Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Homegrown Home Automation (HHA)

Ya that's right, starting my own acronym.  

You saw it here first HHA.  As was the plan for this blog when I restarted it I planned on using it to just document the many hobbies/projects (and cars) I work on, most of which I take lots of photos of but never really share.   This winter Ethan and I will be building a go-Kart from scratch!  I'll be sure to post those exploits as well.

My primary work bench w/ all the toys
For a couple years now though I've been doing various electronics projects that take advantage of the now vary usable and powerful Raspberry Pi computers.

My good friend James (see him over at Short Attention Span Theater) and I spent a lot of 2013 developing the hardware, software and web site around a small device that takes advantage of the HAM Radio APRS network.  The device was designed to be used by HAM operators (and eventually non-HAMs as well) to put GPS tracking and mapping in any type of vehicle for really cheap.  ( Was a great idea that spawned out of playing around.   We got it mostly complete (minus some features we wanted to add) and it works amazingly well, then came to the place all new projects come to, large amounts of cash to mass produce it.  So its been on the back burner ever since because, large amounts of cash available.  We had a great time working together building that thing.  I still have one in my truck running and using the whole system.

After that James and I have both been working on similar projects separately, he's made some really cool automation from automatic cat laser pointers controlled by the cats to servo driven arms that can be remote controlled.   I have been working on two large projects, one of which is the point of this article...get to the point! Alright I'm trying.  The project I won't talk about yet (maybe later) is a fully wireless remote monitoring system for RV's and remote locations using XBee, Raspberry Pi and custom built sensors.  Its very ambitious and I need more time to work on it.  But I got side tracked with HHH.

Now that you are asleep

...what am I really trying to say.   I've spent the last 10+ years being well ahead of most markets/technology with trying to remote monitor, control and tap into my house.  I'm a data nerdlinger, I can't help it?  I love knowing whats going on with all systems and why.

Sure I can run out and drop a fat wad of cash on a home automation system, but here's why I don't.

  1. I guarantee all of them will do things in some way that I hate
  2. None of them will give me the control I really want
  3. None of them will give me the data I really want
  4. They cost buckets and buckets of money

Am I trying to create a new product here?  Not really, I never am.  Maybe someday something will shine forth as a kickstarter but that's never really the goal.
E-Monitor system monitoing 20+ circuits
in my primary house.

Now by saying "being well ahead" I mean, I have a lot of tech running in my house that when I implemented it, it was A) the only thing out there because it was so new and B) if i put it in, it was probably pretty good at its time.   First one I know to put tankless water heater in (even though I was a decade behind Europe on this!).  Why do I not have solar in yet, no time.

So the project really is about writing the software that will run on a small Raspberry Pi, talk to all these random systems I have running, push that data to my server at AWS where I can build a web interface into all of the data, and potentially for some systems make modifications and adjustments.

Here are things that are in my house that each have their own apps, web interface, controllers, etc...none of which or course talk to each other.  That's what HHA will do.
  • Thermostat Control & Automation from Prolifix
  • Garage Door & Gate control and status from MyQ Liftmaster
  • Full house power monitoring from Powerhouse Dynamics
  • Camera Security System from AXIS and QNAP
  • Sprinkler Control & Status from Open Sprinkler (this system is planned for a spring 2015 installation, I've ordered all the parts.  I'll post some articles on that as well)
  • Lighting Control - I haven't put one in yet, waiting to see how these new LED light controllers pan out
  • Remote Door Lock control & status - Still un-decided here.  I love the August lock system but its spendy (I have 3 doors).  I'm REALLY tempted to build mine own device for this but then I'd be side tracked again.  My issue with almost all of theses systems (currently) is their lack of providing useable data, the August lock is the only one I know for sure that can.
  • Tankless Waterheater by Rinnai - they are just now building internet connection units, I'm oddly excited for this kind of thing to take place.
  • Internet Connected Device Traffic Monitoring via OpenNMS - Let's me look at devices on my network and understand what is consuming bandwidth and why.
Now all of these systems have some sort of ability to share their data with me.  Web page, API, SMS, Email, etc.  The trick is buildling a software package that can scrape those web pages, hit those API's or except those SMS or email messages, parse that data into useable coolness and push it out to the AWS Web Server API.

In Summary

I did this write-up mostly to set the foundation for coming posts over the next couple months as I work on this project.   Sort of a frame of reference for future posts that may make no sense by themselves as to what I'm doing.

If you have any of these automation techs installed I'd love to hear from you about what works and what doesn't and why.  I could talk about this stuff all day.

Watch for future posts, photos and details on all of these winter projects, HHA, Remote Monitoring system and go-Karts!


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