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People who were subscribed to updates on the Alexa Connect Kit (ACK) would recently have received an email informing that this kit is now available for sale. Last time we covered the ACK was back in September of 2018, the ‘release’ moniker meant ‘preview’ and there wasn’t any hardware one could actually purchase.

Over a year a later it seems that we can now finally get our grubby mitts on this kit that should enable us to make any of our projects Alexa-enabled. What this basically seems to mean is that one can spend close to 200 US dollars on an Arduino Zero and an Arduino shield-mounted WM-BN-MT-52 module from USI (though not listed on their site, but similar to the WM-BN-BM-22?) that integrates a 192 MHz Cortex-M MCU and a WiFi/Bluetooth module, as summarized on the Amazon Developer page for the ACK.

Getting Started with ACK

The idea behind the kit is that one uses the Arduino IDE to program the Cortex-M0+-based Arduino board with the application firmware. The fully assembled kit will listen on the network for any service discovery broadcast from an Alexa app (on a smartphone or similar), responding to such a broadcast with a summary of its capabilities, following the Smart Home Skill API protocol. This is essentially the application of mDNS with DNS-SD (Service Discovery).

After the Alexa app on one’s smarthome has found all Alexa-enabled devices, you can then use the Alexa voice interface to control those devices, such as turning them on and off, or adjusting parameters like the speed of a PWM-controlled fan. The Amazon Developer site provides an overview of what kind of devices are supported by the Alexa system for reference.

Welcome to the Amazon Walled Garden

For those who already rushed out to get an ACK, they will have run into the unfortunate realization that the ACK is not merely a fun piece of hardware to play around with. By purchasing it, you are literally signing up to become a part of the Amazon ecosystem, starting by registering the Amazon Developer Account. As noted by the intrepid reporters over at The Register last year,  part of the cost of the ACK is you paying for the Amazon cloud services that enable the ACK to work, with Amazon’s Alexa servers doing the heavy lifting of interpreting customer utterances for you.

The WiFi/Bluetooth module that one gets with the ACK also seems rather secretive, with no datasheet or detailed information available on the internet at the time of writing. It appears to be limited to 802.11 b/g/n (2.4 GHz single-band) WiFi with no mention of anything newer than Bluetooth 4.1 support, meaning it misses out on the energy-saving features in Bluetooth 5 (and BLE).

So then there is the cool thing on one hand that with a bit of Arduino wrangling and the use of the Alexa Android app (or that Echo in your living room), you can make that smart toaster you have always dreamed of, allowing you to burn toast with a simple voice command. On the other hand it means that you fully rely on Amazon’s Alexa infrastructure and the continued existence of ACK support.

We Have Been Here Before

Those with a few years of Internet-of-Things news under their belt may remember Apple’s Homekit, which from a distance at least looks to be a carbon copy of the Alexa Connect Kit, with Apple-blessed hardware and SDK that people would have to integrate into their product to enable Smart Home goodness. Homekit is now pretty much on life-support.

Apple Homekit on iPad, iPhone and iWatch.

Apple decided to throw in the proprietary towel last year, instead joining the Thread Group, which was started by Google and ARM, and which focuses on creating a low-power wireless networking protocol, suitable for connecting smart devices within the home. Thread is built around IEEE 802.15.4, which specifies a low-rate wireless personal area network (LR-WPAN). This same standard underlies Zigbee. Networks supporting this standard are low-power and feature data rates of <1 Mb.

The skeptical view then is that WiFi-based home automation like what ACK offers is beating the same dead horse which Apple seemed to have been beating with Homekit, merely with Alexa instead of Siri. The same skeptic is also likely to note that the Thread protocol is not the open and free panacea some may see it as, with one having to be a (paying) member of the Thread Group to be allowed to have any input on its development, and to be allowed to ship Thread-enabled devices. But if you’re still itching to jump on the Alexa-enabled bandwagon and can live with the spectre of Amazon rule, the door is now open.

Most chickens are pretty good at putting themselves to bed when the sun sets, and [Eddy]’s chickens are no exception. But they’re not terribly thoughtful about closing up after themselves, so he set about on a long-term project to automate the door of their coop.

An open door overnight leaves chickens and their food vulnerable to predation. Rather than handle the chore manually and risk one forgetful moment that could wipe out his flock, [Eddy] used a servo to power the door and an Arduino to control it. To keep track of bedtime and wakeup, a Raspberry Pi looks up the local civil dawn and twilight times online and tells the Arduino when the moment is at hand. The Pi cleverly caches the times for use the next day in case the WiFi connection is down, and also provides a web interface to check on the door’s status and manually override the cycle. Result: safe, happy chickens.

If all this seems a bit much for a simple job, [Eddy] agrees. But he’s using this as a testbed to develop a home automation framework that can be retasked at will. Sounds like he’s on the right track to us, but for more IoT animal husbandry tips, he’ll want to check out this small farm automation effort.


Filed under: Arduino Hacks, home hacks

Take three NRF24L0+ radios, two Arduino Nanos, and a Raspberry Pi. Add a bored student and a dorm room at Rice University. What you get is the RRAD: Rice Ridiculously Automated Dorm. [Jordan Poles] built a modular system inspired by BRAD (the Berkeley Ridiculously Automated Dorm).

RRAD has three types of nodes:

  • Actuation nodes – Allows external actuators like relays or solenoids
  • Sensory nodes – Reports data from sensors (light, temperature, motion)
  • Hub nodes – Hosts control panel, records data, provides external data interfaces

The hub also allows [Jordan] to control things with his Android phone with Tasker. He has the Arduino and Raspberry Pi code on GitHub if you want to ridiculously automate something of your own. You’d probably want to adapt it to your dorm room, house, or RV, though.

[Jordan] continues to work on the project and promises to have voice recognition and other features, soon. We cover a lot of home automation projects including some others described as ridiculous. The video below shows BRAD, the inspiration for RRAD.


Filed under: Android Hacks, Arduino Hacks, home hacks, Raspberry Pi

Roomba, I command thee! The author demonstrates voice command with an Arduino and Raspberry Pi.Take advantage of these open source resources to set up voice control with Raspberry Pi and bark orders at your home appliances.

Read more on MAKE

The post Roomba, I Command Thee: Use Raspberry Pi for Voice Control appeared first on Make: DIY Projects, How-Tos, Electronics, Crafts and Ideas for Makers.

All photos taken by space150.Use an Apple Watch to automagically open doors at home or at work with a tap on your wrist.

Read more on MAKE

The post Make an Apple Watch Door Unlocker appeared first on Make: DIY Projects, How-Tos, Electronics, Crafts and Ideas for Makers.

Feb
17

[Joedefa] had a Griffin Beacon Universal Remote that was collecting dust, and decided that it needed to stop collecting dust. He had a growing number of wireless devices in his house and found himself in need of a remote to control them all. The Griffin Beacon fit the bill, but most of his lights and outlets were RF controlled. So he did what hackers do best… broke out the screw driver and soldering iron and rewired it!

[Joedefa] is using an Attiny85 as the brains between an infrared LED and a RF transmit module (if anyone can identify the source of this module, please let everyone know in the comments).  A pair of red and green LEDs lets him know if the remote has received commands successfully.

It’s always nice to see a discontinued product made useful once more with a little ingenuity and an Arduino some hacking skill. Hat’s off to [Joedefa] for a righteous hack!


Filed under: Arduino Hacks, ATtiny Hacks
Nov
01

Raspberry Pi and Arduino Home Automation

arduino, Home automation, Raspberry Pi Commenti disabilitati su Raspberry Pi and Arduino Home Automation 

Ahh... the adhoc project enclosure... It may look crude but this sound sensor is very effective and can be placed anywhereElectronichamsters design home automation platform using Raspberry Pi and Arduino

Read more on MAKE

mote

One of the apparent unofficial themes of The Hackaday Prize is the Internet of Things and home automation. While there were plenty of projects that looked at new and interesting ways to turn on a light switch from the Internet, very few took a good, hard look at the hardware required to do that. [Felix]‘s Moteino is one of those projects.

The Moteino is based on the Arduino, and adds a low-cost radio module to talk to the rest of the world. The module is the HopeRF RFM12B or RFM69. Both of these radios operate in the ISM band at 434, 868, or 915 MHz. Being pretty much the same as an Arduino with a radio module strapped to the back, programming is easy and it should be able to do anything that has been done with an ATMega328.

[Felix] has been offering the Moteino for a while now, and already there are a few great projects using this platform. In fact, a few other Hackaday Prize entries incorporated a Moteino into their design; Plant Friends used it in a sensor node, and this project is using it for texting and remote control with a cell phone.


SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is a semifinalist in The Hackaday Prize.


Filed under: Arduino Hacks, radio hacks, The Hackaday Prize

mote

One of the apparent unofficial themes of The Hackaday Prize is the Internet of Things and home automation. While there were plenty of projects that looked at new and interesting ways to turn on a light switch from the Internet, very few took a good, hard look at the hardware required to do that. [Felix]‘s Moteino is one of those projects.

The Moteino is based on the Arduino, and adds a low-cost radio module to talk to the rest of the world. The module is the HopeRF RFM12B or RFM69. Both of these radios operate in the ISM band at 434, 868, or 915 MHz. Being pretty much the same as an Arduino with a radio module strapped to the back, programming is easy and it should be able to do anything that has been done with an ATMega328.

[Felix] has been offering the Moteino for a while now, and already there are a few great projects using this platform. In fact, a few other Hackaday Prize entries incorporated a Moteino into their design; Plant Friends used it in a sensor node, and this project is using it for texting and remote control with a cell phone.


SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is a semifinalist in The Hackaday Prize.


Filed under: Arduino Hacks, radio hacks, The Hackaday Prize
Giu
16

Arduino At Heart EZ Control for home automation goes wireless – 8 days left

arduino, ArduinoAtHeart, Home automation, iot Commenti disabilitati su Arduino At Heart EZ Control for home automation goes wireless – 8 days left 

 ezcontrol

We’re happy to share with you the update of the Indiegogo campaign of the Arduino At Heart for home automation we presented some time ago. Ez Control goes wireless!

———————————–

We have been silent for most of the time of this campaign, but this doesn’t means that we were sleeping. Not at all!

We were listening and interacting. We have received your comments, we have followed the topic on Reddit, we have exchanged ideas with many of you and we spent all this time improving our product.

Some of you was concerned about the relay, maybe too small. Some other concern was related to the position of the temperature sensor, that could offer false reading caused by the heat from other components.

We have upgraded the relay with a new one, rated 5A, and we have also improved the physical insulation for the high voltage circuit. We have then improved the insulation of the temperature sensor.

Sure all interesting, but those where not the main doubts about our hardware.

The most requested upgrade was related to the connectivity.

Why in 2014 do we use wires?

We admit that going wireless it was in our plans for the future. We wanted to start with an easy to use board, affordable and based on well known technologies, open to most of the users.

Reading and listening all your comments, we have understood that we should change our plan, and we did it.

Yes! We spent the past month with design, engineering, prototyping and testing of the brand new and immediately available EZboard WiFi!

This means that every perk and everyone will receive NOT the old board based on the cables and 10Mbit Ethernet controller, but this new, fantastic, WiFi development board.

And the price will not change!!!

Andrea & the EZBoard team

————–

Read all the info on Indiegogo and support them now!



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