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Home.Pi Reloaded – Home Automation with Ionic and MQTT

23.9.2014 | 4 minutes of reading time

Today I want to inform you about a new release of my home automation solution “Home.Pi”. First I want to apologize to all those whom I have not yet replied to their questions after the first post . Maybe the following article answers some of them and helps you to get it running on your own hardware or cloud service. In the meantime I experimented a lot with different technologies, e.g. Ionic Framework, Firebase, MQTT, etc. and released some new versions of Home.Pi. But in the end I was not really convinced with the solutions. The Release v3.0  was running with Firebase and it worked good, but I don’t like vendor lock-in especially for private open source projects. So I decided to move most of the stuff into the trash and implemented a really small solution which is now based on the Ionic Framework for the GUI and a lightweight Message Broker (MQTT) to connect the devices.

Architecture

The reason why I choose Ionic and MQTT is simple. Most of the time I control the devices over my mobile phone, so I need a great user experience here. With MQTT the GUI-Application gets decoupled from the device controllers. For deeper informations about MQTT please refer to mqtt.org . Only the services which need a direct connection to a device (e.g. to a 433 MHz-Transmitter) are running on local hardware (Raspberry Pi, Spark-https://www.spark.io/ ). All other components are deployed on a EC2-cloud-instance (MQTT-Broker, Google Calendar Bridge, etc.).  In the end it’s a kind of a Micro Service Architecture, where I am able to replace components very easily without interrupting the whole home automation system. Furthermore I am not restricted to a specific programming language. Basically I can use every programming language which has a supported MQTT Client . But let’s have a look on the new awesome GUI ;-):

Setup

To get it running just read the following instructions or go directly to Github for further and maybe updated instructions.

1. Install Mosca (MQTT Broker)

1npm install mosca bunyan -g
2

2. Start the broker

1mosca --http-port 8000 --http-bundle --verbose | bunyan
2

3. Publish the device configuration to the MQTT broker. For the first time you can leave the config as it is and simply execute the script publish-config.sh. Beforehand please make sure to modify the credentials to access your own MQTT broker inside the script.

1./publish-config.sh
2

4. Clone the source code from Github

1git clone https://github.com/denschu/homepi
2

5. Install some tools and build it

1cd homepi
2sudo npm install -g cordova ionic gulp
3npm install
4gulp install
5

5. Start a local HTTP Server with the Ionic CLI Tools

1ionic serve
2

6. The web browser should start automatically and show up the login screen

7. Login with your credentials

As a next step you have to setup a device controller. You can find some MQTT bindings here . For the quick start I recommend to buy a Raspberry PI, a 433MHz transmitter and some cheap switches which are supported by rc-switch .  See the mqtt-exec repository  to setup the MQTT binding and my old blog post to install rc-switch on the Raspberry Pi.

Build your own device controller

Actually I am running the following controllers in my home:

Unfortenately there are only 3 device types supported at the moment (on_off, dimmer, thermostats). But don’t worry, it’s really easy to add your own devices and get them running. First you have to extend the device configuration and publish it to the configuration topic (/home/config).

Example:

1{
2"id" : "green_lamp",
3"type" : "on_off",
4"name" : "Green Lamp",
5"topic" : "denschu/home/devices/livingroom/green_lamp/value",
6"value" : false
7}
8

id: The unique identifier of the device. The id should also be part of the topic.

type: The device type (supported values: on_off, dimmer, thermostat)

name: The name of the device shown up in the GUI

topic: The topic to subscribe to. When you modify the value in the GUI, then a “/set” will be added to the outgoing topic name. Thats important when you build your own binding later.

value: Initial value

Please follow these naming conventions for topic names:

Get a value

Template: /home/devices///value

Example: denschu/home/devices/living_room/light1/value

Set a value

Template: /home/devices///value/set

Example: denschu/home/devices/living_room/light1/value/set true

After these steps, please guide through the setup of the above device controllers.  For detailed installation instructions just follow the links to the projects. To add a completely new device type you have to modify the GUI application. How to do that? Maybe I’ll write about it in another blog post 🙂

What’s next?

After playing around with some base technologies and architectural decisions, these are the next tasks for me:

  • Create a real mobile app for iOS and Android
  • Refactor the code – Sorry, I’m not a real JS expert
  • Add some Geofencing features with Owntracks
  • Play around with HomeKit and learn some Swift
  • Improve the connection handling with the MQTT broker

When you want to help me to build some more features, then pull requests and tipps are always welcome 🙂

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