Your home can be smarter and that doesn’t have to break the bank. Here are six ways to add some ambient intelligence to your daily routine.
Most of the smart home projects I’ve listed here are based on lighting or home entertainment — the proliferation of cheap LEDs makes this affordable, and home entertainment devices almost always have infrared control that you can easily (and safely) interact with. Unfortunately, many other home appliances simply don’t make sense to upgrade with «smart» features—they have physical switches and dials. Even new generation smart home devices are fragmented and use their own control protocols that do not contribute to hardware hacking and counterfeiting.
My latest project is a $60 DIY Ambilight takes your media center to the next level by creating an intelligent ambient lighting system behind your TV that responds to on-screen actions in time. Turn off boring tungsten light bulbs and replace them with this bright and dynamic lighting style. Check out the video for a demonstration of this in action:
Arduino Sunrise Alarm Clock and Night Light
Traditional alarm clocks are tedious and confusing — I can’t imagine any daily activity that’s worse than a piercingly nasty horn that rips me out of my dreams. Instead, I tend to wake up naturally at sunrise — but that’s not always practical if the inattentive sun doesn’t match your sleep patterns. In this case, you can fake it. With a simple strip of RGB lights you can imitate the sunrise enough to wake you up slowly. You can also try these sleep trackers apps that measure body movements to wake you up during light sleep. My project also includes a handy night light function with a standard lamp and motion detection, but this part is not essential for the sunrise alarm function.
Note: The MOSFETs I used in this document were originally wrong — make sure you purchase logic level MOSFETs.
Control anything with the Harmony Ultimate remote
The Harmony Ultimate — the basis for replacing the all-in-one remote control: a programmable infrared transmitter and a base station with a touch screen and a customizable display. If you can justify spending a few hundred dollars on a remote, or if you already have one but device support is pretty limited — I’d like to show you how to make the most of it to support anything with an IR remote.
In this project I’ll walk you through the process of adding a custom device that isn’t in the database — I’m using a budget $15 RGB LED strip that provides room lighting, but this process can be applied to anything that isn’t supported. You can then associate custom mood lighting colors with your programmed actions (maybe green lights for games) or create new actions based on mood lighting features — like party mode with flashing lights.
Home automation is a complex topic, but Logitech Harmony Ultimate can quickly equip your living room with smart features.
Add an infrared remote control to your computer
Most Macs come with remote control receivers, but PCs usually don’t. If you’re building a media center for XBMC, the last hurdle is getting rid of the keyboard and mouse. You can use a dedicated mobile app, but then you just have one more thing to hold on to — why not add a standard remote control and pair it with your universal remote.
For $23, you can get a FLIRC device with great drivers and cross-platform support—even for the Raspberry Pi.
Make your own AirPlay receiver
If your home is full of iPads, iPhones, and Macs, AirPlay is a great feature that lets you stream audio and video from any of these devices to an AirPlay Receiver—usually an Apple TV. But you can also turn any old Raspberry Pi ($35) into an AirPlay receiver. You can do this in one of two ways: First, simply install XBMC. Starting with version 11 (Eden), XBMC supports audio, video, and image streaming as an AirPlay target (but no mirroring).
If you’re looking for more audio-only sound, Volumio is your best bet. Acting as a standalone player for digital audio and web radio, or as a receiver Volumio has a simple web interface to manage it from anywhere in the home. Volumio can run on both the Raspberry Pi and many other popular development boards.
Device control from tablet (via Arduino)
One of the biggest challenges with do-it-yourself home automation is interacting with common, dumb appliances, but in this tutorial, » I’ll walk you through the various ways to turn AC electrical appliances on and off from a hobby microcontroller like the Arduino. Of course, this is accompanied by a warning: AC electricity can kill you if you’re not careful . If you are not sure about the wiring and electrical isolation, use the commercially available wireless switch method, although you will need to modify the code to work with the next step.
Once you have everything working, use Arduino Manager (for Android or iOS) to create your own interface with various switches and sliders — you can even read the sensor data back and display it on the watch face.