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“Super Smart Home” Wins Element14 Connected Cloud Challenge | Cypress Semiconductor

“Super Smart Home” Wins Element14 Connected Cloud Challenge

Earlier this year, developers from around the world competed in the Cypress/Element14 “Connected Cloud Challenge”—an opportunity to build a unique IoT project over three months using Cypress’ PSoC 6 MCU connecting to Amazon Web Services. Dozens of cutting-edge projects were entered, including a smart mailbox and smart pill dispenser. In the end, the grand prize winner was the “Super Smart Home.”

The Super Smart Home is a full home automation hub that uses Cypress’ PSoC 6 and Wi-Fi/Bluetooth technologies, as well as AWS IoT Services. The control center aggregates multiple sensor nodes including a doorbell, environmental controls, door opener, appliances, lighting, and alarms, and then transmits this sensor data to AWS SiteWise to build a scalable management system. Cypress spoke to Balearicdynamics, the mastermind behind this exciting innovation, to discuss the challenges he faced, why he decided to enter the contest, and how PSoC was implemented into the Super Smart Home. 

CYPRESS: Tell us why you decided to participate in the Element14 contest?

BALEARICDYNAMICS: The idea of developing a smart-home project that is currently not on the market is something I had been thinking about for some time. The Connected Cloud Challenge gave me the opportunity to create the smart home and bring it to life. 

CYPRESS: What’s your favorite feature in the Super Smart Home?

BALEARICDYNAMICS: My favorite feature, which is the most-original aspect of my project, is that the whole architecture provides immediate local feedback on every node instead of only leaving the control local or remote to the user. Nowadays it’s almost impossible to create something new. Any new technology and innovation are always the result of the evolution of previous research and implementations.

CYPRESS: Describe your experience working with Cypress’ PSoC 6 MCU and Wi-Fi/Bluetooth technology for your Super Smart Home? How would you compare your software development experience using Cypress’ ModusToolbox™ vs. other offerings in the market?

BALEARICDYNAMICS: Since I have worked with other Cypress devices, the experience was extremely positive. In the past, I had started doing some experiments on a previous PSoC 6 model with only Bluetooth Low Energy and an e-Ink screen. But the newer PSoC 6 model has a lot of possibilities and most of the information and documentation provided by Cypress is very helpful. When comparing the software development experience to others in the market I would say it’s 100% positive. One of the most-appreciated aspects is the well-documented working environment and the coherence of the documentation and examples.

CYPRESS: How did Cypress technology help you through the design process and specifically what features/capabilities did our technology enable in your Super Smart Home?

BALEARICDYNAMICS: In the current phase of this project I have not approached all the features available on Cypress’ PSoC 6 MCU. I plan to connect a series of external sensors in the next phase of the project. As of now, I have connected the Cypress technology to the AWS IoT Cloud, and it has been the best outcome from my experience. Previously, I have approached other microcontrollers connected to the cloud and received poor results.

I have also used Cypress’ CapSense technology before and have had great results. I’ve used it to implement the navigation buttons of the PSoC 6 nodes.

I like the methodology adopted by Cypress to program and easily cross-compile and debug the device. It has been extremely useful during the debugging phase.

Another helpful aspect of this board is the availability of the screen, accessible through several ways. I have adopted the emWin third-party library for its flexibility and versatility.

CYPRESS: What are some of the biggest challenges that you faced in putting this design together and building the Super Smart Home, and how did you address these issues?

BALEARICDYNAMICS: Focusing attention on cost optimization and low-energy performance, presented both issues and positive aspects that simplified the design of the prototype creation. One challenge I faced is choosing the right components for the specific use case and operating environment. Integrating different technologies together to define a good flow of data from the bottom to the top was probably the most difficult aspect of the project.

The most complex challenge I faced was the creation of a general-purpose modular system that’s easy to adapt to the largest possible range of environments with minimal changes to the pre-existing structure. The Super Smart Home integrates mechanics, electro-mechanics, and electronic technologies together using Arduino, ESP 8266 and ESP 32, Raspberry Pi, and Cypress PSoC 6 boards to create the hierarchical structure responsible for collecting data and logging events and actions retrieved by many different sensors: temperature, humidity, gas, light, sound, and more.

CYPRESS: Did you take advantage of the low-power features of PSoC in your design? If so, how did it play a role?

BALEARICDYNAMICS: The possibility to send alarms and activate direct feedback immediately is thanks to the low-power features of most of the components I decided to adopt while using the PSoC 6 in the Super Smart Home. Cypress’ low-energy solution made it possible to create a project where the alarm system is the last unit to go off.

CYPRESS: In your blogs you mentioned that you are a fan of the PSoC family. What do you like best about the PSoC family and how has PSoC helped you in previous projects? Why was PSoC the right choice for this design?

BALEARICDYNAMICS: In the past I worked with FPGA applications and integrated with both microcontrollers and embedded Linux devices. I like how it’s possible to program almost the entire internal design of the PSoC device. The most important aspect of the PSoC family is the flexibility and the availability of the many different features that can be set together without too many limitations.

CYPRESS: Will you continue to use Cypress technology in future projects? If yes, then which products are you planning to work with?

BALEARICDYNAMICS: Yes of course I’ll continue to use Cypress technology in future projects. In fact the next project I am working on is based on PSoC 6, and can be followed on Hackaday.io.

CYPRESS: What advice would you give other aspiring engineers who are building products for the IoT?

Try to integrate the real world without creating systems that are too focused on a single application or are too restricted. That is my advice for engineers starting to build IoT products.

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At Cypress, we are proud to partner and be a part of design contests like the Element14 Connected Cloud Challenge where we can see the incredible IoT projects that engineers create while using Cypress technology. Learn more about our PSoC solutions here and be sure to visit our IoT Developer Zone to read more about the Super Smart Home project.

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