Author: EIS Release Date: Sep 23, 2020
Need to control a reclining chair over Wi-Fi, to add voice control via a smart speaker, or some other IoT interface, for example?
Then look no further than a plug-n-play controller called Wren made by Sussex-based DitroniX.
It comes in two flavours: a plug-n-play consumer version which connects in-line with the 5pin DIN connectors used in many recliners, and a developers version which comes along with an software development kit (SDK) available from GitHub.
“Wren is an interface to existing electric recliner push buttons or remote hand controller, and provides both existing electric reclining chair functionality, while also allowing safe electrical control from IoT smart home automation,” according to DitroniX director of engineering Dave Williams.
Inside, a microcontroller drives the chair’s one or two motors, commanded by the existing controls or over Wi-Fi.
Existing controls will always work, then for wireless home automation integration use an internet connection is required, although “developers can use Raspberry Pi MQTT in the home and add it locally on the LAN, so then no internet is needed”, Williams told Electronics Weekly. The developer version “allows developers to integrate to software like Tasmota and other open source tools. This is the most interesting as it expands uses and ideas”.
As well as Tasmota, other MQTT home automation platforms that can be accommodated include Node-RED, openHAB and Domoticz.
An app for phones is in the pipeline, awaiting use-cases from OEMs and home automation companies that will sell Wren as part of their systems. “This way I can support Android and iPhone, much like SmartLife or eFamily”, said Williams.
Potential applications are: elderly assistance, adding alternative controls for less-abled users, as a mobility aid, with home cinemas, gentle exercise control or as a lounge gadget.
Also in the pipeline, for disabled or elderly person use, is a similar product for electric beds “so they can easily raise and lower the pillows or change the bed level from voice commands or other inputs such as wind pipe or finger twitch,” said Williams.
Williams founded DitroniX in 1981 to design and service electronics and radio communications equipment. “This then extended to be a family business,” he said. “My interests and career have allow me to be involved in some interesting projects that shape my multi-hat technical ideas and projects.”
The company also offers hardware and software design and consultancy, and Williams is a STEM ambassador and mentor.
Wren is designed and manufactured in-house – Williams has his own electronics R&D lab and workshop. “Once numbers increase and variations are derived, manufacture can be placed out to contract manufactures,” he said. But this is very much a balance – quality and control are more important than initial small cost reductions.”
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