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Sonoff B1, lights and shades

Six months ago I was reviewing the AiThinker AiLight, a great looking light bulb with an embedded ESP8266EX microcontroller, driven by a MY9291 LED driver. Just before summer IteadStudio released it’s Sonoff B1 [Itead.cc] light bulb, heavily inspired (probably same manufacturer) by the AiLight, at least on the design.

Now that IteadStudio has become popular between the home automation community you can also find the Sonoff B1 on global marketplaces like Ebay or Aliexpress for around 13€.

A closer look at the B1 uncovers some important differences. But before going deeper into the details let me first say that this post will probably look more like a review, at least more than I use to write. And second, yes: ESPurna supports the Sonoff B1 🙂

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Connected power meter

A few weeks ago a user came with a request to add support in ESPurna to a power meter that had been hacked by Karl Hagström. It is a very cheap chinese power meter with plenty of room on the inside, enough to house an ESP8266 module and a DC/DC power supply and the main IC protocol had been reverse engeneered. There even was a repository by the Harringay Maker Space with sample code for an arduino compatible platform.

I found it really interesting so I jumped in and ordered two of them (for 25,20 euros in total). Unfortunately the seller I bought it from has ran out of them. But you can still find them on the usual market places, like these ones [Ebay] or (also with non-EU variants) these ones [Aliexpress].

When I received them I quicky unscrewed the enclosure of one of them and… wow, it looked slightly different than that on Karl’s post but also different from the one the people at Harringay Maker Space had worked with.

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I went back and forth and I noticed the hack was almost 2 years old and the board was clearly different: different version (unlabelled on Karl’s pictures, version 2014-04-28 on Harringay’s power meter and 2016-12-18 on mine), different board layout with a different connector between the power meter board and the display (7 wires on theirs, 6 on mine). But the most important difference was the main power meter IC. Karl had reverse engineered the ECH1560 on his power meter, a 24pin SOP package (on the back on his device, on the front in Herringay’s power meter). Mine was only 16pin…

p1240274sI had to decipher the IC mark using parts from both devices since the manufacturer had crossed out the marks (they don’t want us to hack it or what?). Finally my best guess was V9261F. I quicky googled it and… bingo!

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Hacking the Sonoff RF Bridge 433

Itead Studio has been releasing interesting gadgets for the Home Automation community based on a low price tag and extreme hackability. You can google “sonoff” (the main brand for Itead Studio home automation devices) to get more than a million hits, including official pages, reviews and lots of hacks. The ubiquitous ESP8266 (or its sibling ESP8285) is the core of all those devices, using WiFi instead of the traditional RF messages, replacing a remote with mobile apps or voice commands. But also, using custom firmwares like ESPurna, technologies and solutions like MQTT, Node-RED or Home Assistant. But one of the latests devices from the chinese firm tries to bridge the gap between those two technologies: the Sonoff RF Bridge 433.

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Using Google Assistant to control your ESP8266 devices

In my last post I tried to explain how to access your IoT devices at home from the Internet in a secure way using a reverse proxy. Truth is that I had it running since maybe 6 months ago without giving it too much use until recently. Reason? My Nexus 5 had been having serious problems (battery not charging, screen broken, earpiece not working,…) and I decided to replace it with a new mobile phone and the new one has Google Assistant built in.

So one of the first things I have tried is to make Google Assistant toggle my smart switches flashed with ESPurna. Nad as it turns out it’s not hard to do but -at the moment- you have to relay on a cloud service like IFTTT (IF This Then That). This is a key difference with Amazon Alexa services you have to be aware. It has some benefits but also some drawbacks.

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Secure remote access to your IoT devices

When you are hacking with IoT devices at home you get to face the challenge of accessing remotely to them, that is from outside your home network. I’m not saying your home network is a safe place, beware. But that thing outside, you know, “the Internet”, it’s so scary… Unfortunately, most IoT devices are just not ready for the jungle. Neither the commercial ones, nor the hacked ones you might have. I wouldn’t dare to open a port in my router to anything inside unless it’s encrypted. So what should we do?

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