Automating your home with human-like senses

Maker creates an entire home automation system using Arduino and Raspberry Pi.

Over the years, we’ve seen a number of innovative projects using both Raspberry Pi and Arduino boards. And, this latest convergence surely doesn’t disappoint! With the Internet of Things infiltrating nearly every facet of our life, Maker Eric Tsai recently decided to design a slick home automation platform that could do just about anything from in and around the house.


Rather than simply use the ‘duino-Pi combination to automate things such as blinds or lights, the Maker elected to outfit his home with a full range of wireless sensor nodes on everything (and everywhere) that needed monitoring. Think of it as equipping your house with human-like senses. These nodes relay the data to a wireless gateway and the Arduino Uno (ATmega328), which in turn sends the data to the Raspberry Pi. The board then uploads the collected data to the web where owners can monitor their homes directly from their smartphones.

“Using this setup, that boatload of cheap sensors can now be on the Internet. They can email you when things get too hot, too cold, too smokie, too gassy, or too bright. And your dog can email you by barking. You can also view the status of sensors on your smartphone. These sensor nodes are wireless, so you’re not constrained by the location of Ethernet ports,” he writes.


The concept first originated as a way for Tsai to be immediately notified when his dog barked; however, that idea quickly turned into a project for the entire home, which included a variety of long range wireless sensors integrated into a sophisticated open-source automation server.

On the software side, the project is based on the OpenHAB program, which makes the system available through web browser and smartphone. What’s more, the communication between the display device and the Raspberry Pi is securely accomplished via encryption and authentication.


One area in particular worth mentioning is the Uber Sensor and the washer-dryer module. For the Uber Sensor, Tsai packed everything possible into the Arduino, including a sound sensor to detect when a cycle starts ends, a PIR presence sensor to determine when a load is picked up, a water detection circuit to signify if there is a leak or overflow, a light sensor to know when a laundry room light is left on, and a temperature sensor, well, just because.


“I combined several sensors into this wireless Uber Sensor node. This sensor is powered via USB adapter, but it communicates wirelessly to the gateway, so you can place this where ever it has access to a power outlet. And you don’t have to build the whole thing, you can pick and choose which sensors you actually want.”

Using his smartphone to access the OpenHAB user interface, Tsai can enable email notifications for the sensors of his choosing. Once an alarm is activated, an email is sent the moment that a sensor detects something.


Sure, you can purchase your own home automation system, but this DIY setup will run you less than $300. You can find a pretty detailed step-by-step guide on the project’s official Instructables page here.

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