Ridiculously Complicated Home Automation Made Simple

[Eric T] wrote up his insanely-comprehensive home automation setup. What started out as a method to notify him when his dog barked grew into a whole-house, Arduino-powered sensor extravaganza. We’ve previously looked at two different steps from this mammoth article. One automated his dog, the other focused on the Wink hub to bridge with commercial hardware like smart lightbulbs. Now let’s look at the project as a whole.

The basic backbone of the project is actually quite straightforward. He made a radio gateway base station out of an Arduino, a RFM69 radio unit, and an Ethernet shield that connects to a Raspberry Pi to serve up a GUI interface. The open-source home automation project OpenHAB makes it all available through browser or smartphone.

Next, he made additional sensor nodes from Arduino and RMF69 radios. These sensor nodes can all be separate from each other, which has enabled [Eric] to expand his system incrementally over time.

Modules of particular interest are the Uber Sensor and the Washer-Dryer module. For the Uber Sensor, [Eric] basically threw every sensor he could at an Arduino; it sends noise levels, light levels, motion, temperature, humidity, and presence of smoke, flame, or flammable gas. Some of these conditions trigger e-mail alerts, while others are simply stored for future perusal.

On the simpler end of the spectrum, he uses a noise-level detector to detect the end of a laundry cycle and then trigger a notification. The clever bit is that the message is automatically cleared when an attached motion detector triggers, presumably because someone’s gone to the basement to empty the dryer. Very neat.

16All of this is basically made practical and affordable by the presence of simple Arduino libraries and cheap hardware modules purchasable over Ebay. If you’re at all interested in a DIY home automation project, this offering is worth a look for inspiration and a great overview.

Using The Wink Hub With OpenHAB

Spend enough time looking at home automation setups, and you’ll quickly find there are two competing philosophies. The first wants to put an Arduino on every light socket, with everything connected by cheap eBay radio modules. The second home automation philosophy requires astonishingly expensive hardware to talk to other expensive modules. The Arduino solution is a system that can be infinitely customizable, and the commercial solution talks to ‘the cloud’ for some strange reason. There is no middle ground. At least there wasn’t until [Eric] started poking around and looked at a few hardware solutions.

[Eric] was looking to control some GE Link bulbs through his phone, computer, or through the Internet. They’re supposed to be the best bulb on the market in terms of price and performance, but they can only be controlled with a Zigbee. This lead [Eric] to an interesting hack that gave all owners of the Wink Hub local control of their devices. From [Eric]’s research, this was the only way his lighting wasn’t dependent on ‘the cloud’.

Local control of the Wink was only possible after [Eric] read a post on rooting the Wink (and this post from a few days ago). Because the device could be rooted, and the fact that [Eric] already has a few things in his house integrated with OpenHAB, the choice on how to proceed with controlling a few Zigbee enabled lights was easy.

Once [Eric] got the light bulbs talking to the Wink, integrating them with the rest of the devices in his home was easy. The new bulbs are activated with his Arduino motion sensors, door sensors, and can be controlled via smartphone or by voice control. The Wink can also be completely disconnected from the Internet. A good idea, because the ability to turn a light on and off should not be dictated by the quality of your Internet connection.

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Long Range Wireless Sensors for the Home-Area-Network

7785441404784533190 In the near future, we will all reside in households that contain hundreds of little devices intertwingled together with an easily connectable and controllable network of sensors. For years, projects have been appearing all around the world, like this wireless sensor system that anyone can build.

[Eric] hopes his work will help bring the truly expansive Home-Area-Network (HAN) into fruition by letting developers build cheap, battery-powered, long-range wireless sensors. His method integrates with the pluggable OSGI architecture and home automation platform openHAB along with using an Arduino as the lower power, sensor node that is capable of utilizing many types of cheap sensors found online.

[Eric]’s tutorial depicts a few examples of the possibilities of these open-source platforms. For instance, he shows what he calls a ‘Mailbox Sentinel’ which is a battery-powered mail monitoring device that uses a Raspberry Pi to play the infamous, and ancient AOL sound bite “you’ve got mail.” It will also send an email once the postman cometh.

In addition, he lists other ideas such as a baby monitoring sentinel, a washer/dryer notification system, water leak detectors, and security implementations that blast a loud alarm if someone tries to break in. All of this potential for just around $20.

The key to making this project work, as [Eric] states, is the MQTT binding that ties together the Ardiuno and openHAB platform. This allows for simple messages to be sent over the Ethernet connection which is often found in IoT devices.

So all you developers out there go home and start thinking of what could be connected next! Because with this system, all you need is a couple of ten-spots and an internet plug, and you have yourself a strong foundation to build on top of. The rest is up to you.

This open, connected device is [Eric’s] entry for The Hackaday Prize. You can see his video demo after the break. We hope this inspires you to submit your own project to the contest!

Continue reading “Long Range Wireless Sensors for the Home-Area-Network”