Design, construction, and implementation of a remote fuel-level monitoring system
© Obikoya; licensee Springer. 2014
Received: 2 January 2014
Accepted: 26 March 2014
Published: 14 May 2014
This research describes a complete fuel-level monitoring system. The research started with the design and construction of a fuel-level sensor and then was followed by configuration of a remote Aplicom 12 GSM module in order to interface the connected sensor. After the module configuration, monitoring of remote fuel is possible by sending control messages from a compatible mobile phone in order to query the status of the remote fuel sensor (and hence the volume of fuel in the tank). The status message from the module will be sent back via a Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) network to the mobile phone that sent the query (or control) message.
Equipment, such as cars, motorcycles, trucks, generators, and compressors, which is powered by internal combustion engine needs a means of refueling so that it can run for as long and efficiently as possible. The problems associated with this equipment are to know how to contain fuel, to know how much fuel is left, and to know how best the fuel should be stored for users' safety, security, and benefits.
In the last few years, escalating oil demands and costs are increasing the cost of many businesses, particularly those with large vehicle fleets, adding to financial burdens in the process of searching for fuel efficiencies[2, 3]. For instance, since 2003, fuel prices have doubled in Canada and nearly tripled in USA with consumptions (or demands) continuing to rise, and are never expected to return to 2003 levels. In addition to increasing cost of fuel, there are also cases of fuel theft (from both stationary tank and transport tankers), fuel leakage, premature dry-out, inaccurate fuel refilling, improper engine consumption, and drivers' misbehaviours[5, 6]. In order to cater the aforementioned problems and avoid damage to reputation, the Aplicom 12 GSM module is used over a Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) network to provide a practical and cost-effective remote fuel-level monitoring system.
Reza et al. worked on microcontroller-based automated water level sensing and controlling. A microcontroller receives input from the sensor unit which senses the water level via an inverter. After the input variable was processed by the microcontroller, the resultant output (ON/OFF) that represents the water status of the tank was generated. The limitation of this paper is that the system was only implemented locally. Remote monitoring and controlling were later carried out by different authors.
Hemnandan et al. designed and implemented an embedded control-based system for remotely monitoring fuel level of a diesel generator set. When the fuel level status was required, short message service (SMS) was sent to the M33 GSM module in a remote location, and the ultrasonic sensor sensed the fuel status which is then displayed on both LCD display and LED bar graph. Then, alarm was sent back, via a GSM network, to the module. Also, the module was notified when there was fatal error in the system or fuel went down below the minimum required level.
Aher and Kokate implemented a microprocessor-based fuel monitoring and vehicle tracking system. This system was placed inside a vehicle to sense the fuel level at various instances with the aid of a reed switch and also tracks the vehicle at various locations with the aid of a GPS device. The data was then read at a central server by using the RS232 protocol. This system is believed to perform the tasks of detecting fuel theft and tracking the vehicle accurately and continuously.
Senthilraja et al. worked on detection of fuel theft and vehicle position with a third party monitoring software. The overall system consists of an ultrasonic fuel sensor, numeric lock (for authentication/security purpose), and third party monitoring software (for providing notifications about fuel theft). Whenever, fuel is being stolen, the sensor will store the information in the database and from where it provides the notification based upon calculations by the third party monitoring software. This system has provided periodic details about fuel level and vehicle position, and this will help to eliminate fuel theft and vehicle theft problems.
The current research starts from the design and the construction of a remote fuel-level sensor and then is followed by remote monitoring of the fuel level in the remote tank. Monitoring is possible by sending control messages from a compatible mobile phone in order to query the status of the remote sensor (placed on a remote tank). This fuel-level monitoring system will ensure efficient use of fuel, minimize operating cost, and help realize maximum profit.
2. Design and construction
where h is the height of the fuel in the tank.
where A is the area of the tank.
2.2 Construction of a fuel-level sensor
After the whole construction, the workability of the fuel sensor was confirmed. This was done by mounting the fuel sensor on the fuel tank, and as the fuel level in the tank increased, the floater began to rise up, thereby rotating the potentiometer. The voltmeter was used to verify the expected increase in voltage.
The research experiment was set up using the constructed fuel-level sensor, fuel tank, Aplicom 12 GSM module, Aplicom 12 test board, power supply, PC, data cable, jumper connector, antenna, antenna adapter cable, mobile phone, and mobile telephone number (MTN) SIM card. The following experimental steps were taken:
The GSM module was mounted to the 60-pin connector on the test board.
An MTN SIM card was inserted into the SIM card holder on the test board.
The antenna was connected to the module with the antenna adapter cable.
The PC with already installed configurator software was connected to a D9 com port 2 on the test board through a data cable AXS-3.
Communication mode switch on the test board was turned ON to normal, and RS-232 switch was also turned ON.
The fuel-level sensor (which was mounted on the fuel tank) was connected to pin header 2 on the test board through a jumper connector.
DC power supply was connected to the test board and then to an AC wall outlet.
Relationship between sensor inclined angles, corresponding heights of fuel, different volumes of fuel, and output voltages
Output voltage (volts)
h = 37.5 - 23 cos θ
V = A× h
V = 0.729 (37.5 - 23 cos θ)
Comparison between the received volume and the measured volume
Volume (liters) [measured]
Volumes (liters) [Received from the module]
It is seen from this research that whenever an authorized mobile phone sent a message to query the status of the fuel in the remote tank, a voltage level (which is approximately equal to the value of the measured voltage) will be received by the mobile phone from which the query was sent. Also, the volume results from the Visual Basic Program are approximately the same as the measured volume values.
Therefore, the type of monitoring system implemented in this research is seen to be accurate and reliable, and this will surely provide a solution to the challenges faced in monitoring the fuel level of both stationary tanks and mobile tanks. The problems due to rising cost of fuel, theft, mismanagement, delay, losses, and damage to reputation will be immensely reduced (if not even eliminated). This system will consequently minimize operating cost and maximize profit for individuals, governments, and businesses with large vehicle fleets.
The author is thankful to Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) for the sponsorship of this publication.
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