Electric Imp as an Internet to RF gateway

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This project is a study in connecting several different families of hobby electronic hardware. The image above shows the Electric Imp side of things. It bridges its Internet connection with the RF connections of the rest of the project.

The Imp is a peculiar (intriguing?) piece of hardware. Take a look at [Brian Benchoff's] hand’s on experience with the SD form factor hardware which is not an SD card at all. It’s an embedded system which uses light programming and a cloud-based software setup to bring wireless Internet to your projects.

In this case [Stanley Seow] started wondering if he needed multiple Imps to connect different parts of his setup. A bit of head scratching led him to the use of nRF24L01 modules which are cheap and easy to use Radio Frequency transceiver boards. He took a partially finished driver project and brought it home to play nicely with the Imp. Now he can use the system to communicate with other components which will eventually be used for home automation. Right now his proof of concept issues wireless commands to an Arduino driving a strip of LEDs.

Remote control command center includes RF and IR functions

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We’re still not quite sure what to call these projects, but as we’ve said before, it’s a pleasure to see what people are doing to use one remote control to rule them all. The project being developed by [Kalle Löfgren] seeks to simplify the remote controlled items in his home by combining all control into one smart phone app. The linchpin of the system is this command center which lets a smart phone send IR and RF commands to various devices (translated).

We’ve seen this done with pretty beefy microcontrollers, like this project that uses a PIC32. But the communications going on between the smartphone and the base station are very simple, as are the remote control commands which are being relayed. So we’re not surprised to find that this setup just uses an ATmega88, IR LED, Bluetooth Module, and RF module. There is no connection to a computer (the USB simply provides power via a cellphone charger). If you’re interested in how [Kalle] sniffed the protocol for each remote he wrote two other articles which you can find in the write-up linked above.

Adding fireplace control to your home automation

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[James] has an admirable home automation system which he’s been working on for years. It does things like monitor the state of the garage door, control the lights, and it even notifies him of a power failure. One thing that wasn’t on the system yet are the fireplaces he has in his home. The hardware you see above is how he patched into the fireplace remote control system in order to automate them.

The remote control uses RF to communicate with a base station. Unlike controlling home theater components which use IR, this makes it a bit more difficult to patch into. Sure, we’d love to see some reverse engineering of the protocol so that a simple radio module could be used, but [James] chose the route which would mean the least amount of hacking on his part. He soldered wires onto the PCB for the buttons and connected to them using reed relays. These let the Arduino simulate button presses.

With the rig connected to the home network he has a lot of options. The system can sense if the house is occupied. If it determines that no one is home it will switch off the fireplaces. [James] also mentions the ability to monitor for carbon monoxide or house fires, switching off the gas fireplaces in either case.

Mailbox notifier texts when the letter carrier arrives

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[Felix Rusu's] mailbox is on the other side of the street and he’s got a pretty big front yard. This means checking for mail is not just a pop your head out of the door type of activity. This becomes especially noticeable during the winter months when he has to bundle up and trudge through the snow to see if his letter carrier has been there yet. But he’s made pointless trips a thing of the past by building a notifier that monitors the mailbox for him.

He’s using a Moteino, which is an Arduino clone of his own making. It’s tiny and features an RF module on the underside of the board which takes care of communicating with a base station inside the house. The module seen above rolls the microcontroller board up along with a 9V battery and a hall effect sensor which can tell if the mailbox door is open or closed. When the Arduino detects a change to that sensor it pushes some data back to the base station which then relays the info to a computer or Raspberry Pi in order to send him a text message. All of this is shown off in the video after the break.

[Read more...]

RF switching module can learn new remotes

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This breadboarded circuit is [Sergio's] solution to controlling appliances wirelessly. Specifically he wanted a way to turn his pool pump on and off from inside the house. Since he had most of the parts on hand he decided to build a solution himself. What he ended up with is an RF base station that can learn to take commands from different remote devices.

The main components include the solid state relay at the bottom of the image. This lets the ATtiny13 switch mains voltage appliances. The microcontroller (on the copper clad square at the center of the breadboard) interfaces with the green radio frequency board to its left. On the right is a single leaf switch. This acts as the input. A quick click will toggle the relay, but a three-second press puts the device in learning mode. [Sergio] can then press a button on an RF remote and the device will store the received code in EEPROM. As you can see in the clip after the break, he even included a way to forget a remote code.

[Read more...]

Super Serious Garage Door Opener

Tired of cheap plastic garage door openers? [Yetifrisstlama]‘s is probably the most serious garage door opener that we’ve seen. The case is an old emergency stop switch, which has plenty of space for the circuitry and features a big red button.

This build log starts with details on reverse engineering the original door opener’s protocol. It’s an amplitude-shift keying (ASK) signal that sends a 10 bit code to authenticate. The main components inside are a PIC16LF819 microcontroller, a MAX7057 ASK/FSK transmitter, and some RF circuitry needed to filter the signal. There’s a mix of through hole and surface mount components mounted on a prototyping board, requiring some crafty soldering.

[Yetifrisstlama] says that the next step is to add a power amplifier to increase the range. The code and project files are also provided for anyone interested in working with ASK. While the hack looks awesome, it might make bystanders think you’re doing something more sinister than opening a garage door.

27 MHz transmitter/receiver pair made with 555 timers

Get your feet wet with radio frequency transmitters and receivers by working your way through this pair of tutorials. [Chris] built the hardware around a couple of 555 timers so you don’t need to worry about any microcontroller programming. He started by building the transmitter and finished by constructing a receiver.

Apparently the 27 MHz band is okay to work with in most countries as long as your hardware stays below a certain power threshold. The carrier frequency is generated by the transmitter with the help of a 27.145 MHz crystal. The signal is picked up by the receiver which uses a hand-wrapped inductor made using an AL=25 Toroid Core. We’d say these are the parts that will be the hardest to find without putting in an order from a distributor. But the rest of the build just uses a couple 555 timer chips and passive components, all of which will be easy to find. The video after the break shows the project used to receive a Morse-code-style message entered with a push button. It would be fun to interface this with your microcontroller of choice and implement your own one-way error correction scheme.