Difficulty Level = 5 [What's this?]
UPDATE: Also see this project for an easy way to display a temperature reading: Digit Shield Temperature Display.
A while back, I did a wireless temperature sensor project using XBee radios. XBee radios are really powerful devices with good reliability and the ability to read and transmit sensor readings without a microcontroller. BUT, they are difficult for people to configure, the documentation is hard to understand, and it’s really difficult to parse the API data packets at the receiving station. So I decided to try the same project using inexpensive RF devices. I used a 434MHz transmitter ($4) and receiver ($5) from Sparkfun, and had great success with these cheap devices. I also used a simple LM34 Fahrenheit temperature sensor, two Arduinos (one was a homemade breadboard version), and a two-digit LED display to show the temperature at the receiver end.
I used a single 74LS247 BCD to 7-segment driver chip for the display. The segment pins of the two digits are connected together, so I need to multiplex between the digits to show only one at a time. The multiplexing is so fast, there’s no flicker. The segments have common anodes and I used two PNP transistors to provide current to the anodes. Don’t ever drive the anodes directly from an Arduino output pin because it’s too much current!
The RF receiver’s data pin is connected to the RX pin on the Arduino so we can just use the Serial library to read data at a slow 1200 bps. That is fast enough for temperature sensor readings. A 17cm antenna (the green wire) is attached to the ANT pin on the RF receiver.
Here is the code running on the receiver Arduino. These RF devices can pick up a lot of noise, so drawing on the work of others, I used a simple protocol which includes a packet header with a network identifier and target address, the data, and a checksum to catch errors. This provides robustness for the communication link.