Tag Archives: DIY Smart Home

This Arduino-compatible board makes it easy to automate your home

This versatile, AVR-based board allows users to easily program their own home automation systems.

Though the number of smart home devices continue to rise, a number of consumers still remain a bit hesitant in shelling out the big bucks to automate their homes. Instead, many Makers have already begun to devise connected in-house gadgets using easy-to-use platforms like Arduino and Raspberry Pi. With this in mind, one Miami-based startup has launched a Kickstarter campaign for an ATmega328P based board that looks to help streamline the process for Makers looking to install home automations of their own using the Arduino IDE.


Created by the GarageLab team, the aptly-named Automation Board packs a wide range of features including relay triggering, Wi-Fi, Internet connectivity, various sensors, as well as RS-485 communication. The extremely versatile platform is entirely compatible with the Arduino Uno, and offers all of the necessary resources one would require to create a smart home system.

With its power source soldered onto the unit itself, the device is charged from the electrical grid with voltages between 100 to 240VAC and 50-60Hz, making it adaptable to any grid around the globe. It also has four relays to trigger alarms, electronic locks, fans, lamps or any other compatible load.


Knowing all too well that connecting sensors can be a tedious task for Makers, the Automation Board was designed to expedite the process. Meaning, the pins that are ready to link to a sensor can be either digital or analog, and include 5V and ground. This lets users attach several kinds of sensors, ranging from an IR sensor to create communication with a TV remote or motion to trigger an alarm.

Similar to the incredibly popular Arduino platform, the Automation Board offers tremendous expandability through the use of shields. What’s more, the platform allows for RS-485 connection, ideal for applications in industrial automation systems or in settings with electromagnetic interference. It should be pointed out that users will be able to utilize spcific programs to integrate with existing professionals systems as well.


Through its dedicated headers for XBee modules, Makers will be able to connect as many Automation Boards as they wish to a network. Beyond that, they can wirelessly communicate with a PC via a simple XBee Dongle USB, or even access their automation system over the web using a SparkFun WiFly module.

“In order to make your system even more versatile, we’ve created this ‘Sidekick’ board as a very interesting accessory. It’s compact and can be powered directly from the electrical grid as it has connectors for XBee and 2 relays,” the GarageLab crew writes. “This board can be controlled by signals sent from an Automation Board, allowing it to trigger distant loads through a wireless network. You will be able to use as many ‘Sidekicks’ as you wish, triggering several charges in a same wireless installation.”


Are you thinking of using an Arduino to automate your home? Hurry over to the Automation Board’s Kickstarter campaign, where the GarageLab team is currently seeking $3,000. Delivery is expected to begin in August 2015.

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.