Complicated iPhone garage door opener

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The round-about way this iPhone garage door opener was put together borders on Rube Goldberg. But it does indeed get the job done so who are we to judge? Plus you have to consider that the Apple products aren’t quite as hacker friendly as, say, Android phones — so this may have been the easiest non-Jailbreak way.

The main components that went into it are the iPhone, a Wemo WiFi outlet, and a 110V rated mechanical relay. But wait, surely it can’t be that simple? You’re correct, just for added subterfuge [Tall-drinks] rolled IFTTT into the mix.

You may remember hearing about If This Then That from the Alert Tube project. It’s a web-based natural language scripting service. Throw everything together and it works like this: The iPhone sends a text message which IFTTT converts to a Wemo command. A power cord connects the Wemo outlet to the 110V electrodes on the relay. The normally open connection of the relay is attached to the same screw terminals of the garage door opener as the push button that operates it. When the relay closes, the garage door goes up or down.

The biggest problem we have with this is the inability to know if your garage door is open or closed.

Hackaday Links: Sunday, April 14th, 2013

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We figure we have to start off this week’s links post talking about PETMAN. Boston Dynamics shows off the humanoid robot donning a full chemical suit. It’s a lot scarier than when we first saw it as a couple of legs a few years ago [Thanks Joshua].

Seeing something like that might drive you back to smoking cigarettes. But since that’s pretty bad for your health perhaps you just need a mechanical chain-smoking machine to take the edge off. That thing can really suck ’em down! [Thanks Mike]

Last week’s links included a bit about the Raspberry Pi 2.0 board version’s reset header. [Brian] wrote in to share a link for adding reset to a 1.0 revision board.

Speaking of RPi, [Elvis Impersonator] is using it to automate his garage door with the help of Siri.

In shop news, [Brad] needed to sharpen a few hundred pencils quickly and ended up melting the gears on his electric sharpener. Transplanting the parts to his drill press gave him more power to get the job done in about six minutes.

And finally, you can forget how to decipher those SMD resistor codes. Looks like surface mount resistors might be unmarked like their capacitor brethren. We were tipped off by [Lindsey] who got the news by way of [Dangerous Prototypes and Electronics Lab]

Bluetooth headset garage door opener update

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[Lou Prado] sent in a link to his new video on using a Bluetooth headset as a garage door opener for your Android device. This isn’t a new hack, and we’ve actually seen him pull it off once before back in 2011. But we’re running this as an update for a couple of reasons. First off, we had forgotten about the hack and it’s worth revisiting. Secondly, the headset which he used with the initial hack has gone out of production. He chose a new model, and the assembly video (embedded after the break) which he made is a treasure trove of best practices to use when hacking consumer electronics.

Here’s how the hardware part of the hack goes. He removes the speaker from the headset and solders the base of a transistor in-line with a resistor to the red wire. The emitter connects to the grounded frame of the USB charging cable which is plugged into an outlet next to your garage door opener. The collector of the transistor is then connected to the garage door opener, along with a common ground connection, allowing audio from the headset to trigger the transistor to open the door.

The systems is secure based on Bluetooth pairing, which was done with his phone before starting the hardware hack.

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A much easier take on an Android garage door opener

[Andy] is taking the complexity of a smartphone-controlled garage door down a notch with this project. He’s not interested in checking on the state of the door (open or closed) using a video feed, or in controlling the thing from anywhere in the world. He just wants to use his Android as the remote control and we say amen to that.

The circuitry in the garage is pretty simple. A relay is used to simulate a button press on the in-garage wired opener. This relay is driven by an Arduino which uses a Bluetooth shield for connectivity. Since his Android phone has a Bluetooth modem the rest of the project is just app development. As you can see in the video, the app automatically connects to the Arduino when it is launched, then waits for the button press to send the electronic equivalent of ‘Open Sesame”.

The project covers a series of posts so if you want to see how he got the app up and running make sure to browse through his archives. The next iteration for this app needs to be a background widget that enables Bluetooth, connects to the Arduino, and send s the open command all with one press.

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Monitoring and controlling your garage door from afar with an IP camera

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Last year, [Mark Simonelli’s] wife asked him if he could design something that would allow her to remotely check if their garage door had been left open. [Mark] jumped at the chance to tinker with electronics and designed a system around an old TrendNet IP camera. When remotely connected to the camera using IP Cam Viewer Pro for his Android phone, [Mark] could watch the video stream and also trigger the garage door opener via a small relay circuit he built.

His remote opener worked well, but his camera unfortunately lacked any sort of IR vision/low light capabilities. Since his camera wasn’t very useful in the dark, he decided that he needed to add some way to trigger a light when remotely monitoring his garage. He figured the best way to do this would be to control a power strip-connected light using a circuit similar to the one he built to open the garage door itself.

He stopped by the hardware store and picked up a cheap power strip, disassembling it and removing the power toggle once he got home. He fitted it with a small 5v relay, which he connected to the camera’s terminal block. While he admits that it might not be the absolute safest solution, he can easily control both the light and the garage door with a simple swipe of his phone’s screen.

Continue reading to see his remote controlled power strip in action, and be sure to swing by his site to see more details about his camera-controlled garage door opener.

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WiFi garage door opener makes forgotten keys a thing of the past

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[Tod’s] daughter has a habit of forgetting to take a house key along with her, so he was looking for a way to make accessing the house easier in a pinch. He had tried wireless garage door keypads in the past, but their performance was so-so at best. After scouring the market for commercial solutions and checking out the work of other hackers, he decided that he needed to craft a custom solution of his own.

He started shopping around for wireless-enabled microcontrollers and settled on a Roving Networks RN-XV module, which is designed as a drop-in replacement for an XBee. Paired with a 5v to 3.3v power adapter, the RN-XV is nearly all he needed to interface his iPhone with his garage door opener.

The microcontroller has enough GPIO pins to control the garage door, while also monitoring the door’s status using a simple magnet/reed switch combo. A web server in [Tod’s] house takes input from any phone connected to his wireless LAN and relays the open/close commands to the opener. The opener in turn returns status messages to him via the web interface.

We really like the system’s simple design, and as long as [Tod] has turned WPS off at home, he really shouldn’t have to worry too much about unauthorized entry.

Garage door monitoring and control using a dedicated Android phone

[Sean] happened to have an extra Android phone sitting around and wanted to see what type of home automation he could use it for. One simple hardware modification, and some apps from the Android Market let him monitor and control his garage door remotely.

The hardware modification is a hack we’ve already looked at. The BTmate uses a Bluetooth headset with an added transistor to short the connections on your garage door opener. The only issue is that you need to be within range for the Bluetooth to work. [Sean] adds a layer of abstraction by using two Android phones. One is permanently mounted in the garage and handles the Bluetooth connectivity, while the other uses VNC to tunnel in anywhere he has an Internet connection.

But why stop there? He knew that this one feature was overkill, and added a second which the phone was perfect for. Since it has its own camera, he used the tinyCam app to create a webcam server. This even allows him to turn the LED on and off for a better view in dim light conditions. See [Sean’s] demonstration after the break.

Overkill? Maybe, but if you’ve got a phone with a broken LCD, this might be just the thing to give it a new purpose.

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