Site re-design

Just a quick update.

Things are been quiet on the blog posting front as I am working on a re-design of the blog layout and theme.

The site has grown and the topics are starting to reach beyond just heating systems. Therefore the blog name will be changing to Internet Of Things @ Home.

You will still be able to reach the site through the old URL and Intelligent Heating will form a subsection of the new larger site.

We also have a new URL to match the new name iothome.org which will come online soon!

Keep your eyes peeled for the update soon.

Quick update

Just a quick update:

Open home automation book

Marco from Open Home Automation net has sent me a copy of his new book to review. You can check his book out here:

http://openhomeautomation.net/home-automation-arduino/

Hadoop on the Raspberry Pi

I’ve set up a multi-node implementation of Hadoop using Raspberry Pi’s. More on this in coming posts.

Arduino YÚN

Arduino are releasing an exciting new board soon check it out on their website:

http://arduino.cc/en/Main/ArduinoYUN

WeMo – Switch

Introduction

In a previous blogpost I had mentioned how we were starting to see more commercial products hit the building automation space geared towards the home user.

One example of this was the WeMo product line by Belkin. Belkin has released a number of devices that can be hooked up with your mobile phone and controlled on your home network.

Currently the WeMo line consists of:

WeMo switch – a plug socket that runs over WiFi, can be programmed to switch on/off and can be manually controlled vi a mobile app

WeMo Motion – a motion sensing device that can be used to control a WeMo switch

WeMo Baby – a baby monitoring device

(Coming soon) WeMo light switch – a light switch that can also be controlled over WiFi.

WeMo switch

I was recently in the Verizon store and saw they had the WeMo switch product for sale. I picked up one of the switch devices and decided to give it a try.

The WeMo switch can be plugged into any standard plug socket and then electrical devices can be plugged in and switched on and off remotely. This is a similar concept to the fan example I gave in my book, where you can use a relay to switch a fan on and off – although in that instance a thermistor was being used to say when to toggle between on/off.

Setting it up was incredibly simple. You plug it into the wall and follow the instruction card in the box. This essentially consisted of connecting to the device directly (it is configured by default as a type of access point that allows you to connect to it for configuration), downloading the app for your phone, setting it up to run on your home WiFi network and then changing the settings as needed.

You can name each WeMo device and take a photo to assign to it as an icon, which I thought was a nice touch.

I have a small heater in one of our rooms and this device could be perfect for being able to switch it on in winter remotely before getting home from work – however you may want to consider using a VPN rather than the  “Remote Access” option in the app which allows you to control the device when not connected to your home network.  There are certain security implications with all of this I will touch on in a moment.

At $49.99 it has a fairly hefty price tag for a single plug socket. Equipping your whole house with these devices could potentially be pretty expensive, so having one of two is more likely to be the case for most users. Although as for devices hit the market I would expect to see prices fall – I wonder if Ikea will get in on the game at some point.

Security

You are probably thinking already of a ton of devices you could plugin to the the WeMo switch and I had mentioned above the idea of plugging a heater in. However I would approach this with caution.

Hack A Day published an article back in January on the potential security flaws in the WeMo switch product and how root access could be gained by hacking the switch. You can read the article here:

http://hackaday.com/2013/01/31/turning-the-belkin-wemo-into-a-deathtrap/

I’m sure Belkin will address these issues (and may have already with Firmware updates) however it is worth remembering that we live in an ever more connected world and having certain devices online that could get owned could have some nasty consequences.

If you wish to control the WeMo device from ‘off-site’ you will need to enable the remote access option (and potentially open ports on your fire wall) or setup some sort of VPN configuration for your home which will allow you to access your home network remotely. That is out of scope of this article as it deserves a whole number of posts covering the topic.

The VPN option you should consider if you want to do the above, check out OpenVPN for example. I need to do some more digging into how the remote access option works and any security implications, so check back for further updates.

The WeMo site states the following though:

Remote access is automatically enabled when you set up WeMo, as long as the network you are using has an Internet connection. With remote access enabled, you can control your WeMos from anywhere your iOS device has an Internet connection. This includes other Wi-Fi networks or your 3G/4G mobile connection. When the WeMo App is launched outside your home, the App contacts the Belkin cloud, the cloud redirects the phone’s request to the appropriate WeMo unit(s), and then you can see and control all of your WeMo devices.

Source: http://www.belkin.com/us/support-article?rnId=7358

 

Conclusion

This is a great device although a little on the pricey side. I would recommend though if you purchase using it for something like a lamp and avoid anything that has the potential to burst into flames (for example a heater!).

In later posts we will look at how this device can be controlled from your Home Dashboard software.

Winter storm Nemo

So we got slammed last night with over a couple of feet of snow. Down the road in Milford CT snow topped out at 38″.

Snow drifts thanks to the wind last night have resulted in huge snow banks, and most of the roads around here are shut with three feet of snow.

Here is a photo of the snow build up outside our front door. Using the tape measure the snow bank came in at over 40 inches.

Front door

Snow build up

Snow build up

Since we are currently snowed in and waiting for the plow trucks to clear the road, today is a great day to work on some projects. I’m going to be comparing the difference between building curtain automation devices using a stepper motor and a regular DC motor.

There is also a post in the works on using processing to design a layout of your home that can be used for displaying sensor data.

Finally a post is also in the works about the recently released book.

A quick update

Time has been a little tight this past few weeks due to the book and a high work load.

However this week I will be catching up on my blogging. Expect a post comparing screen types for the Arduino!

Hurricane Sandy

Introduction

This post will start of with a live blog of the current power situation due to the hurricane. After this I’ll be concluding the post with an overview of the utility and power line situation is Connecticut.

Live Blog

Providing live blogs when possible of the current situation here:

2:15 pm Monday – I was working from home today. Our office was shutting down at 1pm and it was safer to work from home and avoid the roads. At around 2:15 the power went out . We will shortly be cranking up the generator. Currently posting from iPhone while G3 is still available.

7:05pm Monday – Our power came back on again around 4:30. It has gone out then come back on again twice. It’s now dark and from what we can see, one tree has split in two in the back yard (thankfully it turned out to just be a large tree limb), and the garden shed is wrecked.

8:16pm Monday – We’ve had a fire truck on the street visiting one of the houses, hopefully it was nothing serious. Plenty of debris flying about including numerous signs from people yards for election candidates.

One of neighbors cars has had a basketball net that was cemented into the ground land on it.

10:15pm Monday – The power has gone out again.

Tuesday Morning– The worst of the weather is gone now. Taking a drive we can see power lines and trees down all over the place. The snow storm last year seems to have taken out a lot of the dead trees, so it could have been lot worst. Compared to New York, New Jersey and Long Island sound  we have gotten off very very lightly.

Damaged Tree Line

Damaged Tree Line

McDonalds appears to be the only place open.

Tuesday Afternoon – No power all day. I spent some of the day moving location trying to find an Internet connection. Went to my in-laws business and we had power for most of the morning, then around 1:30 it cut out.

Eventually made it via detours to the office for a couple of hours.

Cleaned up a lot of the debris in the garden and managed to jam the shed doors back on. Time for a new shed though.

Found door number 1

Found door number 1

The lawn guy is going to come and take care of the tree.

Broken Tree Limb

Broken Tree Limb

Thankfully garbage collection is coming Wednesday so we threw out some of the food from the refrigerator.

Tuesday Evening – Still no power. We have now cranked up he generator and are running some of the house off of it. A few places are open for food so we are going to heat out.

Finished a chapter of the ook but can’t submit it via email until the morning.

Hoping for power back on Wednesday

Wednesday  8am – Power is still out. Checking the utility company’s website I can see that 35% of the town are still down. Hopefully they can resolve this today.

Thursday Evening  – We got a our power back on finally Thursday evening. The lawn guy is coming Saturday to take down the dead tree and remove the branch.

Conclusion

Parts of Connecticut really got hit badly by the storm (the coast), but I think overall as a state inland we got off very lightly.

The CT Air National Guard released this video of the coast line which shows the severity:

It looks like the power companies will have most people (around 98%) back up with power by the end of day tomorrow.

I’m sure the question is going to be asked about why cables aren’t being run underground and how the grid can be made more resilient to storms.

I’m also going to be looking into the pros and cons of a solar system to act as a backup for black outs – this is the third major storm we have had since August last year where we have had power knocked out for days on end.

EEG Headsets

Just a quick post on something worth checking out.

Canadian Tech company InteraXon will be releasing their EEG powered headset called Muse next year. You can read more about the device here.

They are currently raising funds from the tech community via IndieGoGo. The process basically involves making a pledge of a certain amount of dollars up front, in return for a Muse headset after the first production run.

More details can be found on the funding section of their website here

To quote from the indieGoGo crowdfunding website:

Introducing Muse, our brainwave-sensing headband.

It’s a comfortable, sleek, four-sensor headband that allows you to control applications, games, reduce stress, improve memory and concentration, and eventually control devices directly with your mind.

Muse measures your brainwaves in real-time. It sends those brainwaves to your smart phone or tablet showing you how well your brain is performing and also translates your brainwaves into instructions to interact with content on your iOS or Android device.

 

This device obviously offers some excellent opportunities for home automation, a post will be in the works exploring some possibilities.

In the meantime check out their promo video:

A quick update

This month has been extremely busy so time for blogging has been tight.

Here is a quick update of what is going on with the heating and associated projects:

Book deal

There is now currently a book in the works covering some of the topics on this website using a new technology available for the raspberry Pi. I won’t give too much away in this post, other than to say, if you are interested in the subjects blogged about here, then this is a book for you. More details on this as I can release them.

Change in temperature

As October has rolled in, the temperature has started to drop. This is perfect timing for testing one of my first thermostats – the thernet model. More on this thermostat in a separate post to follow

Database server

Over the next couple of months I will be sourcing the hardware to set up my permanent Postgres DB server. If you followed my earlier post on the prototype DB server I showed how we can set up a Postgres DB for storing temperature readings and then query it with HTSQL. Going forward I will document the setting up process of the actual production server, the database architecture and HTSQL server configuration. All of code will be available via BitBucket which leads me too….

BitBucket account

I will be setting up a BitBucket account where you can download copies of the bash scripts, code and documentation for your own projects.

Index/ToC page for the blog

Expect to see an Index/ToC page for the blog. This will provide a page where posts are grouped by topic and thread, so you can read a set of posts on a particular subject in logical order when working on that aspect of your heating system.

Other subjects

There are some posts in line discussing:

  • MagPi – the Raspberry Pi fanzine
  • Arduino visual display components – a comparison of TFT and LCD components for thermostats
  • Some good books worth reading
  • X10 – A look at the X10 standard, thanks to stillwaternc for the discussion on this over on the About page.

So keep your eyes on this space for more posts to come.