Tag Archives: smart thermostat

Digital photo frame doubles as an energy monitor

While it might look like an ordinary digital picture frame, it’s so much more.

A digital photo frame that shares memorable moments of your life and saves you money on your electric bill each month? Picture that! That is the premise behind CEIVA Energy’s HomeView digital picture frame, which allows users to keep tabs on home energy use, without the need for another display showing boring information about kilowatt hours.


Founded in 2000 by former Disney executives, the Burbank, California company officially launched in 2011. Since its inception, the infiltration of smart devices throughout the home has led to an assortment of sophisticated thermostats, like the Google Nest and Honeywell Lyric, that can learn a homeowner’s energy consumption habits and automatically adjust the temperature accordingly to mitigate costs and unnecessary use.

While the idea of merging a digital photo display with energy data may seem a bit absurd, the team behind the frame believes it has developed a new, more intuitive alternative to increase customer engagement. And, as the smart home market continues to emerge, some consumers may find connected devices to either be too pricey or unnecessary, or the average consumer may just not be interested in another form of technology. What’s great about CEIVA HomeView is that it simply brings an accessory already found throughout your home into the digital-savvy era.

How it works is pretty simple. The frame displays a montage of photos uploaded by its owner on its 8-inch screen. Meanwhile, the ZigBee-enabled device wirelessly receives energy use data from the home’s smart meter. Once the information has been sent to and processed by CEIVA’s servers, the frame then displays home energy consumption approximately every 90 seconds. The data points are reduced to two or three numbers, not an entire chart or graphical representation that shares a bunch of confusing information. Instead, the gadget reveals useful things like electric rate and an estimated utility bill for that month.


While receiving information about current and historical electricity, water and gas usage is a welcomed addition into any home, users can also invite friends and family to send photos directly to the frame, send pictures to a frame remotely via the web, email, camera phone, tablet and social media channels, as well as insert a memory card and view a camera’s photos in real-time.

One of, if not the, most important feature of the HomeView is its security — an imperative element as the number of smart home hacks are on the rise. Equipped with an Atmel ATECC108 crypto engine, CEIVA notes that the frame never be replicated and all communications to and from frame are uniquely assigned for that specific. In other words, only you can view information and control your devices. This is because the ATECC108 provides a full turnkey Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm (ECDSA) engine using key sizes of 256 or 283 bits, which are appropriate for modern security environments without the long computation delay typical of software solutions.

Want a HomeView frame for your home? Head on over to company’s official page here. In the meantime, watch as CEIVA’s Jack McKee and Jack Brooks provide a hands-on overview of their latest smart device below.

A smart thermostat for the Landhuis

Michael is a member of a scout clubhouse (Landhuis) in the Netherlands. The old building housing the club isn’t exactly energy efficient, as it traditionally required two furnaces to heat the structure’s various nooks and crannies.

“The system directly connected five thermostats (each in a different room) to a valve responsible for the room the thermostat is in,” Michael explained in a recent blog post.

“When a valve opened, the furnace linked to it would start. So most of the time both furnaces would be on at the same time with only two rooms needing heat, which could be easily delivered by one furnace.”

The club members realized it was time to install a new, smart thermostat. However, rather than going the typical commercial route, the Landhuis decided to design a fresh system from scratch using parts subsidized by iPrototype.

The new thermostat is built around five DS18B20 temperature sensors, coupled with an i2c LCD(16×2) and a button in a wooden enclosure. Each thermostat is connected to a central Atmel-based Arduino Mega 2560 (ATmega2560).

“The one-wire bus for the sensors easily managed the long distances to each of the rooms (longest cable ~30m/98ft), the i2c though, was a lot harder to send over such a long wire (CAT5e FTP),” Michael added.

“An i2c bus buffer from NXP/Ti named P82B96 made it possible to send i2c signals over such a long bus, the whole bus being around 70m/230ft.”

Interested in learning more? You can check out HackADay’s write up here and the project’s official page here.