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Integrated Smart Home Technology

School of Applied Technology, Information Technology and Management Project
Seth Carpenter
Austin Cheng
Course Name/Number
ITMT 492 – Embedded Systems
Embedded Systems/Smart Technology Student Presentation
Spring 2016

Our project focused on giving normal home lighting intelligence the ability to give notifications about the status of a home. Using the Phillips Hue lighting platform, the team was able to deploy a system that would modify and return the state of a home’s lights to indicate someone was present at the front door. The internal module of this project was then able to signal the recipient at the door acknowledging their presence. The data collection and transmission was done via 802.15 Xbee radios that would transfer the initial signal and acknowledgement two ways.


This project was undertaken in order to develop a prototype which would utilize embedded systems and demonstrate elements of data collection and data transmission. Our inspiration came from the consideration that those suffering varying degrees of hearing loss do not have a full-home solution for notification of someone at their door. The traditional doorbell is an age-old method for notifying a resident of someone calling for their attention. While this has been an effective method for the most part, we saw potential to integrate today’s technology into a system that could provide a more advanced notification system, and be more effective for use for those with hearing loss than existing solutions. It also provides a base for further development with the potential to be built upon to increase its functionality and add features.

What does it do?

A sensor is placed at the front door to a residence that senses when someone comes to the door; sending a signal indoors to a listening and controlling component that flashes Philips Hue lights a couple times to alert the resident of the situation. The resident can press a button from inside the home that flashes another Hue light located by the door to signal the visitor the notification has been received, and the resident is coming to the door.


The key modules of this system are two XBees, two Arduino processing units, and the Philips Hue lighting system. The XBee is a quarter-sized wireless networking module that can be configured to exchange data using the Zigbee protocol. It is possible to link a network of these modules together in order to create a mesh network which is coordinated by a single XBee. They can collect and transmit data on their own using Zigbee protocol data units or be configured to send data in a serial format from one processing device to another. Our project utilizes the latter configuration with the XBees communicating in the RT format. The Arduino is an inexpensive microcontroller which is programmed through a multi-platform compatible IDE. In this project, it is used as both a control element as well as a power source for the XBees and other elements connected to it. The Hue lighting system is an advanced home lighting solution developed by the electronics manufacturing company Philips. This lighting system utilizes bulbs with the ability to display a wide range of colors which are primarily controlled by smartphone or computer applications. The system includes a network-enabled bridge which communicates wirelessly with the lights using the Zigbee protocol. The bridge acts as a local server on the network and as such can be queried using HTTP requests to receive and send JavaScript Object Notation formatted commands from any device on the same network. Development of control applications is open source, which is how we were able to integrate this system into our project.

Outdoor Component

The door component consists of an Adafruit passive infrared sensor, an Arduino, and an XBee. The Arduino is powered by a USB cable plugged into a standard wall socket adapter. The PIR is then powered by the 5V output of the Arduino while the XBee is powered by the 3V output of the Arduino. The XBee is configured as an AT router and its transmit and receive pins are connected to the respective pins on the Arduino. The router is used to exchange serial communications between the two Arduinos in the system. The PIR sensor has a single analog output which is connected to the analog 0 pin on the Arduino. The sensor outputs a cone shaped field of infrared light. As long as there is no change in the field, the sensor sends its voltage out of its ground connection. When a change is detected, the sensor sends the voltage through its output pin to the Arduino. The Arduino reads this voltage as an analog value. The Arduino is programmed to respond when the value is above a threshold. This threshold was set just below the average value obtained from testing to compensate for variation. The Arduino responds to the sensor, by sending an ASCII character through the XBee to the component inside the house. Like the indoor component, the outdoor component is a standalone system. Additional sensors can be added and the Arduino can be programmed to both accommodate new sensors as well as receive commands from the other end to trigger additional attachments such as LEDs or motors. The system is limited by the voltage and amperage output of the Arduino. If too many additional components are added in series with the existing components, the voltage will drop and the XBee may not get enough power to function correctly. This may be somewhat mitigated by reversing the power sources from the Arduino and calculating the voltage draw resulting in powering multiple components in series so the XBee continues to receive exactly 3.3V.

Indoor Component

The indoor component of our system is comprised of a second Arduino, Ethernet shield, XBee, and the Phillips Hue Lighting System made up of a bridge and the actual LED lights that communicate with the bridge. An existing home network is also needed. As mentioned, an ASCII character is sent by the outdoor component. This character is received by the XBee on the indoor side and sent to the Arduino. The Arduino takes this as a call to send an alert to the lights. A web client runs on the Arduino. This client sends HTTP PUT requests containing JSON over the network to the Hue bridge which in turn changes the state of the lights specified in the JSON. Our code runs these commands twice with a delay in-between to achieve the desired flashing effect. To insure the current light configuration is not overwritten by the alert sent when the outdoor sensor is triggered, the current state of the bulbs is stored in variables before the alert is sent. It does this by sending HTTP GET requests through the home network to the Hue bridge. The JavaScript Object Notation formatted response is then parsed in the Arduino to store the values of a light relating to its state (on/off), its color, the saturation of the color, and its brightness (Philip Hue API).


This system is a step toward full smart home technology integration as it already integrates with an advanced home lighting solution and has the potential for even more. While the price of the system in its current state is relatively high, further optimization can make for a very enticing product for the tech-savvy as it is not limited to the original purpose of helping the hard-of-hearing. This project was an exploration of the very same goal Microsoft is working toward — the addition of technology into homes everywhere and to enhance the lives of residents using integrated systems. As technology develops, this trend should grow and soon homes could be looking very different from how they look now. The depiction of futuristic smart homes that has been, up until now, a mere figment of the imagination, is now closer to reality than ever.

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