What is Smart?

Before the turn of the last century, ‘smart’ used to be an adjective used describe an intellectual person. These days however, we hear the word ‘smart’ being thrown in front of almost everything in our everyday lives (smart-phone, smart-watch, smart-TV, smart-home, smart-office, and so on). And ironically, it’s now used less about describing people! But is this trend just a new age fad, or is this a paradigm shift for technology of the early 21st century? Let’s find out!

Often times, when we describe something as being ‘smart’ it typically means that ‘thing’ has additional functionality from its main intended purpose. Just take the same example of smart-phone, smart-watch, and smart-TV and you can see what I mean. But is this enough to define ‘smart’? Let’s look at the world’s first smart device; it was the ECHO IV home computer. The device was made by  engineer Jim Sutherland in 1966, pre-dating even the ancestors of our personal computers.

ECHO2e

It was an antique computer system used to control many aspects of his home such as computing shopping lists, controlling the temperature of the house and turning appliances on and off; half a century before another similarly named device would also popularise home automation (more on that later). This was the first concept of a home with added features, the Smart-home.

Now-a-days when we talk about smart devices, the first thing that may come to mind are smartphones no doubt. The term smartphone was popularized around the mid 2000’s about the time of the Nokia Communicator, first blackberries and palm smartphones. By this time, phones were already being given ‘additional features’ such as cameras, SMS text messaging capability, and basic applications (such as games, calendar, clock etc.). However, what really made these devices worthy of being called ‘smartphones’ was their ability to incorporate internet based features such as email and web on a mobile device. These phones were generally used by the elite business class. Later-on, due to advances in computer technology and falling prices, Apple’s IOS and Google’s Android operating systems (OS) further revolutionized smartphones for a general audience and made them truly mainstream. In addition, software features on these devices made them even more connected with the user. The key driving force of this smart revolution is as a result of computer networking and automation. Computer networks allows for the collaboration of separate electronic systems to communicate with each other and the processor or AI takes that information operates everything seamlessly as one system greater than the sum of it parts.

Taking all we’ve discussed so far into consideration, we can probably define ‘smart’ as being the ability to incorporate additional features other than the main usage, the ability to operate interactively with a user, and most notably the ability to communicate with other smart systems through networking. As you can imagine this definition opens the door for almost any inanimate object to be ‘smartified’ by just apply the aforementioned features to its design.

This phenomenon we refer today as the Internet of things (IoT), and it is seen in businesses and the home. Many of the larger well know tech companies have taken up this design philosophy and paved the way for the technology of 2018 and beyond. Companies such as Amazon, Apple, Google Samsung are the leaders of smart home consumer electronics. Similarly in the business/industrial space, Building management systems (BMS), Distributed Control Systems (DCS), and  SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) are all examples of smart systems used to improve business efficiency and quality through automation.

 

-Dave 2018

 

 

References:

http://www.iotevolutionworld.com/m2m/articles/376816-history-smart-homes.htm

https://web.archive.org/web/20100215073514/http://thehammersmithgroup.com/images/reports/networked_objects.pdf

Continue reading “What is Smart?”

10 Ways to Maximize your Living Space

Many of us who live in small confined rooms know the struggles of finding space to put our stuff. For the people looking to tidy up their house, the students in dorms, the studio apartment owners, and persons who are forced to keep everything in one room, Dave’s Projects is here to help. In no particular order, here are 10 ways to maximize your living space (with amazon links).

1. Wall Mount Shelves

Wall mountable shelves are a great cost-effective way to maximize your living space. Particularly because it frees up floor space for other things. One re-occurring theme you will notice in this post is increasing floor real estate by mounting. Wall mountable shelves come in a wide variety of designs and can be as cheap or expensive as you want. But for the added real estate you’re getting in return it is more than worth it.

Amazon:

2. Surface Mounting Cables

cable clutter before and after

Cable clutter from all your electronics is not only unsighly but wastes precious floor space. Overtime this mess is generated by running various internet cables, chargers, phone lines, etc. along the floor. A great way this can be remedied is by surface mounting these cables along the wall. See my first blog post to learn how to do this yourself.

3. Door Hanging Hooks

excellent-hanging-wall-hooks-perfect-ideas

The design simplicity and effectiveness of the door hanging hooks are second only to a bicycle. All it requires is a door to support it and it can significantly increase your wardrobe space without a actually getting a wardrobe.

Amazon:

4. Storage Crates

amazing-of-plastic-storage-crates-storage-containers-plastic-storage-containers-storage-bins

If you’re the type of person with a whole ton of junk but you can’t throw them out because they hold some sentimental value or otherwise, storage crates may be the solution for you. They typically have a fair amount of storage space and best of all they are stackable, meaning more floor real estate again.

Amazon:

5. Sofa bed

sofa bed

Here’s a timeless classic in the efficient furniture world. The name speaks for itself. A couch for guests in the day and a bed by night. The definition of killing two birds with one stone.

Amazon:

6. Bed/Dresser

bed dresser2

Continuing the bed designs, here we have another hybrid type bed that does as the name suggests. This one you probably won’t see at your nearest furniture store however, if you know a skilled carpenter you might have a shot at building one.

7. Inflatable Mattress

air bed

Imagine you have a two bed room apartment. One room dedicated for your bedroom, but then the next room you want as a storage room but you also need a room when family or friends decide to stay the night. Why not do both then! The inflatable mattress is the perfect solution for obvious reasons. When not in use it can be stored in a corner somewhere, then when your guest is over just air that sucker up and boom you’re good to go!

Amazon:

8. Hanging Shoes Bag

shoes hanger

This is similar to the aforementioned door hanging hooks (#3); except instead of hanging up clothes this is for hanging up shoes. The same theory applies to this.

Amazon:

9. Vacuum Storage Bags

vacuum storage 2

This is the traveller’s best friend. With this you can pack your suitcase as efficiently as a Jamaican parent coming back from ‘farin’ bringing back goodies. Just know the increase space afforded means more weight when when you finish packing.

 

Amazon:

 

 

10. Under Staircase Storage

hqdefault

Think back to where Harry Potter used to reside before going to Hogwarts. His awful foster parents locked him up in a little room below their staircase. As in-humane as this was to lock up a human in such a confined space, its an excellent space saving design for a house.

-Dave 2018

Continue reading “10 Ways to Maximize your Living Space”

How to build a Mobile Acoustic Vocal booth on a budget

If you are a small time producer or composer on a budget, or just a budding sound enthusiast, this post is for you. We will guide you on how to set up your very own sound booth on a budget.

Acoustic vocal booths are used for live recordings and studio sessions. The materials in its design makes it such that there is minimal reverberations, reflections and echoing. This is because it constructed with thick sound blocking materials to isolate sound. This way post sound recordings sound more natural.

A typical professional booth can easily cost upwards of $1000 USD

sound booth prices

But as you know Dave’s Projects believe when the price is too high you build it yourself. Total budget for this build was <$130USD.

 

Step 1. Create Your design

 

WhatsApp Image 2018-03-03 at 9.34.17 AM

For this project, a 3x3x7 ft design was chosen. Just large enough to hold a single person. The enclosure would be made similar to a homemade tent (with pvc pipes). Thick car seat upholstery was used as the acoustic curtain material.

 

Step 2. Go Shopping

Material List

  • 30ft x Chrome rods
  • 20ft x 1/2″ PVC pressure pipe
  • 8 x 1/2″ PVC Tee
  • 8 x PVC 1/2″ 90 degree elbow
  • 15’x8′ 1/4″ thick car seat upholstery
  • 1 reel velcro
  • assorted buttons

 

 

 

 

Step 3. The Build

The top and bottom frame was made by cutting the pvc pipe into 8 x 2.5ft lengths and creating 2 rectangles by joining them with the pvc fittings

IMG_20180325_132829539

WhatsApp Image 2018-03-05 at 10.16.22 PM

The chrome rods were cut into 4 x 7ft lengths and used as the vertical support.

Next the car seat- I mean acoustic curtain was hung over the frame.

 

Buttons were stitched on the curtain to hold it up on the frame.

Finally velcro was taped on to seal the enclosure entrance.

IMG_20180325_125929695_BURST000_COVER_TOP

When recording is done, just roll up the curtain and dismantle for storage.

 

See the time-lapse of the build below

 

 

 

 

Final Product

IMG_20180325_131426798_BURST000_COVER

 

Spread the word if you enjoyed. For any other project ideas feel free to leave it in the comment section below and we may make a post on it.

 

-Dave 2018

 

Continue reading “How to build a Mobile Acoustic Vocal booth on a budget”

How to install a GSM/GPS Tracking Module for your car yourself

If you’re ready to put a tracker in your vehicle but maybe you do not have the $20K+ to fork out initially, or do not want to add a new bill for yourself to pay each month; then you have come to the right place. This post will show you how to install the device yourself professionally.

The device we will use is the TK103A/B GSM/GPS Tracker. Accessories included in the box:

  • GPS Antennae
  • GPRS/GSM Antennae
  • 12V/40A Automotive Relay
  • Remote Controller
  • Cable Harness
  • Microphone
  • Manual

 

Other materials/tools used:

  • 5-20Ft 18AWG 2 core cable
  • Electrical Tape
  • Cable ties
  • Socket Wrench
  • Wire stripper
  • DC Voltage Circuit Tester
  • Digital Multimeter
  • GSM SIM Card

 

Step 1: Buy a SIM card

sim-cards-banner-image.png

Buying a SIM card (uncut) for this device is the first step because after the device is installed in the car, it’s not so easily accessible. Also, if using Digicel its important to set up the SIM with the MyDigicel App; and if using Flow install the My Flow Self Care App. This is to enable you to monitor the SIM balance as well as top up when necessary.

 

Step 2: Choose a hidden location for the device

Location is everything. If a criminal can find your tracker in your car easily and remove it, all the features of this device will all be for naught. Most automotive electronics are installed within the dashboard area of the vehicle. However criminals also know this because it is common practice and will be the first place they will look. Ideally you want to find a place that is hard to access, unconventional, and is near a 12V supply you can tap off and ground (metal chassis).

Cars typically have two 12v supplies:

  1. Permanently ON
  2. Accessory only (ACC) – ON with Ignition switch

If you want your device powered when the vehicle is off you can tap from a permanent 12V supply (recommended).

However if you are concerned about the current draw on the car’s battery (especially if the car is inactive for long periods), you could either install a switch in series or connect power to ACC 12V (Turns off when ignition key out).

The current draw is relatively low, from my measurements, the current draw is roughly 60mA. If you use your car everyday this shouldn’t be a big concern since the alternator will recharge the car battery.

You could also run a circuit from the car’s fuse box, but the last thing you want is to have a long wire between your device and car’s fuse box revealing the tracker’s location.

 

Step 3: Installation and Setup

TK103 wiring diagram
Car GPS Tracker – TK103 wiring diagram

 

The above shows the wiring diagram for the device. For simplicity I will only be using the device for tracking and remote engine shutoff (immobilizer). So the only cables I’m interested in are the red (12V), black (ground), and yellow (to relay). This post will focus primarily on set up of the location monitoring. The other features I will not use because I don’t need them and it will force me to install at the dashboard.

For first time setup, insert the SIM card, using something fine to insert into the SIM card popup switch.

tk103 front 1

 

Connect the positive (red) and negative (black) to your vehicle’s 12v and ground respectively and wait 1 minute before turning on the backup battery switch.

tk103 front 2

Note the indicator light colours

GSM/GPS LED Indicator

  • Red LED indicator ON: No GSM network signals.
  • Red LED indicator flashes fast (one time each second): GSM Network
    signal is normally, and tracker works under GSM mode.
  • Red LED indicator flashes slowly (one time each three second): Tracker
    works under GPRS mode.
  • Green LED indicator on: GPS signal is normal.
  • Green LED indicator off: No GPS signals.

Note that if the GPS and GSM antennas ideally require line-of-sight with the sky to operate. It can still function concealed beneath thin materials (metal or plastic).

If your device is stuck on red after several minutes it may mean that the antennas are not getting a clear signal and may have to be relocated.

 

Step 4: Configuring device settings

To utilize the features of the tracker, commands are sent to it via SMS. The manual lists all the available commands but I’ll highlight some important ones.

Initialize:

Using your main cellphone, send SMS “begin+password” to the unit, it will reply “begin ok” and initialize all the settings to default factory settings.(default password: 123456)
For example: send SMS “begin123456”, it will reply “begin ok”. (No
quotation marks“” when sending all the SMS)

 

To Change Password:

Send SMS “ password+old password+space+new password” to the unit to change the password.
For example: send SMS “password123456 888888” to the unit. If succesful, “password ok” will reply to your cell phone from the device tracker.
Authorization:
Send SMS “admin+password+space+cell phone number”
to set up an authorized number, the other authorized numbers should be set
by the first authorized number, if the number is successfully authorized, the
unit will reply“ admin OK” by SMS.

 

To get location:

Dial the tracker device from the authorized number, it will hang up
your calling and respond to a real-time latitude and longitude information
as following:

Screenshot_20180222-215544

Now you can rest easy knowing you have a means to monitor the whereabouts of your vehicle anywhere.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this series where we install the immobilizer system and make it wireless.

-Dave 2018

 

 

Continue reading “How to install a GSM/GPS Tracking Module for your car yourself”

Protecting Your Devices with UPS Power

Prelude

Imagine finally paying your light bill on-time after years of paying late fees and then BOOM lightning flash and mash-up your smart TV and Desktop PC. Or, you finally made some progress in that assignment you’ve been postponing until last-minute and then BOOM the power gone. An unlucky scenario for sure especially since the power company isn’t gonna reimburse your precious electronics.

crying its not fair

But fear not! This could have been avoided with a UPS battery backup. For the less informed, UPS stands for uninterruptible power supply. As the name suggests it acts as a power source when power is gone and typically lasts for a few minutes before dying. One might wonder what the difference between a UPS and a standby generator is since they both supply backup power when there is power loss. In fact, the generator typically lasts for much longer, and is cheaper per Kilowatt! The key difference lies in the load it is powering. While it’s no major problem when simple linear loads lose power, eg. lights, speakers, heaters, and motors to name a few; many electronic devices are more sensitive to the power feeding them, and often times require a shutdown process to protect the information from corruption. As such, an active power back up solution is required so there is no noticeable switchover time when there is a power failure.

The UPS operates by taking AC utility power, conditioning it, and switching over to battery backup when there is a loss of the source power. Like most things, there are many different types and size of power supplies, but the taxonomy of UPS systems can be broken down as:

  • Standby
  • Line interactive
  • Online/ Double Conversion

There are other classifications, but these represent the majority of UPS system topologies. Just think of the classifications as a ranking of their quality and cost, with the Standby variant being the cheapest and Online being for the most mission-critical applications. The most basic UPS (standby UPS) allows utility power to pass through to the connected loads and switches over to battery inverted power when there is power loss. The line interactive UPS is similar to the standby with the difference being that the incoming power is ‘conditioned’ before being supplied to the connected loads. Conditioning power refers to the process of filtering and smoothing an electric signal to bring the signal close as possible to an ideal form. The Online/ Double Conversion variant operates by transforming incoming AC power to DC, and then back to AC to power connected loads. This design makes it so that there is zero switch-over time during a loss of source power since power is constantly being generated from the batteries, while the source power constantly charges back the batteries. The UPS has 3 key components that accomplish this; the batteries (DC power), Rectifier (converts AC to DC power), and the Inverter (converts DC to AC power). For most home appliances, the standby and line interactive variants are more than good enough, while most businesses with server room equipment would use the online variant.

Project

Now that we got the intro and theory out-of-the-way let’s work on a project. The objective is to supply UPS power to a TV, 2 desktops, monitor, speakers, camera system and wireless router, all located in 3 different rooms.

Disclaimer: This project will involve working with mains electrical power and as such safety precaution should be made to follow all relevant electrical standards. Only a certified electrician should perform electrical installations within your home.

Tools Used

Tools needed for this project are from the How to cable your home or office for power, audio, or video post. Other tools include :

The first step in doing this project is evaluating the total power of all the connected loads. This is done by finding each equipment’s power rating or current draw. Note that Electrical Power =  Voltage used x Current consumed. Most times these are shown on a label on the device. If that’s not accessible you could also get an estimate from this List of the Power Consumption of Typical Household Appliances. For a more accurate estimate you could measure the current draw from the particular device with a clamp meter then multiply by the utility voltage (typically 110-120Vac).

For the scientists and engineers reading, yes there are two types of AC power with units of W(Watts) and VA (Volt Amps) which represents the real power consumed and apparent power. However for the scope of this project we will assume they are equal for ease of calculation. The mathematics will be discussed in a separate post.

Appliance Max Power(W)
Desktop Computer 500
All-in-one PC 60
Monitor 150
CRT Colour TV 150
Camera System 48
Speakers 48
Total  956

As we can see the maximum theoretical power usage is about 956W but in actuality only a fraction of this will ever be used at any one time. This fraction will vary but a reasonable estimate would be about 60% of the total load = 573.6W. The Tripp Lite 1500VA 900W UPS  was chosen for this project as it can supply my power needs with room for future growth.

The next step is choosing where you will lay the UPS and where to route the electrical cables. The post on How to professionally cable your home or office for power, audio, or video goes in further depth on how to run cabling in your home. The size electrical cable you choose depends on how much current is being transferred, the voltage, and the distance. Since I’m running power to two 15Amp power strips I need a minimum 1.5mm2 cable (cross-section) or 16AWG. See SAE & Metric Wire Size vs. Amps. This simply tells you your minimum size cable you can use safely; larger sizes are of course acceptable.

Material List

  • 5 lengths 16x16mm PVC Trunking
  • 70 ft 3-core flexible 2.5mm2 cable
  • 3 x PVC handy box
  • 2 x NEMA 5-15 (US) receptacle
  • 6 bonding nipples
  • Electrical tape
  • 5 x Wire Nuts
  • 3/4″ concrete/drywall nails

Results:

For ideas on any other future projects you’d like to see me cover please comment below.

References:

Technical Comparison of On-line vs. Line-interactive UPS designs

Different Types of UPS Systems

Calculating Total Power Requirements for Data Centers

List of the Power Consumption of Typical Household Appliances

SAE & Metric Wire Size vs. Amps

Continue reading “Protecting Your Devices with UPS Power”