[Flamingo-tech]’s Xiaomi air purifier has a neat safety feature: it will refuse to run if a filter needs replacement. Of course, by “neat” we mean “annoying”. Especially when the purifier sure seems to judge a filter to be useless much earlier than it should. Is your environment relatively clean, and the filter still has legs? Are you using a secondary pre-filter to extend the actual filter’s life? Tough! Time’s up. Not only is this inefficient, but it’s wasteful.
[Flamingo-tech] has long been a proponent of fooling Xiaomi purifiers into acting differently. In the past, this meant installing a modchip to hijack the DRM process. That’s a classic method of getting around nonsense DRM on things like label printers and dishwashers, but in this case, reverse-engineering efforts paid off.
It’s now possible to create simple NFC stickers that play by all the right rules. Is a filter’s time up according to the NFC sticker, but it’s clearly still good? Just peel that NFC sticker off and slap on a new one, and as far as the purifier is concerned, it’s a new filter!
If you’re interested in the reverse-engineering journey, there’s a GitHub repository with all the data. And for those interested in purchasing compatible NFC stickers, [Flamingo-tech] has some available for sale.
A lot of hackers are rightfully concerned about the privacy issues that surround many of today’s “smart” gadgets, but it’s hard to argue that the ability to remotely control devices around your home isn’t convenient. Enter self-hosted, open source projects like Home Assistant. This provides the framework for building out a home automation system without having your soul information sold, but as you might expect, you’re going to have to put some effort in to get the most of it.
For example, take a look at this Phillips AC4014 air purifier that [Anton] connected to Home Assistant by way of an ESP32. Rather than getting too bogged down in reverse engineering the purifier’s surprisingly complex internal electronics, he took the easy way out and wired a couple of relays across the power and fan speed buttons; this allows the device to be easily controlled by the microcontroller, without impacting the functionality of the original controls.
But since those front panel controls still work, that meant [Anton] needed a way for the ESP32 to detect the device’s status and report that to Home Assistant so everything stayed in sync. So he looked around on the PCB for a trace that got powered up when the air purifier was up and running, which he connected to a pin of the microcontroller through a transistor. This let’s the firmware determine if the machine is running or not just by checking if the appropriate pin has gone high.
Speaking of the firmware, [Anton] decided to use ESPHome rather than trying to write his own code from scratch. This project allows you to rapidly add new devices to Home Assistant by providing the firmware with a relatively simple YAML configuration file, which he’s provided as an example. In fact, he’s provided quite a lot of examples with this project, down to an annotated image of the PCB that shows where to tap your wires into. He’s done quite a service for anyone who’s got this same model of air purifier.
The “razor and blades model” probably set a lot of young hackers on their current trajectory. If we buy a widget, we want to pick our widget refills instead of going back to the manufacturer for their name-brand option. [Flamingo-Tech] was having none of it when they needed a new filter for their Xiaomi air purifier so they set out to fool it into thinking there was a genuine replacement fresh from the box. Unlike a razor handle, the air purifier can refuse to work if it is not happy, so the best option was to make a “mod-chip.”
The manufacturer’s filters have a Near-Field Communication (NFC) chip and antenna which talk to the base station. The controller receives the filter data via I2C, but the mod-chip replaces that transmitter and reassures the controller that everything is peachy in filter town. On top of the obvious hack here, [Flamingo-Tech] shows us how to extend filter life with inexpensive wraps, so that’s a twofer. You can create your own mod-chip from the open-source files or grab one from [Flamingo-Tech’s] Tindie store.