Maybe Not Quite Everywhere

Technology searching continues. I really want to make this whole RV setup with affordable technology. Not everyone can afford expensive electronics and many others who can may not be comfortable assembling everything themselves. I am thinking about becoming a traveling Smart Home on Wheels installer. I could easily buy all the parts in bulk, have them set up in with the basics, and if someone wants a setup, I can sell them the hardware with the software already installed, go through a few steps to customize it to their RV, and be off on my way. In this trek to make the Smart Home on Wheels, I’ll probably also write and publish an e-book to explain to others all the tricks and little steps we went through and how to get their RV up to a more technologically advanced state. The Raspberry Pi is easy to build and program, so maybe we can get more out there so there are a lot of systems, but maybe not quite everywhere.

If you have read the previous post, I laid out the foundations for a very robust system. It sounded great on paper, but in practicality, it has its flaws. Much it was a dream, a way to showcase the power and small size of the Pi3, but not really needed. With that, I’ll break down the changes and the new ideas that have come up.

First, the Router/VPN Pi.

Do I want a dedicated VPN? It would be nice. Do I need a dedicated VPN/Router? Not really, there are other ways to do it. The first step is figuring out what to do with the Mobley. I’ve read that it is really not that good. Its old technology, its cheap, there are better options out there. The one I am currently looking at is the NETGEAR 4G LTE Modem with Power over Ethernet (LB1121) as it has a few good options. For one, it can be powered over ethernet, and it is by far better than the Mobley. Not too expensive either at under $100. With that, I can just take out the sim card, put it in the new modem, and have a better connection.

From there we run ethernet to a wifi router with ethernet ports, so we can connect as much as possible over a wired connection for speed. If we can find a wifi router that can be plugged into a DC outlet with a USB cable or even directly tied into the battery system, that would be perfect. Finding that magical device might be complicated though.

Then the Media/File Share

Originally, I wanted this to be two Pi3’s just so it could handle the extra load of streaming video through Plex Media Server. It is possible that one Pi3 could handle the demands though, so before we buy a bunch of parts we don’t need, we will set it up to do both file sharing and media streaming and see how it works. I need more hard drives for this Pi, but I can get a Seagate 8TB drive from Amazon for about $150. With two of them set up to work as a RAID, we can have much more storage than we should need for a long time. The hard drives have 12 volt power input though, so I’ll have to figure out a way to connect those to the DC power system when we get to that point.

Ideally, we’ll have one Pi3 connected to three hard drives with each of them getting their power from the DC battery system. It will be connected to the network by ethernet, and the Pi itself powered directly with USB as well. I may go ahead and connect a couple Pi3’s together to make a cluster. It not that difficult and we’d get a little more power out of it. I’d rather have one computer running the file/media server, but I’m still not sure if one by itself would be enough to stream media from Plex Media Server while also backing up our laptops.

Temperature and Stuff

I’ve been trying to find an ideal situation for the temperature monitoring. There are a few different types of Z-Wave devices, so I can probably just get a device that is designed to monitor temperature and humidity, and send the data to the Core unit. The ones made for the task look a lot better, and are actually a bit cheaper than building one myself. I found Qubino, which has a lot of DC powered smart devices, and I contacted them for more info. They appear to be the best option for cost and availability though. They have other devices as well, such as door sensors, but I don’t think they would work on the style of doors in the RV.

Qubino also has DC powered switches, so we could easily add some to each light, or even connect a few lights to the one switch and have zone control. They are pretty cheap too, so if we get a few of them and hook everything together, we’ll be golden.

And of course, there’s an issue…

To get all of this to work properly, we need power. I hadn’t thought much about it, but since part of the project is adding solar and better batteries, I thought we would just be able to tap off the batteries and get 12 volts. Apparently its not that simple. Battery volts can vary from 6 volts to 16, which would mess up a hard drive or any electronics really quick. I’m glad I learned this now, so I can get a regulator that will even out the spikes and create a balanced 12 volts. Then I just have to figure out how to actually connect the hard drives to the power source. They require 12 volts, but the actual connection might be tricky.

I have gotten a fuse box though, so I can run a high gauge wire from the batteries, into the fuse box, and tap new wires off of that. I’ll have to research more, but I think I can get some power cords, cut the ends off, and connect them to the fuse box and thus the regulator and get a nice, even power source.

Upcoming Projects

The cell booster was a relatively easy install. Going forward from here, things are going to get much more complex. The computer parts won’t be something that most people want to do, but they still need to be done. As I go through everything to build the Smart Home on Wheels, I’ll post screenshots, photos, walkthroughs, everything to make it as easy as possible.

However, that still may be too complex for many readers. In that case, I’m going to look into assembling and selling the system in bits and pieces to people who want to add it to their own RV. Some of the items I can do myself, others would have to be ordered from the manufacturer or a reseller. Some items I don’t have to do anything other than plug them in. I’ll put together a shopping list with explanations of everything that is included so you, dear reader, can buy what you want, and if you can’t set it up yourself, I’ll find a way to meet up with you and help you out.

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