Hack Your Apartment: Keyless Entry with Little Effort

A typical buzzer for an apartment complex.
A typical buzzer for an apartment complex.

If you’ve been to an apartment complex with a locked front door, you’ve seen the buzzer systems. You press the corresponding button for the apartment you want and can talk to the resident. They can press a button to unlock the door briefly, and then you go up to their apartment and they don’t have to come down to let you in. But what if you’re the resident and you want to go for a run without your keys jingling in your pocket? What if you want to open it using just your smartphone?

I knew this was a silly problem, and everyone I told about it thought that for the amount of time and effort it might save, it was hardly worth it.

Challenge accepted.

How fast can I put this together using only parts I have around the apartment? Turns out about 2 hours.

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1btn – an Open Source Dash

The availability of cheap radios, omni-present WiFi and powerful web services means the IoT wave is here to stay. Amazon got into the act with its “do only one thing” Dash button. But a more interesting solution would be an IoT “do it all” button.

[Anand] has been working on his 1btn Open Source WiFi connected IoT button for a while. It connects to the Internet over WiFi to trigger whatever action you have assigned to it using a simple, online interface. It’s reconfigurable and open source. Which means it can be used in pretty imaginative ways, and if needed, can be re-flashed with your own custom firmware should you decide to really get under its hood.

The 1btn’s ESP8266 module is usually in sleep mode, waking up when the button is pressed, making the connection, performing the task and then going back to sleep once confirmation is received. A Red/Green LED indicates if the action was successful or not. You can set it up to send e-mails, messages, tweets or perform actions via a custom script, API or the IFTTT – maker channel. To make it hacker friendly, all of the ESP8266 GPIO pins are accessible via headers. This makes it convenient to add external sensors, for example. There’s also a (unpopulated) QFN footprint to allow adding an ATmega device (168P/328P) whose GPIO pins are also accessible via headers. This opens up a large number of additional applications for the device such as home automation.

On the software side, the 1btn connects to a web console, where you can set up an account, configure the device, register its MAC ID, assign it an alias and set up its actions. All of the source files for the 1btn – firmware, enclosure, schematic, BOM, PCB layout and example use cases – are posted on his Github repository.

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Internet of Things in Five Minutes

If you’re looking for the quickest way to go from zero to voice-controlled home automation system, you should spend five minutes checking out [Hari Wiguna]’s project on Hackaday.io where he connects up IoT gadgets and services into a functioning lightswitch. (Video below the break.)

6166971452133983621[Hari] demonstrates how to set up a complex chain: Amazon Echo to IFTTT to Adafruit.io as a data broker, which is then polled by an ESP8266 unit in his home that controls his X10 setup. (Pshwew.) But each step along the way is designed to be nearly plug-and-play, so it’s really a lot like clicking Lego blocks together. [Hari]’s video is a nice overview.

There’s only one catch if you’re going to replicate this yourself: the X10 system that’s used for the last mile. Unless you have one of these setups already, you’re on your own for controlling the outlets that turn the lights on and off. For price and hackability, we suggest the common 433MHz wireless outlet switches and pairing them with cheap 433MHz transmitters, available at eBay for around $1. We’ve seen a lot of hacks of these systems — they’re quite common both in the US and Europe.

We’ve also covered [Hari]’s projects before: both his self-learning TV remote and a sweet Halloween hack. His video production skills are excellent. We’re in awe of how much info he crams into his YouTube videos.

Help Needed: No-Soldering ESP8266 IFTTT Button

We all love to see amazing hacks in their finished state and be dazzled by what our peers can do. But that’s just the summit of the hacker’s Everest. We all know that the real work is in getting there. Hackaday.io user [stopsendingmejunk] is working on an ESP8266-based IFTTT Button based on a simple breakout board so that anyone could rebuild it without having to do any soldering, and he’s looking for collaboration.

[stopsendingmejunk]’s project takes off from this similar project on different hardware. The board he’s chosen to use is the EZSBC ESP8266-07 breakout, which should have everything he needs, including an on-board button. It should be an easy enough job, but he’s having trouble getting the thing to stay asleep until the button is pressed.

We’ve seen more than a few hacks of the Amazon Dash button, but aside from hacking for hacking’s sake, we’re also happy to see a ground-up open redesign. Besides, this looks like it’ll be a great introductory project, requiring little fiddling around. With a little help. The code is up here on GitHub. Anyone game?

Super Bowl Football Lamp Keeps You Informed

[David] loves to watch football. After his preferred team lost the playoffs, he wanted another reason to watch the big game last Sunday. He ended up building himself a football-shaped lamp that changes color based on who scored last.

[David] started with a Spark Core and a Spark Button. The Spark is the primary microcontroller and includes WiFi. The Spark Button is essentially a shield for the Spark that includes an accelerometer, some LEDs, and a few push buttons. The other part of this build was the housing. [David] used a toy football he got for free as swag from a parade.

As for the code, [David] started by first learning how to control the LEDs on the Spark Button. Then he wrote his own touchdown function to illuminate the football a specific color. Since the Spark uses the REST API, [David] is able to trigger this function by simply visiting the URL of his Spark. This makes it very simple to trigger the event.

The final part of this build was made easy thanks to IfThisThenThat (IFTTT). This is a web service that allows you to monitor and interact with various online web services. It can monitor one service, and then interact with another based on events that happen in the first service. In this case, [David] is using a “channel” added to IFTTT by ESPN. This channel can trigger when certain events happen for whatever team you specify. For this project [David] is monitoring touchdowns.

After combining all of these various services, [David] had a working light that would change colors based on which team scored. He did notice that IFTTT has anywhere between a 1 and 15 minute delay, and he hopes to improve upon this design by hooking directly to an API and skipping the extra service altogether.

Complicated iPhone garage door opener


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.

Alert Tube monitors all aspects of your digital life


This futuristic appliance can keep you apprised of all you social network goings on and much more. [Mike Watson] calls the device the Alert Tube because of its functionality and shape. The hardware depends primarily on a Raspberry Pi board which seems tailor-made for this type of use. The information gathering side of this shows off the power of a fledgling services called If This Then That.

We’ve heard of IFTTT only because [Chris Gammel] and [Dave Jones] covered it on an episode of The Amp Hour. [Dave] dismissed it as have little to no practical use. But this project shows how it can be leveraged to make quick work of pulling your desired data from the Internet. Think of it as a collection of APIs for many sites like Twitter, Facebook, as well as local weather, etc. This project sets up IFTTT to monitor your accounts, alerting you with colors of like, sound, and even text-to-speech.

The project explanation is several pages long but you can get a quick look at it by watching the demo video.
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