Posts Tagged ‘power’

Broadlink MP1 is a $20 WiFi Power Strip with 4 Independent Sockets

August 29th, 2016 19 comments

There are plenty of WiFi sockets going around such as Broadlink SP2 or Kankun KK-SP3, but in some cases it might be both more convenient and cheaper to get a WiFi power strip, and Broadlink MP1 offers just that with 4 sockets that can be controlled and programmed (timer) independently, and sold for just $19.88 on Banggood.

Broadlink_MP1Broadlink MP1 specifications:

  • Connectivity – 802.11b/g/n WiFi, controllable over 3G/4G with smartphone
  • 4 multi-standard (EU/US/AU, but not UK) sockets
  • Power input – 10A/250V (max)
  • Power output – 10A/250V (max)
  • Rated power – 2000W Total
  • Misc – Power button
  • Dimensions –  254mm x 60mm x 32mm; 50cm sockets spacing; cord Length – 1.5m with AU plug (Adapter provided for other countries)
  • Weight – 450g

The power strip can be controlled via Broadlink ihc (Intelligent Hone Control) app available for Android and iOS, which lets you independently manually turn on or off or set timers for each sockets. You can also use IFTTT to control the sockets, but it may require Broadlink SC1 “housekeeper”.  There does not seem to be an easy way to control the power strip with a computer.


The strip is also sold for around $25 and up on Aliexpress, GeekBuying and GearBest [Update: Now $19.78 promo]. It’s been around for a few months already, but I have not found any hacks yet, and could not find the processor used in the strip. However I know it’s likely not running OpenWrt and there’s no SSH access. Reading further, I did find another model, Broadlink MP2, with 3 power sockets, and 3 USB ports that’s said to be based on a Mediatek solution, and sold for $27.59.

More information can be found on Broadlink MP1 and MP2 pages (in Chinese only).

The USB Type-C Authentication Specification Aims to Prevent Damage from Non-Compliant Cables and Adapters

April 13th, 2016 2 comments

The new USB Type-C standard is great, as cables are reversible so it does not matter if you connect them up or down, it can handle USB 3.1 data speed, as well as carrying video and up to 100W power thanks to USB-C power delivery. In theory all is great, but in practice, many USB-C cables are not compliant, and Benson Leung, a Google employee, has found that many USB-C cable sold on Amazon were not compliant, with even one damaging his Pixel 2 laptop and two USB PD analyzers.

His reviews on Amazon, as well as customer complaints, probably lead the company to ban the sale of non-compliant cable or adapter, but to really mitigate the issue, a technical solution was needed, and that’s why the USB 3.0 Promoter Group has defined the Authentication Protocol for USB Type-C as part of the USB Power Delivery 3.0 specifications.



Key characteristics of the USB Type-C Authentication solution include:

  • A standard protocol for authenticating certified USB Type-C chargers, devices, cables and power sources
  • Support for authenticating over either USB data bus or USB Power Delivery communications channels
  • Products that use the authentication protocol retain control over the security policies to be implemented and enforced
  • Relies on 128-bit security for all cryptographic methods
  • Specification references existing internationally-accepted cryptographic methods for certificate format, digital signing, hash and random number generation

Authentication will check the capabilities and certification status, before transferring user data and power. This will also prevent malicious embedded software or hardware to exploit a connection.

At least that’s the plan. I understand existing devices with USB-C port will be able to get a firmware update to support USB-C authentication, but obviously many devices will never be updated, so in the meantime you’ll have to be cautious, and one way to protect your devices from bad USB-C cables or adapters is to purchase one from Benson Leung Amazon list, which he has personally tested.

Via Liliputing and Arstechnica.

Categories: Hardware Tags: power, standard, usb

Henes Broon T870 is a Kids’ Electric Car Controlled by an Android Tablet

February 11th, 2016 No comments

If you ever wanted to played around with an electric car that’s a bit better than an RC toy, but don’t quite have the cash for a full-size Tesla model, Henes has designed an electric card for you your younger kids that’s controlled by an Android tablet and allows both manual and remote driving.
Henes_Broon_T870Henes Broon T870 specifications:

  • Tablet – 7″ Android 4.4.2 tablet PC smart system with HD resolution display, micro SD, HDMI and audio output
  • ARM Cortex-M3 based main control system
  • Bluetooth remote control
  • Built-in stereo speakers
  • Functioning hood & doors
  • 4 wheel drive with high density urethane tires
  • Spring suspension & shock absorbers
  • Leather bucket seat and seat belt
  • Foot pedal accelerator
  • Bright Headlight / Aux Light / Turn Signal Light / Tail/Brake/BackUp Lights
  • Motors – Dual 24V driving motors
  • Battery – Rechargeable 24V 7Ah battery pack for a little over 2 hours drive, or up to 20 km.
  • Dimensions – 134 x 73 x  63.5 cm
  • Weight- N/A

The car can reach up to 8 km/h, with a maximum sit capacity of 35 kilograms. The company recommends parents to use the remote control for kids between 1.5 and 3 years old, and let them drive themselves up to 5 year old or more (subject to height & weight).


The tablet shows a dashboard like on “adult’s cars” with a tachometer, and a better level indicator. You can also adjust the lights, brake modes, adjust the speed level, play music, set remote control mode, and more. The promo video does not show much about the tablet, but shows a little how the car can be used.

Henes Broon T870 sells for $1,275 on Amazon US, and more information can also be found on Hemes Emporium website.


BayLibre ACME Cape for BeagleBone Black Measures Power and Temperature with Sigrok

February 1st, 2016 No comments

Sigrok open source signal analysis software suite had a major release last week-end with libsigrok 0.4.0, libsigrokdecode 0.4.0, sigrok-cli 0.6.0, and PulseView 0.3.0. The new version added numerous bug fixes for supported hardware such as UNI-T UT61E digital multimeter or USBee AX Pro logic analyzer, and added support for several logic analyzers, oscilloscopes, multimeters, programmable power supplies, an electronic load, an LCR meter, a scale, and one BeagleBone Black cape, namely BayLibre ACME.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The ACME initiative was launched in order to get rid of the limitations of proprietary solutions, and provide an open source hardware and software multi-channel power and temperature measurements solution to the community.

BayLibre ACME cape supports up to 8 probes to measure VBUS (0 to +36V), VSHUNT ( 2.5uV up to 81.92mV), CURRENT AND POWER. Three current / power probes have been developed with all featuring TI INA226 for the ADC conversion:

  • ACME HE10 Power Probe
    • 6-pin HE10 header with up to 6A max current, 13mΩ contact resistance
    • 3 possible current ranges:
      • 0.005Ω for 1.5A < Current < 10A
      • 0.05Ω for 150mA < Current < 1.5A
      • 0.5Ω for 0 < Current < 150mA
  • USB Power Probe
    • Power Control – Power switching capability  through TPS22929
    • High precision resistor – 0.08Ω for Current up to 1A
  • Jack Power Probe
    • Power Control – Power switching capability  through TPS22929; 6A current limitation;20.5V transil for voltage protection
    • High precision resistor – 0.01Ω for Current up to 6A

There’s no much details about the temperature probe except it’s based on Texas Instruments TMP435 temperature sensor.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

A custom Buildroot BBB Linux distribution is available with upstream ACME HW drivers, Sigrok software Suite, and low-level hardware interface interface. You can check the measured data on the command line, or a graphical user interface (PulseView) via HDMI or vncviewer. The solution also works with Xoscope digital oscilloscope application. You can find more technical details on BayLibre ACME Wiki and Sigrok Wiki.

ACME cape and the probes are said to be available now, but for some reasons you need to contact them via the form at the end of BayLibre ACME page in order to purchase them.

ACS712 Module Measures Currents up to 30A for as Low as $1 Shipped

January 23rd, 2016 7 comments

Usually, if I buy a high power electric appliance, I like to double check it power consumption either with a Kill-a-watt when possible, and when not, e.g. cable directly hooked to the device or current intensity is too high, I use a digital electric clamp meter. Both methods are quite convenient as you don’t need to cut any wire to measure the current and determine the power consumption, but they don’t allow for data gathering since they don’t connect to the network. Earlier this week, I’ve come across a projects using ESP8266 for a mains energy monitor for a solar panel setup, and measuring mains current, electric meter, and gas meter. They use a photosensor to measure power consumption on their electric meter, which works, but may be problematic if the meter is on the street, and iSnail current sensor, using hall effect just like clamp meter, but instead of showing the current on a display the sensor output 0 to 5V, meaning you can connect it to a micro-controller to handle the data however your like. That’s nice, but while a clamp meter costs about $10, the 25A version of iSnail goes for $40, so I looked for alternatives. I wanted to find an always-on connected hall effect current sensor that either harvest energy or works of a fews with a battery, but did not find any, an instead discovered cheap current sensor modules based on Allegro Systems ACS712 supporting either 5A, 20A or 30A , working easily with analog inputs of Arduino boards, and selling for as low as $1 shipped on eBay for the 5A, while the 20A & 30A versions usually sell for less than $2.

ACS712The hardware specifications are pretty basic:

  • ACS712 Hall-Effect-Based Linear Current Sensor IC (Datasheet)
  • 2-pole terminal for DC or AC load
  • 3-pin header with VCC (5V), GND and OUT pins
  • Input Current and Sensitivity (measurement scale)
    • -/+ 5A – 185 mV/A
    • -/+ 20A – 100 mV/A
    • -/+ 30 A – 66 mv/A
  • Dimensions – 31 x 13mm

Since the IC can measure in both direction, OUT pin outputs VCC/2 (2.5v) when there’s no current, and other values which may be lower and greater than VCC/2 depending on current direction to report the actual current.

ASC712_ArduinoMeasuring DC current is very easily as you just need to take one measurement, subtract VCC/2, and divide this by the sensitivity. Alternative current is only a little more complicated as you have to take many measurement to find the RMS value as explained on Henry’s bench website. If you are playing with high voltage (110V/220V) be very careful, and using non-invasive current sensor might be a better idea, especially if you are a beginner.

Since the board had been available for a few years, there’s plenty of documentation on the web for Arduino. One person (Julian) did a pretty good video showing how it works.

ACS712 current sensor can also be interfaced with ESP8266, but since the wireless chip’s analog input only takes 0 to 1V, ACS712 output must be reduced leading to a lower accuracy, unless used via an external ADC chip. ESP32 won’t have this problem however as the analog input supports up to 0 to 4V range, although I understand ESP32 may has some built-in functions for energy monitoring.

Categories: Hardware, Video Tags: arduino, esp8266, power

USB Power Delivery Advantages Explained (Video)

January 21st, 2016 2 comments

USB 3.0 and greater specifications not only promise higher speeds, up to 10Gbps for USB 3.1, but also the ability to deliver up to 100W over USB to power your laptop, display, and printer via equipment, usually a USB hub, that supports USB Power Delivery, or USB PD, via a USB Type C connector. So far very few products appear to support it, and I could only find the Macbook and ChromeBook Pixel, and a few USB PD chargers on Amazon.

USB_PD_ConnectionSo basically in the future, the need for power supplies should decrease sharply, simplifying connections, and decreasing the cost of products and shipping since devices will only need a USB port that’s compatible with USB PD, meaning your computer, printer, and display won’t need an extra power supply as long as they consume less than 100 watts combined.

The reasons I’m writing about this today, is that completely forgot about this until I saw a video by Renesas that explains USB PD in a way easy to understand with 4 main advantages:

  1. One cable achieves both data communication and charging
  2. Simple design for the interconnections between boards
  3. Faster charging
  4. Universal charger

Beside Renesas, many other companies also provide solutions for USB PD including Microchip, Cypress, NXP, TI, and more, so I assume it’s just a question of time before more devices support USB Power Delivery.

Categories: Hardware, Video Tags: power, usb

Multi-function Power Banks Can Jump Start Your Car Beside Charging Your Phone

January 11th, 2016 3 comments

Many people carry a USB power bank with them to make sure their smartphone does not run out of battery, but based on my experience failing to start your car because of a depleted or dead battery will bring ever more anxiety. Interestingly/funnily enough, while this happened to my neighbors last week-end, today I was informed that TM08 multi-function power bank was designed to both charge your phone or laptop, and help start your car.

Click to Enlarge

Typical Multi-function Power Bank (Click to Enlarge)

TM08 specifications:

  • Input – 12V/1A
  • Output – 5V-2A via USB and 12V jump starter for car with 200A starting current, and 400A peak current
  • Battery
    • Capacity – 12000mah
    • Charging Time – 3 to 4 hours
    • Life cycle – Over 1,000 cycles
  • Dimensions – 130x70x25 mm
  • Weight – 311 grams
  • Operating Temperature – -20℃-85℃


The kit comes with adapters to charge your phone or other devices, as well as cables to connect to your car’s battery. A fully charged power bank will be able to start you car about 20 times, charge your smartphone 6 to 7 times, and charge an iPad twice. A white LED is also included to use as a torchlight or SOS strobe. The pictures above are actually for another model with 19V and 12V output for laptop, but the rest of the accessories are about the same.

I wanted to watch it starting the car, and there are a few videos online including that one clearly showing how to use the power bank to start your car.

The device is available on eBay for $84,  but I could also find the pink version for $64.90 on Aliexpress. I initially found the model with 19V and 12V output on a Thai website, but then found it as “MaiTech Portable Car Emergency Start Power” on DealExtreme for $64.99. Finally, there’s a very similar model on Amazon US selling for $100, and user’s feedback is usually positive. You should be able to find more models by searching for multi-function jump starter power bank on Google.

Thank you Onebir!

Categories: Hardware Tags: automotive, power, smartphone, usb

Why Do UL and CE Certifications Matter For Anything That Connects to the Mains (110V/220V) ?

December 17th, 2015 6 comments

I’ve been featuring a few cheap automation appliances such as Orvibo Wiwo S20 WiFi smart socket or lately Sonoff & Slampher WiFi and RF switch and lightbulb adapter, and people mentioned that Wiwo S20 socket was unlikely to be compliant with CE up to 10A since it lacked the ground pin, and I was also informed that Sonoff & Slampher was probably not compliant with UL certifications. Why does not matter? The picture below may give a clue…

House_in_FireUL and CE certifications are used to make sure the device complies with safety regulations, and in some case make also improve reliability, as in UL compliant power supplies will feature inexpensive TVS device to protect against thunder. And if you think you are covered because you have an house insurance, it’s quite likely it will be void if the on-site expert find a non-compliant device on the site of the fire.

What’s complicated is that there are many UL standards depending on the device your use, and it’s also difficult to verify the validity of the UL/CE certifications, as manufacturers can easily print a fake UL or CE (which may also mean China Export) to show the device is certified.  You could also ask the sellers to provide a UL and CE certifications, but you’ll need to know which one is required for your device, and then make sure it has not been forged.

Recently, hoverboards have made the news in the US, as some have been found to be unsafe, and Amazon even asked customers to throw out unsafe hoverboards and promised to refund them, as both the charger and battery were found to unsafe.

Non-compliant Hoverboard After Explosion during Charging.

Non-compliant Hoverboard After Explosion during Charging.

The Verge provided some more insights to which UL safety standard were ignored:

Amazon just sent out a notice to all “hoverboard” sellers to “provide documentation demonstrating that all hoverboards you list are compliant with applicable safety standards, including UN 38.3 (battery), UL 1642 (battery), and UL 60950-1 (charger).”

UN 38.3 is not a UL, but a UN standard for transporting Lithium batteries where 8 tests are carried out. UL 1642 is specific to user or technician replaceable Lithium batteries with up to 5 grams Lithium,  while UL 60950-1 standard applies to “mains-powered or battery-powered information technology equipment, including electrical business equipment and associated equipment, with a RATED VOLTAGE not exceeding 600 V”. So there’s no way consumers can be aware of those themselves, so they’ll have to trust their seller on that one, and although even Amazon could not guarantee the safety of the products, at least they have now taken measures to mitigate the issues.

What’s the cost of UL certification for manufacturers? I’ve been told it costs $5,000 or more depending of UL requirements for your products, so while it should be no big deal for more expensive products, you may understand why manufacturers of cheap devices ($5, $40, $20) may think it may not be necessary, especially since UL is not a legal requirement.  Another option is to go with ETL certification that is supposed to be much cheaper, and also make sure the devices are safe to use. The difference between UL and ETL is explained on that blog:

UL and ETL are both what is called Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories (NRTL). NRTLs are in place to provide independent safety and quality certifications on products. Electrical appliances typically require their certification (especially 240V appliances). UL develops the testing standards and tests to them. ETL tests to UL standards. In order for an inspector to sign off on permitted installation for an EVSE, the National Electric Code requires the EVSE be NRTL listed (in the US that is ETL or UL).  ClipperCreek does use both laboratories; the selection of which laboratory depends on which company provides the best value for their service that we can then in turn pass on to our customers.

CS-40 Wall MountThose safety certifications are very important for high power device such as electrical appliances, and you should definitely ask the seller for safety certifications before purchasing such devices, but even non-compliant smartphone charger may be an issue with one woman electrocuted while using an allegedly fake charger with her iPhone.

Thanks to Jon for the article idea, various links and insight.

Categories: Hardware Tags: automation, power