Pop Open Your Neighbor’s Front Door With 12 Volts

Many in the community are skeptical about the security of commercial smart home devices, and for good reason. It’s not like you have to look far to find examples of poorly implemented systems, or products that are abandoned by their manufacturers and left without critical security updates. But the design flaw in this video doorbell really drives home how little thought some companies give to their customer’s security.

As explained by [Savvas], and demonstrated in the video after the break, all you need to do if you want to get into a home equipped with one of these vulnerable door bells is pop the unit off the wall and hit it with 12 volts DC.

Incredibly, the terminals that connect to the electronic lock inside the house are completely accessible on the back of the unit. They even labeled them, on the off-chance the robber forgets which wire is which. It’s not even as though the thing is held on with some kind of weird security screws, it’s just a garden variety Phillips.

In the video, [Savvas] even shows he used a little gadget attached to a QuickCharge USB battery bank to get a portable 12 VDC source suitable for tripping these locks. Which, interestingly enough, is based on a trick he read about in the Hackaday comments. Something to consider while penning your next comment on these storied pages.

[Savvas] says he’s reached out to the company to get their side of the story, but so far, hasn’t received a response. We aren’t surprised, this is a fundamental flaw in the product’s execution. Clearly they wanted to make an easy to install device that doesn’t require any additional electronics in the house, and this is the inevitable end result of that oversimplification. All the more reason to roll your own smart doorbell.

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Smart Home Meets Dumb Terminal

Most smart home products are designed to be controlled from a mobile device, which makes sense since that’s what the average consumer spends most of their day poking around on these days. But you aren’t the average consumer, are you? If you’re looking for a somewhat more tactile experience, then why not put your smart home dashboard on a vintage serial terminal as [Daniel Karpantschof] did?

So how do you get the latest and greatest in home automation talking to a serial terminal built before the Internet as we know it? With Python, of course. [Daniel] has some code running on a Linux server that’s actually taking to his various smart home gadgets, which then spits out a simple ASCII user interface that his circa 1976 ADM-3A terminal can handle; complete with a floor plan view of the house that shows the temperature in different rooms.

Naturally, that’s only half the battle. You still need to get that interface onto the terminal. For that, [Daniel] is using the “Simulant Retro WiFi Modem” that we’ve covered in the past. An ESP8266 connects to the network and shuffles data over to the target device over serial. It’s all transparent to the terminal itself, so this project could be reproduced with whatever vintage machine holds a special place in your heart.

An ESP32 Home Automation Swiss Army Knife

Thanks to the ESP8266 and the ESP32, we’ve seen an explosion in DIY home automation projects recently. When it only takes $3 and a few lines of code to bring your gadgets onto the network, that’s hardly a surprise. But hacking bare ESP modules onto devices will only get you so far. Eventually you’ll probably want to put together a slightly more mature home automation system, and that’s where things can get a little tricky.

Which is why [Alfredo] created the Maisken Homelay. This device is a one-stop-shop for your home automation needs that leverages the power of the ESP32. With the microcontroller slotted into this compact PCB, you’ll be able to trigger four relays for your high current or AC loads, and still have 8 GPIOs and the I2C bus for expansion. All while retaining compatibility with existing open source projects like Home Assistant and ESPHome.

What really sets this project apart is the attention to detail. [Alfredo] has included a HLK-PM01 power supply on the board which takes mains voltage and brings it down to 5 VDC for the ESP32, so won’t need a separate power cable. He’s also taken the time to add isolation slots to separate the potential high-voltage connected to the relays from the rest of the board, added current and thermal fuses for protection, and peppered the board with screw terminals so you can easily connect everything up.

Sure you could get a simple relay board shipped to your door for a few bucks from the usual suspects. But it’s not going to offer the kind of quality of life and safety features that the Maisken Homelay has. There’s even a 3D printed enclosure available to help tidy things up.

With some of the blatantly anti-consumer decisions big-name home automation companies have been making recently, there’s more reason than ever to roll your own smart home using open source hardware and software. It still takes more effort than buying a bunch of modules from the Big Box retailer, but projects like this one are certainly starting to blur the line between consumer and DIY.

The Smart Home Gains An Extra Dimension

With an ever-growing range of smart-home products available, all with their own hubs, protocols, and APIs, we see a lot of DIY projects (and commercial offerings too) which aim to provide a “single universal interface” to different devices and services. Usually, these projects allow you to control your home using a list of devices, or sometimes a 2D floor plan. [Wassim]’s project aims to take the first steps in providing a 3D interface, by creating an interactive smart-home controller in the browser.

Note: this isn’t just a rendered image of a 3D scene which is static; this is an interactive 3D model which can be orbited and inspected, showing information on lights, heaters, and windows. The project is well documented, and the code can be found on GitHub. The tech works by taking 3D models and animations made in Blender, exporting them using the .glTF format, then visualising them in the browser using three.js. This can then talk to Hue bulbs, power meters, or whatever other devices are required. The technical notes on this project may well be useful for others wanting to use the Blender to three.js/browser workflow, and include a number of interesting demos of isolated small key concepts for the project.

We notice that all the meshes created in Blender are very low-poly; is it possible to easily add subdivision surface modifiers or is it the vertex count deliberately kept low for performance reasons?

This isn’t our first unique home automation interface, we’ve previously written about shAIdes, a pair of AI-enabled glasses that allow you to control your devices just by looking at them. And if you want to roll your own home automation setup, we have plenty of resources. The Hack My House series contains valuable information on using Raspberry Pis in this context, we’ve got information on picking the right sensors, and even enlisting old routers for the cause.

The Open Source Smart Home

[Tijmen Schep] sends in his project, Candle Smart Home, which is an exhibit of 12 smart home devices which are designed around the concepts of ownership, open source, and privacy.

The central controller runs on a Raspberry Pi which is running Mozilla’s new smart home operating system. Each individual device is Arduino based, and when you click through on the site you get a well designed graphic explaining how to build each device.

It’s also fun to see how many people worked together on this project and added their own flair. Whether it’s a unique covering for the devices or a toggle switch that can toggle itself there’s quite a few personal touches.

As anyone who’s had the sneaking suspicion that Jeff Bezos was listening in to their conversations, we get the need for this. We also love how approachable it makes hacking your own hardware. What are your thoughts?

Building IoT Devices The Easy Way

Do you have a Raspberry Pi? What is it being used for right now? If you’re like the majority of people who replied to [Michael Hall’s] poll on Twitter, it’s likely yours is sitting on a shelf doing nothing too. So why not just turn it into an IoT device for your home?

[Michael] wrote an easy-to-follow guide focusing on getting the EdgeX Foundry IoT platform running on the Raspberry Pi. It is designed to be a unified multi-platform base for IoT devices hosted by the Linux Foundation, making it easy to control and integrate them into other systems. The framework for this consists of two parts, a Device Service running on your Pi, and the rest of the services running on a desktop or laptop where you’ll be monitoring it.

His guide goes into detail on how to get both parts working on your computer and your Pi using Docker for ease of installation. As for the IoT device, he uses the built-in PIR sensor example to show how to configure it without having to write any programming. You can then monitor the device’s sensors, which you can just connect straight to the Pi’s GPIO pins, from your desktop. Since the EdgeX software is designed to run on any flavor of Linux, this should make it easy to repurpose any forgotten single-board computer into the beginnings of a home automation system.

However, if you are confident in your programming skills, you’re probably looking for something slimmer such as the ESP8266 family of microcontrollers to do your bidding. Why not try an energy monitor or a smoke detector project with them?

Teardown: Quirky Egg Minder

Many of the biggest stars are hesitant to do sequels, believing that the magic captured the first time around is hard to reproduce in subsequent productions. As I’m known (at least around the former closet that now serves as my home office) as the “Meryl Streep of Teardowns”, I try to follow her example when it comes to repeat performances. But if they could get her to come back for another Mamma Mia film, I suppose I can take a look at a second Quirky product.

An elderly egg calls to inquire about euthanasia services.

This time around we’ll be looking at the Quirky Egg Minder, a smart device advertised as being able to tell you when your eggs are getting old. Apparently, this is a problem some people have. A problem that of course is best solved via the Internet of Things, because who wouldn’t pay $80 USD for a battery-powered WiFi device that lives in their refrigerator and communicates vital egg statistics to an online service?

As it turns out, the answer to that question is “most people”. The Egg Minder, like most of its Quirky peers, quickly became a seemingly permanent fixture of retailer’s clearance shelves. This particular unit, which I was able to pick up new from Amazon, only cost me $9.99. This is still more than I would have paid under normal circumstances, but such sacrifices are part and parcel with making sure the readers of Hackaday get their regular dose of unusual gadgetry.

You may recall that our last Quirky device, the “Refuel” propane tank monitor, ended up being a fantastically engineered and built piece of hardware. The actual utility of the product was far from certain, but nobody could deny that the money had been spent in all the right places.

What will the internals of the Egg Minder reveal? Will it have the same level of glorious over-engineering that took us by surprise with the Refuel? Will that zest for form over function ultimately become the legacy of these Quirky devices, or was it just a fluke? Let’s crack this egg and find out.

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