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?
My MQTT network at home moves up and down a lot of messages: sensor values, triggers, notifications, device statuses,… I use Node-RED to forward the important ones to PushOver and some others to a Blynk application. But I also happen to have an LED display at home and that means FUN.
LED displays are cool. Your team’s score, your number in the IRS queue, the estimated arrival time for your next commute,… Now that TVs are replacing LED displays (like the later did with the electromechanical ones) they have acquire an almost vintage-status.
This LED display I own even has a name: The Rentalito. The Rentalito is an old friend, one of those projects you revisit because LED displays are cool… Originally it was an Arduino Uno with an Ethernet Shield in a fancy cardboard case. Then it went WiFi using a WiFly module. And then a SparkCore replaced the Arduino. Now… well, ESP8266 is driving my life.
Let me introduce you the latest iteration of the Rentalito, the MQTT LED matrix display.
Since I discovered the Sonoff I’ve been thinking about embedding it inside a switch. I started looking for old power meters, timers,… I had at home but the Sonoff is a bit too long. Why didn’t they design a square board? I event bought a bulky Kemo STG15 case with socket.
Next I decided to design my own board. It is meant to be the “official” hardware for the ESPurna project so it’s called ESPurna too. It’s opensource hardware and available at the ESPurna project repository at Bitbucket. I have some boards already for the first iteration (version 0.1). They are mostly OK but I’m already working on a revision.
But then ITead’s released their S20 Smart Socket. It’s the Sonoff in a wall socket enclosure. Almost 100% what I wanted. And at 11.70€ it’s hard to beat. There are other wifi smart sockets available, mainly Orvibo and BroadLink (an SP2 Centros should be arriving home anyday now) but ITead’s is cheaper and you can easily re-flash it. Just solder a 4 pins header, connect it to your FTDI programmer, hold the S20 button, connect the programmer to your computer and flash. Done.
OK, not so fast. Why would I do that? Why would I change the stock firmware?
The answer for me is a mixed up of philosophy and practicity. But you are right. Let’s go step by step.
Yes, sure! You can buy a Sonoff RF and you are good to go, I guess. But I didn’t and I was not so sure about the no-named RF receiver so I ended thinking about adding my own.
But first things first. The Sonoff is an ESP8266 based smart switch by ITEAD which comes with custom firmware that communicates with the manufacturer cloud to provide “smart” capabilities like remote switching or scheduling. The cool thing is that it has a line of pins that expose the VCC, GND, RX and TX pins of the ESP8266 and a buttons attached to GPIO0 so very soon it got hacked and there are a number of firmware projects already available. I’m not an early adopter and some work has been done and reported by Peter Scargill, Javier or even in instructables.