ReadWriteHome is an ongoing series exploring the implications of living in connected homes.
The connected home, the ultimate ideal in technology-driven luxury, promises easy living by passing along our drudgery to computers.
But it’s not perfect.
Even if you’re willing to shell out for expensive devices for your house, are you willing to trust them? There’s always the concern that when a middleman is involved, you’re relinquishing at least some control of your own domain.
See also: Hacking The Connected Home: When Your House Watches You
In that case, why not roll your own connected home?
Arduino, a microcontroller board, and Raspberry Pi, a fully functional mini-computer, are both cheap solutions for harnessing the Internet of Things at home. Unlike your regular computer, both devices are very good at reading the world around them. That’s because they both include plenty of inputs and outputs for sensory add-ons to test light, temperature, humidity and more.
These DIY sensors and components are cheaper and easier to use than ever. With minimal coding knowledge, you can copy and paste open-source Python scripts to tell your house which tasks to automate. And since you’re retaining total control of your connected devices, you can double down on security measures to your heart’s content.
Here are some of the ways to implement connected home features on a DIY device like Arduino or Raspberry Pi.
The Arduino isn’t a fully functional computer, so you’re going to need to connect it to a computer first to program it, and it’ll need to run off a battery or outlet after that. But at half the size of the Raspberry Pi, it’s a small and unobtrusive sensor for your home.
- Make an Arduino safety alarm. Connect the device to a beeper and a bell to warn you of an intruder or a fire. The creator of this open-source project said he successfully scared off an intruder by using this device.
- Build an thermostat that connects to your air conditioning unit, or, if you’re in the United Kingdom, your combination boiler. Both projects include an LCD screen so you can monitor and adjust the temperature. It’s not as cute as Nest, but totally custom.
- Monitor your home while you’re away with an Arduino-powered “Internet of Things” camera. You can install an Eye-Fi SD card in an Arduino Uno to program it to take photos and then push those photos to a site or device of your choice.
- Get the most out of an Arduino by programming it to control central heating, lighting and security in your house. This tutorial uses Home Easy, a wireless home automation tool that enhances Arduino’s connected capabilities significantly.
Raspberry Pi Projects
See also: 12 Cool Projects For Your Raspberry Pi
Raspberry Pi can double as a second PC. Just give it a screen and a keyboard and you can use it to program itself. That means you can either run it in the background as it collects data off of the sensors you’ve installed, or you can use it as an Internet of Things control hub.
- Never forget to feed your pets again; let Raspberry Pi do it. This dual pet feeder could work for dry cat or dog food, and can be assembled in four to six hours. Have a pet that’s more scaly than furry? Try our IoT fishtank tutorial.
- If you have more time than money, make Pi into an automated sprinkler system. The creator set it up with wireless so he could control it through a simple SSH login. Read more about how to login with SSH here.
- Build an app to control your lights from your computer screen. Raspberry Pi’s general purpose input output (GPIO) pins emulate pressing on and off switches. That way, instead of physically visiting the light switch, you can activate your lights with one click of your mouse.
- Last but not least, if you’re a DIY genius you might as well build a Pi home automation center that wouldn’t look out of place at Starfleet. There’s no tutorial for this Star Trek inspired control panel that monitors doors, windows, lights, weather and more, but watch the video below and see just how polished a DIY solution can look:
Photo by Lauren Orsini for ReadWrite