raspberry pi door bell project: part 3

The good news: I have everything wired up outside and it works (mostly) well, even in rain!

The bad news: Pi stopped detecting the doorbell button press, it’s been raining and I haven’t cleaned up the wiring yet.

Luckily, today looks pretty clear so I feel pretty good about going outside to do some re-wiring on the door bell part of the project. In effect, this means I’m going to have to remove electrical tape and then re-apply it (ugh, so time consuming). But at least I didn’t solder it (yet!).

As for what does work:

  • Open/close sensor
    • Open events:
      • Sonos speaker says, “The gate is now open”
      • Push event via Prowl to our phones: “The gate is now open”
      • Gate plays random sound through 3.5mm audio jack (not yet hooked up but confirmed through headphones!)
    • Close events
      • Sonos speaker says, “The gate is now closed”
      • Push event via Prowl to our phones: “The gate is now closed”

So all of this is off to a great start and will be in an even better place once I get the SkyBell working fully. To do that, I not only have to fix the wiring that detects the doorbell button press again but I also have to improve the WiFi signal that reaches it because it’s slightly spotty out there to the point where it just refuses to connect. That’s okay though, because I’ve been planning on adjusting the wireless signal I get around the house anyway.

This weekend, I attempted it with the Linksys RE1000 repeater, but with little success. For some reason, the devices that connect to it only have local network access and can not see the Internet despite all my efforts. I’m not shocked though; I’ve had problems with the N-network portion of my Linksys E3200 router for a long time, so I’m guessing there’s something amiss with the hardware of the actual router.

I’m thinking I might replace the whole setup with the ASUS RT-AC68U. I found it a while back and recommended it to a friend. He┬árecently purchased it and┬áhas nothing but positive things to say about it, so I’m heavily considering it. I figure I don’t need much of an excuse as my work fully depends on a healthy Internet ecosystem in the house. Plus, we have more and more devices that are talking to each other now.

— Update 4/26/2016 —

So I left off on this post on the 11th and unfortunately, I still haven’t made actual progress on this project. The problem turned out to be with the Pi not detecting the right voltage from the SkyBell; since I am using a simple photocoupler, this meant I wasn’t able to read the door bell button push. After spending an afternoon diagnosing the problem outside, it turned out that instead of dropping the voltage to 12V like it had been doing inside the house, outside it was dropping it to only 4V! In other words, the photocoupler LED would never turn off, even with added resistors.

Figuring I had just wired everything wrong, I decided to bring the unit back inside to test and finally get right. I was able to get it working again but then as soon as I introduced a length of CAT5 cable in between the SkyBell and the Pi, the problem resurfaced. Apparently it wasn’t bad wiring but the cable itself was acting like a big resistor (most likely because the individual wires are so thin).

So now the plan is to somehow detect voltage on button press. I can do this either by soldering said wires directly to the corresponding places directly on the PCB of the SkyBell or by adding an analog to digital converter (ADC) onto the Pi so I can literally read the drop from 10v to 4V. That has its own problems that I am currently investigating, but of course I’ll update once I figure it out.

Concurrently, I have been researching other Wi-Fi Door Bells and have found that the SkyBell HD supports IFTTT (which would allow me to get around this whole mess), but that would mean selling off the 2.0 version or keeping it and just eating the $150. Either way, I can’t believe the company would shaft everyone who bought the 2.0 version, but whatever. I’m now investigating SkyBell alternatives for my smart setup. I mean, I want to eventually build my Home API which would mean interfacing the door bell with smart locks and the way things are going with this particular unit, I am not too hopeful about the future.

I’ll update once I figure out my next step.