Thoughts on Rails

Riding the Train of Thought

I am ready to step into the awesome land of Arduino / Freeduino

with 9 comments

This is a rant, not a short informational piece. I’ll summarize the next content for you if you are in a hurry: I’m getting a freeduino board, a small microcontroller system with many analog and digital interfaces and a decently powerful ATMega168 processor. I wanted to work on home automation since I was a kid. Since keeping a whole computer running for such projects seemed like a waste of energy, my small projects never were permanently set up. Now I plan to work on them.

 That’s about it ๐Ÿ™‚ if you have too much time, read on:

 When in school, I participated in science fair every year. It is sad that most kids brought readymade kits to display. I had been taught to believe in making something myself. The projects were smallish, but encouraged and admired. Then came college where these things were considered silly – knowing formulas and definitions was in vogue. My boxes of junk (electronic spares, broken devices, odds and ends of various machines etc.) collected over the years slowly disappeared… until one day I realized I had become a ‘software guy’ who had forgotten how to create a basic circuit.

 Somewhere in between, I had these wild dreams of automating my home with all kinds of intelligent systems. Things that made my life inside the house more comfortable and saved labour and time so I could focus on more important things.

 Even today, many switches in our home bear numbers stuck on them – a memory of my decade old plan to map the switches and control some devices automatically.

 Switching on lights in a room when someone is present, switching it off after a while when everyone has left. Using the fan to maintain a nearly constant cool temperature (instead of power hungry AC. Switching on mosquito repellent occassionally, increase frequency if the screen door is left open longer.)

 We have a borewell, an underground tank that is refilled by a tanker that we pay for when the borewell is dry. The overhead tank must be kept filled, with either source – when electricity is available. Borewell should be turned on early morning, when water has accumulated and is not being pumped out by everyone else. The pump must be turned off if the borewell runs out of water (happens before summer), during/after summer, it sometimes goes dry. The underground tank’s pump must be operated only if there is enough water. We need to be alerted to call for the tanker when water is low, or alternatively the monitoring system sends SMS to the water tanker guy. We have mosquitos and assorted insects in the garden – to keep them out, we need screened windows and doors. The door does not have a spring because our cat doesn’t have a separate door – she can open the door, but if it remains open for more than few min, we should be warned.

 The neighbourhood is not very safe, small things are stolen if gate is open and unattended. I need to be warned when the gate opens or closes, and if it remains open for too long.

 I don’t want to have to turn on the porch light every night – an ambient light sensor should manage that for me. Hot water for bath and also for tea/coffee should be synchronized with my alarm automatically so when I have to wake up early, the devices rise before me ๐Ÿ˜‰

 And someday, I wish to implement easy, non intrusive inventory system to create shopping list automatically, perhaps even order groceries online when the services are available in my town.

 Though I rarely watch TV, I’d like to be reminded of any shows I wish to watch, and the TV be turned on as I enter the room. Perhaps, the patterns for mute and unmute are detected by the remote clone sitting near the TV/Sat Receiver – and carried on automatically to keep the obnoxiously loud adverts under control.

 And I’d like to have my fave music play as the alarm while the lights gently increase their brightness as i wake up. Oh, I need to wake up from this daydream ๐Ÿ™‚ let’s see how much of this is really achieved now that the technology is becoming more and more affordable and available. I am very excited, much like a kid who is waiting for a Christmas present ๐Ÿ™‚


Written by hiway

August 20, 2009 at 4:43 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

9 Responses

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  1. What sucks is that you’re not in Bombay. But then you’d have had a gatecrasher far too often :DDo write about any of your “experiments”, will you

    Aditya Sengupta

    August 21, 2009 at 8:15 pm

  2. I will definitely write about the experiments here ๐Ÿ™‚  Gatecrashers are actually welcome when its related to hacking hardware, software or photography ๐Ÿ˜€ What sucks is that you are not in the laid back Ahmednagar where we get time for such things ๐Ÿ˜‰  hehehe! Watch this space.

    Harshad Sharma

    August 22, 2009 at 7:59 am

  3. Yeah these Arduino boards are pretty good, but hard to get in India and no doubt expensive.. had thought of making something useful with it for final year project. But had to give up cos of the costs.. Now making Moving Message Display with AT89C51.


    August 22, 2009 at 9:45 am

  4. I did consider the 89C51 for my final year project- but I didn’t have easy access to the programmer (burner). I eventually went in for a Philips 89V51 for which I didn’t need a programmer. I think Atmel has one with In System Programming too- AT89S51 or something like that. ISP is particularly useful if you’re going to be working on only a few projects- but if you’re going to rewire your whole house, do get a programmer.

    Aditya Sengupta

    August 22, 2009 at 9:52 am

  5. The cheapest board “LilyPad” can be bought at about 300 INR, with a USB breakout board for ~350 more. That should be manageable for a serious project IMHO.Also, I’m guessing since this is for college, your lab might have AVR programmer hardware, all you need then is an ATMega8 or ATMega168 and a few small components and the Arduino ROM to be burned on the processor โ€” again not *that* costly if you have the programmer at college.The original Arduino is definitely costly tho! I wish these boards are used for innovative ideas in our country โ€” making a thriving market for such products possible. We really need a few radioshacks and sparkfuns ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Harshad Sharma

    August 22, 2009 at 9:53 am

  6. Btw- which part of your house are you going to control with the 168? IIRC, the 168 might have more juice than you might need for most applications. Just asking.

    Aditya Sengupta

    August 22, 2009 at 9:54 am

  7. Absolutely! I am looking at freeduino as a reentry point for me into electronics. Had lost touch with most parts of this field for many years, once I am fully comfortable with it, I could use AVR chips directly on projects instead of using generic boards everywhere. A chip programmer will come when I learn enough to deserve to use it ๐Ÿ˜‰ 

    Harshad Sharma

    August 22, 2009 at 9:56 am

  8. Starting with controlling the pumps (Most of the logic is detailed above) and adding control for mosquito repellent based on how long door is open + on a regular schedule and the porch light. Three subprojects to start it off – will see what else the I/O ports can handle. WIll also be adding LCD display and buzzer for warning/information to this.

    Harshad Sharma

    August 22, 2009 at 9:58 am

  9. Ok- makes sense for the pump- or if you’re using the board to control all of the above (I’d probably use different chips- I hate too many wires). For the simpler projects, you might also want to look at the AtTiny series eventually.

    Aditya Sengupta

    August 22, 2009 at 10:23 am

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