We’ve Got It Down PAT: Appliance Electrical Safety Testing

Everywhere we look in our everyday lives, from our bench to our bedroom, there are the ubiquitous electrical cords of mains-powered appliances. We don’t give our electrical devices a second thought, but in addition to their primary purpose they all perform the function of keeping us safe from the dangerous mains voltages delivered from our wall sockets.

Of course, we’ve all had appliances that have become damaged. How often have you seen a plug held together with electrical tape, or a cord with some of its outer sheath missing? It’s something that we shouldn’t do, but it’s likely many readers are guiltily shuffling a particular piece of equipment out of the way at the moment.

In most countries there are electrical regulations which impose some level of electrical safety on commercial premises. Under those regulations, all appliances must be regularly tested, and any appliances that fail the tests must be either repaired or taken out of service

In the United Kingdom,where this piece is being written, the law in question is the Electricity At Work Regulations 1989, which specifies the maintenance of electrical safety and that there should be evidence of regular maintenance of electrical appliances. It doesn’t specify how this should be done, but the way this is usually achieved is by a set of electrical tests whose official name: “In-service Inspection & Testing of Electrical Equipment”, isn’t very catchy. Thus “Portable Appliance Testing”, or PAT, is how the process is usually referred to. Join me after the break for an overview of the PAT system.

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IoT-ify All Things: LG Has Gone Overboard

If you been following Hackaday lately, you’ve surely noticed an increased number of articles about IoT-ifying stuff. It’s a cool project to take something old (or new) and improve its connectivity, usually via WiFi, making it part of the Internet of Things. Several easy to use modules, in particular the ESP8266, are making a huge contribution to this trend. It’s satisfactory to see our homes with an ESP8266 in every light switch and outlet or to control our old stereo with our iPhone. It gives us a warm fuzzy feeling. And that’s completely fine for one’s personal projects.

But what happens when this becomes mainstream? When literally all our appliances are ‘connected’ in the near future? The implications might be a lot harder to predict than expected. The near future, it seems, starts now.

This year, at CES, LG Electronics (LG) has introduced Smart InstaView™, a refrigerator that’s powered by webOS smart platform and integrated with Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service.

… with webOS, consumers can also explore a host of WiFi-enabled features directly on the refrigerator, creating a streamlined and powerful food management system all housed directly on the front of the fridge door. Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service gives users access to an intelligent personal assistant that, in addition to searching recipes, can play music, place Prime-eligible orders from Amazon.com…

This is ‘just’ a fridge. There are other WiFi-enabled appliances by now, so what?  Apparently, during the LG press conference last Wednesday, the company marketing VP David VanderWaal said that from 2017 on, all of LG’s home appliances will feature “advanced Wi-Fi connectivity”.

Notice the word advanced, we wonder what that means? Will ‘advanced’ mean complicated? Mesh? Secure? Intelligent? Will our toaster finally break the Internet and ruin it for everyone by the end of the year? Will the other big players in the home appliances market jump in the WiFi wagon? We bet the answer is yes.

Here be dragons.

[via Ars Technica]

Starting to Wrap Up Maker Faire

It’s almost a week since the NYC Maker Faire, and it’s about time for us to start wrapping up all the posts we’re doing on everything we’ve seen.

DSC_0216[Chris Mitchell], hackaday favorite from Cemetech did what he always does at Maker Faire: brought some stuff he’s doing with TI graphing calculators.

The TI-84 with GPS made a showing, as did the graphing calculator IRC client. By far the coolest looking calculator was the wooden casemod. It’s a TI-82 put into a (what feels and looks like) a maple enclosure. The buttons are painted on, and despite stuffing consumer electronics into a handmade case, it’s still reasonable portable.

DSC_0201There were more Hackaday fans at the faire, but I’m not sure if anyone can beat the guys from Protopalette. Wait. One guy could. Find me in public sometime and I’ll tell you about that.

The Protopalette is a board with a bunch of lights, buttons, switches, sensors, knobs, servos, and buzzers for electronics prototyping. Think of it as a stylized version of the old ‘parts and springs and wire’ radio shack beginner electronic kits.

DSC_0160

Some of the members of the hackerspace with the craziest group narrative, LVL1 in Louisville, made it to the faire. They’re working with GE to create a ‘maker module’ for appliances. It’s called Green Bean, and GE is actually building support for this into some of their fridges, washers, stoves and dishwashers.

There are a few modules already, like a scale that will send out a message when you’re out of milk. It’s an interesting system, and there are already a lot of appliances that support the system.

Pics below.

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