Smart home vs an automated home

Smart v automated home
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Introduction

In this article I'll touch on the Internet Of Things (IOT) and what it is.  I will talk about, and show similarities and differences between a smart home versus an automated home.  I will talk about different home automation software packages and different ways to gear your IOT devices towards making your home more of a smart home.

Internet Of Things

You may have heard the terms IOT or IOE before and said, what the heck is that.  IOT stands for the Internet Of Things.  Similarily, IOE stands for the Internet Of Everything.  IOT and IOE,  in it's broadest sense is the process of making the things that we use every day, in some way shape or form, connected to the internet.  These things have various sensors and control functions.  Being connected to the internet allows outside access to to the data and control that those sensors and controls provide.  IOT is a way of simplifying the world around you.  IDC, a market intelligence research firm, says that there are around 13 billion connected devices in use worldwide already.  Business Insider (BI) Intelligence projects 34 billion devices will be connected by 2020.

Home automation projects

X10 LogoOne aspect of IOT that is becoming more common is home automation.  Home automation is nothing new though.  My start into home automation began many years ago with X10.  I found it nice to be able to control devices remotely.  With their software called ActiveHome, I could also automate things with motion sensors and timers using a computer.  After using it for a bit, I found that there were things that I wanted to do that my X10 hardware could not.  Since then I have tried a number of different software packages, most of which fit in the realm of home automation platforms.Automation controllers  Some of these have included MisterHouse, Domoticz and most recently my VeraPlus controller.  I have another blog post talking about my home automation setup.  https://dan.bemowski.info/2017/06/11/my-home-automation-setup/

OSA smart homeOne project I was a part of that geared itself toward being more of a smart home system than an automated home system.  That project was called Open Source Automation, or OSA.  The features that drew me toward the system were it's ability to integrate a number of different types of hardware into one system.  Another thing that drew me toward it was it's focus towards being a smart home controller. When I was on the project, the smart home features were in their infancy, but moving forward.

Smart home vs automated home

So what is the difference between an automated house and a smart house.  The ability for you to turn devices on and off from your phone, and scheduling lights and other devices to turn on and off on different schedules, simply means that you have an automated home.  You may ask then, how is that different from a smart home.  A smart home adds other layers on to the automated home system giving it a new level of functionality.

The broadest aspect of a smart home is gathering lots of data.  Smart homes are made of many data gathering tools and sensors.  Gather more data and you can  make more intelligent decisions based on that data.  Another thing we'll throw into the mix is objects.  These objects have many properties.  The properties of these objects, combined with data that your system has collected can now make smart decisions.  Now your system is gearing up to be a smart house.

One of the biggest pieces of data in all of this, and the most difficult to manage, is occupancy sensing.  A basic level of occupancy sensing is to put motion sensors in a room that will turn lights on and off.  However, the use of a motion sensor will only tell your system that one or more people occupy an area.  Now what if you could tell how many people were in that area.  To take that a step further, what if you could tell exactly who was in a particular area.  Now you can make smart decisions based on that added data.  

People objects

People iconPreviously we mentioned objects and their corresponding properties.  So lets say we defined a person as one of those objects.  We'll define two "person" objects using myself (Dan) and my wife (Karen) as examples.  So let's say Dan likes the temperature in a room to be 70° and he likes a lot of light in a room.  Two properties for Dan would then be "temp = 70°" and "lightLevel = 100%".  Now Karen likes the temperature in a room to be 67° and have the lights a little dimmer, so her two properties would be "temp = 67°" and "lightLevel = 70%".  Let's combine this with motion sensing with person recognition.  You can now define your rule on your main controller to say:

If ( motion_sensed ) {
    if (furnace_mode == off ) {
        set furnace = on; //Turn the furnace on if someone is in the area
    }  
    set furnace_temp = temp; //Set the temperature to the users desired temp
    set lights = lightLevel ; //Set the lights to the users desired light level
    }
}

So with that, if I walk into the room and the furnace is off, it will set the temperature to 70° and turn the lights on to 100%.  If my wife walks in under the same scenario, The furnace will set itself to 67° and the lights will dim to 70%.

As you can see, the more data you can gather, the smarter, more informed decisions your automation controller can make based on that data.  Using this approach can save energy and improve the quality of life for the occupants.  You should now be able to tell the difference between a smart house and an automated house.

Conclusion

So to sum it up, an automated house gives you control of devices from an external source such as a smart phone and limited action from other sensors such as motion sensors.  A smart house makes it's decisions using multiple factors and sensors.  Check out the ongoing discussion on this topic on the MySensors website https://forum.mysensors.org/topic/7814/a-smart-home-vs-an-automated-home/ .

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Temperature-humidity sensor

Temperature & Humidity
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Description

This post will outline how I built some temperature-humidity sensors for my home automation setup to use in a couple rooms in my house.  I'll explain some of the options I tried before coming to my final design.  I will also give you links to where you can purchase the parts and to download the 3D printer files for the enclosure.

Introduction

This originally started from an idea I had for my home automation setup to put a temperature and humidity sensor in my main bathroom.  The main reason for this was to help a small problem with occasional small mold spots on my ceiling.  This was most likely due to humidity in the bathroom.  When someone would take a shower, they would turn on the vent fan before showering, and then off shortly after.  The problem is that when the vent fan is shut off, there still may be excess humidity in the room that could eventually cause the mold.

The idea was that I could have a controller on the vent fan for the bathroom that would turn on when the humidity reached a certain level, and then would also turn off when below another level.  The two levels would factor in some hysteresis to the equation to prevent the fan from continually starting and stopping when the humidity is near a certain level.   By doing this, the humidity in the room would be dropped to a safe level before shutting off, thus preventing the mold problem.

The temperature-humidity sensor design ideas

So I needed to figure out everything I would need for the project.  My primary home automation setup revolves around MySensors nodes.  Those nodes talk to my Vera Plus automation controller.  I decided to make the temperature and humidity sensor a MySensors node.  The exhaust fan control, which I have yet to do, will be controlled by a converted Sonoff module.  For this article i'll focus on the Temperature and humidity sensor. 

Below is a list of the things I needed to create the sensor.  The basic list was simple

  • A circuit board for the project.  
  • A micro-controller to control the sensor.
  • A temperature and humidity sensor.
  • Some kind of power source.
  • An enclosure to mount the sensor to the wall.

On to building the prototype

Easy/Newbie PCBFor the circuit board, I had a number of the MySensors Easy/Newbie circuit boards, so I thought that would be a good choice.  For that board I needed an Arduino Pro Mini, and an nRf24L01+ radio.  

Now I needed to choose a temperature-humidity sensor.  I had both some DHT11 and some DHT22 sensors.  The DHT22 is a higher resolution sensor, so I originally decided to try that one.  Through some testing with the DHT22 sensor I found that the power consumption was too high.  HDC1080 thumbnailI did some looking and found the HDC1080 sensor.  This sensor connects to the I2C bus and uses very low power.  It's low power consumption made it ideal for use on a battery operated node.   By removing the regulator and power LED from the Pro Mini I was able to run this sensor for a week with no significant power drain on a set of 2 - AA batteries.

The last piece of the puzzle was an enclosure.  The enclosure had to be vented since I was measuring temperature and humidity.  It also needed to be able to hold a battery  or set of batteries.  I figured that I should find the battery box first, and then design the sensor enclosure around that and the PCB.  I settled on this one.

The enclosure design

I have dealt with temperature sensor enclosures before, so I had some ideas on what the enclosure should look like.  temperature-humidity wall boxI turned to OpenSCAD and came up with a basic design.  The box was vented, it had mounting tabs for the PCB and a place to hold the battery box.  temperature-humidity wall plateI decided to make it easy to remove from the wall if needed and made the wall plate with two tabs that the cover could lock on to. 

Since the creation of the first prototype wall box, I have done a couple revisions to the design.  This is what the final design looks like.temperature-humidity wall box V3
Version 3 of the wall box is highly configurable and can be adapted to other configurations if needed.  All versions of the wall box can be found on my thingiverse page https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2186286

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My personal weather station

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Description

For a while now I have wanted to add a personal weather station to my home automation system. The idea was to use the data collected for things like controlling when my lawn sprinklers run.  I also plan on using temperature and humididty data to determine things like heating and cooling (HVAC) operations. In this post I will log the ongoing details of my modular personal weather station project. With the help of my new Anet A8 3D printer that I purchased earlier this year, I was able to use it to build all of the parts needed for the project. The project was started a while ago, but I didn't have a place at the time to post my progress, so here it is.

Details

So far I am working on 4 parts to the weather station. Wind speed anemometer, wind direction vane, rainfall gauge and a temperature and humidity sensor. All sensors need to communicate to my home automation system over my MySensors network. I am hoping that I can control all data collection with a single arduino pro mini built on a MySensors Easy/Newbie PCB created by Sundberg84 from the MySensors forum. In this post I will outline each modular section of the project. All of the 3D printed parts for this have been designed in OpenSCAD and will eventually be posted on my thingiverse page.  This post is a work in progress.  Check back to see more information.

 The anemometer and wind direction vane

 The first part of the project that I started with was a combination of two sensors.  An anemometer for measuring wind speed and a wind vane for determining wind direction.weather station wind sensor This is the first prototype design of the 3D printed parts.  Some minor changes have been made since this design.  The first was to invert the center mount sections so the screws screwed in from the bottom.  This put the wind direction vane on the  piece with the square mounting peg and the anemometer was moved to the other piece.  The reason for this was to keep rain from collecting in the small screw recesses and potentially getting inside the case.  The next change which I am in the process of printing as I write this, is a new piece with a round mounting peg instead of a square one.  This was done because of a later decision to mount everything using schedule 40 PVC electrical conduit.weather station wind speed sensor rotor

The anemometer is mounted with a ball bearing that is press fit into the cap.  The shaft, a 1/4 x 20 bolt with a small rotor that has a magnet mounted in one end and that will pass by a magnetic reed switch.  The arduino will use the counted pulses from the reed switch to determine the wind speed. The anemometer cup design was borrowed from a project on thingiverse, but I can't seem to find the original that I used.  The cups, arms and main shaft attachment are all separate printed parts that I have glued together.  This made for an easier build on my 3D printer.

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My start into open source hardware

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So I decided to get my feet wet on creating my first commercially manufactured circuit boards to release as open source hardware.  For one of my automation projects Prototype switch boardI had built some custom in-wall automation scene controllers based on MySensors.  The controller consisted of 3 boards; the power supply board, the computer board (Arduino Pro Mini) and the switch board (first prototype seen on the left).   30x70 proto boardAll three of the circuit boards were built on standard 30mm x 70mm prototyping circuit boards like these.   My first fully assembled version of the controller can be seen below.  Though the design seemed to work good, they were a bit of a pain to put together.  Prototype scene controllerBuilding one controller on prototyping boards and wiring it all up took 4 hours or more.  After building 3 of them and seeing how they worked, I wanted more, but I didn't want to spend all the time making them.  So, it was time to get my feet wet on PCB manufacturing.

The design

So I figured that if I was going to be making a number of these, I wanted the design to be flexible.  I wanted to be able to do more with it than just a scene controller.  Having the 3 separate boards made it modular.  I figured I would design it so that I could build more than just switch boards for the face of the CPU board.

The main board

Scene controller main boardFor the design of the main board I broke out all digital and analog IO lines from the pro mini except for A6 and A7.  I also have ground, raw 5 volt power plus the 3.3 volt regulated power from the pro mini available on 2 single inline header connectors.  A4 and A5 on J3 also provide I2C capabilities to the front board.  With all of these, the only limit to what can go on the front board is what you can fit in the small space..

The keypad board

Keypad board PCB design The design of the keypad board may look a bit crowded, but it was designed that way to make it flexible.  Many different keypad designs can be made from this one board.   I had gotten the idea for this type of design from a video I had seen by a guy in Australia named Jonathan Oxer.  He had designed light switches for his house and designed a single universal circuit board that allowed him to use that one board for building different switch configurations.  You can find the video here http://www.superhouse.tv/arduino-light-switches/ .  His other videos on home automation are well worth watching.  Check out his website here.   The keypads can be made with or without indicator LEDs.
4 button keypad2 button keypadStandard paddle keypadThe buttons can have any text embossed on them, or they can just be left blank. Here are just 3 examples of the many different wall switch designs that can be made using this board.  No need to have separate boards printed when you want to put together a new switch.  Just grab a board, print the switch layout on your favorite 3D printer and screw it together.  Done!

The power supply

Power supply boardThere is nothing fancy with the power supply board.  It is based on the standard HLK-PM01 power supply module that will take a wide input voltage (90 ~ 264V AC) and convert it down to the 5 volts needed to power the controller.  The output is filtered with a 0.1uf ceramic capacitor as well as a 10uf electrolytic to help stabilize the voltage supplied to the controller.  On the AC input side, a standard 0.75A glass fuse as well as a 73°C (163°F) thermal fuse is used for maximum protection since this will be used in wall.  You can never be too careful.

Conclusion

In the future, I will design  other sensor boards to be used with this controller.  This is an open source design, so feel free to take the gerbers and design your own sensors for it.  I hope you like the design.  Let me know your thoughts.

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My Home Automation Setup

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The start

So over the years I have mostly used X10 for my home automation hardware. I used it because it was pretty much the cheapest solution out there. The hardware worked, but it had it's problems and limitations. So last year when my Raspberry Pi had died that I had running a PERL based automation software called MisterHouse, I wanted to explore other solutions. I ended up stumbling on the MySensors website. MySensors is an open source DIY home automation hardware platform that works with a good number of automation controller softwares, many of which are open source themselves. Orange Pi PC Board I started with a software called Domoticz and had it running on a new kind of development board that I picked up cheap ($18 US). The board is the Orange Pi PC.  The board is roughly the same size as a Raspberry Pi and it runs a similar version of embedded linux.   All I needed to do to get started with MySensors was to build a gateway node that  would talk to the sensors.  There were a few different options for communications hardware.  nRF24L01+ BoardI ended up choosing the nRF24L01+ radio boards.  The main reason was because hey were wireless which meant that I could put sensors in places that before were near impossible.  But they were also cheap.  I was hooked.  I could build whatever sensors I wanted, and there were plenty of examples to get me started.  My goal was to completely replace my old X10 hardware and upgrade it to MySensors as much as possible.  I started with a node for controlling and monitoring my garage door opener.  From there I was hooked.  I wanted to MySensorize everything.  So it continued.

Changing controllers yet again

So after using Domoticz for a while, I ended up finding a few limitations.  Being a member of the MySensors forum for a while, I decided to do some searching.  I noticed that a few of the people on the site were using a platform called Vera.  Vera is a hardware device type of automation controller and it has a plugin architecture that can support many different types of hardware, one of them being MySensors.  I ended up requesting and getting a Vera Plus controller as a gift.  It is a great platform and is very customizable with LUA scripting.   The plugins for it are pretty much all built with LUA script.  I have yet to find a problem I can't solve with it.

My current setup

I currently have 40 plus home automation nodes and it keeps growing.  From MySensors nodes to WiFi controlled relays to my Amazon Echo and more, my system continues to grow.  I am always looking for new ways to automate my life.  I don't think I will ever stop.

Conclusion

I encourage you to go out and automate your life.  It is a lot of fun.  Check back to see other posts from me about my journey through my automated life.

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