Garage Door Controller Gets The IoT Treatment

[TheStaticTurtle] built a custom controller for automating his garage doors. He wanted to retain the original physical button and RF remote control interfaces while adding a more modern wireless control accessible from his internet connected devices. Upgrading an old system is often a convoluted process of trial and error, and he had to discard a couple of prototype versions which didn’t pan out as planned. But luckily, the third time was the charm.

The original door-closer logic was pretty straightforward. Press a button and the door moves. If it’s not going in the desired direction, press the button once again to stop the motor, and then press it a third time to reverse direction. With help from the user manual diagrams and a bit of reverse-engineering, he was able to get a handle on how to plan out his add-on controller to interface with the old system.

There are many micro-controller options available these days when you want to add IoT to a project, but [TheStaticTurtle] decided to use the old faithful ESP8266 as the brains of his new controller. For his add-on board to work, he needed to detect the direction in which the motor was turning, and detect the limit switches when the door reached end of travel in either direction. Finally, he needed a relay contact in parallel with the activation button to send commands remotely.

To sense if the motor was moving in the “open” or “close” direction, he used a pair of back-to-back opto-couplers in parallel with the motor terminals. He connected another pair of opto-couplers across the two end-limit switches which indicated when the door was fully open or closed, and shut off the motor supply. Finally, a GPIO from the ESP8266 actuates a relay to send the door open and close commands. The boards were designed in EasyEDA and with a quick turnaround from China, he was able to assemble, test and debug his boards pretty quickly.

The code was written using the Arduino IDE and connects the ESP8266 to the MQTT server running on his home automation computer. The end result is a nice dashboard with three icons for open, close and stop, accessible from all the devices connected to his home network. A 3D printed enclosure attaches outside the original control box to keep things tidy. Using hot melt glue as light pipes for the status LED’s is a pretty nifty hack. If you are interested in taking a deeper look at the project, [TheStaticTurtle] has posted all resources on his Github repository.

Orphaned IoT Sleep Tracker Resurrected As An Air Quality Monitor

If you have a Hello Sense sleep tracking device lying around somewhere in your drawer of discards, it can be brought back to life in a new avatar. Just follow [Alexander Gee]’s instructions to resurrect the Hello Sense as an IoT air quality data-logger.

In 2014, startup “Hello” introduced the Sense, an IoT sleep tracking device with a host of embedded sensors, all wrapped up in a slick, injection molded spherical enclosure. The device was quite nice, and by 2015, they had managed to raise $21M in funding. But their business model didn’t seem sustainable, and in 2017, Hello shut shop. Leaving all the Sense devices orphaned, sitting dormant in beautifully designed enclosures with no home to dial back to.

The original Sense included six sensors: illumination, humidity, temperature, sound, dust / particulate matter on the main device, and motion sensing via a separate Bluetooth dongle called the Pill. [Alexander] was interested in air quality measurements, so only needed to get data from the humidity/temperature and dust sensors. Thankfully for [Alexander], a detailed Hello Sense Teardown by [Lindsay Williams] was useful in getting started.

The hardware consisted of four separate PCB’s — power conditioning, LED ring, processor, and sensor board. This ensured that everything could be fit inside the orb shaped enclosure. Getting rid of the LED ring and processor board made space for a new NodeMCU ESP8266 brain which could be hooked up to the sensors. Connecting the NodeMCU to the I2C interface of the humidity/temperature sensor required some bodge wire artistry. Interfacing the PM sensor was a bit more easier since it already had a dedicated cable connected to the original processor board which could be reconnected to the new processor board. The NodeMCU board runs a simple Arduino sketch, available on his Git repo, to gather data and push it online.

For the online data display dashboard, [Alexander] found a nice solution by [Nilhcem] for home monitoring using MQTT, InfluxDB, and Grafana. It could be deployed via a docker compose file and have it up and running quickly. Unfortunately, such projects don’t usually succeed without causing some heartburn, so [Alexander] has got you covered with a bunch of troubleshooting tips and suggestions should you get entangled.

If you have an old Sense device lying around, then this would be a good way to put it some use. But If you’d rather build an air-quality monitor from scratch, then try “Building a Full-Fat Air-Quality Monitor” or “An Air-quality Monitor That Leverages the Cloud“.

Easy IoT Logging Options For The Beginner

If a temperature sensor takes a measurement in the woods but there’s nobody around to read it, is it hot out? 

If you’ve got a project that’s collecting data, you might have reasons to put it online. Being able to read your data from anywhere has its perks, after all, and it’s key to building smarter interconnected systems, too. Plus, you can tell strangers the humidity in your living room while you’re out at the pub, and they’ll be really impressed.

Taking the leap into the Internet of Things can be daunting however, with plenty of competing services and options from the basic to the industrial-strength available. Today, we’re taking a look at two options for logging data online that are accessible to the beginner. Continue reading “Easy IoT Logging Options For The Beginner”

Already Have That Book? Get The ISBN 411 Over IoT

Have you ever been at the bookstore and stumbled across a great book you’ve been looking for, but had a nagging feeling that you already had it sitting at home? Yeah, us too. If only we’d had something like [Kutluhan Aktar]’s ISBN verifier the last time that happened to say for sure whether we already had it.

To use this handy machine, [Kutluhan] enters the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) of the book in question on the 4 x 4 membrane keypad. The Arduino Nano 33 IoT takes that ISBN and checks it against a PHP web database of book entries [Kutluhan] created with the ISBN, title, author, and number of pages. Then it lets [Kutluhan] know whether they already have it by updating the display from a Nokia 5110.

If you want to whip one of these up before your next trip to the bookstore, this project is completely open source down the web database. You might want to figure out some sort of enclosure unless you don’t mind the shy, inquisitive stares of your fellow bookworms.

Stalled out on reading because you don’t know what to read next? Check out our Books You Should Read column and get back to entertaining yourself in the theater of the mind.

Via r/duino

Cellerator Wants To Be Your Automated Desktop Biotech Lab

Cellerator really had us at “make designer beers”, but of course this multi-purpose biotech lab has a lot more to offer. It seeks to lower the cost and complexity barriers for automating useful scientific equipment, and wants to pave the way for more innovation in material science based.

The approach taken by Cellerator is to take existing lab tools and automate common research tasks using components familiar to anyone who’s used a 3D printer. A gantry system with end effectors designed for different tools like pipettes automate the processing of samples. A camera (with or without microscope) can be used for feedback via computer vision, or simply by logging snapshots.

A number of screenshots from the software show the depth of the plans for the system. They include widgets for telling the system where various fixtures such as the hot plate, centrifuge, and bioreactor are located. Sub menus for each tool set parameters for their operation, with a scheduling and instruction system for customizing each experiment as well as recording all of the data along the way.

IOT Pinball Puts Oktoberfest Fun On Tap

We don’t really miss going out to bars all that much, unless you’re talking about the one downtown with all the pinball machines. Don’t get us wrong — pinball emulators have gotten crazy good, and you can find exact digital replicas of most machines to play on your phone or whatever. But it just doesn’t compare to the thrill of playing a real cabinet.

Don’t despair, because for the next couple of weeks, you can queue up to play on a real Oktoberfest pinball machine that’s sitting in Espoo, Finland. The controls are hooked up to a Raspberry Pi 4 through a custom HAT, along with a camera pointed at the playfield and another focused on the backglass screen. The game development/video streaming company Surrogate is hosting a tournament over the internet, and will be giving prizes to the top ten high rollers.

We usually have to wait until the holiday season to come across these remote-reality gaming opportunities. Having played it several times now, we recommend spamming the flippers until you get a feel for the lag. Also, just holding the flippers up while the ball is in the upper half of the playfield will catch a lot of balls that you might otherwise lose due to flipper lag, and sometimes they end up back in front of the launcher to shoot again. After the break, check out a brief but amusing video of setting up the cameras and Pi that includes a taste of the Oktoberfest music.

The tournament runs until the end of August, which should be enough time for somebody to set up CV and a keyboard to play this automatically. Need inspiration? Here’s an open-source pinball machine that can play itself.

Continue reading “IOT Pinball Puts Oktoberfest Fun On Tap”

Busting GPS Exercise Data Out Of Its Garmin-controlled IoT Prison

If you take to the outdoors for your exercise, rather than walking the Sisyphusian stair machine, it’s nice to grab some GPS-packed electronics to quantify your workout. [Bunnie Huang] enjoys paddling the outrigger canoe through the Singapore Strait and recently figured out how to unpack and visualize GPS data from his own Garmin watch.

By now you’ve likely heard that Garmin’s systems were down due to a ransomware attack last Thursday, July 23rd. On the one hand, it’s a minor inconvenience to not be able to see your workout visualized because of the system outage. On the other hand, the services have a lot of your personal data: dates, locations, and biometrics like heart rate. [Bunnie] looked around to see if he could unpack the data stored on his Garmin watch without pledging his privacy to computers in the sky.

Obviously this isn’t [Bunnie’s] first rodeo, but in the end you don’t need to be a 1337 haxor to pull this one off. An Open Source program called GPSBabel lets you convert proprietary data formats from a hundred or so different GPS receivers into .GPX files that are then easy to work with. From there he whipped up less than 200 lines of Python to plot the GPS data on a map and display it as a webpage. The key libraries at work here are Folium which provides the pretty browsable map data, and Matplotlib to plot the data.

These IoT devices are by all accounts amazing, listening for satellite pings to show us how far and how fast we’ve gone on web-based interfaces that are sharable, searchable, and any number of other good things ending in “able”. But the flip side is that you may not be the only person seeing the data. Two years ago Strava exposed military locations because of an opt-out policy for public data sharing of exercise trackers. Now Garmin says they don’t have any indications that data was stolen in the ransomware attack, but it’s not a stretch to think there was a potential there for such a data breach. It’s nice to see there are Open Source options for those who want access to exercise analytics and visualizations without being required to first hand over the data.