Old Wireless Switches Join The Internet Of Things

Just about any appliance comes in an internet enabled version nowadays. However, even the oldest gear can be switched on and off with an Internet connected power socket. [Bill] is in the process of automating his home, and found some old radio controlled power sockets that badly needed to join the 21st Century. Hacking ensued.

The first set of switches [Bill] came across were easy to work with. Eager to keep things as functional as possible, ESP8266s with Tasmota firmware were wedged into the enclosures. With a bit of circuit sleuthing, [Bill] was able to set up the switches to respond to commands from both the ESP8266 as well as the original push buttons and radio remote.

[Bill] later came across some black switches, which were not up to his standards. These switches were gutted entirely, being used only for their mains plug and enclosure. The relays inside were replaced with 5V versions which were easier to trigger from the ESP8266’s outputs.

[Bill[ readily admits that the cost benefits over buying off-the-shelf Sonoff modules don’t really add up, but good hackers rarely let such concerns get in the way of a fun project. Around these parts, we see plenty of hacks to automate your house – like this zero-intrusion light switch mod. Happy hacking!

14 thoughts on “Old Wireless Switches Join The Internet Of Things

  1. He mentions hacking X10 units — the UK socket versions have oodles of space, and I have a module cracked open on my workbench. There’s nothing significant that’s reusable, apart from the relay and plug/socket mechanics. A year ago it would have been worth converting, but ESP8266 based units can be had for a tenner now, and I can’t think of any missing features that would justify the work/can’t be addressed by flashing new firmware. Sad really, there’s definitely room for a powerline based successor to X10.

      1. The problem with wifi enabled switches is that when they fail and you toss them in the garbage, your wifi password is still stored on a file on that device. I’m not saying just anyone can grab one out of your garbage bin and easily get your wifi password, but the right person certainly could. WiFi lightbulbs are an obviously greater risk since those will definitely be replaced over and over again.

        Powerline and proprietary rf networks are better from a security standpoint. Not only because each wifi device has your password stored on it in a clear text file, but also because hackers on the internet are not going to be able to communicate with anything but your hub, all the powerline devices are forever offline as far as someone on the internet is concerned. Nobody’s going to be setting up a botnet on your Insteon or X10 switches.

          1. Good.

            And this network need not have any internet access. If you want to reach your stuff remotely you can always have one device that spans both networks. (which you maintain as secure as possible)

            OK, I know. That eliminates some of the super-easy cloud services. So what? Run your own servers already!

        1. Changing your password from time to time isn’t really a bad idea anyway. How often do you throw away old WiFi devices? If it’s really that often it’s a problem then get a box. Keep them in the box. Only when the box fills up do you dispose of them (recycle maybe?).

          If you still are stuck changing your password too frequently because of this then I think you have another problem. Compulsive buying? Really cheap crap with ridiculous failure rates?

    1. “Sad really, there’s definitely room for a powerline based successor to X10.”

      But there is a successor. Insteon.

      Insteon uses both powerline and RF to communicate among other Insteon devices and any hubs or controllers (and is backward compatible with X10, too.)

    2. I try to change my wifi PSK often because of this and because it is just good security to, but most devices make it so damn hard to.

      Belkin things, amazon echo’s, and the sonoffs all basically need me to factory reset them and start from scratch inorder to give them a new network to connect to. FFS, they have a connection to the internet. Just let the app populate a list of SSID and PSKs and then push it down to the devices so that I can then change the wifi network to a new SSID and password and have them move over. But no, I have to go to each one and unplug it and replug it in while holding a button down for an excruciatingly long time and then use the app to set it up again. Too much work.

  2. I just did this with an X10 lamp module. I stuffed a 5V power supply, an ESP8266, and an opto-coupled relay into the enclosure. I found the schematics for the X10 stuff online, but it’s all a bunch of negative DC and zero-crossing hocus-pocus with a custom chip. All I ended up using was the enclosure and the two chunks of PC board that hold the male and female AC terminals. Really not worth the effort.

  3. I tried to set up a “guest network” to put all my IoT and smart devices on, but for whatever reason all my dots and echos could not see each other. They could all work as standalones but there was no way to create a group for multi-room music, for example.

    I created a really long, almost uncrackable WiFi PSK that is 31 characters long. Having to re-enter it on a device using only an on-screen keyboard is a real PITA. The idea that I would regularly schedule this painful exercise to create a new PSK every so often and then enter that new long PSK on 22 devices just doesn’t appeal to me.

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