Alarm System Upgrade Tips The Functionality Scale

Residential-grade commercial alarm systems are good at a few things but terrible at others, like keeping pace with telephone technology. So what to do when a switch to VOIP renders your alarm system unable to call in reinforcements? Why not strip out the old system and roll your own value-added alarm and home automation system?

Generally, the hardest part about installing an alarm system is running the wires to connect sensors to the main panel, so [Bill Dudley] wisely chose to leverage the existing wiring and just upgrade the panel. And what an upgrade it is. [Bill]’s BOM reads like a catalog page from SparkFun or Adafruit – Arduino MEGA 2560, Ethernet shield, a sound board, stereo amplifier, X10 interface, and a host of relays, transformers, and converters. [Bill] is serious about redundancy, too – there’s an ESP8266 to back up the wired Ethernet, and a DS3231 RTC to keep the time just in case NTP goes down. The case is a bit crowded, but when closed up it’s nicely presentable, and the functionality can’t be beat.

Rehabilitating old alarm systems is a popular project that we’ve covered plenty of times, like this Arduino upgrade for a DSC 1550 panel. But we like the way [Bill] really went the extra mile to build add value to his system.

The K9 Curfew Door

[Kenbob] is an awesome pet owner. He has two small dogs that have free access to the backyard through a doggy door. It’s great during the day, but they have to close it at night to stop the dogs from bothering the neighbors. So he decided to make an automatic curfew based doggy door!

Before setting out on his project, he determined some design goals that had to be met. Namely, he couldn’t have it lock the dogs outside by accident! The hack makes use of an old large format flat-bed scanner that had stopped working a while ago. As it so happened, this scanner had just enough carriage travel to be able to actuate a cover for the doggy door. After reinforcing the sliding cover, he hooked it up to an Arduino Nano, a RTC and a H-Bridge motor driver in order to control it.

In order to add scheduling ability and to program the door remotely, he has also hooked it into his existing x10 control infrastructure in his house — not too shabby! It also features a manual 3-position switch to lock it open, closed, or to leave it on automatic. The question is, can a raccoon get in?

He’s been testing it for a few weeks and it works quite well, although he admits it is not the most rugged solution — lucky for him, his dogs aren’t the type to run headfirst into things. Stick around after the break to see it in action.

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Real Life Sonic Screwdriver for Home Automation

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Any Doctor Who fans out there? [Pat] just sent us his project on home automation… using a Sonic Screwdriver!

Ever since he pre-ordered his Raspberry Pi at the beginning of February 2012, he knew he wanted to try his hand at home automation. The easy way was to use X10 outlets, but at $20+ an outlet, it’s not that affordable. Instead, he managed to find a rather cheap system on Amazon — RF controlled outlets. They only cost about $35 for a 5-pack!

It’s a very basic system: five outlets with five buttons on the remote. All he had to do was wire up the Raspberry Pi to simulate the button presses by setting the GPIO pins high, and presto, a simple but effective home automation setup.

This is where it starts to get fun. Unfortunately, unlike a real Time Lord, [Pat] didn’t build his sonic from scratch. Instead, he found a universal remote control — styled after [Smith]’s sonic. Add another RF receiver to the Pi, a web-based interface to extend the range, and bam, you’ve got one geeky, but awesome, home automation setup.

Stick around after the break to see it in action!

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BlenderDefender: Automating Pavlovian Conditioning

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This isn’t your typical home automation project; who turns a blender on remotely? [Brian Gaut] did, when he rigged his blender and a strobe light to scare his cat off the kitchen counter. To be fair, we’ve linked to this project before on Hackaday—twice actually—but neither the article about relays or the related cat waterwall article actually talk about the BlenderDefender, and that’s a shame, because it’s pretty clever.

[Brian] began by installing a DCS-900 network camera on the wall near his kitchen sink. The camera monitors any motion on the counter, and once it detects something, a networked computer starts recording individual frames. This security camera setup isn’t looking for criminals: [Brian] needed to keep his cat away from a particularly tasty plant. The motion detection signals an X10 Firecracker module to turn on both a nearby blender and a strobe light, provoking some hilarious reactions from the cat, all of which are captured by the camera.

Check out some other ways to work with the X10 firecracker, and feel free to jump into the home automation discussion from last week.

[Thanks Joy]

Home audio and lighting taken over by the Raspberry Pi

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We’re beginning to see a lot of momentum building for using Raspberry Pi boards as the basis of your home automation. This latest offering from [Iain Hamilton] combines lighting and audio control through a single web interface. His frontend is run as a web page from the RPi board. It even includes separate layouts for mobile devices and computers in order to maximize use of the screen real estate.

Three buttons at the top of the interface allow him to configure the settings and switch between lighting and audio controls. This audio control screen issues commands to the Spotify client running on the Pi. The Mopidy package takes care of almost everything (as we’ve seen with other single-board computer Spotify servers). Future iterations will offer other streaming services like SoundCloud. [Iain’s] home lighting system uses X10 modules for control. He’s using a USB dongle to facilitate control of that system.

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The Universal Geospatial Light Switch

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Home automation has existed in one form or another for quite some time, but we thought this take on controlling lights was quite interesting.  Instead of having a menu of lights that you can turn on and off, this Android app lets you point your phone at the device and turn it on or of. Undoubtedly similar to how [Darth Vader] controls his lights at home.

Although the really technical details of this project aren’t listed, this setup reads the compass and GPS output of the Android device to figure out where it’s pointed in space. Combined with a script that understands the layout of the room, and an [X10] automation controller, it’s able to control lights accurately.

Be sure to check out the video of this device in action, or check out [Mike]’s [Project Rita] blog to see the other interesting projects that he’s working on!

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Google Talk used for home automation communications via Android

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To call [Carnivore’s] home automation project impressive would be an understatement. He’s pulled together a system that is fast, well presented, and easy to use. To interface with items in his home he’s using X10 modules, and this example simply switches some table lamps. But the underlying setup seems incredibly polished and should be a snap to extend for just about any purpose.

The guide linked above has all the gritty details, but the best overview is provided in the video after the break. [Carnivore] shows off the Windows 8 machine that acts as the server. It has am X10 transceiver connected to communicate with the appliances. He can control the system from the screen seen above, but everything can also be accessed from his Android phone. Communication between the two is handled by Google Talk, an instant messaging application — but the commands are home screen shortcuts and don’t need to be typed into the Google Talk app. He modified the source code of a program called TweetMyPC to use the Google Talk API which looks for keywords in received messages. The lag on an instant message is far lower compared to SMS or Email so commands are received very close to real-time. Feedback is sent from the server to the phone using a text message.

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