She Thinks My Toaster is Hot

One day you put your toaster on a social networking site. And then on another day you find out that your toaster has more friends than you.

Twitter Toaster System

This little story sounds made up. Well, it’s not.

My toaster has had a Twitter page since December 2008, tweeting the status of my toast making habits for all of the world to follow. On occasion people even write to the toaster to ask what it’s toasting. Oddly enough, it can tell you.

I get asked, “Why have your toaster on the Internet?” Well, it’s a starting point for future projects and part sarcasm. I have been working on gizmos, web control, and power / resource management projects with my friend Jason Winters of ioBridge for over a decade. One day I had the idea to overlay appliance usage data onto a graph of my power consumption for my house. My theory is to use this appliance meta data to reduce the power I use everyday by pointing directly to the power hogs. It’s a start to my internet of things at my house. If you want to get start your own Skynet, visit Wired’s Wiki on making things talk. I use the IO-204 control and monitor module from ioBridge.com.

OK, mostly it’s sarcasm.

My Toaster has been recently written about on Wired.com, ReadWriteWeb, PC World, Tiscali, De Morgen, XYCity China, etc. If you want to hear about it straight from the bread slot, you can get live updates from my toaster by following @MyToaster on Twitter.

I am now jealous of my toaster which has made for awkward moments when I want some crunchy Wonder Bread.

Internet-enabled Message Center

What are you up to now?

I took the leap and bought an Arduino from LiquidWare. An arduino is an open-source microcontroller that has a processor, some digital I/O pins, and analog inputs. You can create little standalone programs that monitor inputs, control LEDs, and pretty much anything that you dream up. My favorite projects are ones that involve the Internet. A microcontroller is rather simple by itself, but what if it could use the web to get answers, send email, maybe update my Twitter status? That means there is a unlimited number of projects ahead – Microcontrollers collaboarating in cyberspace. The missing link for the web part is the ioBridge IO-204. I know you are no stranger to the the IO-204, but for those of you who have not heard. The IO-204 sits on my network and relays data from its channels to ioBridge.com servers and back into my network. It allows for remote control and monitoring without network configuration and programming. One of the expansion boards is a two-way serial board that accepts serial strings and connects them to APIs of web services that ioBridge interfaces to and sends back responses. For instance, I can send the commands, “[[[calc|9*9]]]” and this returns 81. OK, maybe not impressive on the surface, but that result came from Google Calculator. Anything Google Calculator can solve, your microcontroller has access to those results. For more examples, visit the Serial Web Services API on the wiki.

Message Center Project

I wanted to combine these two worlds with a sample project – maybe it will inspire you to come up with something better, spark some ideas that you have. I have my arduino measuring my outside temperature here in Pittsburgh, which is an analog input scaled to Fahrenheit. At any moment I can press a button and get the temperature on the LCD screen – no Internet required. Since I have been planning a work trip to Atlanta, I also wanted to compare my temperature with hot-lanta’s. So, my project solves that. Using the “weather command”, I am able to get the weather anywhere in the world by zip code or city name.

I added a few more things to the message center. With another button I can get the stock quote of Google. My strike price was $405, so I have been watching it close. If it gets below $405, I get an automatic email from my message center. The stock quote comes from the Yahoo Financials API.

I have one more button that emails me a secret message when it’s pressed. I put this in here for when my mom comes into my room from when I am on the road. It’s aptly label, do not press. Next time, I will hook it to a light sensor in the basement to catch her when she turns on my lights. I am sure you all have the same issues with your mom.


Source Code

The arduino requires some c-like programming and I wanted to include the sketch for you to steal and use for your projects. You will see how I send the serial commands from the arduino to the IO-204 using the UART serial connection (pins 0/1) and recieve and parse the incoming results. I use a SoftwareSerial port for the LCD results. The push buttons are software debounced and use pull-up resistors for solid digital connections. The LED’s linked to each button use a 330 ohm resistor to protect them. I was aided by the Arduino Inputs tutorial on Ladyada.net, Debounce Tutorial, and the iobridge Wiki / Forum. Please let me know if you have any questions, maybe I can help. I have learned a lot about handling strings on the arduino.

//
// Message Center using Arduino and the ioBridge IO-204
//
// An open-souce Shadowlord Project
// www.IamShadowlord.com


#include SoftwareSerial.h>

// SoftwareSerial Pins
#define rxPin 2
#define txPin 3

// Setup Software Serial
SoftwareSerial
softSerial = SoftwareSerial(rxPin, txPin);

// Global Setup
int middleLED = 11;
int rightLED = 10;
int leftLED = 12;

int leftButton = 5;
int
leftButtonCurrent = LOW;
int leftButtonReading;
int leftButtonPrevious = HIGH;
long leftButtonTime = 0;
long
leftButtonDebounce = 200;

int middleButton = 4;
int middleButtonCurrent = LOW;
int middleButtonReading;
int
middleButtonPrevious = HIGH;
long middleButtonTime = 0;
long
middleButtonDebounce = 200;

int rightButton = 6;
int
rightButtonCurrent = LOW;
int rightButtonReading;
int
rightButtonPrevious = HIGH;
long
rightButtonTime = 0;
long
rightButtonDebounce = 200;

int tempPin = 5;
int tempAnalog = 0;
int
tempF = 0;

char* currentRequest = "";

// Start up program
void
setup() {

pinMode(rxPin, INPUT);
pinMode(txPin, OUTPUT);

pinMode(leftLED, OUTPUT);
pinMode
(middleLED, OUTPUT);
pinMode(rightLED, OUTPUT);

pinMode(leftButton, INPUT);
pinMode(middleButton, INPUT);
pinMode(rightButton, INPUT);

softSerial.begin(9600);
delay(100);

Serial.begin(9600);
delay
(100);

Serial.flush();
delay(100);

// Setup LCD
clearLCD();
setBacklightBrightness(9);
delay
(1000);

// Test LEDs
digitalWrite
(leftLED, HIGH);
digitalWrite(middleLED, HIGH);
digitalWrite(rightLED, HIGH);

delay(1500);

digitalWrite(leftLED, LOW);
digitalWrite
(middleLED, LOW);
digitalWrite
(rightLED, LOW);

}

// Start main program loop
void
loop(){

// Get Analog Input and scale as temperature for ioBridge temperature sensor on arduino
tempAnalog = analogRead(tempPin);
tempF = tempAnalog / 6.875;

// Monitor left button status and debounce
leftButtonReading = digitalRead(leftButton);

if (leftButtonReading == HIGH && leftButtonPrevious == LOW &&
millis
() - leftButtonTime > leftButtonDebounce) {
if (leftButtonCurrent == HIGH) leftButtonCurrent = LOW;
else
{digitalWrite(leftLED, HIGH);
clearLCD();
delay
(100);
softSerial.print("Outside: ");
delay
(100);
softSerial.print(tempF);
delay
(100);
moveCursor("02", "01");
delay(100);
softSerial.print("Atlanta: ");
leftButtonCurrent = LOW;
//Request temperature in Atlanta via ioBridge
Serial.print("[[[weather|Atlanta]]]");
digitalWrite
(leftLED, LOW);
}
leftButtonTime = millis();
}

leftButtonPrevious = leftButtonReading;

// Monitor middle button status and debounce
middleButtonReading = digitalRead(middleButton);

if (middleButtonReading == HIGH && middleButtonPrevious == LOW &&
millis() - middleButtonTime > middleButtonDebounce) {
if (middleButtonCurrent == HIGH) middleButtonCurrent = LOW;
else
{currentRequest = "Google";
digitalWrite
(middleLED, HIGH);
clearLCD();delay(100);
softSerial.print("GOOG: $");
delay
(100);
middleButtonCurrent = LOW;
//Request Google Stock Price via ioBridge

Serial
.print("[[[stock|GOOG]]]");
digitalWrite
(middleLED, LOW);
}
middleButtonTime = millis();
}

middleButtonPrevious = middleButtonReading;

// Monitor right button status and debounce
rightButtonReading = digitalRead(rightButton);

if (rightButtonReading == HIGH && rightButtonPrevious == LOW &&
millis() - rightButtonTime > rightButtonDebounce) {
if
(rightButtonCurrent == HIGH) rightButtonCurrent = LOW;
else
{
digitalWrite
(rightLED, HIGH);
clearLCD();
delay(100);
softSerial.print("Alert: ");
delay
(100);
rightButtonCurrent = LOW;
//Send email via ioBridge

Serial
.print("[[[email|hans@nothans.com|Alert|Mom, is pressing your buttons]]]");
digitalWrite(rightLED, LOW);
}
rightButtonTime = millis();
}

rightButtonPrevious = rightButtonReading;

// Display serial messages
if(Serial.available() > 0){

delay(100);

char charIn = 0;
byte i = 0;
char
stringIn[32] = "";

while(Serial.available()) {
charIn = Serial.read();
stringIn[i] = charIn;
i += 1;
}

if (currentRequest == "Google") {

softSerial.print(stringIn);
int stockPrice = atoi(stringIn);
delay(100);
moveCursor("02", "01");
delay(100);
stockPrice = stockPrice - 405;
softSerial.print("Change: $");
delay
(100);
softSerial.print(stockPrice);
currentRequest = "";

}
else
softSerial.print(stringIn);
}

// End program loop
}

//
// ioBridge Serial LCD Functions and Parameters (for SoftwareSerial)
//

void displayMessage(char* message){
softSerial.print(message);
}

void clearLCD(){
softSerial.print(0xFE, BYTE);
softSerial.print("Z");
}

void setBacklightBrightness(int level){
// level
// 0=Off -> 9=Brightest

softSerial.print(0xFE, BYTE);
softSerial.print("B");
softSerial.print(level);
}

void setBacklightTime(int level, byte seconds){
// level
// 0=Off -> 9=Brightest

// seconds
// 01 = 1 seconds => 06 = 60 seconds


softSerial.print(0xFE, BYTE);
softSerial.print("T");
softSerial.print(level);
softSerial.print(seconds, BYTE);
}

void moveCursorHome(){
softSerial.print(0xFE, BYTE);
softSerial.print("H");
}

void turnCursorOn(){
softSerial.print(0xFE, BYTE);
softSerial.print("J");
}

void turnCursorOff(){
softSerial.print(0xFE, BYTE);
softSerial.print("K");
}

void turnBlinkingCursorOn(){
softSerial.print(0xFE, BYTE);
softSerial.print("P");
}

void turnBlinkingCursorOff(){
softSerial.print(0xFE, BYTE);
softSerial.print("Q");
}

void scrollMessage(int row, int speed, char* message){
// row
// 1=First Line -> 2=Second Line


// speed
// 0=Slowest -> 9=Fastest


softSerial.print(0xFE, BYTE);
softSerial.print("S");
softSerial.print(row);
softSerial.print(speed);
softSerial.print(message);
softSerial.print(0xFE, BYTE);
}

void moveCursor(char* row, char* column){
// row
// 01=First Line -> 02=Second Line

// column
// 01=First Position -> 16=Last Position


softSerial.print(0xFE, BYTE);
softSerial.print("L");
softSerial.print(row);
softSerial.print(column);
}

void drawHorizontalGauge(int row, char* leftLabel, char* rightLabel, char* length){
// row
// 1=First Line -> 2=Second Line

// leftLabel and rightLabel
// 2 character labels

// length
// a=Empty -> k=Full (filled in from left to right)


softSerial.print(0xFE, BYTE);
softSerial.print("G");
softSerial.print(row);
softSerial.print(leftLabel);
softSerial.print(rightLabel);
softSerial.print(length);
}

void drawVerticalGauge(int height){
// height
// 0=Bottom -> 8=Top (filled in from bottom to top)

softSerial.print(0xFE, BYTE);
softSerial.print("V");
softSerial.print(height);

}

Bonus Project

It’s simple, but I hacked together a power supply for the Arduino, which gets power from USB or a coaxial input from a transformer. I wanted to only run one brick, wall wart, so I hacked a USB cable. There are 4 wires in the USB cable (from pinouts.ru):

1 VCC Red +5 VDC
2 D- White Data –
3 D+ Green Data +
4 GND Black Ground

The IO-204 has a regulated 5VDC and ground (up to 1A – 4A total draw depending on supply) on each channel, so using a terminal strip, I connected the VCC and GND to a cut in half USB cable.

It’s magic – look ma, only one power source.

UberNote for an Ubermensch

“Web 2.0” is a bona fide buzzword. What happened to versions 1.1 through 1.9? What does 2.0 mean exactly? To me, Web 2.0 defines the separation of static web pages to truly dynamic and useful web applications. There will be other versions, but this is the first clear step in my mind.

Examples of Web 2.0 applications are Google Mail, Basecamp Project Manager, and UberNote – Note Management.

I recently became aware of UberNote by reading through articles at The Tech Brief. The UberNote application (almost wanted to call it software because you forget that this is a web application since it so useful and easy to use) allows for quick note taking, advanced editing, and intuitive tagging.

I am note taker. I always have a notebook in my pocket, so I never miss a fleeting idea – maybe one about how toothbrushes with a blue strip fade prematurely while using whitening toothpaste – wouldn’t want to lose that gem. There are times that I email thoughts to myself, leave voice mails on my Skype (which are the only voicemails I get), write on the back of a placemat at a diner – you get the idea. After getting invited to use the UberNote site, I have been putting my thoughts online and have found this a way to keep track of my little thought nuggets that will return literally tens of dollars someday in the future.

I recommend trying UberNote, joining their forums, and helping them shape their initial product offering. Check it out soon, so you don’t miss Web 2.0 and before the Web moves to 3.0 and maybe even Web 3.0 beta.