Long Range Wireless Sensors for the Home-Area-Network

7785441404784533190 In the near future, we will all reside in households that contain hundreds of little devices intertwingled together with an easily connectable and controllable network of sensors. For years, projects have been appearing all around the world, like this wireless sensor system that anyone can build.

[Eric] hopes his work will help bring the truly expansive Home-Area-Network (HAN) into fruition by letting developers build cheap, battery-powered, long-range wireless sensors. His method integrates with the pluggable OSGI architecture and home automation platform openHAB along with using an Arduino as the lower power, sensor node that is capable of utilizing many types of cheap sensors found online.

[Eric]’s tutorial depicts a few examples of the possibilities of these open-source platforms. For instance, he shows what he calls a ‘Mailbox Sentinel’ which is a battery-powered mail monitoring device that uses a Raspberry Pi to play the infamous, and ancient AOL sound bite “you’ve got mail.” It will also send an email once the postman cometh.

In addition, he lists other ideas such as a baby monitoring sentinel, a washer/dryer notification system, water leak detectors, and security implementations that blast a loud alarm if someone tries to break in. All of this potential for just around $20.

The key to making this project work, as [Eric] states, is the MQTT binding that ties together the Ardiuno and openHAB platform. This allows for simple messages to be sent over the Ethernet connection which is often found in IoT devices.

So all you developers out there go home and start thinking of what could be connected next! Because with this system, all you need is a couple of ten-spots and an internet plug, and you have yourself a strong foundation to build on top of. The rest is up to you.

This open, connected device is [Eric’s] entry for The Hackaday Prize. You can see his video demo after the break. We hope this inspires you to submit your own project to the contest!

16 thoughts on “Long Range Wireless Sensors for the Home-Area-Network

  1. Good idea – but the “mail” sensor needs work. It doesn’t detect actual mail, just the mailbox door being open. The moment one of the more clever neighborhood kid discovers that, you’ll get around 9 bazillion false positives (or the whole sensor will mysteriously disappear).

    1. I thought about making a sensor like this as well, but since my mailbox does not open in any way for mail to get in i needed a sensor to actually detect something inside. I tried with IR transmitter + receiver which worked quite well. But today I would go for one of those proximity sensors that are found in phones for example. They can be setup to work independently and measure from time to time and generate an interrupt in case the readout is above a threshold (something reflective is inside). Of course you need quite a few of them because the mailbox is large.

      1. you could use a PIR sensor, they measure changes in IR over an area. They are commonly used in motion sensors for lights and such.

      2. Having only a traditional mailbox by the street, what do you means “does not open in any for mail to get in”?

        Back when Zigbee first came on the market, I built a sensor for my mailbox that would trigger a Zigbee message when the door was opened. Used a phototransistor to wake the unit. The module hung under the mailbox, and I had a small hole in the bottom for a photocell. When the door was opened, it was enough to trigger it. Used a Tadiran lithium battery (like used to be used in PCs) for the power source. Ran for years, then the receiver blew up, and I never got around to fixing it. For all I know, the mailbox is transmitting a message every day…

    2. I wonder how TI’s CC3200 might play into something like this. It’s WiFi and an MCU on a single chip. ;

    3. How they hell would they discover that? Even if they spot the sensor, how would they know what it did?

  2. I think a lot of these IoT devices need some sort of ‘I’m being stolen’ alarm flag. Before you know it people are going to be stealing your mailbox to use it as a SNES emulator, or your doormat will become some jerks wi-fi router and your doorbell buttons will get jacked and used as a start button or door lock buttons in some redneck carputer project.

    1. Oh, the project.
      Probably needs to spend a bit of time packaging it up, securing, and weather-proofing it a bit. Rain can still run down to the underside of that mailbox. Possibly an optical system to detect items.

  3. ….the Ethernet connection which is often found in IoT devices.

    Never seen a single IoT device with an ethernet port.

  4. You actually do need to worry about FCC regulations with the RF69 module. It is based on a Semtech SX1231 transceiver (or a Chinese copy, hard to say), which CAN be made compliant to FCC 15.231 as well as 15.247 and 15.249. However, 15.231 (433 MHz) is tricky, 15.249 (915 MHz) allows a maximum of -1 dBm radiated power, and 15.247 (915 MHz) requires usage of some spread spectrum modulation. Plus, there are a lot of 1W 15.247 interferers in many US suburban environments these days (electric company smart meters). In any case, there is a Semtech app note on how to get the power up to about 11 dBm, legally, using nothing more than a particular wideband FSK modulation on their devices, but I suspect that a narrowband configuration with the full 20 dBm is being used for this range test (it is typically the default).

  5. Looks like you have line of sight to the mailbox.
    Why not put a small discrete camera from your house that would get triggered at the same time the mailbox is opened. That way you would know who opened the mailbox in a small email video clip in addition to the notifications.

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