The Internet of Things (IoT) is comprised of the “wheels and gears” that drive the smart world. It is a vast network of interconnected devices that have been promoted from wires to the cloud. This forms a whole stratosphere of smart, communicating, and responsive products that you can access from anywhere. The smart horizon links to your Lenovo ThinkPad, MacBook, Galaxy Tab, iPad, iPhone 12, and even Apple Watch! In smart home automation contexts, the Internet of Things connects various devices around your home for several uses. You can link up your smart lights and curtains to adjust lighting levels. The smart cameras, doorbells, and alarm systems can tune in for better protection. You can connect your speakers and LEDs to set the perfect home theater vibes. Even your sprinklers and sensors can join the orchestra. Talk about building your own smart constellations!
This connective freedom has offered a lot of scope for DIY smart projects, particularly the Internet of Things projects. Technology enthusiasts aim to design their own automation systems for added creativity and customization. There are countless solutions from popular brands that you can buy and install “off the shelf” – Nest, Philips Hue, Sonos, Honeywell, and SmartThings to name a few. You can also work on self-inspired projects for some tech-savvy, hands-on approach!
This article explores some creative possibilities to think outside the box and design effective IoT projects by yourself.
The DIY route to smart home projects
A bit of this, a bit of that.
Working on a DIY Internet of Things project may sound far-fetched, especially when you can simply buy and install the smart devices. The reason why people take the scenic route is that they enjoy the scavenger hunt for building something on their own. They will definitely have engineering, software development, or programming backgrounds to fuel their projects. If you too own a tech-savvy streak and enjoy the art of building, you will find the following inspirations pretty useful. IoT projects involve some electrical/electronic expertise to put together the hardware parts. They require programming and coding skills for custom apps that you can develop. The combination of hardware and software skills helps you be more inventive with your creations. You can work on a smart coffee maker, a smart toaster, and a smart closet that each responds to your app. As an automation enthusiast, if you can imagine it, you can build it!
The brain of your smart home.
The Internet of Things essentially connects your smart devices and smart home through integrations. A smart home that is powered by the IoT allows you to control your lighting, heating, cooling, home theater, security, gardening, etc. using your smartphone. All the products are accessible at your fingertips, and you do not need to manually operate their functions. Your smart home can also be automated to self-perform the programmed tasks, like heating the living room or watering the plants, without any human intervention. This is what makes the IoT work as the brain of your smart home. It allows your home to think, remember, and adapt on its own.
Some existing smartness.
DIY projects can build upon existing ideas and improve them to match your expectations. We already have smart lights that dim automatically when your home theater system activates. The speakers can even turn off if the doorbell rings, so you do not miss it. Smart doors are equipped to facial-recognize you for authorized entries only. Your thermostat can tell when you are near your home and start heating the rooms before you enter.
Based on your custom scopes, you can add to the smart horizon and build your own systems. This may include coding your own app version to automate the smart lights the way you like. You can wire up different sensors for motion detection to respond to open doors/windows. They can then turn on the thermostat to make up for the lost heat, activate the security alarm, turn off the lights, etc.
Following the breadcrumb trail.
Smart home automation involves 3 main components: hardware, software apps, and automation protocols or networks. This creates a fully functional system for your smart devices to join the radar and be managed remotely. You require compatible hardware to work with, and it needs to be firmware-ready for auto-updating. This ensures that all the relevant products can talk to each other and meet on your app for remote accessibility. Various open-source software are available online to adapt to your liking. App libraries can also be accessed to customize your app and tweak the source codes as needed. DIY automation enthusiasts keep leaving a breadcrumb trail for like-minded users to follow. Apart from open-source platforms, there are several blogs and virtual communities to help you create a functional automation project.
The software structure.
Open-source platforms are a great way to add integrations because they have pre-built interfaces already worked out by other contributors. They help you incorporate voice assistance in your automation program. They also allow different products to tie up for collective functions – like the motion sensor activating the alarm system as well as the lights during an intrusion.
Internet of Things projects
We connected the dots on this vast smart constellation and followed popular ideas for IoT projects. Here are some of the best project inspirations that caught our attention:
Smart garage door
An automation project for smart garage door systems can include laser and voice integration. You can customize the notification alerts for different actions, like when the garage door opens or closes. The system should alert you if the door has been left open for too long. Adding Google Assistant support upscales your app integration and is a good way to challenge your tech-savviness. Smart garage door systems are some of the basic IoT projects you can work on.
Smart flood detection
Flood detection is always a valuable preventive measure. Various IoT projects are curated to monitor water levels, humidity, temperature, etc. and take the necessary smart action. Sensors can be integrated into your detection system. They keep a check on essential factors in the surrounding and alert you accordingly. It offers a good head start to prevent colossal damages in the wake and aftermath of a flood. You can tailor-build the project to create specific alerts and even automate smart appliances like dehumidifiers.
Smart healthcare systems have a huge IoT spectrum and can be adapted to suit individual needs. These projects are a great example of independent living. If you can think it, you can make it happen! A health monitoring project supports people towards health consciousness. Several smart machines can be connected into the healthcare ecosystem. They monitor the vitals and can be programmed to alert families and doctors immediately in case of emergencies.
Sensors make a crucial part of smart healthcare projects. They keep a check on heartbeat, blood pressure, blood sugar, saturation levels, etc.
If any readings fall outside the acceptable range, the smart systems can alert your healthcare professionals right away. These systems can also support elderly people by arranging video calls with doctors for scheduled online consultations. Such a project is usually developed to help patients and doctors collaborate remotely, discuss critical concerns or reports, and automate calls to the emergency departments. It gives families immense peace of mind to watch over their loved ones and have help just a click away – especially with lockdowns and travel bans adding to the distance.
Smart fridges continue to lead the automation sensation around the world. They can already identify each of the contents and track their expiry dates. Most smart designs are equipped to work directly with the Internet of Things. This allows them to alert you if the milk has expired or if your confectioneries need restocking. While planning your own project, you can think of how to customize the way your fridge interacts and responds – like placing automatic reorders with Alexa. Various existing projects focus on the use of sensors to check for an open door or regulate the internal climates. If your culinary creations need a regular watch without disturbing the temperature by opening the door, an inner camera can help you there! Way to streamline your culinary home business!
Another popular pursuit is smart lighting. The smart DIY population takes pride in its handcrafted, fully functional lighting systems. While they might not be the next Philips Hue yet, these smart light projects give you some hands-on creativity to celebrate. It is a great chance to refine your smart craftsmanship if you already enjoy putting things together and watching the bulb light up! These IoT-based projects help you think outside the box and create your own lighting system from scratch. You get to choose app controls, lighting colors, different scenes, and even tie up the smart lights to your home theater system. You can also integrate your lights with the doorbell and alarm systems for a complete Internet of Things in your very home. By making your own DIY project, you can rely on a system that you built by yourself. It is safer than various readymade solutions because it cannot be hacked or compromised as easily.
This can be an extension of the health monitoring system above. It addresses the special needs of people who have limited motor skills. IoT projects for special needs are developed around the world to bridge as many gaps as possible and promote independent lifestyles. Eye control projects are an example. They pair up with smart appliances to track the movement of your eyeballs – and even respond to blinking. Inspired by the great Stephen Hawking, such an eye-tracking system can be adapted to match individual requirements. They can help you operate an appliance just by blinking, and you get to personalize the actions in response to your eyeball movements.
A major challenge in IoT projects
When you plan to domesticate the Internet of Things, you do need to address and overcome certain challenges. This is because of the open-source nature of most automation platforms. There is always something that can be improved. The margin for improvement encourages new generations of smart products to lead the way. And this is also why the Internet of Things keeps changing – because technology is always updated.
The most common challenge in any DIY pursuit would include compatibility issues. Cross-compatibility and interoperability are essential for allowing your smart devices to communicate with each other. This is the major obstacle for automation projects. Poor compatibility is the main culprit behind half-done systems that fail to coexist. If you want your porch smart light to turn off once the smart curtain opens in the morning, both products need a common platform language to understand the signal. This will not work until you have designed a mutual system to connect them both – for example, on the same Z-Wave network.
Before starting any IoT project, make sure to clarify the requirements for hardware, software, and communication protocols. It allows you to future-proof your smart home by always respecting that room for improvement. It is also your best chance to overcome challenges in voice integrations down the road.
How DIY projects have made a difference
Monitoring and remote management
IoT projects have been on a feverish high among tech hobbyists who enjoy their DIY freedom. The biggest impact these self-made projects deliver is the remote management of your connected devices. This allows you to turn off the heaters, restock inventories, adjust lighting levels, etc. You can monitor the appliances from wherever you are – thanks to a smart home that can think for itself!
Another exciting benefit of a handmade IoT project is that it can be tailored to your green perspective. Smart products already work for their stated duration and switch off automatically. This saves considerable energy around your smart home. Various smart solar panels can also join in to power this sustainable vision. You can develop an app that connects all the green products you own and displays indoor and environmental insights. This allows you to track every slice on the energy pie chart and optimize your savings accordingly. The Internet of Things is already green-minded. All you need to do is choose the right solutions to get rid of that carbon footprint!
Home automation is driven by smart algorithms that you can fine-tune for customized results. They give your home some decision-making elements and can combine relevant devices. For example, smart home security kits include standalone devices like smart locks, cameras, sensors, doorbells, and alarms. When connected together, the smart security island takes input from each device. The collective smart synergy of this system alerts you adequately during break-ins.
The best reason to build your own Internet of Things projects is the level of creativity they inspire. You can be as inventive and creative as you like. It is all about thinking outside the box and creating solutions that work for you. You need to make sure that each smart product connects to relevant devices for smart integrations. Various open-source cloud solutions are available to streamline your work and build upon existing source codes.
You can easily leverage your cloud expertise and design compatible, cohesive solutions. This also includes developing ideal apps and dashboard interfaces to give you exactly what you need. There is infinite scope for creative ideas, and the DIY automation community is brimming with smart potential. You can explore various blogs, forums, and social media platforms to connect with like-minded peers and join the IoT fanbase. Most of the project ideas and programming files are shared online for continuous improvement via open-source eligibility. These projects are more about personal competence rather than the market spotlight. If you too have such an IoT streak – and the COVID lockdown has pushed it to the point of obsession – then feel free to share your talent. Add your smart touches to old ideas and help the automation scope expand. The basics are still the same and require fresh ideas for technology advancements. After all, the apple never fell far from the tree!