes with a built in rechargeable battery, USB-C port, Bluetooth 5 and an internal expansion port. Security is pretty tight for a device of this class and the use of Bluetooth 5 gives it a pretty decent range.


    Close up of opened sensorThe /SmartEdge Agile is built well and was designed to be used in a production environment. They put seals on the all the edges, screws and around the sensor openings to keep unwanted dust and moisture out.


    The abilities of the Brainium software is pretty impressive, allowing you to create very complex rules in very short order by exposing the sensor to the conditions you wish to watch for. That removes a lot of complexity from setting up rules. You can also set rules in a more traditional manner using thresholds and numerical values.


    API screen shotGetting access to your data can be done real time via MQTT or by pulling historical data. Both methods require login credentials use secured sites so security is maintained. The MQTT is well thought out and provides the ability to pull Alerts or telemetry data (sensor data as it occurs). You can limit your pulled data based on just the sensors you are interested in. You can also pull Preventative Maintenance data via MQTT. Historical data it is limited to data that has been recorded via a Recorded Session and you can get information about the gateway, sensor itself, alerts, detected motions and preventative maintenance. The instructions for both Rest API (historical data) and MQTT (real time data) are very well done and include snipits of code to get you started.


    You can alert and notify based on your rules and setting these up is very easy and straight forward. You can be up and running with sensors, some rules and actions in less than 30 minutes, first time out.

     

    Expansion port on SensorThere is an expansion port in the /SmartEdge Agile that is for LoRaWAN or Cell capability in the future. That gives this sensor some serious growth and flexibility. All in all, a very tidy little package that has some highly polished software behind it that appears to be limited only by your imagination for putting it to work.


    The bad news is not too bad. When I started setting up the /SmartEdge Agile, Gateway and the Brainium accounts I was not sure what I was doing. The startup instructions are a little too thin for the likes of me. Once I got through that part and got using the /SmartEdge Agile I found it to be very user friendly and robust. Looking back at the process I do not think it was too bad but at the time it caused me some aggravation. A simple cheat sheet would have made things easier or making the instructions easier to find would have been a great help.

     

    The the sensor has very limited battery life. Understandable, given its size and what it can do, a 260mAh battery driving those sensors and Bluetooth will not last long. If you need more than a handful of hours of run time you will need to connect an external power source. You can use the USB-C port to connect Close up of batterya wall wart or rechargeable battery pack to extend the run time to whatever your needs are.


    The biggest issue I see with this device is the Gateway. I understand the upside of the gateway, it adds a layer of security and control. The downside is that you need a local gateway that has Internet access as well as Bluetooth. For most that means a smartphone or computer. If your sensing needs are brief a phone works but that means the phone stays near the sensor. The gateway software can be run on other platforms like a Raspberry Pi. The gateway software limits the number of connected devices to 3. I hope this a limit that will be removed or expanded with future releases because dedicating hardware for the gateway and then limiting it to three devices seems a little short sighted and costly.


    There is a remaining question that try as I may, I could not get answered. The /SmartEdge Agile comes with a 6 month subscription. The Brainium website clearly shows how many days you have left in your subscription. What I can not find is what a subscription costs once your initial 6 months are up. That is something I would want to know before I invested in this sensor. Assuming the cost is reasonable this sensor has a pretty impressive foundation.


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