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Saving electricity with IoT

Spaduino box
This little box could help you save on your electric bill. Similar to many smart thermostats like Nest and Honeywell Lyric, this smart device helps you control how you use electricity for heat. In this case, it is not how you heat your house but rather how you heat the water in your hot tub.

The math is quite obvious. While connecting devices to the Internet might seem to increase the total demand for power, this is rapidly offset by using electricity more efficiently. For example, this little box consumes less than a Watt of power while preventing a 10kW heater from running on cold nights or when the spa is not in use for long periods.

If saving the planet is not enough, being able to remotely monitor the status of the hot tub away from home and the convenience of remotely setting the temperature without going outside might convince you to use one. Continue reading "Saving electricity with IoT"

Cal Spa Connector

In The Internet of Spas, I briefly explained how commodity IoT hardware could be used to connect a (dumb) spa to the Internet, using the empty RJ-45 port found on most Balboa spa controllers.

At that time, I only had the opportunity to connect the port to a logic analyzer to see the kind of messages the controller was sending. In a way, I could understand the current status of the spa but not control it remotely. In this post, I will document the complete interface and how you can control the various features similar to the Top Side display interface.

It all starts with the RJ-45 connector and what the various pins are connected to: Continue reading "Cal Spa Connector"

The Internet of Spas

Somewhere in my yard, there is an appliance which is not connected to the Internet... yet. Last summer, after a power outage, I realized the pumps were not working. The heater was running, but without water circulating the spa went quickly in Overheat mode, throwing errors on the top display. As it was summer and being a lot outside, I had plenty of time to notice the issue and not worry about freezing conditions.

Being out of warranty, I decided to cut the power to the spa and open the control box. This is where I discovered a Cal Spa CS6200DV branded Balboa circuit board, with SSID 100 66 45. Going through standard components, I noticed a blown out 30A fuse that was feeding the pumps. Replaced the fuse, powered back the spa, everything worked for a total of 2,95$.

Wondering how I could have remotely caught this issue, I started searching the web for a WiFi remote or RF option to the spa. While I noticed a WiFi Balboa bridge, it didn't seem to fit my need or even be compatible. It also needed a paid cloud membership and was well overpriced.
Continue reading "The Internet of Spas"

Honey, where are my amps?

Honey, where are my amps?
I have been using the great ESP-01 for a while now, either as a side WiFi chip for software running on various Atmel AVR chips (ATmega328, ATtiny84, ATtiny85) or as a standalone micro controller. While what you can do with an ESP8266 is impressive, it also has its drawbacks: it uses a lot of power.

If you are using batteries to power your project, you need to make sure you can sleep the WiFi chip most of the time or use a different less power hungry radio, like the various RFM69 chips. However, using something different than WiFi also means you need some kind of receiver.

If you are building gadgets for IoT, you will eventually need a way to connect to the Internet. Having WiFi directly on the gadget saves an extra step.

How much power is the ESP really consuming? Continue reading "Honey, where are my amps?"

Hacking the Red Light (Part I)

Arduino layout
Two years ago, I decided to buy a Budweiser Red Light to enhance our hockey night experience. While the product is quite expensive for what it does, I couldn't be happier with the end result. You have to admit, every goal from your team feels and sounds worth jumping around shouting loudly.

This being said, while the product by itself is great, I couldn't resist the urge to hack it. One of my goal was to connect the house Hue lights to the Red Light so that they would shine red as goals were scored. Googling around, I found some ways of achieving this:

Continue reading "Hacking the Red Light (Part I)"

Lucky day 7

7th day in Wien and since this number has a strong religious meaning, what a perfect day to go see inside Stephansdom cathedral, the katacomb and the rest.

But first, let's go visit a museum. We decide to go at the Natural history museum, since they are supposed to have specimens of dinosaurs. When we get there, we quickly realize that it is closed on Thursdays. We can go to the building on the other side, which is the Kunsthistorisches Museum (or Museum of Arts).

Once entered, we can appreciate the architecture of the building. Looking above, we can see a large painting on the ceiling.

First exhibition, coins from around the world. We go through rooms, seeing different coins from different time spans. Last room we enter, we come accross a enormous coin, from the Canadian Royal Mint. This pure gold coin, is at the moment the largest coin ever made. Worth over $2M, it weights 100kg. Not very practical if you want to use it and carry it in your pocket though.

Next rooms, paintings from the 15th to 17th century. Not being very informed (or educated?), we quickly look at all the paintings, mostly religious or related to suffering (plague, wars, etc.)

Last rooms, artefacts from Egypt, pyramids, etc. Very interesting indeed. It is amazing looking at all those little hieroglyphs, not just on tablets but everywhere. They even had a mummified crocodile, which is odd at first looking at the shape.

Museum tour is over, getting back outside, it is still raining. We decide to take the subway to go to Stephansdom. Basically, this means taking the U1 after streetcar #2 (sorry, no U2).

Inside the cathedral, the humidity is strong, making it very cold and wet. Except for some plasma TVs on walls, original architecture has been preserved. Not much light inside, but just enough is coming from the outside through the large windows. Having looked around, we wait for the next Katacomb tour to begin.

30 minutes later, the guide arrives. Unfortunately, we won't be able to take pictures downstairs. Too bad, the visit is still worth it.

Going underground, we didn't really know what was there. We then learn that the katacombs contain graves of thousands of people. In each rooms, we can see piles of bones. In certain rooms, piles represent a certain era with the Black Death. Bodies were not burned as it would have destroyed the after-life of the victims. We are even told that at a certain point, the cathedral had to be closed due to the smell. Creepy.

Out of the katacombs, we head back to the hotel, and take a shower... just to be sure we're not infested. No really, we went for dinner instead.

Now time for the Sesame Street Moment: nicht verf├╝gbar. It means not available. We had a hard time understanding what was wrong with the TV at the hotel, every button we used gave that message on the screen. It seems the hotel was doing a remote update of the system and it failed. Back to normal now.