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Sunday, April 16, 2017

Garage door alarm

I'm taking a brief break from Hydro failures and the depressing loss of life that goes along with it.  I have a post on the Johnstown flood in draft, and will get to that shortly.

Meanwhile, I thought I'd put up a post about a practical home improvement.  I thought of the idea after reading this article.  

If you are too busy (or lazy like me!!!) to click the link, the news story goes like this:
  • A customer buys a Wi-Fi enabled garage door opener, so he will be able to open and shut his garage doors using a cellphone.
  • The gadget and/or phone application don't work.
  • The customer complains and gives the product a poor review.
  • The company responds by denying his product access to the server and tells him to get a refund.
  • Streisand Effect wreaks havoc on the company.
I can see the attraction of having your garage door opened from your cell phone.  Garage door openers have a limited number of settings, and with modern computing power, it probably would not take long to find the right combination.  I can see why it might seem like a good idea to use a specific cell phone to perform the task.

The term for web-connected devices is IoT (or Internet of Things).  Devices that can be connected to the internet for various reasons can include your refrigerator, smoke detectors, home alarm, lighting, HVAC system, security cameras, door locks, TV remote, and more.  The story above is about a garage door IoT.

However, to be frank, most of these internet-connected things don't seem particularly useful or practical.  Most of them have little or no security, and therefore random amateur hackers and/or governments can gain access.  Worse, if your door lock or garage door opener is IoT, you might as well have left your key in the door lock.  

There's a term for this type of Fail.  It's not the Internet of Things.  It's the Internet of S**t.  Very few  of these IoT devices are secure.  Furthermore, if your home network security is not absolutely perfect, somebody can easily hack their way into your house and/or observe your family in your own living room.

So far, so good on IoT devices, right?  For the above reasons, I'm exceedingly skeptical of them.  That said, I do have one IoT device, and am thinking of building and installing another.  

The IoT device that I'm using right now is a smoke detector for the shop.  I chose to install a NEST Carbon Monoxide and smoke detector in the shop, because I'm not there most of the time.  I installed this when I added the furnace, because since that time combustion has been taking place routinely while I wasn't in attendance.  My assumption was this:  By the time anyone noticed a problem in the shop, it would already have been engulfed, if not completely burned up.

Below, a NEST smoke detector.

In this particular case, I see an IoT device as being useful and practical, without exposing myself to loss of physical security or privacy while using it.  I thought of another possible use for an IoT device after reading the linked story, and that is the title of this post.  A garage door alarm.

I don't want to open and close the garage doors using a phone, but it would be really great if I could get a text if one of the doors is left open for a minute or two.  This way there would be no issues with people hacking the door open and stealing my stuff.  Instead this would just be an alarm function, with a text message sent to your phone.  This would occur without paying a huge monthly service fee to some security company like Brinks or ADT.

So being the smart guy I am, I got on Google and found a *much* smarter guy than I am.  This guy already had the same idea, figured out what was needed, built and programmed the entire thing from scratch for just a few bucks :)  I admire the heck out that!  

Below, a Raspberri Pi in a case.

For that matter, if you were inclined, I imagine you could set up your home security system to alert your cell phone, without paying a monthly fee to a security service.  Worth looking into!

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