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 firmware 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.
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.
After a busy month I decided to spend some energy on doing hardware instead of software and the result was the ESPurna board I posted about just yesterday. The goal was to have a device based on the ESP8266 I could fit into my house wall gangs, with an SPDT relay to work with multi-way switches and power monitoring using the same IC the Sonoff POW uses: the HLW8012.
As a side project today I’ve been searching on the box of the TODO projects and I have rescued a KEMO STG15 [Ebay] plug housing with socket. These sockets are somewhat expensive and really bulky but the good thing is that there is quite some room to fit some electronics inside, but not a Sonoff board, too big.
But, what about an ESPurna board?
If you have read me, you might know I have a firmware for ESP8266-based smart switches called ESPurna. The firmware integrates with Alexa, Domoticz, Home Assistant and about any other service that supports MQTT or HTTP REST APIs. It supports a variety of devices, including almost the whole Sonoff family by Itead Studio, but also some other commercially available boards and light bulbs, and open source hardware projects as well.
But sometimes you just don’t find the proper hardware for your specific case. Maybe it doesn’t expose enough GPIOs, maybe it’s short of analog ports, maybe you need a double-throw relay,… Sometimes we manage to work around these limitations of the hardware adding peripherals or using a thin iron tip. But other times the problem is that it just doesn’t fit.
And size was the main reason I started creating my own smart switch board.
My daughters love to talk to (or with) my Amazon Dot [Amazon US] in their funny English: “Alexa, hello!”, “Alexa, li-on!” (actually “light on”). It’s so easy to use it to switch on/off things at home using the fauxmo python script by Maker Musings. In his post about Amazon Echo and Home Automation more than a year ago he explains how he reverse-engineered the protocol of the WeMo switches that Alexa (Amazon Echo [Amazon US] or Amazon Dot [Amazon US]) supports.
I also have a server running the fauxmo script with an MQTT handler to control some of the Sonoffs I have at home, but this morning I woke up thinking: why should I use an external script to control my devices if I can code it in the firmware?