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

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

[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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Woodhouse Controls Your House, Avoids Danger Zone

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[Pat] may not be the world’s most dangerous secret agent, but he does have Woodhouse taking care of his home. [Pat] has been upgrading his sonic screwdriver home automation system these past few months. Waking up to a chilly room led him to start hacking a thermostat interface. [Pat] found that his furnace only needed one 24VAC wire to be shorted to a common during a call for heat. [Pat] was lucky in that his thermostat was low voltage. While researching a thermostat hack, we made the painful discovery that our thermostat is 120VAC, so watch for that if you try this one at home.

[Pat] connected his thermostat leads to a relay controlled by a Raspberry Pi. The Pi would read a temperature sensor and set the relay accordingly. That was fine for a quick hack, but opening an SSH window to change the temperature isn’t the most convenient thing in the world. Enter an old Asus Transformer Prime tablet. [Pat] coded up an Android Holo style interface using AJAX along with HTML/CSS/jQuery and PHP. OpenMic+ constantly listens for voice commands, and fires them off to Tasker tasks as needed. He calls the results Woodhouse, and the interface is very slick. The tablet controls and graphs temperature, [Pat’s] media center, and his lights. Woodhouse is even [Pat’s] right hand man when getting ready for those intimate moments. We can’t wait to see what [Pat] comes up with next.

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Upgrading Home Automation to Home Anticipation

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[Bithead’s] already built some home automation to control the lighting and temperature in his house while he’s away, but he wanted to take things a step further and have the house automatically anticipate his arrival and adjust the environment accordingly. The project takes advantage of geofencing to create a perimeter around the home that listens for a transceiver in [Bithead’s] car. We featured a similar project with a Raspi a few months ago, which locked the doors upon driving away.

[Bithead’s] implementation uses a pair of Digi Xbee Pro XSC radios with U.FL antennas to provide an impressive 2+ mile range of communication. The home-based Xbee hooks up to a Parallax Xbee USB adapter and subsequently into his computer—its antenna sits in a nearby window on the top floor of his house to maximize range. For his car, [Bithead] originally opted for an Xbee shield and an Arduino Uno, but he’s recently overhauled the build in favor of an Arduino Fio, which reduced the footprint and increased the range. Check out his page for the build log specifics and more pictures.