Portable power strip control lights and appliances using SMS


[Julian] wanted a way to remotely control various appliances and lights around his house without spending an arm and a leg on home automation. He also desired the ability to easily switch what items he was controlling without a ton of hassle. Since he couldn’t find anything reasonably priced to do what he desired, he built his own SMS-triggered remote control system.

He designed his system to be used like an extension cord, hence the portable junction box enclosure. This enables him to regulate up to four different items at a time, with the ability to swap out components or relocate his controller at will.

The power strip is controlled by an Arduino which receives commands from his PC via an Xbee module. Any text messages sent to his Gmail account are retrieved by his computer and then transmitted to the Arduino. The Arduino in turn triggers relays as designated by [Julain’s] text messages, utilizing H-bridges to provide the required current.

Check out his schematics and code if you’re interested in implementing something similar in your home.


  1. DooWeeNo says:

    Scumbag builder. Doesn’t want to spend money on build. Uses SMS.

  2. Kevin Gunn says:

    Nice build… nice work from SMS to power.

    Isn’t the Arduino necessary? The XBee has digital IO pins on it. Is there any reason not to use those directly instead of signally the Arduino and then using the Arduino IO?

  3. Caleb says:

    I love this build. I’ve been wanting to do things with SMS but cellular interface stuff is way to expensive.

    For Example:


    The idea for the form factor of this build is great to keep it mobile but I may have taken a different approach. I never liked having a junction box sitting about, looks tacky. A cheep power strip could give this build a nice facelift! We as hackers need to start thinking more like product designers and consider not just what something does but how it looks to people. Even a cheep project enclosure can turn a pile of wires and circuit boards that people say “You built that… I can tell” to into something that they will look at with awe and proclaim “You built that! I can’t believe it!”

    Great build none the less!

    • Hamtaro says:

      The problem with a cheap powerstrip is it doesn’t allow for individual controls. A powerstrip generally is a fuse switch with two rails (think train tracks) with a plastic filter to accept plugs. However, with the junction box, he can get divided sockets, allowing him to control 4 outlets independently.

  4. ackphlat says:

    DooWeNo is obviously a lurker of Reddit.
    Scumbag Lurker

  5. B0SC0 says:

    I would be reluctant to build this
    due to safety concerns.

    No circuit breaker or fuse is used, like on a commercial power strip.

    No protection diodes on the relays.

  6. Bogdan says:

    adding a cheap bluetooth module would cut the cost of sms and need for computer.

    • SparkyGSX says:

      True, but then you wouldn’t be able to control it if you were out of range of the bluetooth transeiver.

      If the computer is always on anyway (mine usually is, for various tasks), the use of the computer wouldn’t really be an issue. This way, you could also use the computer to control the device, either manually, using scheduled tasks, based on other data (say, turn on a light if you have a new message), or through a remote web interface, eliminating the use of SMS altogether.

      • Corey says:

        Also, one thing you really need with home automation is reliable communications and responsiveness. Nothing more annoying then the system not responding each and every time or taking longer than a second to do so. This is why I’ve gone w/Insteon since they have reliability down pat and they communicate fast over the mains and have an RF link, and use handshaking for improving comms in a busy or marginal network. I have written my own software with a web interface for controlling events, scenes, triggers, etc and am considering making it open source.

  7. george graves says:

    I would have liked to seen inside the box.

  8. Corey says:

    I use Insteon in my house, which can be expensive, but works really well. I wrote all my own controller software so that saved a bunch.

  9. John says:

    I wonder how much delay is introduced by doing SMS via google? It’d be annoying to mash a button on your laptop and then have to wait 30 seconds for your lamp to turn off.

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