Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 is a buzword much loved by marketing and could easily be dismissed as hype. However, the concepts underpinning it are indeed exciting. More than at any other time in history, large volumes of data are now available to us due to the mass connectivity and advanced sensors of the Internet of Things (IoT). The technology available to analyse that data and implement intelligent autonomous systems promise to lead future industry to improved efficiency, profitability and quality of life. The ability to use this data and these technologies are what defines Industry 4.0, the 4th industrial revolution.
Current Projects
The following projects are currently being undertaken by students at the University of Tasmania as part of the Engineering Honours programme.

Smart Home Food Saving System

Junchen Zhu
Ben Millar
The primary objective is to develop a smart home food saving system. This system will connect home food storage spaces and monitor food stock levels and approximate shelf life. Users will be notified when the food is near the expiration date, thus reducing food waste. The main goals of this project are:
  • Build a system that can realize the above-mentioned functions.
  • Develop an APP through which users can maintain food information or scan food bar codes.
  • Debug the system and ensure that the system can run stably on the Raspberry Pi.

Robotics in Agriculture and the Implementation of Robotic Harvesting

Marley Sar'i
Ben Millar
The objectives of the research are to investigate the feasibility of an automatic plant harvesting tool head for FarmBot. This includes the following research objectives:
  • Incorporation of computer vision and intelligence systems
    1. Identify what is the intended crop and harvestable component of the plant
    2. Compute robot position and harvesting angle relative to crop
    3. Calculate and perform robotic movements to successfully harvest crop
  • Integration of harvesting tool within the Farm Bot arsenal
    1. Harvest crop such that minimal damage is inflicted on the crop or plant
    2. Transport crop to a storage location accessable by the robot
  • Robotics to position and operate harvesting tool automatically to harvest a crop
    1. Utilise farm bot system for general positioning of the harvesting robot tool head
    2. Position tool head as to have access to the crop

FarmBot Goes Polar!

Benjamin Blizzard
Jack Hogarth and Ben Millar
The main focus of this project is the development and implementation of functional additions to the FarmBot codebase. These additions will:
  • Allow the use of a polar coordinate system for the FarmBot,
  • Allow for discrete varying Z-levels within the garden plot,
  • Function on the existing FarmBot system without the redesign of any electronics.

Residential Behaviour Prediction with a Neural Network

Linxuan Zeng
Ben Millar
  • Monitor residential behaviour.
  • Train a neural network with resident's tracking data.
  • Predict the resident's destination with at least 70% success.
  • Develop a smart light (and potentially other appliances) activated by the neural network.

Residential Behaviour Analysis and Anomaly Detection

Haixu Wang
Ben Millar
  • Monitor residential behaviour through sensors in the residence.
  • Apply an LSTM network to detect abnormal behaviour such as door-opening against the resident's usual pattern.
  • React to abnormal behaviour and initiate safety procedures.

Automatic Garden Watering System with Weather Forecasting

Yibo Wang
Ben Millar
  • Build an automatic irrigation system.
  • Develop a local weather prediction system based on IoT devices.
  • Optimise the irrigation process to maximise water conservation based on the predicted weather.

Maximise Residential Comfort by Controlling Light Levels with Machine Learning

Yifei Jiang
Ben Millar
  • Use light sensors to ascertain the approximate illumination at a location within a room.
  • Determine the optimal light intensity according to the residents' needs.
  • Dynamically adjust the light level to the optimal intensity according to the resident's location.
Project Topics
The following project topics may be used as a guide for proposing an engineering honours project with the University of Tasmania as part of the Engineering Honours programme.
Priority will be given to Advanced Agricultural projects.
Interested students should apply below.

Advanced Agriculture

Agricultural environments benefit from significantly distributed Multi-Agent Systems utilising artificial intelligence combined with advanced environmental interaction. Any addition of automation and reduction in dependence on manual labour can improve access to fresh produce and profitability.
Please refer to the project descriptions below.

Self-docking, autonomous quad copter for agricultural monitoring: Many agricultural settings require observation and management over vast areas. The speed and agility of small-scale, multi-rotor aircraft may offer efficient and effective monitoring of crops and livestock in these environments. Automating such an aircraft could dramatically reduce manual processes and provide early identification of problems. To this end, in this project a fully automated quad-copter will be designed and developed with recharge docking capabilities. The designed aircraft will be engineered for agricultural environments including safe operation in windy or wet weather.

Self-docking autonomous ATV for agricultural monitoring and transport services: Many agricultural settings require observation and management over rugged terrain. Small-scale All-Terrain Vehicles (ATV) may offer efficient and effective support to human operations in these environments. Automating such a vehicle could dramatically reduce manual processes and provide support to both manual labour and automated processes and systems. To this end, in this project a fully automated ATV will be designed and developed with recharge docking capabilities and the capacity to carry a load. One envisaged load is a mobile docking station for a fully autonomous quad-copter. The designed vehicle will be engineered for agricultural environments including safe operation over complex and varied terrain.

Automated, ground-based irrigation system with soil moisture feedback and scheduling based on weather prediction: There is an argument for only watering when a plant needs it most, which is typically when the sun has dried up the soil. Contrary to traditional watering methods where large volumes of water are provided to plants in the evening or early morning, this approach aims to minimise water by giving plants the bare minimum they need to thrive. By watering underground to minimise evaporation and using sensor feedback to schedule and measure water delivery, only water that is not already naturally provided to the plant can be delivered. This project aims to design a subterranean sensor, control and water delivery system that minimises water consumption in a vegetable garden, on either a domestic or commercial scale. Deliverables include:

  • Select a weather prediction approach.
  • Develop a simulation/mathematical model based on evaporation, weather forecast and watering rates.
  • Design the irrigation system.
  • Build a prototype.

Design and development of additions and improvements to the opensource FarmBot system: FarmBot is an opensource hardware system that provides CNC garden automation on a 3-axis basis. It is backed by a strong and growing community who continue to develop and improve the system. However, since it is still in its infancy there is much room for extension and improvement. More information can be found at Projects involving the Farmbot include:

  • Design and develop an advanced seed dispenser with multi-seed capacity and pre-sowing soil moisture preparation capabilities.
  • Design and develop a new head with rigid attachment locking, load sensing and rotation mechanism.
  • Data collection (multi-location and multi-time) and application to decision making such as water scheduling based on an extrapolated moisture map.

Smart Homes

Smart Homes incorporate sensors, communication and computational technology for monitoring, automation and control. Goals of the smart home may include residential comfort and safety, healthcare, security and energy conservation. Project topics include:

  • Residential behaviour prediction through machine learning for automation and security.
  • Home incident monitoring through realtime audio analysis.

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing can be applied to any of the other topics discussed here since it involved the advanced processing of data regardless of where that data originates. Projects may be chosen from any cloud computing topic involving the gathering, transmission, processing or distribution of IoT data. For example:

  • Distributed data transfer protocols based on Decentralised Hash Tables (DHT), applicable to agricultural, smart home, personal tracking or smart grid distributed data.
  • Development of a common, distributed protocol suite for the unification of IoT data transmission across industries.

Personal Tracking

Through internet connected personal mobile devices such as mobile phones and smart watches we already share significant volumes of data with services such as traffic monitoring and route optimisation, exercise tracking, or health monitoring. Such services process sensor data including location information, heart rate and activity. Collection of additional types of information, new data processing techniques or new applications and uses of collected data are all appropriate for project topics. For example:

  • Person identification and tracking based on personal behaviour pattern recognition.

Smart Grids

Intelligent power networks provide opportunities for improved power supply through solutions that draw from increased communication and information processing capabilities present in the smart grid. Additionally, the increased monitoring and control within components of the smart grid may be employed to improve observability, controllability and optimality of distributed components such as distributed generators (DG), storage, plugin electric vehicles (PEV), sensors and smart home devices.