Monthly Archives: November 2016

Thank You Australia!

Thanks for purchasing my iOS Garage Door App Australia! I didn’t have you set up to purchase the Smart Hub app in the Android Play Store (which you need if you want to use the geofencing/cloud functionality) but now you are. You will need a Android device running Gingerbread or higher to use for your hub.

Geofence Garage Door Opener in Action

Smart Hub:
Home Automation Hub app
Home Automation Hub Demo

Garage Door App:
Manual Operation Demo
Geofence Configuration Demo

Pi Home Automation Remote for Android v2.0 Release

Just published version 2.0 of Pi Home Automation Remote for Android.

Now you can schedule Remote type devices to turn on and then off or off and then on.

You can also link Remote devices, turn on one light while turning another off or turn on multiple Remote type devices with a single push of a button. I tested by turning on a lamp and a tv, both plugged into separate wall warts.

Or do a mix, turn on a smart outlet and a lamp wall wart (Remote device) with a push of a button. Or schedule the same way.

Schedules are recurring(happen every day) to disable at any time un-select schedule check box in settings.

Also linking of linked items does not work.

Mobile users click on MENU above.

Added Smart Hub for Android Availability To More Countries

Today I have added the following countries access to my Smart Hub for Android app.

United Kingdom
United Arab Emirates
South Africa

So if you purchased the Remote app for Android or iOS and you are in one of these countries you should be able to purchase the Smart Hub app now.
Mobile users click on MENU above.

Add 6 5v pins to Raspberry Pi

Mobile users click on MENU above.

My mistake. I have been looking at the “wrong” GPIO diagram for a while now (mainly because I run out of 5v pins before GPIO’s, it didn’t matter).

The new Raspberry Pi’s have 8 ground pins so you can have 6 external USB power supplies grounded to the board.

That is $35 for the Raspberry Pi, $7 for a power supply for the Raspberry Pi and depending on how many light switches / Outlets you are controlling . . .

Relay boards with 2 relays at $4 a piece gives you 16 controlled outlets or switches for $32! with just 1 Raspberry Pi!

Finally instead of worrying about power connections I have to worry about GPIO connections.

I was going to say:

You could have 32 controlled outlets or switches when using relay boards with 4 relays on them.


And since it’s almost Christmas you could get crazy and get relay boards with 8 relays for $10 on Amazon and have 64 controllable connections for $80 and 1 Raspberry Pi!

But! you only have . . . only! 26 pins to control with, so after that you have to add a Raspberry Pi.

This weekend I went from 5 Raspberry Pi’s down to 2 and I still have 2 open grounds!

And more food for thought:

I was on my way to buy more USB cords to cut when I saw a USB extension laying on my stairs and I wondered if they would be powered also? YUP! The ones I have do so I didn’t need to buy any more I had a bunch from thumb drives I had previously bought. $0!

Add more 5v pins to your Raspberry Pi



While working with the Raspberry Pi the only thing I really didn’t like about it was that you could only power two relay boards from it, and if you needed more it seemed the only way to have more relay boards was to have more Raspberry Pi’s, and I guess since you power them with only 5v anyway adding more probably doesn’t waste a whole lot of electricity, but it still kind of made me uncomfortable.

While trying to use a old cell phone that I didn’t have a battery for anymore, I started to look on the internet for ways to power a phone without a battery. I remember my first smart phone an HTC Falcon would let me plug it in and use it without a battery and I always wondered why I couldn’t do that anymore. Well I found all kinds of You-Tube videos showing how you could cut the end off of a USB cord and hard wire it right into the phone and not even need a battery, and this made me think why couldn’t I do this with a relay board?

So I cut the end off a USB cable and connected the red wire to the vcc connection and the black wire to gnd and . . . NOTHING! WTF!

So I started searching the web, I found only one article mentioning using a USB cable to power a relay for the Raspberry Pi and it was VERY vague, but I remember them saying you had to ground to the Raspberry Pi board and that was about it. What about the ground for the relay? Just leave it wide open? That scared me completely so I just gave up. For a couple days.

There can’t be a reason why you can’t do this! So I searched again, and found one more mention, and luckily the person this time when another person gave the same vague answer, don’t forget to ground to the Raspberry Pi, this time the person replied, what about the ground for the relay board? Oh, you probably want to ground that too. Huh?

But it was time to sacrifice a Raspberry Pi if that was what it was going to take, but . . .


So now you should be able to at least hook up 5 relay boards to a Raspberry Pi 2 and 8 relay boards to a Raspberry Pi 3, maybe more, I just am not sure how many connections you could share one ground with.

Essentially all you have to do is make a Y wire for the ground and that’s it.

I think it describes it better if we act like we are taking a connection that already works that is connected to the Raspberry Pi and convert it.

First you would make the Y wire for the ground, then you would remove the ground wire connected to the Raspberry Pi and replace it with your Y wire. Then you would plug the ground wire to the relay board to one of the ends of the Y wire. Then you would connect the black wire from the cut end of the USB cable to the other end of the Y wire. Then remove the power wire for the relay board from the Raspberry Pi (freeing up a power connection) and connect it to the red wire on the cut USB cable. Then I plugged the USB cable into a powered USB hub (5v) and voila! when I sent a command to turn on the relay IT WORKED!

So there are 5 grounds on the Raspberry Pi 2 and 8 grounds on the Raspberry Pi 3, what I just told you more than doubled your stock connections!

Sorry, Raspberry Pi, didn’t mean to cut into your profit, honest.

Mobile users click on MENU above.

IoT Wireless Remote for Raspberry Pi

It’s always, Always, ALWAYS best to directly wire your relay to your Raspberry Pi and to whatever you are controlling, but sometimes it’s just impossible to get to an outlet or a wall switch without tearing a bunch of holes in the wall. For that I give you a how to on connecting a Raspberry Pi to a wireless remote controller that turns on and of wall warts which you can plug into an outlet and then plug your lamp or fan into it, and then control it with your phone. This is what the Remote option is for in my app. When using this setup you need two GPIO’s for each wall wart, one to toggle it on, one to toggle it off, very similar to a garage door opener. The garage door project is easier than this one, but this would definitely be your next step.

This was my second project after learning how to do the garage door and it was awesome . . . until we had a falling out. This is wireless and like some articles I pointed to pointed out wireless IoT devices are flaky, when I started out the wall warts would come on I would say 90% of the time, which just means you have to push the button twice, no big deal, but at the end it was only working 10% of the time, and I still can’t tell you why. It did work though for about 6 months and while I was testing my app I was probably turning it on and off about 50 – 60 times a day, and no it wasn’t the battery in the remote, I changed that about 3 times with no effect.

So let’s get to it!

The remotes I use are Woods wireless remotes they are like $25 from my local hardware store.

I think 3 packs are as many as they have that use the same channel. Notice on the stickers in the top right corner of the wall warts they show what channel they use, I think they have A,B,C,D,E and F available so you could have more than 3 you just need to use different channels and you would have to connect each channel to a different relay grouping.

First I would make sure the remotes work “manually” before starting this project just so you know you didn’t get a bad set. (I haven’t ever)

Then we need to take the remote apart so we can solder connections to the back of the remote.



Above was the first remote I made, possibly one of the problems with it was that the wires were too big? So this time I will use cat5 wires instead. Again, it worked for a while so you can use the same size wire, just don’t use speaker wire please.


Remove battery cover

Remove battery cover

Remove battery

Remove battery

Remove screw

Remove screw

Pry open side by using a flat screw driver and twisting.

Pry open side by using a flat screw driver and twisting.




Now we are ready to get our wires so we can solder them on the back, like I said I used cat5 wiring the second time.




To keep costs down, I’m sure, they use as little solder as necessary when building the remotes originally, so you may want to add some solder to each connection first before soldering on your wires. Refer to the picture with the red wires to see where they need to be connected.

Also this second time I made sure to point all my wires to the bottom of the remote so I could run them out of the battery cover. My first try I didn’t use the remote cover I just left the bare board showing, which is fine, but if you sneeze hard enough the battery will fall out disabling the remote so this time I used the cover.


The brown wire is a common wire which will connect to the common connection on each one of the relays for each wire (One relay for on, one relay for off). The top wire (white wire with tracer) is the on wire, and the bottom wire (colored wire) is the off wire.

When soldering I did the bottom row first, starting with the wire farthest away from me and worked toward me, then I did the top row, again starting farthest from me working towards me.

You can daisy chain the common wire.

You can daisy chain the common wire.

Next you connect all the on and off wires to the NORMALLY OPEN connection on the relay board so that the remote is normally off, if you do it the other way all the buttons will be on and your battery will be dead in about 10 minutes.



After you test it and make sure it works you can then disconnect it from the relays and put the remote board back in it’s case.




Here it is in action!


100 Downloads! WooHoo!! Thank you Sooooo much!

In less than 2 months I have had 100 unique devices download Pi Home Automation Free app for iOS!

Special thanks to those of you who bought the paid version!

I have to re-new my website name by the end of the year and you are really making it hard for me to decide whether to re-new or change it to! (actually at the moment it would be, that’s where it tells me how many people have downloaded the app!)

But, no changes yet, it will stay the same for now.

Some interesting food for thought, I have had probably 10 apps in the Google Play store for 2 years and as of last week, I have had only 2 people that I don’t know download any of them, and in less than 2 months you guys downloaded a single app 100 times. It appears that Android people are ME TOO! people, they wait for Apple people to make it cool and then they ask, “Where’s the Android app? Me too! Me too!” Well this app was in the Play store a good month to 2 months before the iOS version with 0 downloads, so Apple RULES!

You are truly the best and obviously leaders of what is to come in the future.

If Apple would just come up with a way to allow me to schedule things on the phone (like alarms) and I mean program them not use their alarm app, I could totally ditch Android, oh and widgets I really like my Android home screen.