Raspberry Pi Home Automation with Machinon

Pictured below is Machinon, hopefully soon to be released industrial-grade hardware originating from a community project, and designed to manage home and small business automation with a Raspberry Pi.

machinon home automation iot raspberry piThis smart home solution adds smart IO to a Raspberry Pi – 16 digital inputs, 16 digital outputs, and 8 analogue inputs.

The digital inputs can be used as pulse counters (for kWh meters etc) or to detect status changes (doors opening and closing, buttons being pressed, motion sensors triggered etc).
The analogue inputs (0 to 20mA, 4 to 20mA, and 0 to 10V input with 14bit resolution) can be used to measure currents and voltages, light levels, temperatures, and more.
The digital outputs each supply up to 500mA which can be used to switch high voltage and high current appliances via a relay, or directly power low current low voltage devices.

Machinon utilises two ATxmega microprocessors which take care of all the complex pulse counting, timing, analogue measuring, and data collection. The Raspberry Pi then simply communicates with Machinon via UART (serial port) to grab data and control and configure the smart IO.

machinon smart home prototype internals

Machinon is designed to interface with many open source home automation software packages including Domoticz, openHAB, and HomeGenie so the overall user experience should be relatively simple.

The price of this device is likely to be around £200 plus the cost of a Raspberry Pi and microSD card to go in it. Therefore, probably under £250 all in including delivery.

machinon smart home with raspberry pi

For more information, click here to visit the Machinon website.

μduino Smallest Arduino Compatible Board – ATMEGA32U4

Pictured below are photographs of the top and bottom of prototypes of the new μduino, an Arduino-compatible board with dimensions of just 12x12mm making it probably the smallest Arduino every built – just a little bigger than a microSD card.

uduino smallest arduino compatible board

The μduino is smaller in size than the Digispark (with its ATTiny85 chip and 6 I/O pins), but uses the same ATMEGA32U4 microcontroller found on the much more powerful Arduino Leonardo offering 20 I/O pins including 6 analog and 14 digital I/O ports, 7 PWM channels, and a lot more memory.

μduino is now (early August 2017) fully funded on Crowd Supply (a crowd funding website similar to Kickstarter and Indiegogo), easily reaching and exceeding its funding goal with 11 days to spare.

μduino can be set up to operate at either 3.3V or 5V depending on the requirements of your project and any connected sensors.

The tiny size of µduino was achieved using a smaller hole separation (1.27mm vs 2.54mm) relative to standard boards, and packing the components tightly together on both sides of the board.

For full details and/or to place an order for a µduino @ US$18 (shipping on or after September 20th 2017), click here for µduino on the CrowdSupply.com website.

μduino Specs

ATMEGA32U4 microcontroller
6x Analog I/O ports
14x Digital I/O ports (including Rx/Tx)
Status LED
Dual-power modes for 3.3V and 5V operation (accepts up to 16V)
1x Power output (3.3V or 5V depending on what mode is selected)
3x Ground ports
1x Analog reference voltage port
Reset button
16 MHz precision crystal oscillator
MicroUSB port for easy programming and prototyping

Raspberry Pi Pinout Command with GPIOZero

raspberry pi gpiozero pinout commandPictured above is a screen capture showing a new (late July 2017) feature of GPIOZero for the Raspberry Pi – pinout – which shows the status of the general purpose input/output pins of the Raspberry Pi and additional useful information about your Pi.

Simply enter pinout at the command prompt. If the command is not recognised, do a sudo apt-get update; sudo apt-get upgrade to update your Raspberry Pi and GPIOZero software to the latest version, and it will then work.

Click here for full details from the command-line tools section of the GPIOzero docs.

Intel Curie tinyTILE – Mini Arduino 101

intel curie tinyTILEPictured above is the new tinyTILE development and production platform featuring the Intel Curie module. This board is a miniature version of the Arduino 101 and measures in at just 35 x 26mm (1.38 x 1.02 inches), and has been designed to fit on prototyping breadboards.

The tinyTILE board can be programmed using either the Arduino IDE or Intel’s own software – the Intel Curie Open Developer Kit (ODK), and the I/O connections are functionally identical to those on the Arduino 101.

With its small size, low-power consumption, array of motion sensors (6-axis sensor with accelerometer and gyroscope), and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), tinyTILE should be ideal for battery powered wearable devices and any other IoT projects involving motion monitoring.

tinyTILE has a 32-bit 32 MHz Intel Quark SoC, 384 kB flash memory, and 80 kB SRAM. It also includes a digital signal processor (DSP) offering quick pattern matching identification of actions and motions.

tinyTile can be USB powered via its micro-USB connector. The board has its own internal 3.3V regulator and 3.3V (but 5V tolerant)  I/0 connections.

tinyTILE is available now from element14.com (US+) and cpc.farnell.com (UK) amongst others.

New Raspberry Pi Zero On Sale

Raspberry Pi ZeroPictured above is the new Raspberry Pi Zero available for just US$5 or £4.

This stripped down Raspberry Pi is the lowest power consumption version yet at just 160mA or lower at 5VDC.

It has one micro USB connection for power input, and one for connection to peripherals such as a USB hub (for connection of a keyboard and mouse etc) or for a WiFi dongle for headless applications.

The standard Raspberry Pi HDMI port has been replaced with a mini-HDMI port, there is no ethernet, no composite video (although headers are supplied), and even the 40 pin GPIO header is not supplied.

As with the more recent Raspberry Pi models, a micro-SD card port is fitted for you to load your operating system of choice.

The Raspberry Pi Zero has a single-core BCM2835 processor overclocked to 1GHz, and 512MB of on board RAM. This offers three times the performance of the original Raspberry Pi at less than one-quarter the price.

The price of the Raspberry Pi Zero is so low that it competes with even the cheapest Arduino clones, even when the cost of a micro-SD card and GPIO headers is included. It is still more power hungry than an Arduino, but offers much more functionality than any Arduino board.

Raspberry Pi Zero is half the size of the already diminutive Raspberry Pi A+ coming in at a tiny 65mm x 30mm x 5mm and weighing just 9g.

Raspberry Pi cable adapters and GPIO headers

Pictured above is a bundle on offer comprising the GPIO headers, a micro-USB adapter and mini-HDMI adapter offered for £4 at the Raspberry Pi Swag Store. With this bundle or equivalent, you can connect your Raspberry Pi Zero to a television with a standard HDMI cable and plug in a standard USB hub.

Temperature Sensors and USB Memory Sticks with Raspberry Pi

Over the last week we’ve added a few more Raspberry Pi related articles. For those of you interested in using the Raspberry Pi to make yourself a solar thermal controller or other monitoring or control system, then our article Connect Multiple Temperature Sensors with Raspberry Pi will help you to get readings from multiple DS18B20 digital temperature sensors via the GPIO on Raspberry Pi.

Connecting multiple digital temperature sensors to the Raspberry PiIf you are using your Raspberry Pi to play music and video through your television, then you will rapidly need a lot more media storage than you probably have on your operating system SD card. The cheapest and easiest way around this is to use USB flash drives. Our new article Mount USB Memory Stick on Raspberry Pi will take you through the steps required do this.

12V Regulator with Low Voltage Disconnect (LVD)

Pictured below is our new 12V regulator with integrated Low Voltage Disconnect (LVD) battery protection for LED lighting applications.

12v low voltage disconnect (LVD) with 12V low dropout regulator outputThis device will supply power to up to 10 Watts of LED lighting at a safe voltage when connected to a 12V battery while at the same time protecting the battery from being excessively discharged and therefore having its lifespan reduced. It is a combination of our established 12V regulator and low voltage disconnect technologies.

Connections for 12V regulator with low voltage disconnect - REUK

We currently only have this item for sale here: 12V regulator with LVD, but we will be adding it to the REUK Shop soon.

New Raspberry Pi Category on REUK.co.uk Website

raspberry pi model b

We have been doing a lot of work recently with Raspberry Pi so we have decided to start uploading a collection of new articles on Raspberry Pi and its uses in renewable energy and other projects.

There is already a lot of information out there on the internet, but we will be covering the first steps from opening the box to doing useful work with Raspberry Pi.

Our first article in this series is here: Connecting to Raspberry Pi from PC via SSH in which we show you how to interact with a Raspberry Pi from a Windows PC so that you do not need to invest in an HDMI cable, extra keyboard, and mouse. Click here for the Raspberry Pi category article list.

Saudi Solar Power Boom About to Begin

Reuters yesterday published a very interesting analysis article on the future of solar power in Saudi Arabia. Perfectly located for solar power generation, Saudi Arabia currently has just 12MW of installed solar capacity – less than was installed in the UK in the first half of May, and a long long way behind the 5,000MW of capacity installed in China during 2012.

solar power boom in saudi arabia

Saudi Arabia is has relatively low natural gas reserves, but vast oil reserves, so Saudi power stations are oil fired power plants which give an efficiency of just 30%. Since oil used in domestic power generation is oil which cannot then be sold on the international market, there are billions of dollars per month of opportunity cost, effectively pricing Saudi electricity generation at a huge 26 cents/KWh.

With the price of solar panels falling to US$0.80 per Watt, and assuming installed costs of US$1.50 per Watt for utility-sized solar power plants, solar generation costs would be just 9.6 cents/KWh – less than half the cost of using domestic oil.

For these simple economic reasons, the Saudis plan to install 5,000MW of solar over the next 5 years, and 41,000MW over the next 20 years which will give them billions of additional barrels of oil to sell on the international market.

Click here to read the full Reuters article.

Compressed Air for Storage of Renewable Energy

The wind tends to blow more strongly at night when demand for the electricity wind turbine generators can make is at its lowest. Therefore, finding ways to store energy so that it can be used at times of high demand is essential.

The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has been studying how compressed air could be the solution to this energy storage problem.

compressed air energy storage facility

When electricity generation exceeds demand, a large air compressor (powered by the generated electricity) forces air underground into natural porous rock reservoirs. When demand increases, this high pressure air is release back up the surface where it is heated and turns turbines to generate electricity. The overall cycle is up to 80% efficient.

The research looked into suitable locations for this type of compressed air energy storage – not easy since the location must be near to high voltage power lines, have very specific geology, and be near to either natural gas lines or a geothermal heat source for heating the compressed air.

One of the locations they studied had an air reservoir large enough that the energy stored could be used to generate electricity for 40 days – perfect for storing the surplus hydro electricity generated in the spring for example.

For more information see this press release.