The DIY "smart" Egg - Fiberglass RV


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Old 01-14-2020, 08:34 AM   #1
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Name: Carter
Trailer: Eco
Kansas
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The DIY "smart" Egg

With the renovation of the egg nearing completion (detailed here: Renovating a 71 Eco) and it being too cold outside for most of the remaining jobs, I'm turning attention to adding some modern-era electronic amenities.

On the idea list:

* A media center, probably based on Plex to have a nice selection of movies at bedtime.
* Temperature and motion sensing, with the ability to send a text message if something isn't right.
* Safe wifi. I'm looking at VPN/boosting/Wifi access point solutions, but the short version is that if there's any wifi available, I want it usable and safe.
* Digital picture frame. When not in use for movies, it can show pics!
* Backup emergency phone service. This one is kind of a nice side effect to #2, but in an emergency, theoretically I could have a second phone network to tap into. Maybe. That might not work out.

I'm also kicking around some ideas for backup cameras, water tank monitoring and other stuff I *could* do, but I don't know if I will. And who knows what other ideas might pop up.

And so far, it looks like I can do it all for about $100. Definitely under $200.

So to do all of this, I've picked up a Raspberry Pi 4 for the "brainpower" and the current plan is to mate it up to a first-generation iPad I had laying around to provide a client screen.

The Pi has a lot of advantages for this sort of thing:
* It's very small and lightweight
* It uses very, very little power and will happily run on 12V (5v, really)
* It's dirt cheap
* It's built to be hacked together with other things.
* It can also power and charge other devices (like the iPad)

I'm considering gutting the iPad to just use the screen, directly connected to the Pi, rather than a client/server relationship, but that seems like a lousy thing to do to a perfectly good iPad, even if it is old, so I'm holding out on that and am going to try the client/server plan first. I may add an additional touchscreen on the pi itself, if it seems helpful. Most times I need to actually *do* anything to the Pi I'll probably SSH in from my laptop, so I think I'll be OK.

I picked up a cheap solid-state from amazon. It's not as large as a "real drive", but it's plenty big enough to store quite a few movie files, and it's much, much more vibration and moisture resistant, and much lower weight.

I've already installed plex server on the Pi, put the plex client on the iPad, put movies on the drive, and got all of that working, so I know Pi is a viable movie server and the ancient iPad is still a viable viewing client.

Last night I took the old door that was replaced in the renovation and used it to test fit my iPad mounting theories. At first, I was just going to buy an off-the-shelf iPad wall mount, but I can't find one for a first-gen iPad. As I thought about it more, it occurred to me I could cut a whole in the door and let the door itself "frame" the iPad, which would both cut some weight, as well as allow a more flush mount on the front, with less likelihood of snagging your shoulder on a protruding frame mounted on the closet door.

The initial test fitting went *very* well (picture attached), so now I'll need to make some proper templates to be sure my real cuts on my nice, recently made 1/2 Birch door are nice and clean -- and straight.

Today the amazon man is supposed to bring me a 12V to 5 step-down converter, a water-resistant project box to mount the guts into and some other bits, so hopefully this week or this weekend I'll find time to get it all into the trailer.
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Old 01-14-2020, 08:39 AM   #2
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Name: Carter
Trailer: Eco
Kansas
Posts: 121
Forgot to mention, I'm really interested in what y'all think would be useful things to have, as well. So hit me with your thoughts, suggestions, wish list, whatever.
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Old 01-14-2020, 09:34 AM   #3
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Name: Gordon
Trailer: 2015 Scamp (16 Std Layout 4) with '15 Toyota Sienna LE Tug
North Carolina
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Baxter View Post
...
* Temperature and motion sensing, with the ability to send a text message if something isn't right....
And if you don't have WiFi available?

For monitoring the temperature with a pet in the camper, or for notification when the trailer is being moved without your knowledge or permission, I would not want to rely on WiFi alone.

This is similar to an application I have (not on the the camper however)... a Raspberry Pi interfaced to an alarm system to provide remote control and notifications using my WiFi. It works fine but for an alarm system its best to have a cellular connection as a back up.

I'm looking at Hologram Nova cellular modem and this implementation on a RasPi.

It looks like its easy enough but I want to keep the cost of the cell service to the bare minimum since it will rarely be needed. Therefore I want to make sure the RasPi ALWAYS uses WiFi and reverts to cellular only if WiFi is not there. The Hologram service is the cheapest I have found for very light use. If I used less than one MB a month it looks like the cell service would cost under $2 a month.. not bad for having it available as a back up. However under that pricing plan, if the RasPi decided to use the cellar only, my cost could skyrocket. In fact 250 MB a month would be over $100! (Other pricing plans are better suited to regular data use).

So I think the RasPi should only use the cell modem for priority messages when WiFi is not available, and also have a data cap. These are the things I have not worked on.
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Old 01-14-2020, 10:05 AM   #4
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Name: Carter
Trailer: Eco
Kansas
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Originally Posted by gordon2 View Post
And if you don't have WiFi available?

For monitoring the temperature with a pet in the camper, or for notification when the trailer is being moved without your knowledge or permission, I would not want to rely on WiFi alone.
You're absolutely right, and I should have been clearer on that point. I've got a cellular modem on the way, too.

I *think* the best plan is to get an unlocked modem, and a handful of prepaid SIMs for different carriers. Given that they're prepaid, you can load them up with just a few bucks, and for the purposes of sending an occasional text it would take forever to use even a bare minimum of minutes. If you're someplace that has lousy T-mobile service? Fine, pop in a verizon SIM instead.

If I wanted the Pi to send a pic when motion was detected (and I might want to do that) then I'd probably need to look at a real data plan, but for sending a short "something detected" text message, $5 on a prepaid plan should last for a long, long time.
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Old 01-14-2020, 01:18 PM   #5
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Name: Walter
Trailer: 2017 Escape 17B
SW Virginia
Posts: 1,609
Quote:
Originally Posted by Baxter View Post
With the renovation of the egg nearing completion (detailed here: Renovating a 71 Eco) and it being too cold outside for most of the remaining jobs, I'm turning attention to adding some modern-era electronic amenities.

On the idea list:

* A media center, probably based on Plex to have a nice selection of movies at bedtime.
* Temperature and motion sensing, with the ability to send a text message if something isn't right.
* Safe wifi. I'm looking at VPN/boosting/Wifi access point solutions, but the short version is that if there's any wifi available, I want it usable and safe.
* Digital picture frame. When not in use for movies, it can show pics!
* Backup emergency phone service. This one is kind of a nice side effect to #2, but in an emergency, theoretically I could have a second phone network to tap into. Maybe. That might not work out.

I'm also kicking around some ideas for backup cameras, water tank monitoring and other stuff I *could* do, but I don't know if I will. And who knows what other ideas might pop up.

And so far, it looks like I can do it all for about $100. Definitely under $200.

So to do all of this, I've picked up a Raspberry Pi 4 for the "brainpower" and the current plan is to mate it up to a first-generation iPad I had laying around to provide a client screen.

The Pi has a lot of advantages for this sort of thing:
* It's very small and lightweight
* It uses very, very little power and will happily run on 12V (5v, really)
* It's dirt cheap
* It's built to be hacked together with other things.
* It can also power and charge other devices (like the iPad)

I'm considering gutting the iPad to just use the screen, directly connected to the Pi, rather than a client/server relationship, but that seems like a lousy thing to do to a perfectly good iPad, even if it is old, so I'm holding out on that and am going to try the client/server plan first. I may add an additional touchscreen on the pi itself, if it seems helpful. Most times I need to actually *do* anything to the Pi I'll probably SSH in from my laptop, so I think I'll be OK.

I picked up a cheap solid-state from amazon. It's not as large as a "real drive", but it's plenty big enough to store quite a few movie files, and it's much, much more vibration and moisture resistant, and much lower weight.

I've already installed plex server on the Pi, put the plex client on the iPad, put movies on the drive, and got all of that working, so I know Pi is a viable movie server and the ancient iPad is still a viable viewing client.

Last night I took the old door that was replaced in the renovation and used it to test fit my iPad mounting theories. At first, I was just going to buy an off-the-shelf iPad wall mount, but I can't find one for a first-gen iPad. As I thought about it more, it occurred to me I could cut a whole in the door and let the door itself "frame" the iPad, which would both cut some weight, as well as allow a more flush mount on the front, with less likelihood of snagging your shoulder on a protruding frame mounted on the closet door.

The initial test fitting went *very* well (picture attached), so now I'll need to make some proper templates to be sure my real cuts on my nice, recently made 1/2 Birch door are nice and clean -- and straight.

Today the amazon man is supposed to bring me a 12V to 5 step-down converter, a water-resistant project box to mount the guts into and some other bits, so hopefully this week or this weekend I'll find time to get it all into the trailer.
I'm convinced. You're hired.

Walt
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Old 01-14-2020, 02:36 PM   #6
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Name: K C
Trailer: 1971 Trailswest Campster
Washington
Posts: 2,647
It sounds like your hobby is messing around with electronics. That is fine. It is not my hobby but if I need to do something then I will manage to learn to set it up.



I will have a cell phone booster because I travel full time and need a cell phone signal as I have an online store and need to handle orders. But if I did not have that need I would not be concerned with being out of cell phone range. A 911 call can be picked up by any tower from any cell phone company including ones that I don't subscribe to.



I won't be staying in RV parks so having a wifi connection is a null set other than having my tablet or cell phone be able to send files to my printer. Unfortunately the RV parks typically have nearly unusable speeds for streaming anything or sending and receiving large files over their wifi setups due to the volume of people logging into them at the same time, most especially true at prime time hours morning and evenings.



As far as privacy on a wifi connection if going into a coffee shop or laundromat or even at an RV park or rest stop and you are using your computer, tablet or phone on their wifi you can purchase a small router than interfaces with their router and it can create a private VPN so they can't access your device. Here is a link to one of that type from Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1


Your best alarm system is a big dog inside of your trailer. Of course you can also get proximity sensing barking dog alarms if you don't have the real deal.
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Old 01-14-2020, 04:35 PM   #7
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Name: Carter
Trailer: Eco
Kansas
Posts: 121
Quote:
Originally Posted by k corbin View Post
It sounds like your hobby is messing around with electronics. That is fine. It is not my hobby but if I need to do something then I will manage to learn to set it up.
Well of course there's more than one way to do things. But let's take these one by one.

Quote:
Originally Posted by k corbin View Post
I will have a cell phone booster because I travel full time and need a cell phone signal as I have an online store and need to handle orders. But if I did not have that need I would not be concerned with being out of cell phone range. A 911 call can be picked up by any tower from any cell phone company including ones that I don't subscribe to.
Honestly, being out of cell phone service isn't a concern. I'm concerned with being able to have the trailer text me if something is awry. If that nets me the happy bonus of a secondary phone network (or multiple networks) I can tap into in a pinch, that's nice, but it's a bonus.


Quote:
Originally Posted by k corbin View Post
I won't be staying in RV parks so having a wifi connection is a null set other than having my tablet or cell phone be able to send files to my printer. Unfortunately the RV parks typically have nearly unusable speeds for streaming anything or sending and receiving large files over their wifi setups due to the volume of people logging into them at the same time, most especially true at prime time hours morning and evenings.
But I *will* be staying in RV parks, so making the most of whatever meager WIFI they have is important. That said, given that I'm carrying the media center with me, actual TRUE wifi connectivity needs are pretty limited.

Quote:
Originally Posted by k corbin View Post
As far as privacy on a wifi connection if going into a coffee shop or laundromat or even at an RV park or rest stop and you are using your computer, tablet or phone on their wifi you can purchase a small router than interfaces with their router and it can create a private VPN so they can't access your device. Here is a link to one of that type from Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1
Yes, I'm well aware of commercial VPN boxes. However, I can add a private VPN router to the Pi I already have on board, for no additional cost.

Quote:
Originally Posted by k corbin View Post
Your best alarm system is a big dog inside of your trailer. Of course you can also get proximity sensing barking dog alarms if you don't have the real deal.
I think the part your missing here is that I am replacing:
* A media center
* Security & temp monitoring
* a VPN router
* plus any additional functions I dream up

For next to no money, next to no weight, and next to no energy draw. I'm not sure why you'd come down so strongly against that.
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Old 01-14-2020, 04:43 PM   #8
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Name: Carter
Trailer: Eco
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At any rate, here's the test fitting in the project box. The box itself is 8" x 4.5" x 2" deep.

Right now, it's holding the Pi, the SSD drive, and the 12v to 5v converter.
There's plenty of space in there for the still-to-come cellular modem, with room to spare. I should probably think of clever things to do with that space :-D

It'll fit neatly at the base of the closet by the wheel well. With the lid on, it'll be barely even noticeable.
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