Hackaday Prize Entry: A Mobile Electric Gate

Electric gates can be an excellent labor-saving device, allowing one to remain in a vehicle while the gate opens and closes by remote activation. However, it can become somewhat of a hassle juggling the various remotes and keyfobs required, so [bredman] devised an alternative solution – controlling an electric gate over the mobile network.

20 years ago, this might have been achieved by wiring a series of relays up to the ringer of a carphone. These days, it’s a little more sophisticated – a GSM/GPRS module is connected to an Arduino Nano. When an incoming call is detected, the gate is opened. After a 3 minute wait, the gate is once again closed.

[bredman] suffered some setbacks during the project, due to the vagaries of working with serial on the Arduino Nano and the reset line on the A6 GSM module. However, overall, the gate was a simple device to interface with, as like many such appliances, it has well-labelled and documented pins for sending the gate open and close signals.

[bredman] was careful to design the system to avoid unwanted operation. The system is designed to always automatically close the gate, so no matter how many times the controller is called, the gate will always end up in a closed state. Special attention was also paid to making sure the controller could gracefully handle losing connection to the mobile network. It’s choices like these that can make a project much more satisfying to use – a gate system that constantly requires attention and rebooting will likely not last long with its users.

Overall, it’s a great project that shows how accessible such projects are – with some carefully chosen modules and mastery of serial communications, it’s a cinch to put together a project to connect almost anything to the Internet or mobile networks these days.  For a different take, check out this garage door opener that logs to Google Drive.

Stephen Hawking Forecasts The Weather

Stephen Hawking, although unable to speak himself, is immediately recognizable by his voice which is provided through a computer and a voice emulator. What may come as a surprise to some is that this voice emulator, the Emic2, has been used by many people, and is still around today and available for whatever text-to-speech projects you are working on. As a great example of this, [TegwynTwmffat] has built a weather forecasting station using an Emic2 voice module to provide audible weather alerts.

Besides the unique voice, the weather center is a high quality build on its own. An Arduino Mega 2560 equipped with a GPRS module is able to pull weather information once an hour. After the voice module was constructed (which seems like a project in itself) its relatively straightforward to pass the information from the Arduino over to the module and have it start announcing the weather. It can even be programmed to sing the weather to you!

All of the code that [TegwynTwmffat] used to build this is available on the project site if you’re curious about building your own Emic2 voice system. It’s also worth noting that GPRS is available to pretty much anyone and is a relatively simple system to start using to do things like pull weather information from, but you could also use it to roll out your own private cell phone network with the right equipment and licensing.

Hackaday Prize Semifinalist: A Mobile Node

The future is the Internet of Things, or so we’re told, and with that comes the requirement for sensors attached to the Internet that also relay GPS and location data. [Camilo]’s MobileNodes do just that. He’s designed a single device that will listen to any sensor, upload that data to the Internet over GSM or GPRS, and push all that data to the cloud.

The MobileNode is a small circular (7cm) PCB with a standard ATMega32u4 microcontroller. Attached to this PCB are GSM/GPRS and GPS/GLONASS modules to receive GPS signals and relay all that data to the cloud. To this, just about any sensor can be added, including light sensors, PIR sensors, gas and temperature sensors, and just about anything else that can be measured electronically.

Of course the biggest problem with a bunch of sensors on an Internet of Things device is pulling the data from the Internet. For that, [Camilo] designed a web interface that shows sensor data directly on a Google Map. You can check out the project video below.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

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Arduino cellphone

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The fact that you can build a cellphone around an Arduino is pretty neat. But we’re drawn to this project more as a testament to the advancement of hobby electronics. An [Average Joe] can build this thing with a minimum or background knowledge and without breaking the bank. Wow.

Of course this isn’t the first DIY cellphone we’ve come across. One of our favorites is this one which resides on a home etched PCB. There was even another Arduino offering with similar components back in September. But the one seen above really pulls it all together into a package that is usable for everyday life. The components include and Arduino Uno, GPRS shield from Seeed Studios, a TFT touch screen, Lithium battery and charging circuit, and a few other bobbles. All of it is mounted inside of a 3D printed case.

A simple phone calls for a simple UI and that’s included as well. The main menu has two buttons, one for placing a call, the other for sending a text. From there you get the virtual keypad seen above for typing out the phone number or composing a message.

[Thanks Victorzie]

Video phone Arduino shield

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We’ve seen Arduino-powered Twitter machines, and even some that can send text messages, but how about one that’s a video phone? That’s what the guys over at Cooking Hacks put together with their very impressive 3G Arduino shield.

On board the shield is an internal GPS receiver, microphone, speaker, 3G module, and a camera sensor with VGA resolution. The 3G module is able to act as a 3G modem via a USB connection, allowing any computer to take advantage of wireless Internet with a SIM card.

While in their tutorial the guys use a terminal running on their computer to send AT commands to place a call, it’s possible to simply put all that info in a sketch making for a small, battery-powered video link straight to your cell phone. Seems like the perfect piece of hardware for a wireless, 3G-enabled video feed for a robot. You can check out the video from their tutorial after the break.

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Stacking GPS, GSM, and an SD card into an Arduino shield

A few years ago, [Phang Moh] and his compatriots were asked by a client if they could make a vehicle tracking device for oil tankers all around Indonesia. The request of putting thousands of trackers on tanks of explosives was a little beyond [Phang Moh]’s capability, but he did start tinkering around with GPS and GSM on an Arduino.

Now that tinkering has finally come to fruition with [Phang]’s TraLog shield, a single Arduino shield that combines GPS tracking with a GSM and GPRS transceiver. There’s also an SD card thrown in for good measure, making this one of the best tracking and data logging shields for the Arduino.

The shield can be configured to send GPS and sensor data from devices attached to an I2C bus to remote servers, or a really cool COSM server. [Phang] is selling his TraLog for $150, a fairly good deal if you consider what this thing can do.

Seems like the perfect piece of kit for just about any tracking project, whether you want to know the location of thousands of oil tankers or just a single high altitude balloon.

Tip ‘o the hat to [Brett] for finding this one.

Make cell phone calls with your Arduino

Cellular shields for the Arduino have been around for ages, but this is the first one we’ve seen that turns your Arduino into a proper cell phone.

The shield is based around the SIM900 GSM/GPRS radio module, and is compatible with the SIM908 GSM/GPRS module that adds a GPS receiver. Also on board this shield are a pair of 1/8″ audio jacks, perfect for connecting a microphone and headphones. Yes, you can actually make cell phone calls with your Arduino now.

The real star of this build is the new GSM Shield library. This library of code includes the methods necessary for an Arduino to function as a cell phone (answer, hang up, dial a number), but also includes a lot of improvements for TCP/IP communication.

Even though the cost of getting an Arduino communicating through a GSM or GPRS network is fairly high, we’re thinking this would be the perfect starting point for a completely open source, open hardware cell phone. A phone with the same functionality as an old Nokia brick that is also a MiFy would be an amazing piece of hardware, and would surely make for a profitable Kickstarter.