One of my weekend projects a few months ago was making it so I could open the garage door on my house with my iPhone. Here’s how I got it working.
First, a quick demo of the final product. Once I got everything working, using this thing is pretty simply. I launch X10 Commander on my iPhone:
Then I tap the “ON” button with my finger and after a small lag (1 second?), my garage door…
…springs open! (or closes).
“Who cares?” you ask… well, having my iPhone to control my garage means:
- I can be in a car that doesn’t have my garage code programmed into it and open/close my garage (e.g. a friend’s car)
- I can go out for a walk or a run, close the garage door behind me and open it again when I get back home
- Generally speaking, it’s one less box to worry about when I go out
- I can open and close my garage door from my iPhone… just for the sheer pleasure of the act
- And of course, I have a cool thing to show friends when they come over.
So how does this all work? Pay attention because it’s a somewhat long-winded chain of events that makes X10 Commander control my garage door (almost a Rube Goldberg machine!):
1. I have the X10 Commander iPhone App installed on my iPhone (link, $9.99):
2. It talks, over my home wi-fi network (a pair of D-Link DIR-655s setup as access points), to the X10 Commander “Server” software I have running on an always-on Windows XP PC upstairs in my home office:
3. The X10 Commander Server software talks to an USB to RF X10 interface (the X10 CM19A)dongle on the same Windows XP PC:
4. That dongle on my computer talks to an RF to X10 interface device (the X10 TM751) plugged into a nearby power outlet:
5. Now we move downstairs to the garage where I have an X10 controller for low-voltage devices (an X10 PUM01) plugged into another home power outlet:
6. And the terminals on the X10 low-voltage control device are spliced into the control wires for the garage door opener:
7. And the control wires are, obviously, connected to the garage door opener which opens my garage:
And that’s it!
It’s all run pretty reliably for a couple of months now and never fails to impress. Surprisingly the most fragile piece has NOT been the Windows XP PC (would have been my first guess), but the TM751 (step 4 above). Because it’s connected to a childproofed power outlet and it’s at the entrance to my home office, if it’s ever brushed by a passing child, a the cuff of my pant, or a projectile toy, it easily loses contact. But even this hasn’t been a big deal — I can only remember one occasion where the whole thing hasn’t worked since I set it up.
Another tip: A lot of the X10 stuff can be found on eBay and elsewhere online at pretty low prices. The $$$ savings are nice and I personally make an effort to avoid buying anything from X10.com thanks to their <BLINK>WOW!! DO WE HAVE A DEAL FOR YOU!!</BLINK> style of website design and ecommerce tactics (not to mention that almost every page on their site starts a video with audio and then there are the bikini-clad women being spied on and… sigh, I should just stop. Please tell me you won’t spend any of your money at X10.com?).