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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?"

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 verfügbar. 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.

Day 6 in Wien

Plans for day sixth were simple: try to visit places Talie would not be very interested to see. Let's try to visit the Freud Museum, take streetcars and go see Naschmarkt. With the GPS turned on, this is mostly where I went:

First stop, the Sigmeud Freud Museum. As it seems, Mr. Freud lived most of his life in a house in Vienna that is now hosting the museum. It sounded exciting at first, but after entering the museum, you quickly realize he moved back to London at the end of his life with all of his belongings. The museum is hardly empty rooms with pictures on the wall and text about his life. Next time, I'm reading Wikipedia instead.

Exiting the museum, it is time for a quick lunch. Picking up a sandwich at Billa, I continue my journey walking towards the Donau Kanal. There, walking on the bridge, you have a good scenic view of Vienna.

Time to go back on the streetcar. Taking the streetcar #1, I transfer to #2 at Stubendring. Then, passing our hotel, I go west to Karlplatz. Exiting there, I am only a couple of steps away from the Naschmarkt.

Once I enter the market, you can smell (at first the fish) different odors and spices. It is filled with small merchants, selling fruits, nuts, fish, meats, spices and candies like the wasabi sugary thing. As I approach the Kettenbrückengasse U-bahn station, rain starts. I go inside and take the subway go to back to Karlplatz.

Now back on the ring, I take back the streetcar #2. I then enjoy the view from inside while travelling all the way to the end of the line. After a while, I'm back at the hotel, not so wet.

As for the Sesame Street moment, today's sentence: Nicht malen unsere Zimmer, während wir weg sind. If Google did this right, it means: Do not paint our room while we are away.