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Posts Tagged ‘automation’

HTTM Backlit Capacitive Touch Switch / Button Sells for about one Dollar

July 27th, 2017 No comments

You may have some project that requires buttons to turn on and off devices, or perform other tasks like navigating a user interface or playing games. One interesting and inexpensive solution for this could be HTTM (HelTec Touch Model) capacitive touch buttons that include three pins for power, ground, and the button status, as well as a backlight. You’ll find them on many websites, and one of the cheapest option is a pack of 10 buttons going for $9.91 on Aliexpress.

HTTM button specifications:

  • Voltage input range: + 2.7v to + 6v
  • Signal output – Voltage: + 3.3v; Current up to 500 mA
  • Header – 3-pin with GND, VCC, and OUT
  • Backlight color – red, blue (cyan), or yellow
  • Dimensions – 20.4 x 16.6 mm
  • Operating temperature range: -30 ℃ to + 70 ℃

You’ll find more details on the manufacturer’s product page including a user manual (Chinese only), and their DIYtrade page implies they may have versions with up to four keys:

HTTM is HelTec Touch Model shorthand;
□ → Number of keys: S- single key, D- double keys, T- triple keys, F- four keys;
◇ → Version attribute: C- conventional version, S- Special Edition (customized version);
△ → backlight colors: B- blue, R- red, G- green

But I could not find any of those. The company (Chengdu HelTec Automation Electronics Technology Co. Ltd) also makes some OLED displays, which may be worth checking out.

I learned about HTTM button via Pete Scargill’s blog, and he shot a video showing how to use the switch directly connected to a relay board (The demo starts at the 1:50 mark). Since it’s using capacitive touch, he explains you could place one or more buttons inside a box, and it would still work. Those buttons are also likely more durable than mechanical switches.

Sonoff G1 AC Powered Smart Power Switch Works Over 2G GSM/GPRS

July 22nd, 2017 1 comment

Today, I’ve searched for AC powered wireless switched similar to Sonoff devices, but with ESP32 instead in order to get WiFi and Bluetooth, since the latter is better to use with a battery powered buttons. I did find a DC powered board, but no AC powered ones yet. However, as I visited ITEAD website to check if they had anything of the sort, I discovered they had a new model called Sonoff G1, similar to Sonoff TH16, but instead of using WiFi, you can use 2G GSM/GPRS to control the switch remotely.

Sonoff G1 specifications:

  • Wireless Module – ST86 quad band GSM/GPRS module
  • GSM/GPRS connectivity
    • GSM850, EGSM900, DCS1800 and PCS1900 MHz support
    • GPRS multi-slot class 10, GPRS mobile station class B
    • 1.8V, 3V  SIM card slot
    • Transmit power: Class 4 (2W): GSM850, EGSM900; Class 1 (1W): DCS1800, PCS1900
  • Relay – Up to 16A (3000 Watts max)
  • Terminals – 6 terminals for mains and load’s ground, live and neutral signals. 90~250V AC (50/60Hz) input supported
  • Misc – LEDs for power and connection status, button for manual on/off
  • Standby Power Consumption – 1.0 mW
  • Dimensions – 114 x 52 x 32mm
  • Weight – 100 grams
  • Temperature range – Operating -40°C to +80°C, but recommended is 0 to 40°C… So go figure.

Such system could be useful if you need to control devices in remote locations, as long as you are in a zone not affected by 2G sunset like China and Europe.

You’ll need to open the device to insert your own SIM card, install the usual eWelink app, scan a QR code on the device to initialize it. Once this is done, you can turn it on/off, set timers, integrate it into scenes, and share it with other permitted users. Basically anything you can do with the WiFi model, including Amzon Alexa & (soon) Google Home support, but it adds checking the remaining balance. This is explained in more details in the Wiki and links there. There’s also Sonoff G2 model for mainland China with a built-in China Mobile SIM card. You’ll have to happy with using eWelink Android/iOS app, as that model is unlikely to hackable with a custom firmware.

ITEAD sells Sonoff G1 for $19.90 plus shipping.

ModBerry Industrial Automation Controllers Leverage Raspberry Pi, FriendlyELEC, and AAEON Boards and Modules

July 19th, 2017 No comments

TECHBASE’s ModBerry Linux based industrial controllers have been around since 2014 with their first model being ModBerry 500 powered by a Raspberry Pi compute module. Over the years, the company has kept adding new ModBerry controllers with now an interesting choice of Raspberry Pi 3 board or compute module, FriendlyELEC’s NanoPi M1 Plus board, or Intel Atom x5 based AAEON’s UP board.

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All programmable automation controllers (PAC) runs Linux 4.0 or greater, with Debian or Ubuntu Core rootfs including ready tools and pre-compiled packs including C/C++, JAVA, SQL, PHP, SSH, and VPN support. The firmware is upgradeable over the air, and the controllers can run the company’s iMod control software and interface with iModCloud cloud computing service for telemetry, remote control and data sharing. Typical uses include C-L-V functions with conversion to collect and transmit data over communication interfaces, logging via iModCloud or a SCADA, and visualization via a web browser.

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All models share many of the same features, with some models having more I/Os beside the different board, but to get a better idea of the systems, I’ll have a look at ModBerry M700 specifications:

  • SoC – Allwinner H3 quad core Cortex A7 @ 1.2 GHz with an ARM Mali-400MP2 GPU
  • System Memory – 1GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8GB eMMC flash + micro SD card slot
  • Video & Audio Output – HDMI 1.4 and 3.5mm jack for CVBS (composite + stereo audio)
  • Connectivity

    ModBerry M700 – Click to Enlarge

    • Gigabit Ethernet
    • 802.11 b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 LE
    • Optional Zigbee, LTE/3G, GPS, WiFi, and Bluetooth cards
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x 4-pin USB 2.0 host header, 1x micro USB port (OTG/power)
  • Expansion I/Os
    • 4x digital inputs, 4x digital outputs up to 30V DC
    • 1x RS-232/RS-485
    • 1x PCIe slot
    • Optional 1-wire
    • Optional ExCard I/O modules for more RS-232/485 ports, Ethernet ports, PCIe slots, analog input and output, digital I/Os, relays, M-Bus interface, and more
  • Misc – RTC with battery, watchdog timer,
  • Power Supply – 7~30V DC up to 20-35W
  • Dimensions – 106 x 91 x 61 mm (ABS casing with DIN railin enclosure)
  • Weight – 300 grams
  • Operating Conditions – Temperature: -30 ~ 80°C; humidity: 5 ~ 95% RH (non-condensing)

The ExCard are DIN rail module that plugs into the ModBerry like LEGO’s, and up to 3 ExCard is supported per ModBerry.

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Applications for such systems include PLC, telemetry module with data logger, serial port server, protocol and interface converter, programmable controller, MODBUS Gateway/Router, SNMP Agent, Web server with PHP and SQL database support, SMS Gateway, LTE/3G/GPRS router and more.

TECHBase has not released pricing for the controllers, but you can find more details, including detailed PDF product briefs and links to purchase the controllers and expansions (you’ll still have to ask for the price), on the products page.

Via LinuxGizmos

Bluetooth Low Energy Now Supports Mesh Networking for the Internet of Things

July 19th, 2017 7 comments

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) has announced support for mesh networking for BLE, which enables many-to-many (m:m) device communications, and is optimized for large scale device networks for building automation, sensor networks, asset tracking solutions, and other IoT solutions where up to thousands of devices need to reliably and securely communicate with one another. The standard actually specifies 32,767 unicast addresses per mesh network, but that number of nodes is not achievable right now.

Mesh networking works with Bluetooth Low Energy and is compatible with version 4.0 and higher of the specifications. It requires SDK support for the GAP Broadcaster and Observer roles to both advertise and scan for advertising packets, and the FAQ claims Mesh Networking does not require extra power, and the devices only need to wake up at least once every four days or when they have data to transmit. Mobile apps connecting to mesh networking products will use the Bluetooth mesh proxy protocol implemented on top of BLE GAP and GATT APIs.

Bluetooth Mesh Control Model – Server and Client models are also available

You can access access various part of the Mesh Networking standard including Mesh Profile specification 1.0, Mesh Model specification 1.0, and Mesh Device properties 1.0 on Bluetooth website.

The Bluetooth SIG expects commercial products with Bluetooth mesh networking technology to become available later this year. Qualcomm – who purchased CSR – announced Mesh networking support for their QCA4020 and QCA4040 BLE chip in samples today, and commercial availability in September 2017, and Nordic Semi has released a Mesh SDK, and so has Silicon Labs. Since I understand mesh network does not require hardware modifications, then all companies providing BLE solutions should offer it.

Thanks to Crashoverride for the tip.

Flic Hub Controls WiFi, Bluetooth, and IR Devices with Bluetooth LE Buttons (Crowdfunding)

July 10th, 2017 No comments

This week-end, I wrote about 1btn open source WiFi button that can allow you directly control WiFi appliances, and/or set scenes without the need for a smartphone. We also discussed limitations of WiFi due to high power consumption, security issues and the one-way aspect of RF communication, and that Bluetooth 5 may be a better option for range and battery life if possible. Flic Hub is another way to approach the issue, as it combines Bluetooth LE buttons with a gateway supporting WiFi, Bluetooth, and infrared.

Flic Hub gateway specifications:

  • Connectivity – Bluetooth Classic, Bluetooth LE, WiFi, Ethernet, IR via optional add-on accessory.
  • Audio – 3.5mm audio out/mic in
  • Power Supply – 5V via micro USB
  • Power Consumption – 1.5W typ.
  • Security – SPARKE2+ Bluetooth encryption
  • Dimensions – 85 x 50 x 15 mm
  • Weight – 99 grams

Users can configure workflows by setting up Flic with IFTTT, Zapier, Microsoft Flow or even the HTTP request function in their apps. A Flic SDK for iOS and Android is also available, The Flib Hub runs Linux, and they encourage hacking it to fit your project/application.

You can control individual devices with the Hub, but also set scenes such as turning off light, blinds, and aircon, as well as locking with the door when you leaving by pressing once, and cancel this mode with two clicks when you comeback. It can also be used to order items online with one to multiple press, and short and long presses.

The Flic button has actually been around for a little while, as it was launched in 2015 via Indiegogo, and initially relied on your smartphone to act as a gateway. They added to Flic Hub to control more than just Bluetooth devices, and offer a more capable gateway working without smartphone, so for example you can now use up to 60 buttons, instead of just 8 with a smartphone, and anybody in your home can easily use the buttons.

The Flic buttons battery life has also been increased to up to 3 years. You can find reviews of the first Flic buttons without hub on sites like CNET, as well as somewhat mixed customers’ reviews on Amazon.

Flic Hub is now on Indiegogo with 10 days to go, and over $300,000 raised. If you already own some Flic buttons, you can pledge $69 to get the Flic Hub only, and if you plan to control IR devices too, then you’ll want to add the infrared accessory for a total of $79. If you are new to Flic, you may prefer option for Flic Hub with 3 buttons for $109, or $124 with the IR accessory. They also offer glow in the dark buttons for $59 (2 buttons) or $99 (4 buttons) that could be very useful in some situations. Shipping is free to the US, $10 to the European Union, and $15 to the rest of the world. Delivery is scheduled for October 2017.

Thanks to Leon for the tip.

1btn is a Battery Powered Open Source ESP8266 WiFi Button

July 8th, 2017 17 comments

If you have some WiFi power switch like Sonoff TH16 at home, you’d normally control them using a mobile app or a web interface. This is all good, but getting your phone, unlocking it, and launching the app to turn on or off an appliance is not the most efficient way to operate, and in some cases, some people in the household may not know how to use a smartphone. Physical WiFi buttons are the solution, but there aren’t so many for sale. We’ve seen previously it was possible to hack an Amazon Dash, but it’s not really that flexible, and 1btn could potentially be a better option, as it’s open source and based on Espressif ESP8266 WiSoC.

1btn specifications:

  • WiFi Module – ESP-12F based on Espressif ESP8266
  • MCU – Microchip Atmel ATmegaxx8 AVR MCU
  • Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/b WiFi up to ~50 meter range
  • USB – 1x USB port for charging and programming (via on-board USB to Serial chip)
  • Misc – User button, multi-color LED, power on/off switch
  • Expansion –
    • AVR MCU – 2x 8-pin headers with ADC, I2C, SPI, RESET, 3.3V, and GND signals
    • ESP8266 – 1x 8-pin header with GPIO, Tx/Rx signals, 3.3V and GND signals
  • Battery – Rechargeable 3.7V/500mAh battery
  • Dimensions – Around 60 mm side to side
  • Weight – ~50 grams

The hardware design files, mechanical design, and NodeMCU (Lua) based firmware can all be found on Github, releases under an MIT license. The button can be used to send an email, text message (via Twilio SMS), or a tweet, as well as invoke an URL action allowing to use all sort of APIs and services such as IFTTT.


The Atmel MCU is used to keep battery life under check, as the button will only connect to WiFi then you press the button. It takes about 5 to 7 seconds to wake up from sleep, and send the message, after which the button goes back to sleep. The battery will last around 300 presses before it needs to be recharged, or about 5 months if you use the button twice a day.

1btn sells on Tindie for $40 plus shipping. That’s a little more than expected, so tried to look for alternative beside Amazon Dash, and I found “ESP8266 IFTTT WiFI Button Dev Kit” – aka Abutton – on Aliexpress going for $13.43 shipped. The button can be re-programmed with custom firmware, and is based on Apixel  ESP8266 dev board with an ESP8266, but not MCU, so it has to rely on ESP8266 low power mode, so battery life is likely to be quite lower than 1btn. Talking about batteries, there are none, and instead there’s a compartment for 2 AA batteries. The Arduino or NodeMCU source code for Abutton can also be found on Github.

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WiFi is not exactly the ideal wireless solution for this, that’s maybe why Bluetooth buttons are much more common, and quite cheaper, so maybe having a ESP32 wireless power switch with WiFi and Bluetooth, plus a BT button would be both a better and cheaper solution. The only problem is that AFAIK ESP32 wireless switches don’t exist right now, except in board form factor, and not in a neatly packaged product like the Sonoff switch.

Sonoff B1 is an $18 Hackable WiFi RGB LED E27 Light Bulb based on ESP8285 WiSoC

July 4th, 2017 6 comments

Earlier this year, I wrote about an ESP8266 based RGB LED “AI Light” lightbulb that was hacked to run ESPurna open source firmware. That’s all good, except some people tried to get one, and ended with a different hardware. So if you’d like something that’s more of a “sure thing”, ITEAD Studio has designed Sonoff B1 dimmable RGB LED E27 light bulb based on ESP8285 processor, and with a “4 pads” to allow for custom firmware flashing.

Sonoff B1 hardware specifications:

  • Typical Lumen Output – 600lm
  • Beam Angle – 120 degrees typ.
  • Color Temperature –  2800K-6500K & RGB full color
  • Connectivity – WiFi 802.11 b/g/n @ 2.4GHz
  • Power Supply – 90-260V AC 50/60Hz via E27 base
  • Power Consumption – Light off: 0.5W Max; rated power: 6W
  • Temperature Range – Operating: 0ºC~ 40ºC; storage: -20ºC~ 80ºC
  • Operating Humidity – 5%-90% RH

Sonoff B1 with stock firmware can be controlled using the usual eWelink Android / iOS app to turn the light on and off, define timers, select the color, and/or dim the light. The aopp also supports 4 scenes for resting, reading, partying and casual use that you can customize as you wish. The LED bulb is also compatible with Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant services so you can use voice commands to control the light instead. Bear in mind that you may need to wait a little longer to get custom firmware working for it, unless you are willing to get your hands dirty. But this looks so similar to “AI Light”, that I’d expect a port not to be too difficult.

You can purchase Sonoff B1 light bulb for $18 + shipping on ITEAD Studio website.

Diskio Pi 13.3″ Touch Panel Display Kit is Designed for Raspberry Pi and ODROID Boards (Crowdfunding)

June 27th, 2017 7 comments

If your project requires a touch panel, there are plenty of solutions for Raspberry Pi and ODROID boards, with Hardkernel even selling ODROID-VU8C fully integrated touch panel display. However, most display kits require you to make your own case, and feature smaller displays with lower resolution. One developer has however come up with Diskio Pi, a higher-end touch panel kit with a 13.3″ Full HD display that works with the most popular Raspberry Pi and ODROID boards.

Diskio Pi with Raspberry Pi 3 Running Pixel

Diskio Pi specifications:

  • Display –  13.3″ AUO TFT IPS display with 1920×1080 resolution connected via a 30-pin eDP connector ; 330 cd/m2 brightness; 85° viewing angles in all directions.
  • Touch panel – 10-point capacitive touch; G/G structure; USB 2.0 interface; ≥6H surface hardness.
  • Main board:
    • HDMI to eDP driver
    • Stereo sound amplifier
    • USB 2.0 hub with 3x ports:  2x external + 1x internal
    • Battery balance circuit (3S/3S2P)
    • Expansion – Various headers for prototyping (RJ45, USB…)
    • Misc – Left & right mouse buttons (home button, USB); circuit protection via fuses, diodes…
    • Power Supply – RJ45 POE+ (Power over Ethernet)
  • Rack board:
    • Connections with the board via cables: 4 x USB, 2 x Ethernet, 1 x Power, 1 x HDMI
    • Fan circuit with potentiometer (fan will be optional)
    • Speakers – 2x round 3W speakers
    • Power Supply – 5V 3A from main board
  • Power Supply – 15 or 18V AC/DC adapter with EU, UK or US plug
  • Battery  – Optional 6 cells LiPo 3.7V=11.1V, 8000mAh
  • Dimensions – 348 x 265 x 25 mm (Final dimensions may change slightly)
  • Weight – 1.8 kg (prototype)

Diskio Pi with ODROID-C2 Board

Diskio Pi is currently compatible with Raspberry Pi 2, Raspberry Pi 3, Raspberry Pi Zero (W), ODROID C1+, and ODROID C2, but later, a modified kit will offer support for ODROID XU4 and Intel Atom based UP board. You can run any operating system you’d like since HDMI is used for video output (and converted to eDP), and USB used for the touch panel. You’ll be able to use accessories like the official Raspberry Pi camera, and there’s even space to add extra boards or modules like an Arduino mini or sensors using the IO headers or the internal USB port. The kit could be use as a large (and thick) tablet, an home automation dashboard, a portable Linux computer, etc…

The project has just been launched on Kickstarter with the aim of raising at least 400,000 Euros, which may prove to be a challenge, but we’ll see. The “very early adopter pack” rewards requires a 350 Euros pledge for Diskio Pi with the power adapter, but no battery, nor a Raspberry Pi or ODROID board. The 45 Euros battery pack is optional is reserved “for users who don’t need the POE+ power”. Shipping adds 9 Euros to France, 16 Euros to most of Europe, and 36 Euros to the rest of the world, with delivery scheduled for February 2018. The person behind the project has 10-year experience as… an optician, but he’s been working on the prototype for 18 months, and Advansee will take care of the final embedded electronics design, while CD-Plast will handle the mechanical design, with both companies based in the west of France.