WiFi Garage Door Opener Makes Forgotten Keys A Thing Of The Past


[Tod’s] daughter has a habit of forgetting to take a house key along with her, so he was looking for a way to make accessing the house easier in a pinch. He had tried wireless garage door keypads in the past, but their performance was so-so at best. After scouring the market for commercial solutions and checking out the work of other hackers, he decided that he needed to craft a custom solution of his own.

He started shopping around for wireless-enabled microcontrollers and settled on a Roving Networks RN-XV module, which is designed as a drop-in replacement for an XBee. Paired with a 5v to 3.3v power adapter, the RN-XV is nearly all he needed to interface his iPhone with his garage door opener.

The microcontroller has enough GPIO pins to control the garage door, while also monitoring the door’s status using a simple magnet/reed switch combo. A web server in [Tod’s] house takes input from any phone connected to his wireless LAN and relays the open/close commands to the opener. The opener in turn returns status messages to him via the web interface.

We really like the system’s simple design, and as long as [Tod] has turned WPS off at home, he really shouldn’t have to worry too much about unauthorized entry.

23 thoughts on “WiFi Garage Door Opener Makes Forgotten Keys A Thing Of The Past

  1. The Noisebridge hackerspace has a superficially similar system, where you can connect to their (open) wifi and go to a special webpage. Just accessing the webpage unlocks the door. This works well with the hackerspace’s open policy.

  2. Neat! About the only thing I’d be *tempted* to change would be to allow a phone external to his network to issue commands via SSL/passphrase on his server, so that the family could access via the cell network… in case there are odd wifi signal nulls scattered across the driveway.

  3. I’m surprised more people aren’t excited over the RN-XV. $35, drop-in for XBee, high bps serial, completely remotely configurable, analog & digital I/Os controllable in-band, built in NTP client, telnet server, and one-command firmware download and upgrade. But what makes it extra slick is the ability to periodically wake up, read its sensors, HTTP POST the results to a specified URL, then go nap some more.

    1. I just acccidentally reported your post. Late night, two R-words right there… sorry. :(

      What I wanted to say was, I didn’t know about those RN-XV modules. From your description they sound really slick and would’ve worked well in a few of my little projects. Thanks for the info.

  4. Interesting. I’m doing something similar now with Bluetooth, since it uses less power and the interface is simpler. I was wondering why none of the garage door opener companies had considered adding such a simple feature and releasing apps for iOS/Android.

  5. Cool project but if you’re too stupid to remember your key are you the sort of person to be trusted with a mobile phone. Let alone an iPhone? “here’s a£500 toy. Don’t lose it” …. “How could you leave it in a cafe???” etc
    Wouldn’t the normal “key under rock” trick be cheaper and more likely to work?

    1. As the father of teenage kids (a boy and a girl), I can totally relate – with both sides of the story. On the one hand, if you’re not responsible enough to remember your darn keys, then you deserve to figure out where you’re going to hang out till I get home. On the other hand, God forbid any teen (especially my daughter!) would *ever* forget their phone! So there’s a bit of a safety-net there.

      Bias aside (after all, being a parent trumps all), I think it’s a really cool idea – one I’ll be looking further into! (also, thanks to the commenters that suggested alternatives!)

    1. The project is great solely for showing this wifi module to the world, which looks very great and full of features.

      My first choice for a project like this would have been to hack a router which can be bought for about the same price(not the >50 that i knew wifi modules cost) and includes power adapter and the box for the project.

    1. They you use a neighbors.

      He’d get bonus points in my book if he wrote an Asterisk AGI script to open the door via calling in and entering a pin.
      His daughter would be able to open the door with a cheap prepaid phone after she looses her fancy iPhone then.

  6. Bulk response to some of the comments above. Thanks to anyone who found value in my post. For those that did not, consider the following:

    – the wifly is $35 (reasonably priced)
    – we have an outside keypad (our 2nd one), but they are not terribly reliable and can be difficult to press for younger, female fingers
    – my daughter has NEVER lost her iPhone — not even for a second. why not adapt to the way the younger generation operates?? i’d rather her be inside and comfortable than locked outside learning a lesson because _I_ wouldn’t adapt
    – sure a key under a rock would work, but that wouldn’t get posted on Hackaday!!!

    The blog has pretty detailed instructions, including a wiring diagram. If that’s not enough, drop me a line and I’ll provide whatever additional detail I can.

  7. Not an EE here, just an enthusiast, and I’ve got an RN-XV blinking away on the desk beside me. I had anticipated spending the whole weekend getting this thing going — but had it remotely controlling an LED before bed on Friday night. Highly recommend the module. Sparkfun also sells Xbee breakout boards that enable you to breadboard it easily.

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