This is how I automated my whole house with artificial intelligence and an open source system – FindNow
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This is how I automated my whole house with artificial intelligence and an open source system

Isabella Smith



What do Laura and Marcos’ house have in common with the Portal video game saga? Both have a house equipped with the most refined artificial intelligence and are called the same: GLaDOS. Of course, while in the popular logic game he challenged us to solve puzzles by teleporting through portals inside the house, Laura and Marcos’ – for privacy, they prefer not to show their faces – makes life easier for them. This is your custom automatic house.

The scene is reminiscent of a science fiction movie, even in the choice of the chosen phrase. Laura or Marcos enter their house saying “I’m back.” At that moment the lights come on. When they leave, they don’t even need to say goodbye: the system detects that their mobile terminals are no longer connected to Wi-Fi, at which point in addition to turning off the lights, their heating switches to basal mode.

This intelligent lighting system is especially interesting when they get up in the middle of the night or when they arrive loaded with bags. Laura explains that they find it so comfortable that when their system broke a few days ago ” I had a hard time finding where the switches were at home .”

Not only is artificial light controlled under your home’s smart system: they have domotic blinds that raise or lower themselves depending on the position of the sun “so I don’t have to worry about my house getting hot, it’s more efficient in a way autonomous. ” And if the lights come on as they pass, the same happens with the blinds: “they go up by themselves if I’m at home and get up.”

Something that we greatly appreciate when returning home, whether in summer or winter, is that it is at a comfortable temperature. Laura and Marcos do it well from their mobile or from the Echo Auto that has just arrived. They are currently polishing modes such as “it’s summer and I’m coming home” in which in addition to lighting and air conditioning, other elements such as blinds come into play.

That Laura and Marcos’ house has been domotized by themselves – as we will go deeper throughout the article -, which has allowed them to customize it to the extreme according to their needs and design elements such as their diesel control system, the fuel used for heat the:

“Our diesel tank has a lid that we have replaced with one made by 3D printing with an ultrasound pointed downwards, so that we know how much diesel is left. On the outside there is a screen where we can see the remaining quantity. It also sends this information to home automation. “

Thus, even if the heating is turned on when the set temperature is reached, they can minimize consumption by receiving the warning that the fuel is running low. This has certain advantages: “Unlike commercial systems, I can set the heating depending on the time of year, room and time .”

Thus, at night the heating jumps or not depending on the temperature of the bedroom. During the day, the heating jumps or not depending on the temperature of the room. And that is a saving, because otherwise, at night I would try to heat the largest room in the house, which is the living room, just the one that is not being used. At night what I want is comfort in the bedrooms. “

Your garden is also a domotic place where, although it is possible to activate it manually or from your mobile, the pool maintenance system itself detects if it has rained, increasing the frequency of motor operation. And if it’s windy, a voice command is enough for the system to pick up the awnings.

The next improvement to be implemented in your garden is automatic irrigation (currently in the testing phase), thanks to the help of plant sensors that detect light, humidity, temperature and soil fertility: “They are the Mi Plant from Xiaomi “Super powerful devices that work very well. In addition, we have designed a transparent methacrylate cap on the sensor so that the rain does not damage them.”

Commercial home automation offers a large number of solutions to automate different parts of the house such as air conditioning or electrical management through light bulbs, switches, sensors and plugs (among others), however they have chosen to make the installation smart . “I want to control this light that is on the ceiling, so I take the cable that carries the electricity and connect it to my connector that goes to the home automation. “

“We have sensors that receive information and channel it and switches to execute actions. The advantage is that I am not tied to anything , I have sensors for temperature, humidity, climate, light, presence, plants (we’ll talk later) and a lot of switches to that suit me. “

And another key factor taking into account the predictably long useful life of a home: obsolescence. “In a completely commercial solution, apart from the much higher cost, it subordinates the life of your home automation installation to the life of the manufacturer of that solution, its solvency and what they consider an acceptable support period. If the manufacturer decides that it no longer supports you, or if you don’t want to integrate with new home automation systems, you are sold. Open source guarantees that you will always have the possibility to tweak, adjust and even implement according to what you need and keep your system up to date. “

For practicality they use “a combination of proprietary and open source systems, because we are not interested in doing everything ourselves. The system has been programmed by my husband and the logic has been made between him and me.”

“Sensors and switches are concentrated in Raspberry Pi , Sonoff boards and the like that process the data and translate it into Home Assistant . It is a free code system, the most complete that exists, to transform information from sensors and switches into actions, and make triggers, manage schedules through an interface. It is a very typical solution that allows many actions to be carried out, unfortunately the interface is not very customizable at the design level because there are no designers who mess with free code “

Laura explains that the choice of Home Assistant is based on two reasons: flexibility and price . “In our case to test we use electronic components and it is very difficult to find a commercial interface that is sold only as an interface, like” give me your information and I will present it domotically “, they are more limited and tend to be proprietary.”

“We chose Home Assistant because there are rather few such complete and free options . We were clear from the beginning that we wanted to make the electronics ourselves. Good quality Chinese components from Aliexpress cost 4 euros, that is something that has not happened for years.”

Of the approximately 1,500 euros carrying spent on domotizar home, the most expensive are the engines of shutters.. “Each one costs more than 200 euros had to buy commercial because we wanted something complete, well and did not give problems domotizar your house with commercial elements is crazy at the cost level “, especially if you want something complex. It is also a project for us: I do experiments because I want to do them and make my life easier. “

“We thought about it this way because we were interested in home automation and because it is also much cheaper than buying connected devices. I have all the lights in my house, about 130 sensors in total and each one will have cost us a couple of euros. Besides, I only need on / off, I don’t need colors or stuff. “

As for the air conditioning “it is a normal model to which we have captured the infrared signal from the remote and we replaced it with the Raspberry Pi . I know that there are commercial connected air conditioners, but it is more expensive and it comes with the application and I do not I want it, just the information. “

The idea that it is open source is that it works with everything : “in this sense, speakers work with Alexa and Google Assistant, with Siri I have my doubts because Apple is more strict. We use standard commands, so they should know how to manage them without problem”

“For speakers we use Amazon’s with the Alexa voice assistant, which has its native functionalities, but we use it as audio reception, because at the moment there is nothing open source or proprietary that is good enough. Also, currently the best assistant to recognize the voice and translate it into actions is Alexa. Before we did it with Google Assistant, but the voice was super “orthopedic”

This hobby of automating your home continues to grow according to its usual procedure: they introduce a novelty, they test it thoroughly and when it is stable, they scale it to your home . Despite the experimental and playful component of the process, he details that “we are clear that everything has to have a physical backup , or what is the same, I have the physical switches operational.”

One of the challenges has been that of the light switches: “we have changed them to pushbuttons for the sake of simplicity, thus avoiding changes in position if you have several switches in a room. The next step will be to incorporate actions in the pushbuttons For example, if you press the button 3 times in a row, it will do a different action. If I press the entrance button once, it turns off the entrance, if I hold it down for three seconds, it turns off the lights in the whole house. “

The physical is the most basic control of your smart home, which is complemented by a panel with buttons in the form of an orderly interface where you will find what you usually need: “it collects the main actions everything that is the living room, bedrooms, the garden” . It is part of a hierarchical structure made up of several levels that depend on the type of order and location :

“The one on your phone, in which we are in a comfortable position that allows us to look at it; the voice level, which requires a simple and specific instruction for something to happen quickly. You have to be very careful with the commands with Alexa, because They have to come out naturally, if not you don’t use it. For example, I put a dishwasher in the dishwasher plug, but I always say dishwasher, so it’s a mess “

There is a fourth level that is the computer: “it is the one that allows us to study what we are doing, with a more complete interface.”

An additional one will arrive soon: “We plan to implement a nice paper- like interface through libraries that reminds you of the New York Times, that greet you, give you the news of the day. It will be a big screen in the living room to touch and drive, for example to grandmothers, so that they can control what they may need.

Laura and Marcos’ house is called GLaDos “like the artificially superintelligent fictional computer system from the Portal video game series, and I have a telegram group with it. It’s a bot that alerts us to notifications.”

Although it is common for manufacturers to give the surname “intelligent” to devices whose differential feature is that they are connected to our mobile, Laura and Marcos do seek that intelligence: “We want to include in the project everything that requires an automatic control that It is interesting that it is a bit intelligent, in the sense that it not only has to receive actions that you order, but also external information so that it works autonomously “

“This is the case of garden irrigation. It consists of electrovalves that will be connected to our system and to the My Plant plant sensor. We can control it by voice, from the mobile phone or the computer, but we also want it to be connected to the internet to be capable of detecting if a big storm has fallen or that it adjusts the hours to the hours of sun to always water at night. It has to take these circumstances into account automatically. “

The set of sensors, processing through the boards and the Home Assistant management generates an enormous volume of data of great value for the optimization of your smart home: big data . Something that has a direct consequence on your energy consumption:

“When I collect the data from my home, I have the possibility to see the temperature flows of all the plants in my house thanks to the temperature sensors. With the sensor in the diesel tank I see the consumption, so that I can know the diesel consumption based on its activity and the temperature outside, which allows me to make decisions. Everything is recorded. “

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Let’s talk about security: “Asimov’s” laws adapted to home automation
The protocol chosen by Laura and Marcos so that their devices “understand” each other and with their phones is Wi-Fi because it is ” a robust solution that works well , so we have not been complicated by looking for other protocols”. However, there are other protocols for end-to-end solutions that allow you to connect a large number of devices and improve the range, such as Z-Wave or Zigbee . They explain that “Home automation systems hardly generate Wi-Fi traffic and thanks to the fact that we have good routers and two networks, one for home automation and one for us, we do not suffer saturation”

In any case, despite the fact that with home automation we can speed up the control of certain devices, the exposure of so many connected devices represents a security risk. How do they solve it? With Asimov’s laws adapted to home automation, according to his words.

“I am one of Asimov’s laws, which for me are the laws of home automation: no locks, I don’t want to control anything domotically that opens a door, it’s forbidden . My maximum threshold is the blinds and always because I have a system of alarms owner of an independent security company. “

Laura and Marcos have an Echo Dot in the bedroom and an Echo Show in the living room and, although they would like to implement another smart speaker in places like the garage, they don’t do it because: “interactions can come from the street. For example, in the garage, someone could give an order from the outside and say ” Alexa, open the door or the window , because the voice control is not secured, it is something super light.”

Another of his prohibited devices are cameras: “It makes no sense to put cameras, they are useless, there is nothing you can do. We only put in home automation what makes sense to automate. The” minority Report “concept of I make you a panel that you see your whole house, is to show it to visitors … you don’t need to see your house, you need to take action quickly “

Although they do have a camera, specifically focusing on the 3D printer “because it is useful when you are away from home how the printing goes to be able to stop it. In one of the axes of the 3D we have a stick that allows it to be moved remotely.”

The third law prohibits them from accessing their home from outside : “The home automation system is linked to Wi-Fi, but the guests have an independent Wi-Fi that does not have access to the entire system, only to the internet. In this way, inside the home only we have control. We also have a VPN that allows us to access systems from outside the home “