Environmental Growth Chamber

Tablet Application and SaaS Solution

Saturn Systems worked with Percival Scientific to develop a next generation mobile and enterprise solution to simplify the task of configuring their environmental growth chambers and greatly improve reporting and access to resulting test data.

About the Client

Percival Scientific is a worldwide leader in the design and manufacture of environmental growth chambers used by research organizations domestically and internationally to precisely control growing conditions in laboratory environments.

The Challenge

Percival Scientific’s environmental growth chambers were originally built on a traditional push button/LCD interface with limited functionality and feedback. Their next generation product featured an updated custom control system that offered greater support for outside integration, with the goal of simplifying configuration and monitoring and improving reporting and analysis capabilities.

Our Solution

Saturn Systems developed an Android tablet application to replace the traditional industrial push button/LCD interface. The new application allows for ease of configuration and greatly enhanced feedback in the form of graphs and tables. In addition, a new cloud based Software as a Service (SaaS) solution was developed to interface with the control system and serve as a data repository, allowing researchers to centrally consolidate, compare and report on data from any number of growth chambers within their organization.

Tablet Application

The chamber control system manages multiple environmental outputs and sensors including: temperature, CO2, O2, humidity, multiple light sources and user configurable variables. The feature set of the tablet application was designed to simplify the complex task of configuration and monitoring of these parameters and associated cycles. To accomplish this Saturn engineers collaborated with the customer’s user interface design team to create a solution that offered intuitive configuration and monitoring of complex environmental parameters and cycles as well as reporting in the form of graphs and quick reference screens. The project required a combination of user interface design skills and experience implementing custom communication protocols over USB, WiFi and Bluetooth.

Cloud/SaaS Solution

Where the tablet application provided a means to define and execute complex environmental cycles, the cloud based data repository offers a means to consolidate the resulting data, tracking actual conditions for all the environment factors over time. The data consolidation allows for more powerful reporting options combined with the ease of access that a web interface can offer. Saturn Systems recommended Microsoft’s Azure™ platform backed by MongoDB as a scalable solution that easily handles the varying types of time series data produced by control systems. All development was completed using Microsoft .NET technology using an MVC architecture.

The Results

The tablet solution is fully integrated as part of the product and has been well received by customers. The new interface has greatly simplified chamber configuration, and the new graphing features provide quick confirmation that experiments are operating correctly. The cloud/SaaS solution is currently in customer trials, and will offer enhanced and centralized access to raw experiment data and enhanced reporting.

“Saturn Systems was instrumental in the development of a front-end for our next generation control system hardware. The Saturn team did an outstanding job of understanding the needs of our company and provided us with a polished, turn-key suite of UI and data management tools, ranging from an Android app to a cloud-based data logging system. Our industry-leading control system is now more accessible and intuitive. Saturn’s team was a pleasure to work with and their knowledgeable and organized approach were vital to the success of this complex and multi-faceted project.”

Daniel Kiekhaefer, Engineering Manager, Percival Scientific