Home security hardware makes you the monitoring service


[Nick] and [Simon] both have home security systems with a monitoring service who will call whenever an alarm is tripped. For [Simon] this ends up happening a lot and he wanted to change the circumstances that would trigger a call. Because of company policy the service is inflexible, so he and [Nick] went to work cutting them out of the loop. What they came up with is this custom electronics board which monitors the security system and calls or texts them accordingly.

They started with the self-monitoring alarm system design we looked at back in September. This led to the inclusion of the SIM900 GSM modem, which is a really cheap way to get your device connected to the cellular network. It also uses a DTMF touch tone decoder to emulate the phone line to keep the security system happy. [Simon] highlights several changes he made to the design, as well as the reasons for them. One idea he has for a possible revision is to do away with the MT8870 chip which handles the touch tones. He thinks it may be possible to use the SIM900′s DTMF features to do that work instead.

GSM controlled car without needing a microcontroller

Nope, no microcontroller here, just a full-blown cellphone used as the brains of this little robot. The secret behind how it works is in the sounds the phone makes. The touch tones, known as DTMF, are monitored by the circuit mounted on the front half of the chassis and are responsible for driving the motors.

[Achu Wilson] built the circuit around an MT8870 chip which decodes the DTMF sounds and uses the BCD output to feed some logic chips. A 4 line to 16 line decoder and an inverter chip format the signals for use as inputs to the L293D motor driver. The video after the break shows him driving the rover directly by pressing number on the phone (like a tethered remote control). But he mentions that it’s possible to call the phone and press the numbers remotely. We assume you need to connect the call manually as we see no way to automatically answer calls.

This is certainly a fun way to play around with the DTMF protocol.

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A cellphone based Interactive Voice Response System

We’re all familiar with IVRS systems that let you access information using a touch-tone telephone. [Achu Wilso] built his own version which uses a cellphone, microcontroller, and computer.

The cellphone is monitored by an LM324 op-amp with an attached 555 timer chip. When a call comes in the voltage on the headphone output goes high, activating the timer circuit. If it goes low and does not go high again for about 25 seconds the call will be ended. Each incoming touch tone acts as a keepalive for the circuit.

An MT8870 DTMF (touch tone) decoder chip monitors the user input. An ATmega8 microcontroller grabs the decoded touch tones from that chip, and pushes them to a PC via USB. The PC-side software is written in Python, using MySQL bindings to access database information. eSpeak, the open source speech synthesizer software is used to read menu and database information back to the caller.

Not a bad little system, we wish there was an audio clip so we could hear it in action.

DTMF shield aimed at ham controlled Arduino

[Colin] wanted a way to reliably control an Arduino via ham radio. One of the easiest methods of automated radio control makes use of Dual-Tone Multi-Frequency signalling. To those who aren’t into amatuer radio you probably recognized DTMF as the touch-tone system for telephone communications. [Colin] built a shield that has an audio input and can decode DTMF signals.

The hardware is based around an MT8870 DTMF decoder chip. This is a popular choice for DTMF hardware because it does all of the decoding work for you. Whenever a valid tone is detected it outputs the associated value in binary on four output pins. There is a fifth pin that strobes after each new tone. [Colin's] design offers a lot of feedback for what’s going on with the input signal. The DTMF value is displayed on a 7-segment display (controlled completely in hardware), the value is output on for Binary Coded Decimal pins, and mapped to a set of ten pins which pull to ground to match the digit received.