[Chr] picked up a pack of remote control outlets in order to reverse engineer them and build control into his own projects. These can be plugged into outlets around your house and a relay inside each module will switch whatever device is plugged into it after receiving a command from the remote. Once he cracked open the control housing it was easy to find the data line for the RF module which was on its own board. He used a logic analyzer to capture data from various button presses and then spent some time deciphering the communication protocol. He used what he learned to roll the module and code into an interface box where an ATmega8 connects via USB and passes commands from a computer to the RF board. Now he’s added home automation via a computer quite inexpensively. After the break you can watch a clip of the outlets switched using a smartphone.
So why not just patch into the buttons on the remote? Well, this same project was attempted at our local hackerspace earlier this month and the buttons don’t just pull a pin to ground. They use tri-state logic and are arranged into a matrix that is a lot harder to mimic (if not impossible) with a microcontroller. Analyzing the communications going into the RF module is definitely the less labor-intensive of the two approaches.