Ridiculously Automated Dorm Room

Take three NRF24L0+ radios, two Arduino Nanos, and a Raspberry Pi. Add a bored student and a dorm room at Rice University. What you get is the RRAD: Rice Ridiculously Automated Dorm. [Jordan Poles] built a modular system inspired by BRAD (the Berkeley Ridiculously Automated Dorm).

RRAD has three types of nodes:

  • Actuation nodes – Allows external actuators like relays or solenoids
  • Sensory nodes – Reports data from sensors (light, temperature, motion)
  • Hub nodes – Hosts control panel, records data, provides external data interfaces

The hub also allows [Jordan] to control things with his Android phone with Tasker. He has the Arduino and Raspberry Pi code on GitHub if you want to ridiculously automate something of your own. You’d probably want to adapt it to your dorm room, house, or RV, though.

[Jordan] continues to work on the project and promises to have voice recognition and other features, soon. We cover a lot of home automation projects including some others described as ridiculous. The video below shows BRAD, the inspiration for RRAD.

22 thoughts on “Ridiculously Automated Dorm Room

  1. What I dislike in most of these systems is the list-based screen user interface. Me and some friends have had an nRF24L01+ etc. -based automation project with a cool architecture, protocols and what not (https://hackaday.io/project/4210-sensorino) but the user interface is what matters at the end of the day. I want to see the controls distributed spatially on a sort of a map, 2D or 3D or by floors or whatever, or logically on a tree and easily navigatable and making the state of each element immediately obvious. On a holographic display or even as a physical scale model of the place like in some old hackaday post.
    Sensorino is mostly defuct outside my home by there’s a group at MakeSpace Madrid building the best ridiculously automated hackerspace automation you’ve seen and we will hopefully have touchscreens (by means of the $25 android tablets) on every wall with great user interfaces to each room that you can pinch-zoom out to see outside.

  2. What a pleasant surprise to see my work featured on Hack-a-day! This is not a finished (nor polished) project; rather the whole point of this work was to design/develop iteratively, and constantly improve on my system when I had the time.

    Given that I am a university student with inconsistent housing (moving between apartments and rooms inside my building) I have to have a system which is modular, portable, and able to function in any number of different environments or room layouts. I also have to keep my costs low (really low).

    I wish I had time to write more about my work on the automation system, but I don’t have enough time to code as is. I try to document most of my work these days on my blog (http://jpoles1.github.com/blog/), and hope to write a blog post about my work on the latest iteration of RRAD soon – I’ll also post it to my project page!

  3. He could’ve glued a toilet seat to the wall, it’d be prettier and more reasonable. And no need to emit even more 2.4 GHz radiation – it’s harmful as it heats up water – that is your body, your eyes, brain, testicles and other less important stuff.

    1. The reason a microwave uses 2,4GHz is because its licence free, almost any other frequency would work too. The difference between a handful of NRF24* chips and a microwave is the power output. A home microwave is about 800W. The 2,4GHz emitters are 1-10mW.

    2. I do have to wonder whether you are aware that WiFi, along with a number of other ubiquitous modern technologies including Bluetooth, also emit this frequency of radiation (at much higher power output). A number of baby monitors even use 2.4 GHz; oh the humanity, why aren’t Americans more concerned about microwaving their babies! Perhaps you should go live in a big ‘ol Faraday Cage if you want to be protected from the harmful effects of EM radiation.

      Now, looking at the aesthetics of this project, I will be the first to admit: “damn this is ugly.” I only wish I had more time to polish it up.

      1. Are you one of those people who are concerned about dihydrogen monoxide also? You realize all double blind studies done regarding the perceived impact of the WiFi waves on people have come up empty handed?

    1. HA! As someone who spent a great deal of time partying in Rice University dorm rooms in the early 70s, I can assure you that this is not the first time that black lights have been spotted in Rice University freshman dorm rooms, being used for party purposes….

  4. My biggest issue with large distributed automation systems like this is how to keep the controllers for each individual device low. Are you using one wireless controller to talk to several wire controllers? While I like the idea of every item being wireless for ease of use, from a cost and networking standpoint, it bothers me. I’m curious to hear how you wired everything up and do communication.

    1. Hey Ryan, this is a problem I’ve thought about quite a bit. I think it is important to keep complexity low for the purpose of maintenance and portability, but wireless is really quite essential for adaptability. I’ve previously mentioned that “I am a university student with inconsistent housing (moving between apartments and rooms inside my building)” which means that I need to be able to set up my system with practically any configuration of power outlets, furniture, appliances, etc. Wireless allows me to do this nice and easily.

      Cost is not a huge issue given that many transceivers these days cost around $3-5 (see NRF24L01 or ESP8266), and can be bought even cheaper in bulk. With regard to communication, the setup that I had was not ideal. Using the NRF24L01 chips, I had a central hub broadcasting commands, and receiving sensor data, while the nodes either took in commands or sent out sensor data. In an ideal setup, I believe that one could utilize a mesh-network topology, with individual nodes both receiving and repeating information they hear. Using this strategy, the more NRF24L01 chips/nodes you have deployed, the more robust your network (as I understand it). You can learn more about this mesh-networking using NRF24L01 here (https://github.com/TMRh20/RF24Mesh) and here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EgpG2kjCQc). I never had the chance to try it out myself, but I think this approach has a lot of promise.

  5. Dang, almost this exact setup was going to be my embedded systems final project, just replace the Arduino Nanos with Teensy LCs (A tad overpowered but oh well)

    Never got the chance to finish it, glad to see at least the idea is feasible. Good show man!

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