Making A Digital Timer To Control Devices | Getting Started With Blynk | Home Automation – DIY #48

Making A Digital Timer To Control Devices | Getting Started With Blynk | Home Automation – DIY #48

Today, we are going to learn how to control
the GPIO pins on a microcontroller based on the current time, without having to write
any code. Think of it as a digital timer that can then be connected to a relay to automatically
control the lights around you. We will be using something called Blynk and if you are
not familiar with it then it’s an extremely easy way to program a microcontroller. Say you want to switch ON a lamp, device or
heater during a particular time but you do not want to create a full home automation
system using home assistant and so on. You do get timers like these ones which can be
connected to your sockets. You can control the time by setting these switches and this
will work for the most part. If you want to create a DIY solution then the most obvious
way is by adding a real time clock or RTC module to an Arduino board so that you can
keep track of time. You can then set the switch ON and switch OFF times to create schedules.
However, both these solutions are not convenient. Any changes will have to be manually made
which is not entirely straightforward. Also, if you are not at home for instance, then
you cannot make any changes which is also an issue. I personally think that the simplest way to
solve these issues is by using Blynk – which is an IoT platform that can be used with several
internet enabled boards. The app allows you to program your microcontroller using graphical
widgets. You can also write code to interface additional modules and integrate everything.
The best part is that it is free to use and provides everything you need to get started.
Since it is connected to the internet, we can use network time to creates schedules
which also means that we do not have to worry about daylight savings and so on as all of
that will be taken care of for us. Here’s an overview of how it works. First,
we need an internet capable board along with a smart phone. Blynk supports a number of
boards but I will use the WeMos D1 mini board as it is cost effective and has everything
you need built into it. We then have the app which we use to create a program, think of
it as an Arduino sketch but instead of being text based, it is graphical. The app is only
used to program the board and make changes. Once programmed, it can be closed and the
phone can even be switched OFF as the board will continue executing the program. The board and the app are connected together
by a server. By default, we will use the Blynk server which is free to use, however you can
also host your own server on a raspberry pi for instance. In order for both to communicate,
they need to be connected to the internet. The app will generate something called an
authentication token which needs to be programmed to the board. This is unique for each program
that we create and it links the two together. By default, you can control the board from
anywhere in the world and also view its status. Start by downloading the app and setting it
up. You will need to provide an email address as the authentication token will be sent to
it. You will then end up with something like this. Tap this button to start creating a
new project and give it a name. You also need to select the correct board and as you can
see, you have plenty of options to chose from. Select the connection type which is WiFi and
then hit the create button. This is the work space where that will be used to create the
program. This option gives you the project settings and you can even share it with others.
Clicking this button will show you all the available widgets and you can click the information
icon to learn more about them. Each widget uses something called energy and by default
you have a balance of 2000. This limits the number of widgets that you can use within
a program but you can also buy more energy for bigger projects. Each time you delete
a widget or project, you get back the energy associated with it. By now, you will have received an email like
this which consists of an authentication token. We need to add this to the microcontroller
so start by opening the Arduino IDE. Head over to the library manager, search for Blynk
and then install it. Once done, open up the examples option, select Blynk to view all
the available template files that can be used for different boards. I am going to select
nodemcu for the board that I am using. This is the default template for this particular
board. All we need to do here I copy the authentication
token from the email and paste it like so. You also need to add your WiFi network name
and password. That’s all you need to do. This statement will set up the connection
to the cloud and this line will execute the program that we create with the APP. Make
sure you have the right board support package installed for your board, select the correct
COM port and then upload the sketch to your board. You can open up the serial monitor
to view the board status. I am going to connect an LED to pin D1, using a 330 Ohm current
limiting resistor so that we can control it. All we need to do now is use the APP to program
the board. Add the button widget by tapping the + icon,
then tapping the widget. It will be displayed within the workspace. You can then tap it
to view the options. Start by giving it a name and then tap the pin option to select
a pin. I am going to select pin D1 since we connected an LED to that pin. Go back to the
workspace and then click this play button. The code will automatically get uploaded to
the board. Now, the LED will switch ON whenever you press the button within the app. The button
is acting like a pushbutton but what if we wanted it to act like a switch or toggle button
instead? To do that, we first need to stop the program by clicking this icon and we then
need to tap the button to view its settings. You can toggle the mode option to switch and
then go back to run the program. Now, you can tap the button to toggle the LED state. As you can see, it’s extremely simple to
control a microcontroller without having to write code. You have a lot of widgets to choose
from which allows you to create some interesting programs. Before we create a schedule, I am
going to add the Value display widget and set it to display the status of pin D1. You
can drag the widgets around as you like and then run the program. Now, when I toggle the
LED, I will be able to view the pin status. In order to create a timer, we will need to
use the eventor widget. This is what it looks like so tap it to open up the settings. Start
by creating a new event. We need to define a trigger for this event. Select the time
option as we want to set the time. You can now set the schedule. Start by selecting the
time zone, the start time and the days that you will like the schedule to run. Make sure
the days are listed in the action as shown here. You can change these to suit your requirements
as needed. Then click the set time option to save it. Once you set the trigger, you need
to select an action that will be executed at that time. You can turn ON a pin, turn
it OFF, change its value and so on. I will select the turn ON option and I will select
pin D1. Once this is done, hit OK and you will then be able to view a summary of this
action. You can then add another event to switch OFF the pin at another time as seen
here. This way you can create a schedule for the GPIO pin. You can keep creating more events
to do other things. All you need to do now is click the run option
so that it gets uploaded to the board. The LED will switch ON at the time that you set
as seen here. It will then switch OFF at the OFF time that was set. You will also be able
to view the pin status on the dashboard and you will be able to manually control it if
needed. You can extend this to control multiple GPIO
pins and devices, depending on your intentions. It is also extremely easy to update the schedule
as opposed to having to update the code. Once you know how to control a GPIO pin, you
can use to control all sorts of other things. If you add a relay then you can use it to
control lamps and other high-powered appliances. Be careful when working with mains voltages
but if you plan on doing this then do check out these tiny AC-DC converter modules which
are compact and useful. They can be used to power the microcontroller and also power the
relay while being a bit safer. So that’s a quick introduction to using
Blynk to program and control microcontrollers. I hope you found this video useful. Don’t
forget to like, share and subscribe if you haven’t already. Thank you for watching
and I will see you in the next one.


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