Home Automation Panel Looks Industrial

Modern tech is great, but we have to admit that we sometimes miss when electronic things looked complicated. A modern computer looks dull compared to, say, an IBM 360. Control rooms now look no different than a stock trading room, instead of being full of indicators, knobs, and buzzers. [BorisDigital] must have some of those same feelings. He built a very cool control panel for his Home Assistant setup. He based it somewhat on a jet cockpit and a little on a nuclear plant control room, and the result, as you can see in the video below, is great.

This is less of a how-to video and more of an inspirational one. After all, you won’t have the same setup, but there are many details about how it was constructed with a Raspberry Pi, 3D printing, and control of the Home Assistant via web services.

Continue reading “Home Automation Panel Looks Industrial”

Home Assistant Display Uses E-Ink

[Markus] grabbed an ESP32 and created a good-looking e-ink dashboard that can act as a status display for Home Automation. However, the hardware is generic enough that it could work as a weather station or even a task scheduler.

The project makes good use of modules, so there isn’t much to build. A Waveshare 2.9-inch e-ink panel and an ESP32, along with a power supply, are all you need. The real work is in the software. Of course, you also need a box to put it in, but with 3D printing, that’s hardly a problem.

Well, it isn’t a problem unless — like [Markus] — you don’t have a 3D printer. Instead, he built a wooden case that also holds notepaper.

The software uses ESPHome to interface with Home Assistant. There is a fair amount of configuration, but nothing too difficult. Of course, you can customize the display to your heart’s content. Overall, this is a great example of how a few modular components and some open-source software can combine to make a very simple yet useful project.

There are many ways to use an ESP32 in your home automation setup. Maybe you can salvage the e-ink displays. Just try not to get carried away.

2024 Home Sweet Home Automation: The Winners Are In

Home automation is huge right now in consumer electronics, but despite the wide availability of products on the market, hackers and makers are still spinning up their own solutions. It could be because their situations are unique enough that commercial offerings wouldn’t cut it, or perhaps they know how cheaply many automation tasks can be implemented with today’s microcontrollers. Still others go the DIY route because they’re worried about the privacy implications of pushing such a system into the cloud.

Seeing how many of you were out there brewing bespoke automation setups gave us the idea for this year’s Home Sweet Home Automation contest, which just wrapped up last week. We received more than 80 entries for this one, and the competition was fierce. Judging these contests is always exceptionally difficult, as nearly every entry is a standout accomplishment in its own way.

But the judges forged ahead valiantly, and we now have the top three projects which will be receiving $150 in store credit from the folks at DigiKey.

Continue reading “2024 Home Sweet Home Automation: The Winners Are In”

Combadge Project Wants To Bring Trek Tech To Life

While there’s still something undeniably cool about the flip-open communicators used in the original Star Trek, the fact is, they don’t really look all that futuristic compared to modern mobile phones. But the upgraded “combadges” used in Star Trek: The Next Generation and its various large and small screen spin-offs — now that’s a tech we’re still trying to catch up to.

As it turns out, it might not be as far away as we thought. A company called Vocera actually put out a few models of WiFi “Communication Badges” in the early 2000s that were intended for hospital use, which these days can be had on eBay for as little as $25 USD. Unfortunately, they’re basically worthless without a proprietary back-end system. Or at least, that was the case before the Combadge project got involved.

Designed for folks who really want to start each conversation with a brisk tap on the chest, the primary project of Combadge is the Spin Doctor server, which is a drop-in replacement for the original software that controlled the Vocera badges. Or at least, that’s the goal. Right now not everything is working, but it’s at the point where you can connect multiple badges to a server, assign them users, and make calls between them.

It also features some early speech recognition capabilities, with transcriptions being generated for the voices picked up on each badge. Long-term, one of the goals is to be able to plug the output of this server into your home automation system. So you could tap your chest and ask the computer to turn on the front porch light, or as the documentation hopefully prophesies, start the coffee maker.

There hasn’t been much activity on the project in the last year or so, but perhaps that’s just because the right group of rabid nerds dedicated developers has yet to come onboard. Maybe the Hackaday community could lend a hand? After all, we know how much you like talking to your electronics. The hardware is cheap and the source is open, what more could you ask for?

A Smart Power Distribution Unit For Home Automation

Power distribution units, as the name implies, are indispensable tools to have available in a server rack. They can handle a huge amount of power for demands of intensive computing and do it in a way that the wiring is managed fairly well. Plenty of off-the-shelf solutions have remote control or automation capabilities as well, but finding none that fit [fmarzocca]’s needs or price range, he ended up building his own essentially from scratch that powers his home automation system.

Because it is the power supply for a home automation system, each of the twelve outlets in this unit needed to be individually controllable. For that, three four-channel relay boards were used, each driven by an output on an ESP32. The ESP32 is running the Tasmota firmware to keep from having to reinvent the wheel, while MQTT was chosen as a protocol for controlling these outlets to allow for easy integration with the existing Node-RED-based home automation system. Not only is control built in to each channel, but the system can monitor the power consumption of each outlet individually as well. The entire system is housed in a custom-built sheet metal enclosure and painted to blend in well with any server rack.

Adding a system like this to a home automation system can simplify a lot of the design, and the scalable nature means that a system like this could easily be made much smaller or much larger without much additional effort. If you’d prefer to keep your hands away from mains voltage, though, we’ve seen similar builds based on USB power instead, with this one able to push around 2 kW.

Garage Door Automation With No Extra Hardware

Home automation projects have been popular as long as microcontrollers have been available to the general public. Building computers to handle minutiae so we don’t have to is one of life’s great joys. Among the more popular is adding some sort of system to a garage door. Besides adding Internet-connected remote control to the action of opening and closing, it’s also helpful to have an indicator of the garage door state for peace-of-mind. Most add some sensors and other hardware to accomplish this task but this project doesn’t use any extra sensors or wiring at all.

In fact, the only thing added to the garage door for this build besides some wiring is the microcontroller itself. After getting the cover of the opener off, which took some effort, a Shelly Uni was added and powered by the 12V supply from the opener itself. The garage door opener, perhaps unsurprisingly, has its own way of detecting when the door is fully open or closed, so some additional wire was added to these sensors to let the microcontroller know the current state. Shelly Uni platforms have a WiFi module included as well, so nothing else was needed for this to function as a complete garage door automation platform.

[Stephen] uses Home Assistant as the basis for his home automation, and he includes all of the code for getting this platform up and running there. It wouldn’t be too hard to get it running on other openers or even on other microcontroller platforms; the real key to this build is to recognize that sometimes it’s not necessary to reinvent the wheel with extra sensors, limit switches, or even power supplies when it’s possible to find those already in the hardware you’re modifying. This isn’t always possible, though, especially with more modern devices that might already be Internet-connected but probably don’t have great security.

Baseboard Heaters Get Automated

If you’re lucky enough to have central heating and/or air conditioning, with an automatic thermostat, you probably don’t have to worry too much about the outside temperature. But central HVAC is far from the only way of maintaining temperature in a home. From wood stoves to boilers there are many options depending on your climate and home type, and [Murphy’s Law] has a decentralized baseboard system instead of something centralized. An ESP8266 solution was found that was able to tie them all together.

There are other types of baseboard heaters, but in [Murphy’s Law]’s case the heaters were electric with a separate thermostat for each heater. Rather than build a control system from the ground up to replace the thermostats, turnkey smart wall switches were used instead. These switches happened to be based on the popular ESP8266 microcontroller, like plenty of other off-the-shelf automation solutions, which meant less work needed to be done on the line voltage side and the microcontroller’s firmware could be easily customized for use with Home Assistant.

While [Murphy’s Law] doesn’t live in the home with the fleet of electric baseboard heaters anymore, the new home has a single baseboard heater to keep a bathroom warm since the central heating system doesn’t quite keep it warm enough. This system is able to scale up or down based on number of heaters, though, so it’s still a capable solution for the single room and has since been updated to use the ESP32. All of the code for this project is available on GitHub as well, and for those of you attempting to add other HVAC components to a home automation system this project that loops in a heat pump is worth taking a look at as well.