DIY ESP32 Video Doorbell Locks Out Big Brother

There’s no question that being able to see who’s at your front door from your computer or mobile device is convenient, which is why the market is currently flooded with video doorbells. Unfortunately, it’s not always clear who else has access to the images these devices capture. Organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation have argued that by installing one of these Internet-connected cameras on their front door, consumers are unwittingly contributing to a mass surveillance system that could easily be turned against them.

Luckily, there’s a solution. As [Sebastian] shows in his latest project, you can build your own video doorbell that replicates the features of the commercial offerings while ensuring you’re the only one who has access to the data by leveraging open source, community developed projects such as ESPHome and Home Assistant. At the same time, modern manufacturing techniques like desktop 3D printing and low-cost PCB fabrication mean your DIY doorbell doesn’t have to look like you made it yourself.

The project starts with a custom PCB that combines the ESP32, a camera module, a capacitive touch sensor, a relay to optionally trigger an electronic door lock, and a DC-DC converter that will let you power the device from a wide range of input voltages. The board even has a spot where you can solder on an additional 8 MB of external PSRAM for the ESP32, which will enable the chip to capture higher resolution video.

The electronics are housed in a minimalistic 3D printed enclosure that would fit right in alongside similar gadgets from the likes of Ring and Arlo; especially if you have access to a CNC and can cut the front panel out of acrylic. The lighted touch sensor looks phenomenal, and really gives the device a professional feel. That said, it doesn’t look like the case would last very long if exposed to harsh weather and there are some obvious physical security issues with this approach. But to be fair, we’ve seen the same problem with commercial hardware.

Naturally with a project like this, the hardware is only half of the story. It takes a considerable amount of software poking and prodding to get things like mobile device notifications working, and as a special added annoyance, the process is different depending on which MegaCorp produced the OS your gadget is running. [Sebastian] has documented the bulk of the process in the video after the break, but the finer points will likely need some adjustment depending on how you want to set things up.

This is an exceptionally impressive project for sure, but if the whole slick futuristic look isn’t your style, you could always opt to go with the DIY video door bell that looks like it came from an alternate reality version of 1986.

Continue reading “DIY ESP32 Video Doorbell Locks Out Big Brother”

Wemo Smart Plug Gets Brain Transplant

Like many modern smart home gadgets, Belkin’s Wemo brand of smart plugs has a tendency to phone home every time you turn on a lamp. [Gigawatts] wasn’t having it, so they figured out how to flash the device with OpenWRT and replicated its original functionality with a web interface. Unfortunately this stopped working after awhile, and rather than trying to diagnose the issue, it seemed the time would be better spent simplifying the whole thing.

As [Gigawatts] explains, there are actually two separate boards inside the Wemo plug. One holds the relay to do the high-voltage switching, and the other provides the control. They are linked with a three wire connector, making it exceptionally simple to swap out the original controller for something different. The connector supplies 5 V and ground, all you’ve got to do is pull the third wire high to flick the switch.

While the ESP8266 probably would have been the first choice for many a Hackaday reader, [Gigawatts] actually went with the Moteino, a low-power Arduino compatible board with integrated RFM69 transceiver. With an LED to indicate status and a few lines of code tweaked, the Moteino got this once WiFi-only smart plug speaking a new language.

There’s some debate over how effective smart plugs are from an energy efficiency standpoint, but even if this reborn Wemo doesn’t help [Gigawatts] save much power, at least it won’t be blabbing about everything to a third-party.

Replace Your IR Remote With A Web Browser

While more and more consumer products are rushing to include WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, the simplicity and reliability of infrared has kept it in the game in the game far longer than many might have thought. Despite being thinner and sleeker, the IR remote control that comes with your brand new smart TV isn’t fundamentally different than what we were using in the 1980s.

But that doesn’t mean IR devices can’t enjoy some modern conveniences. Sick of misplacing his remote, [Sasa Karanovic] decided to come up with a way he could emulate it to control his TV over the network. Now with nothing more exotic than a web browser on his phone or computer, he can tap away at a visual representation of a remote to control the TV from anywhere in the house. As you might expect, this project could readily be adapted to control whatever IR gadget you might have in mind.

Assembling a simple IR transmitter dongle.

Admittedly, this isn’t exactly breaking any new ground. We’ve seen plenty of people come up with similar IR gateways in the past with varying levels of complexity. But what we really like about this project is that not only has [Sasa] shared the source code that turns an ESP32 into a network-controlled IR transmitter, but he’s put together a concise video that demonstrates how easy it is so spin up your own version. The 3D printed enclosure that looks like a traditional IR remote was a nice touch too.

The hardware for this project is little more than an ESP32 development board and an LED, but if you’re looking for something a bit more built for purpose, we recently saw a very slick open hardware IR gateway that might fit your needs.

Continue reading “Replace Your IR Remote With A Web Browser”

Automation With A New Twist

Turning on a lightbulb has never been easier. You can do it from your mobile. Voice activation through home assistants is robust. Wall switches even play nicely with the above methods. It was only a matter of time before someone decided to make it fun, if you consider a Rubik’s cube enjoyable. [Alastair Aitchison] at Playful Technology demonstrated that it is possible to trigger a relay when you match all the colors. Video also after the break.

The cube does little to obfuscate game data, so in this scope, it sends unencrypted transmissions. An ESP32 with [Alastair]’s Arduino code, can track each movement, and recognize a solved state. In the video, he solves the puzzle, and an actuator releases a balloon. He talks about some other cool things this could do, like home automation or a puzzle room, which is in his wheelhouse judging by the rest of his YouTube channel.

We would love to see different actions perform remote tasks. Twisting the top could set a timer for 1-2-3-4-5 minutes, while the bottom would change the bedroom lights from red-orange-yellow-green-blue-violet. Solving the puzzle should result in a barrage of NERF darts or maybe keep housemates from cranking the A/C on a whim.

Continue reading “Automation With A New Twist”

Reviving A DOA Smart Bulb With Custom Firmware For Its ESP8266

There are some incredibly cheap WiFi smart bulbs on the market these days, but as is often the case, you tend to get what you pay for. When [Viktor] took delivery of his latest bargain basement bulb, the thing didn’t even work. So much for Quality Assurance. On the plus side, it was a great excuse to pop it open and replace the firmware.

For anyone wondering, [Viktor] never actually figured out why the bulb didn’t work. Its ESP8266-based control board was getting power, and data was getting spit out of the serial port when he connected it to the computer (although he never got the communications settings right to actually see what it was saying). But he also didn’t care much; once he confirmed that the hardware was good, he just uploaded the custom firmware he’d previously developed for another ESP8266 bulb.

Of course, it wasn’t quite that easy. The chances that both bulbs would have used the same GPIO pins to control the red, green, blue, and white LEDs were pretty slim. But after some testing and modifications to the code, he was able to fire them up. The other issue was a bit trickier, as it turned out the bulb’s flash chip was too small to hold his firmware’s web configuration pages. So he had to break out the hot air gun and replace the SPI flash chip with something a bit roomier. We suppose he could have just made smaller web pages… but where’s the fun in that?

Even with the chip swap, this looks a lot easier than building your own smart bulbs from scratch. With so many cheap ESP8266 bulbs on the market, it seems there’s never been a better time to code your own home lighting solution.

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.

Continue reading “Pop Open Your Neighbor’s Front Door With 12 Volts”

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.