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Starting out with home automation: A practical guide (VIDEO)

Written by Penny van Puymbroeck on 16 March 2021 for Tech Professionals

During one of our recent webinars, Exellys alumnus Jeroen Reinenbergh offered some pointers about how anyone can get started with home automation using IoT. His talk covered everything from microcontrollers to starter kits, tutorials, and entry-level projects that anyone can explore. In this post, we’ll give you a quick teaser of what you can expect from this webinar, including tips on what you need to get started, how to choose the right projects and how to expand your current skill set to get the most out of IoT at home right now.

Jeroen Reinenbergh, IT Graduate Program Lecturer at Karel de Grote Hogeschool

After graduating in Business & IT and obtaining a master in Management Information Systems as well as Computer Science, Jeroen joined Exellys. He later founded Techsplore which provides workshops for those interested in learning IT in an accessible way. He recently decided to switch careers from IT consulting to lecturing. He currently teaches the IoT Graduate program at Karel de Grote Hogeschool.

Buy vs Build?

The first question facing any budding IoT-at-home enthusiast is whether to buy or build a system.

The main advantage of purchasing a system is that you get a complete solution with ‘plug & play’ functionality right out of the box or with minimal building requirements. However, you may also get vendor ‘lock-in’ where certain products from one manufacturer won’t work with those made by another.

Starting out with home automation: A practical guide Buy vs build A snippet from Jeroen’s webinar on getting started with IoT at home. Want to watch it yourself? Check out our YouTube channel!

On the other hand, building an IoT solution yourself will make your project more customizable, cheap, and fun. You’ll probably fail a lot, but you’ll learn from your mistakes. Ultimately, it will give you a greater degree of control over your IoT-at-home system and help you upgrade, expand, and improve it in the future.

Choosing a controller

The heart of every IoT at home system is a controller. One of the most popular controllers is the Raspberry Pi. The Pi is a single-board microcomputer that closely resembles a computer. It’s small, with limited memory and processing power. It has GPIO pins (used to connect input and output devices) and runs on a Linux operating system.  This means that you can use it to do anything that you’d normally do with a normal computer such as running programs or streaming TV.

Next to an awesome gadget, a Raspberry Pi’s also the perfect gift your other techie friends!

Raspberry Pi

Another popular controller is called the Arduino. Like the Pi, it’s a single-board microcontroller that you can use to run your IoT-at-home project. The main differences are that it’s slightly cheaper and is dedicated to a single task. Other popular controllers include the PyCom and the Espruino.

Selecting a Programming language

Unless you choose a pre-build project or a starter kit, you’ll likely need to know at least a little bit about programming languages to get the most out of your IoT-at-home project. The Raspberry Pi uses BASH, Python, and Java, while the Arduino uses a C++ dialect. PyCom uses MicroPython while Espruino runs on JavaScript. There are plenty of free and paid online resources to help you learn one or more of these languages.

IoT at Home Ideas: What can you build?

You can start in whichever environment you want. Even starting from scratch straight in the command line could be a possibility, but Docker and Arduino are often the more popular choices. This opens up a world of possibilities when choosing your IoT-at-home project. Some of the most popular examples include:

Garage door controller

You can use an ESP32 module and Relay module to control a garage door with a mobile phone.

Photo Booth

Connecting a Raspberry Pi 4B, camera module, replay module, display, and arcade buttons, lets you build a working photobooth.

Photo booth

Water level monitor

The ESP32 module lets you monitor water levels, in, say, a well or anywhere else you need. All you need is a Raspberry Pi Zero, an ultrasonic distance sensor, and a numeric display.

Smart doorbell

A Raspberry Pi 4B, camera module, IR LEDs, display, microphone, speaker, and push-button lets you build a working doorbell.

Arcade system

Like to play retro arcade games? All you need is a Raspberry Pi, USB arcade controller, and RetroPie software.

Arcade game

Security system

Need video surveillance? Connect a Raspberry Pi to an IP camera and run it using dedicated software like MotionEyeOS.

Getting Started

Hopefully, this post gave you a nice teaser about what to expect from Jeroen’s webinar. Whether you want to use a starter kit, follow a tutorial, or discover a fun entry-level project on sites like Hackster, Pi My Life Up, or Instructables, you’ll find yourself spoilt for choice.

Want to watch Jeroen’s full webinar? Head over to our YouTube channel!

About Exellys

Exellys is a Tech Talent Incubator. We match ambitious companies with the finest tech talent. Are you ready to drive the innovations of tomorrow? Ready to make an impact and become a future-fit digital leader?

Whether you are a graduate or (young) professional, Exellys will unlock your full potential by guiding you to a challenging work environment that perfectly matches your personality, expectations and ambitions.

On top of that, you are enrolled in one of our very own training and coaching programs (based on your personal and professional ambition and experience). This means that, while working as an Exellys consultant, we are helping you to bridge your ambition to excellence.

Through intensive training and coaching, you’ll gain the essential skills, competencies and knowledge necessary to become the highly effective professional you aim to be.

Become an Exellyst and get in touch with us today!

Written by Penny van Puymbroeck Country Lead Netherlands