RS-232 to... anything?!

Hi all, did something cool today and wanted to share, and ask a question.

So quick background: we’ve been working on a platform to make it easy to collect survey-type data + sensor type data + API type data all together, and then apply scripts to display real-time results and do math and stuff. Kind of abstract, and the project till now has been kind of specific.

Anyway, we’ve been using it in the small food and soil testing lab we built, and it works nice on our Reflectometer which we built, but of course because… we built it. However, we spend a stupid amount of time weighing stuff, writing down the weights, then transferring them into our data management system.

But yesterday, I got our the RS-232 printer port on our old Ohaus Adventurer lab scale hooked up to the Our Sci platform and boom! Pushed weights right into the survey on my android phone via RS-232 using USB OTG (allows android to access USB devices via micro USB port).

Soooo… point is, I think we can push most anything from old lab equipment RS-232 to the platform (android app, and then web interface), where you can do nice stuff with it, manage the data via the web, and show results in real time. Over the years I’ve had a LOT of old lab equipment with RS-232 jacks.

So… I’m curious to know because I’d like to test it…

What piece of equipment in your lab do you have to manually retrieve the data, especially those with USB serial, RS-232, or other print ports (by hand, or from some annoying proprietary f’ing file format that you have to convert 5 times before you can get at the data, you know what I mean). I’d love to see the list! I’d especially love to hack on it in Shenzhen if it’s smallish and portable-ish.

Thanks for humoring me :slight_smile:


Don’t have any of those examples (luckly), but we were just discussing in the lab last week how to make hack a thorlabs spectrometer easier to use on the field.
A little background:
some people in the lab made this (also on github It works fine, but requires the user to bring a windows laptop to the field so that the Thorlabs software that controls the spectrometer can be used. The whole thing is wired to the laptop, and they used this in ponds and lakes, so you can imagine that is not a painfree procedure…

Anyway, we wanted to make a version 2.0 of this thing, where a microcontroller would send signals to the spectrometer and “act” as the Thorlabs software. The same MCU would collect data and transmit it/ store it.

Do you think this is something possible with the system you developed? Using an android device is def. better then a laptop.

On general terms, the same idea could be applied to some of the tools we have in the lab, where they are “chained” to a computer. I mean if we could set them free from using a proprietary software and mobile (connected to a small device that transmits/stores data), I can imagine that there would be a lot of new uses coming out of them…

Yes, super common problem. Lab hardware developers make the hardware, probably say “well, we’re done”, then marketing guy is like “wait people can’t use that”, then they scramble to make some crap java program to display results.

Right now I only have USB-OTG cables for USB micro, but am ordering for USB mini OTG.

We have a stellarnet spec, basically same thing as yours - terrible software. Currently we drag and drop from the computer into a local webserver window which is auto-uploaded into the survey, that works well but still requires a computer. I’ll use the USB mini OTG and see if I can do it directly.

Should not be a problem. I’ll put together a little video when I’m done so you can see!

Can you link to the specific Thorlabs spec so I can see the specs?

Wow, I got excited by this post because a friend of mine @PublicLab was trying to hook up an Interscan HCHO meter to an opensource data-logger. I was trying to assist by hacking an old 1/4" plug from a headset and soldering its wires to a breakout for a Riffle board (Public Lab board used for sensors). I think in theory it could still work, but we ran out of time to get things together since everything was playing out in the field. You can read about the situation here.

Yes, any arduino could do that for sure. The reflectometer we built has an input headphone jack with tip to analog read and edge to ground, just as is needed here, actually (see image). Let me know if you want to try it out.

You couldn’t take an analog signal like this directly into a phone for reasons described here analog - Sending data using 4 pin 3.5mm jack into smartphone - Electrical Engineering Stack Exchange, which is a bummer, that would be by far the easiest.

The devil is always in the details with the myriad ways of sending signals!

Nice! Unfortunately I don’t have access to the meter I mentioned, but it would be fun to work out. Your version looks great. You are bringing it to GOSH?

Yep, will be! I’ll bring a soil moisture sensor on a headphone jack as an example, that is basically an equivalent type of signal.

Cool, I look forward to seeing it–ty for bringing!

thanks, it would be super cool to get something like this working! :slight_smile:
Here is the Spec we use: