Introduction and Overview

This document explains how to connect to your Sensorgnome, check its status via the Web Interface, download detection data, update the software, and modify configuration files.

This version of the Sensorgnome user guide is for the "new V2 software" available starting in 2022, that runs on Raspberry Pi4, Pi3, Zero-2W and SensorStation V1.

If the "Web UI" of your Sensorgnome has multiple tabs with a red accent color it uses the new software. If it is a single web page with little formatting it is the old software.

For updates on the status please refer to the Motus Community Forum

Getting help

  • Avoid getting frustrated: if it doesn't work, double-check, try again, perhaps try an alternative, but then ask for help! Don't waste hours of time.

  • If you can, connect your Sensorgnome to the internet and leave it running & connected: most of time the best troubleshooting happens using the log files it uploads.

  • To get help:

    • Post in the Motus slack (sensorgnome channel)

    • Email tve at voneicken point com

  • Things that really help us help you:

    • Screen shots

    • Info about your hardware

    • Having your SG connected to the internet

    • Sensorgnome ID (or the hostname used during configuration)

    • Log files using the web UI or /var/log/syslog and /var/log/sg-control.log grabbed via SSH

What is a Sensorgnome?

A Sensorgnome is an automated radio receiver, designed to detect and record radio signals transmitted by wildlife tracking tags, without the need for any person to be present.

At its core, a Sensorgnome is powered by a Raspberry Pi (RPi). The RPi runs the software that listens for and records the radio data picked up by the antennas. In addition to the RPi, a Sensorgnome will have one or more USB dongles -- "software-defined radios" -- that take the raw radio signals from the antennas and convert it into a digital form that can be recognized and recorded by the RPi. Finally, the Sensorgnome will include a GPS and power supply, all of which is typically housed in a heavy-duty plastic case.

For a more detailed description of the components of a Sensorgnome, and how they fit together, please refer to the Appendix.

Throughout this document, we will often refer to a Sensorgnome as an SG, and to the Raspberry Pi as RPi.

About this guide

This guide is divided into four sections:

  • Initial software installation and configuration, i.e., how to get started

  • Data download and station maintenance, i.e., checking things when on-site

  • Hardware components and configuration, i.e. misc information about radios, USB, HATs, etc.

  • Appendix with additional information

Initial deployment checklist

  1. Install the software, configure Sensorgnome password, verify access via hot-spot or internet.

  2. Verify detection of GPS and optional hardware button/LED.

  3. Configure radios and their ports, verify operation using test tags.

  4. Verify network configuration and file upload, alternatively verify downloading files to phone/laptop.

  5. Create/verify connection of Sensorgnome to Motus receiver deployment.

  6. Perform an end-to-end check from test tags to uploaded data.

Software History and why V2

  • The original Sensorgnome software was written and maintained by John Brzustowski from 2016 to 2018 and was designed for Beaglebone and Raspberry Pi models 1 and 2 single board computers. It used an ingenious but very non-standard "liwixi" filesystem organization and was based on Linux Debian Buster. Communication with Motus servers used SSH tunnels in an effective but unconventional configuration.

  • The Sensorgnome V2 software is a complete rewrite of the system with the goal of supporting current Raspberry Pi models and using standard filesystem and communication methods.

  • The V2 software:

    • uses a standard current Raspberry Pi OS image (based on Debian Bullseye as of 2023) that has Sensorgnome software pre-installed

    • runs on Raspberry Pi3, Pi4, Zero-2W, and SensorStation V1 (more coming)

    • exclusively uses HTTPS for Internet communication (SSH commandline access over the LAN is also supported),

    • implements a new automatic upload mechanism that uploads data files directly to,

    • implements a new web UI with more functionality and security to manage the Sensorgnome,

    • the new web UI provide easy options to download data files to a laptop or phone,

    • implements remote monitoring and management,

  • The V2 software uses unmodified software to process radio data and detect tags in the local tag database, thus the data processing path is unchanged.

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