Transform Your Home with DIY Smart Tech Arduino

Some of us have this innate desire to make things on our own and relish the challenge of learning something new. If that sounds like you, then you’ll probably enjoy leveling up your smart home DIY-style with an Arduino.

Need to get up to speed on what an Arduino is? Check out our beginner’s guide to Arduino and everything you need to get started with Arduino projects.

Why Use Arduino for Smart Home Projects

Doing smart homes the Arduino way is fun. There’s nothing like seeing the fruits of your labor move around and do something as you intend it to.

But there’s more to it than just fun. There’s a lot to be said for making things on your own with an Arduino, especially something that looks as complex as a smart home system. Here are four reasons to support the argument:

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1. Save a Bit More Money

While it won’t save you a fortune, Arduino boards are much cheaper than a Google Nest Hub – provided you’re willing to forego some other features.

At $55, the 2nd Gen Google Nest Hub takes up more than half of the budget for the DIY gear. If you want to build something yourself for less, you can get an Arduino Nano RP2040 Connect with a Raspberry Pi’s processing power and wireless capabilities. Just know that you won’t get a speaker, mic, and touchscreen display.

2. Retain More Control

While there are issues with Google and Amazon and their respect for your data privacy, Arduino doesn’t bother using your data for anything.

Rest assured you won’t see any hidden apps or programs sending your data to advertising companies. There are no hidden loopholes behind a user agreement. There won’t even be any advertising. You’re making your smart home on your own. That’s total control in your hands.

3. Get More Variety

Remember that an Arduino is a tiny computer with a chip for a brain and a lot of metal bits for “sensing” things.

What I’m getting at is that you could make your own sensors and attach them to an Arduino. You could also use some specialized sensors, some of which could be scrapped parts from old stuff, and give them new life in a smart home ecosystem.

4. Combined Services

Who says you have to be stuck with one wallet-sized board?

As long as you have the right parts, you can make the Arduino connect to almost anything that can compute. Smart home on a Wi-Fi network? Check. Using Zigbee for your automatic lights? No problem, there’s the XBee shield. Real-time data to a cloud server? Ethernet shield to go!

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Combine that with all the exotic sensors you may end up using, and you can have a fully DIY, super high-tech smart home with your name on it.

How to Use Arduino in a Smart Home Setting

How can you fit an Arduino board into a smart home’s network infrastructure? Three ways are listed below:

1. Wireless Hub

The most obvious of all these methods is using the Arduino as a hub to wirelessly connect and interact with your smart home devices.

Wireless Arduino hubs use Arduino shields that give their boards the ability to emit and listen to radio frequencies. An example of this is the SparkFun XBee Shield that works with XBee and Zigbee modules up to 100 feet away.

There are also other boards that host wireless capabilities without needing extra shields. Boards such as the Uno WiFi Rev 2 and Nano 33 IoT can use both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to communicate with other devices on a wireless network.

In fact, you could do away with other commercial IoT hubs, like Wyze, Google Home, and Amazon Echo, as long as you have the right parts.

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2. Data Logger

The Arduino can also be used to log data about its surroundings on a memory card or some other storage device. This lets you do analyses on different variables: temperature, light levels, the number of times you used the coffee maker – practically anything connected to the Arduino.

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With this information, you can get a better idea of how to improve your home. Your smart hub can also use this information directly, saving memory for other tasks by leaving all the sensor-related computations to your Arduino board.

The most straightforward way to do this is by adding a memory card module on the Arduino to give your Arduino direct access to your memory card. Another way is through serial communication – you can send information to a computer or another device that can store it someplace else (like in a cloud service).

3. As a Smart Controller for Non-Smart Devices

Let’s get a bit philosophical with smart devices. The only thing that makes them any different from “dumb” devices is that they can connect to a network. Almost every smart device you’ll ever own has a way with wireless communications – even a state-of-the-art programmable toaster can’t be as “smart” as a simple light switch that’s connected to a smart system.

What does this mean for our jumper wires and Arduino boards? You can turn a non-smart appliance smart by giving it wireless capabilities.

Nrf2l01 And Esp 01 Wifi Modules For Arduino
WiFi modules nRF2L01+ (left) and ESP-01 (right) allow the Arduino to connect to Wi-Fi networks.

Normally, you would start by connecting your non-smart appliances to an Arduino board. This can be done through relay modules and turning your Arduino into an electronic switch. Then, by using a board with wireless capabilities (like UNO WiFi Rev2 or RP-2040 Connect) or adding transceiver modules (like ESP-01 or XBee Shield), you can connect your “dumb” appliances to a smart hub and automate them from there.

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