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networked mains socket with remote switching and energy monitoring

Discussion in 'General Electronics Discussion' started by ltickett, Jan 2, 2013.

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  1. ltickett


    Jan 2, 2013
    The below is taken from my latest blog entry: and i would love any feedback/comments or even better, to hear from anyone who would like to help!

    I’m looking at building an Automated Mains Plug / Socket, let’s call it aPlug.

    What do you mean by automated?
    Remotely switchable / "programmable"
    Monitor / log power / energy consumption

    Don’t these already exist?
    -A lot of rf controllable plugs exist but there are a number of limitations- # cannot integrate with other equipment, # cannot operate from outside of the home, # cannot operate without the supplied remote, # cannot determine current state
    -Some power / energy consumption monitoring plugs exist but again, bare limitations- # cannot integrate with other equipment, # require a gateway device to post data to the internet
    -A few devices even exist which address both requirements but- # cannot integrate with other equipment, # cannot operate from outside the home, # require a gateway device (possibly even an entire pc to post data to the internet), # are expensive, # are closed source

    There is however, one possible hope! The hexabus plug: – I am trying to make contact with the guys behind the hexabus plug to determine where the project is currently, where it’s headed etc. Regardless, the great thing about the project, it is open source- which means the schematic / parts list (BOM) have been published: – unfortunately the PCB layout doesn’t appear to’ve been, but again, I’m hoping it will be shortly.
    This project has also sparked the interest of the guys over at flukso, and became the center of a talk at one of their meetings: – where they have suggested a minor tweak to enable interconnectivity with jee labs devices (they include a PCB layout, which suggests they likely have them- I am trying to make contact with them too!)
    Even if I manage to make contact and get details of the existing device I still have a lot to tackle…

    Network connectivity
    I’m currently looking at options, but it makes sense to try and learn from the lessons the guys behind LIFX:
    They have essentially gone down the route of creating a mesh network with "slave" devices, then using a "master" device to bridge to the local area network (LAN) and essentially the internet. This ultimate is a gateway device but "in disguise"- and unless I can miraculously find a way of driving down the cost I can’t see any other approach being feasible?

    I am making contact with a number of companies who design, produce and assemble printed circuit boards (PCBs) as a number of the components involved in the device cannot be soldered by hand nor can the circuit(s) likely be built using a simple breadboard. I imagine this is going to be a real challenge as the cost for "one-off" or very limited production runs is likely to be extremely high.

    Software / Firmware
    I have coded some simple arduino / atmega programs in the past, and worked with some of the jeelabs devices but I will certainly be needing assistance to build something as complex as this if it’s going to be robust enough to put "out in the field". My hope is that developers will show a keen enough interest and we can build something as a community. The devices will be reprogrammable so new firmware can be flashed with relative ease. The problems will come when a hardware change is required…

    Regardless of whether a device is faced with mains voltages or whether a device is aimed at developers I anticipate some form of certification being required- this could be tricky (especially on an evolving device).

    To gauge interest, boost funding, promote the project and hopefully attract some developers, testers and contributors I would like to run a kickstarter project- unfortunately it’s a little chicken & egg as I need at least some form of prototype before I can reach out to the community. I have however drafted a project so I am prepared if I do get that far: (so far just some notes, and the reward levels are pure guesswork).

    Where Next?
    Yes, it’s far too early to be thinking about that, but I can’t help it!
    Multi socket extension lead type device with individual socket switching and consumption monitoring
    aSocket, essentially a mains socket with the device inside so no "plug" is required
    Other plug types (I am based in the UK so this is where I intend to initially focus)
    At this stage I’d appreciate any feedback, or expressions of interest etc

    Last edited: Jan 2, 2013
  2. donkey


    Feb 26, 2011
    ok for starters the majority of your links are 404ing.
    the idea is nice but its really just an add on or a combination of products already available.
    I just recently brought a pack for one of my bosses to allow him to control his pool pump. an idea I have for you actually comes from another colleague of mine and that is finding a cheap alternative for a 3 phase plug as these don't appear to be in such a large supply.
    if you do go ahead with this you might want to consider a UPS version and integrate a surge protector into it just for the sensitive equipment.
  3. ltickett


    Jan 2, 2013
    Oops! The links should now all be fixed- thanks for pointing that out.

    Yes- essentially it is just a combination of existing products but i think the gap is big enough to warrant filling. Right now there isn't a product I could purchase to do what I want to do. I would have to buy rf sockets and energy monitoring sockets, then stack them together and build some sort of device to talk to them and then relay the information to/from the web. (Not to mention the fact that there probably aren't any "open" solutions, so i'd essentially be relying on reverse engineering/hacking in some way).

    Could you tell me more about the pool pump? Product link etc?

    Here in the UK we don't have 3 phase (or at least not residential, so i'm not sure that's a project i'd be interested in).

    I have just had a response from Bart @ Flukso, so i'm hoping he will have a lot of input having enjoyed his paper on "hacking the hexabus plug".
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