The Build

Off-Grid Smart Home Integration (In-Progress)

The goal is to be able to control and monitor every aspect of our Skoolie, from a tablet, smartphone, or computer. With Internet, we’ll be able to control any aspect of our Skoolie using Voice Commands & Amazon Alexa. Imagine being able to view that status of all on-board systems while driving down the road; or, being able to start the water heater for a hot shower before getting out of bed in the morning. That’s the goal for this project.Would it be cheaper to pay for a ready to use system, absolutely not. Would it be easier? Definitely! But I don’t think anyone is taking the easy road when they create a Skoolie, so why not put in that little extra effort. Plus, you’ll have this website to help you out along the way.

Let’s start out assuming we will have no internet availability, because truth-be-told, aside from cell phones, I think we will be hunting Internet instead of paying hundreds of dollars a month.

We’re going to break this post down into a few sections to make it easier to digest. 

  1. The Network
  2. The Controller / User Interface
  3. Physical Controller
  4. Some Considerations
  5. Security
  6. Total Cost

 

1) The Network

We’d like to be able to control and view details about our systems on-board, from anywhere inside, or nearby outside, of the Skoolie. The best way to do this, is with a wireless network. There are several routers that come 12v ready, including versions of the widely available Linksys WRT54G, made by Cisco. The reason 12v is important is that it requires no conversion from the batteries, simple cut for the power supply and wire it into the 12v fuse panel we set up in our 12v Power System.

With our WiFi router powered on, we can go ahead and set up our network and work on creating our central controller.

2) The Controller / User Interface

We will need a Raspberry Pi 3 for our Smart Home Controller. If you’re not already familiar with RPi, you should definitely check it out! In short, it’s a credit card sized PC! On the RPi we will install openHAB2 and MQTT. openHAB2 is an open-source Smart Home project. MQTT is an extremely light communication protocol we will use to communicate with our devices and systems. One of the biggest issues facing smart home adoption and integration is corporate proprietary software; all of the devices out there have different communication and control protocol, therefore they can’t really communicate with each other without the use of an additional hub. That’s where openHAB2 really stands out when you start to DIY.

I am currently setting up a GitHub that will have all of the code, and instructions for necessary changes to suit your needs. GitHub Skoolie Project

3) Physical Controller

Arduino Mega w/ Ethernet Shield controlling our 16 channel relay. When a mqtt message is published to a topic the Arduino is listening to, the Arduino reads and interprets the message. The topic tells the Arduino what device we are referencing, and the message contains the command, usually On or Off, 1 or 0. Other possibilities exist and will be used, such as: water temps, air temps, etc.

4) Some Considerations

With the RPi installed on-board, we will be able to bring with us hours and hours of music and movies; stored on a portable hard drive we will be able to stream music, movies, and tv shows to our TV or laptops, inside or outside of the Skoolie.

5) Network Security

Network security is extremely important when using any type of public WiFi, therefor your traffic should be routed through a VPN (Virtual Private Network). The basic are that when you connect to the public WiFi, you will also connect to your VPN. At this point everything you are doing is encrypted and your information is safe. Without encrypting your traffic, hackers and eavesdroppers can easily see what you are doing on a public network.

6) The Costs

I’m going to assume we are all starting from scratch. I will post the lowest prices I can find on each item, but I still encourage you to shop around and find what works best for you.

 

Please leave your comments below and let us know what you think, or what you’d like to learn more about

 

 

2 thoughts on “Off-Grid Smart Home Integration (In-Progress)”

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