Home automation with RC wall plugs and Raspberry Pi

[Jake] took some cheap hardware and figured out a way to use it as a huge home automation network. He’s chose a Raspberry Pi board to connect the radio controlled power outlets to his network. He wrote about his project in two parts, the first is hacking the RC outlet controller and the second is using the Raspberry Pi to manipulate it.

These RC outlets are a pass-through for appliances that connect to mains (lamps, consumer electronics, christmas trees, etc). Often the protocol used by the cheap-as-dirt remote is difficult to work with, but [Jake] really hit it out of the part on this one. In addition to simulating button presses for up to fifteen devices on the remote, he replaced the DIP switch package. This lets him change the encoding, essentially allowing the one device to control up to 32 sets of outlets. Theoretically this lets him command 480 devices from the Raspberry Pi. Since that board is a web server it’s just a matter of coding an interface.

Some of the inspiration for this hack came from the whistle-controlled appliance hack.

Whistle controls for you home electronics

You know how to whistle don’t you? You just put your lips together and blow. But do you know how to make the electronics around you react to your whistled commands? Well [Befi] figured out a system that allows him to assign a whistled command to various home electronics.

He’s using a set of RF remote control outlets to switch power to various devices like a desk lap, or a turn table. The board you see in the image above is the remote control that came with the system, but that chip is an ATmega8 which he added to give round-about USB connectivity using a serial-to-USB converter. The technique is simple enough that we’d bet you can get this to work with an ATtiny2313 and the V-USB project but that’s another story.

The additional piece is the use of embedded Linux to detect and process whistled commands. In the video after the break [Befi] explains that he’s using a Dockstar along with a microphone to capture audio input. It uses a Fast Fourier transform algorithm to process the clip and pushes commands to the remote control after processing is complete. Continue reading “Whistle controls for you home electronics”

Sous Vide crock pot controller

Tempted by what sous vide cooking has to offer, but balking at the price for a unitasker, [Lee’s] father in law set out to see if he could rig up his own precision temperature controlled cooking system on the cheap. He immediately hit eBay and shelled out about around $75 to get his hands on a solid state relay, PID controller, and temperature probe.

As you can see above, a crock pot serves as the cooking vessel. We’ve seen this method before, either splicing into the power cord, or providing a single outlet on the controller. This version provides a PID controlled outlet to which the appliance can be plugged in. The other outlet in the socket is always on and powers an aquarium pump that circulates the heated water during the cooking process.

The result works quite well, even though it wasn’t a huge cost savings. There are a few issues with positioning of the temperature probe, but that may be where experience comes into play.

Adding Ethernet control for a 5.1 speaker set

[HuB’s] set of 5.1 surround sound speakers was gobbling up a bunch of electricity when in standby as evidenced by the 50 Hz hum coming from the sub-woofer and the burning hot heat sink on the power supply. He wanted to add a way to automatically control the systems and offer the new feature of disconnecting the power from the mains.

The first part was not too hard, although he used a roundabout method of prototyping. He planned to use the IR receiver on the speakers to control them. At the time, [HuB] didn’t have an oscilloscope on hand that he could use to capture the IR protocol so he ended up using Audacity (the open source audio editing suite) to capture signals connected to the input of a sound card. He used this to establish the timing and encoding that he needed for all eight buttons on the original remote control.

Next, he grabbed a board that he built using an ATmega168 and an ENC28J60 Ethernet chip. This allows you to send commands via the Internet which are then translated into the appropriate IR signals to control the speakers and a few other devices in the room. The last piece of the puzzle was to wrap an RF controlled outlet into the project with lets him cut mains power to the speakers when not in use. You can see the video demonstration embedded after the break.

Continue reading “Adding Ethernet control for a 5.1 speaker set”

Reverse engineering radio controlled outlets

[Chr] picked up a pack of remote control outlets in order to reverse engineer them and build control into his own projects. These can be plugged into outlets around your house and a relay inside each module will switch whatever device is plugged into it after receiving a command from the remote. Once he cracked open the control housing it was easy to find the data line for the RF module which was on its own board. He used a logic analyzer to capture data from various button presses and then spent some time deciphering the communication protocol. He used what he learned to roll the module and code into an interface box where an ATmega8 connects via USB and passes commands from a computer to the RF board. Now he’s added home automation via a computer quite inexpensively. After the break you can watch a clip of the outlets switched using a smartphone.

So why not just patch into the buttons on the remote? Well, this same project was attempted at our local hackerspace earlier this month and the buttons don’t just pull a pin to ground. They use tri-state logic and are arranged into a matrix that is a lot harder to mimic (if not impossible) with a microcontroller. Analyzing the communications going into the RF module is definitely the less labor-intensive of the two approaches.

Continue reading “Reverse engineering radio controlled outlets”

SPRIME controlled AC outlets

Reader [Tim Upthegrove] sent in a novel take on powering and monitoring AC outlets and devices called SPRIME, or Simple Powerline Remote Interactive Monitor and Enforcer. Compared to previous hacks, such as 120v switching or Quick cheap remote outlets, that only turned an outlet on or off; SPRIME allows not only control over outlets via the internet, but also power usage of devices currently plugged in.

We really liked their idea of giving power companies access to SPRIME outlets to reduce power consumption during peak hours, but sadly we don’t see it being implemented in homes any time soon. Catch a video of SPRIME after the rift.

[Thanks Chris McClanahan and Jeff Starker for the project, and deyjavont for pointing out our silly mistakes]

Continue reading “SPRIME controlled AC outlets”