Kumo Connect: from Automated Desktop and Backyard Gardens to Automated Everything

photo hutI ran into a guy at Maker Faire Kansas City who I used to scoop ice cream with twenty years ago. We were slinging frozen dairy at a Baskin Robbins in a dying suburban strip mall that had a one-hour photo booth in the parking lot. It was just far enough away from our doorstep that dotting its backside with the hard-frozen ice cream balls that had been scooped and then not always accidentally dropped into the depths of the freezer was challenging. This guy, [Blake], kept a hockey stick hidden in the back room especially for this purpose. I never could get them to fly that far, but he was pretty good at it.

I hadn’t seen him since those days, and there he was manning a booth at Maker Faire. He looked quite professional, showing no hint of the mischief from those days of ice cream hockey. His booth’s main attraction was Niwa, a connected indoor garden. Having spent four years living and working in Japan after college, [Blake] did not choose this name arbitrarily: ‘niwa’ is Japanese for ‘garden’. He loves Hackaday and was more than happy to share his story.

Niwa and gnome

Connecting with Nature

[Blake] is an avid gardener, but his wife does not share this passion. A few years ago, he took a new job that required travel on an almost weekly basis, which meant big trouble for his plants. Unfortunately, he couldn’t find what he wanted to ensure they were taken care of. You know what comes next: he decided he would design his own system. However, he had no experience with electronics.

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Hackaday Links: June 8, 2014

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Yes, dogfighting with RC planes is cool. You know what’s even cooler? RC jousting. Considering these eight foot long planes are probably made of foam board or Depron, they’ll probably hold up for a fairly long time. The perfect application of RC FPV.

Home automation is the next big thing, apparently, but it’s been around for much longer than iPhones and Bluetooth controllable outlets and smart thermostats. Here’s a home automation system from 1985. Monochrome CRT display panel (with an awesome infrared touch screen setup), a rat’s nest of wiring, and a floor plan drawn in ASCII characters. It’s also Y2K compliant.

Here’s an idea for mobile component storage: bags. Instead of tackle and tool boxes for moving resistors and other components around, [Darcy] is using custom bags made from polyethylene sheets, folded and sealed with an impulse sealer. It’s not ESD safe, but accidentally zapping a LED with an ESD would be impressive.

Need a stepper motor test circuit? Easy, just grab one of those Polulu motor drivers, an ATtiny85, wire it up, and you’re done. Of course then you’re troubled with people on the Internet saying you could have done it with a 555 timer. This one is for them. It’s a 555, some wire, and some solder. Could have done it with discrete transistors, though.

Someone figured out Lego Minifigs can hold iDevice charge cables. +1 for the 1980s spaceman.

Remember that “electronic, color sensing, multicolor pen” idea that went around the Internet a year or so ago? It’s soon to be a Kickstarter, and man, is this thing full of fail. They’re putting an ARM 9 CPU in a pen. A pen with a diameter of 15mm. Does anyone know if an ARM 9 is made in that small of a package? We’ll have a full, “this is a totally unrealistic Kickstarter and you’re all sheep for backing it” post when it finally launches. Also, this.

HAL is Duct Tape for Home Automation

HAL Home Automation

When it comes to home automation, there are a lot of different products out there that all do different things. Many of them are made by different companies, and they don’t often play very well together. This frustration ultimately led [Daniel] to develop his own Python based middleware solution to get these various components to work as a single cohesive system. What exactly did [Daniel] want to control?

First up was the door lock. [Daniel] lives in an apartment building, so there are actually two locks. First, a visitor must be allowed into the building by pressing a button on the intercom system in the apartment. Second, the apartment door has its own dead bolt lock that needs to be opened and closed. [Daniel] was able to control the building’s front door using just a transistor hooked up to an Arduino to simulate the press of the physical button. The original button remains in tact so [Daniel] can still easily “buzz” in a visitor.

The apartment’s dead bolt was a bit trickier. There are off-the-shelf solutions to control a dead bolt, but they are often expensive. [Daniel] built his own solution using a simple servo motor bolted to the door. The servo is controlled by the Arduino which is in turn controlled via two broken intercom buttons that already existed within the apartment. The buttons were originally used to either speak to or listen to a visitor before buzzing them into the building. They had never worked for [Daniel] so he re-purposed them for his own project. The whole DIY door locker is enclosed in a custom-made laser cut wooden box.

Click past the break for the rest of [Daniel's] story.

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The Hacklet #3

The Hacklet Issue 3

The third issue of The Hacklet has been released. In this issue, we start off with a roundup on the Sci-Fi Contest which recently concluded. After seeing the many great hacks you came up with for that contest, we’re looking forward to seeing what you think of for The Hackaday Prize.

Next up, we take a look at two hacks that deal with switching mains, which is a feature that most home automation projects need. These high voltage switches can be dangerous to build, but one hack finds a safe and cheap way to do it. The next looks at building your own high voltage circuitry.

Finally, we talk about two laser hacks. The first is practical: a device for exposing resins and masks using a laser. The second is just a really big laser, built from hardware store parts. Who doesn’t like big lasers? We definitely like big lasers, and so does the FAA.

Raspberry Pi Boiler Control Uses a Webcam to Read The Analog Gauge

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One of the biggest problems with home automation is trying to interface with old or analog devices. Do you upgrade the device just so you can automate it? Or do you find a workaround like [Seb] did?

[Seb] doesn’t have on-demand hot water, and as such has to turn on his boiler if he wants to have a hot bath or shower. Not very convenient having to wake up an hour early in the morning just to turn the boiler on so he can have a morning shower! Nonplussed with having to continue putting up with this, he decided to try his hand at home automation using a Raspberry Pi.

The problem is there’s no easy way to have feedback on what the boiler is doing — sure he can turn it on and off using a mains relay with the Pi’s GPIO, but how can he easily measure the temperature inside the boiler?

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Create Your Own J.A.R.V.I.S. Using Jasper

JARVIS

Tony Stark’s J.A.R.V.I.S. needs no introduction. With [Shubhro's] and [Charlie's] recent release of Jasper, an always on voice-controlled development platform for the Raspberry Pi, you too can start making your own J.A.R.V.I.S..

Both [Shubhro] and [Charlie] are undergraduate students at Princeton University, and decided to make their voice-controlled project open-source (code is available on GitHub). Jasper is build on inexpensive off-the-shelf hardware, making it very simple to get started. All you really need is an internet connected Raspberry Pi with a microphone and speaker. Simply install Jasper, and get started using the built in functionality that allows you to interface with Spotify, Facebook, Gmail, knock knock jokes, and more. Be sure to check out the demo video after break!

With the easy to use developer API, you can integrate Jasper into any of your existing Raspberry Pi projects with little effort. We could see Jasper integrated with wireless microphones and speakers to enable advanced voice control from anywhere in your home. What a great project! Thanks to both [Shubhro] and [Charlie] for making this open-source.

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Open Source SwitchMote Promises Easy Home Automation

moteino

[Felix Rusu] is fast becoming a big name in home automation with his clever Moteino systems. His latest is called the SwitchMote which is a super easy way to upgrade your light switches for home automation, and he’s just released the source!

The SwitchMote is a drop in wireless light switch which lets you control a standard AC load, limited to 100W at this time. It uses a solid state relay (SSR) to perform the switching, but like any project involving mains electricity… MAKE SURE YOU KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING!

It makes use of a Moteino (duh) which is a wireless Arduino clone that operates over RF. We’ve seen it used before to control a Keurig coffee maker, operate a garage door over the internet, and even text you when your sump pump fails and your basement is about to flood!

Excited? Take a look at his GitHub repository, and check out how it works in the following video.

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