A Nifty Caravan

Control

Sensors, Thermostats and a Nifty Brain® to pull it all together

Nifty Brain®

Optimised to control all devices with the minimum of input and bandwidth usage

Customised

Designed around the constraints of a caravan and remote location.

Security

Motion & Temperature sensors combined with lighting and cameras.

The caravan was sited up on the Yorkshire moors, in a lovely little caravan park. What the location meant was that we had limited broadband (cellular) and it was several hours from the owners. Because of the limited bandwidth, we had to test out a variety of solutions that could be controlled by the Nifty Brain®

Basic image of a tablet showing the controls for a smart home

Control

The caravan is used by family and friends with a range of technical skills, so everything had to be as easy to use as possible whilst still delivering control. With that in mind, we installed a Nest thermostat for the heating and hot water and then hidden sensors (Fibaro & Aeotec amongst others) to control the lights, security system and the watering solution.


Realising that a variety of people would use the caravan, we left in place a permanent Nifty remote. An upcycled iPad became a permanent onsite controller for the caravan, enabling guests to easily control the caravan without having to install any apps. This was backed up by all the physical controls remaining in place

Customised

The owners had two specific requirements, prevent a catastrophic water leak and remotely control their caravan utilities. The first we achieved by integrating a Zipato valve controller thus enabling them to remotely turn off the water valve.


The second was to install Nest, Fibaro and Aeotec sensors and link them to the lights and heating system. I.e. We customised the deck lights, turning them off automatically (midnight) and turning them on only when someone is home and evening has arrived. Inside, we have one family member who changes the light colours every few minutes whilst others prefer a more sedate colour change. The system knows who is in control and changes the lighting patterns based on their preferences.


For fun they have multiple Nanoleaf light panels and these have been integrated into the rest of the system to provide lighting scenes and party ambience.

White Radiator
Multiple security cameras surrounding a tablet held in hands with fingers pointing at it. Transmitting data to a mobile phone and laptop in the bottom of the corner

Security

The caravan is on the outer edge of the park with beautiful views but commensurate concerns about security. On top of this we had limited bandwidth available (EE mobile) to the system. This immediately knocked out several cloud based camera systems, after testing we focused on a Foscam solution that would deliver images as needed, had motion/light sensors and had the added benefit of not needing an additional monthly subscription.


We connected Fibaro sensors to the Nifty backbone that were configured to change a certain lights colour and trigger a remote event if the owners were not there. Enabling them to call up the camera’s for additional footage. This meant that the system gave enough information to be useful without using costly data.

Nifty Brain®

The difference between our normal home installation and the caravan was the limited bandwidth and the use of a new piece of technology (the Zipato valve controller.) We had to modify our installation to ensure that the Nifty Brain® was as autonomous as possible and focused on minimising any external calls. This involved optimising the programming, tweaking our Openhab integration and cutting out superfluous code. The result was a significant improvement in our software and its use of the Raspberry Pi.


The new hardware integration was relatively simple but a great use case and an interesting bit of kit to use in other locations.

Happy man sitting in a Yoga position

Your Caravan your way

With a minimal amount of onsite work, we were able to install a system that let the owners control every aspect of their caravan from the lighting to watering the plants. By building on a Nifty Brain® and optimising for low data usage we created a system that can evolve as their requirements change, a system for now and the future.

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