Add-On Board on Raspberry Pi Can Control Entire Building

If you thought that the tiny credit card sized single board computer, the inexpensive Raspberry Pi or RBPi was only good for home automation and no more, you may be surprised to learn that it can do a lot more – control an entire building, for instance. Of course, it will need assistance in the form of an add-on board, such as the UniPi.

Very often, people have used the RBPi for automatically controlling their sprinkler systems, the lighting in their house or even for guarding their homes while they are away on a holiday. Commercial systems have often used the RBPi as a prototype. A Czech startup with the same name, the UniPi, is now offering a baseboard and an add-on board for building automation that you can use with your RBPi.

The RBPi plugs into the UniPi baseboard via its 26-pin expansion connector. With this combination of the UniPi and RBPi, you can control the entire functions of a modest sized building. For example, it can read signals from different sensors such as humidity, temperature and/or status of alarms and switches to control gates, sprinklers, curtains, doors, lights and more.

To help with the sensors and control, UniPi is also offering a passive sensor hub that comes along with a free temperature sensor and an optional waterproof temperature sensor, should you need one. The UniPi baseboard has 14 opto-isolated digital inputs that can read sensor signals from 5 to 20V and show the status with LEDs. The board can read 0-10V signals on two analog inputs and output 0-10V on another analog output. On-board is a 12V power supply, along with eight changeover relays, which can switch 5A at 230VAC. That makes UniPi adequate for controlling power to sensor devices for an entire building.

For reading sensors, the UniPi is equipped with a single-channel 1-Wire interface. That makes it convenient to connect hundreds of humidity and temperature sensors. UniPi even allows the second I2C port of the RBPi and its UART to be extended with 5V level converters and provides ESD protection for them. Power loss does not affect the timing of the board as it has an RTC or real-time clock module for keeping time. UniPi is compatible with the RBPi model B Rev2 and it is possible to configure it for the Rev1 model as well. However, UniPi does not mention the possibility of compatibility with the latest model of the RBPi, the 40-pin model B+.

On their website, UniPi offers numerous tutorials based on C/Python libraries for people wanting to develop UniPi applications on the Linux-based RBPi. For example, there is the Webiopi, which is specifically useful for connectivity with the Python Internet of Things. Additionally, there is the Wiringpi library for GPIO interfacing and other libraries for Adafruit.

UniPi is offering its baseboard with on RJ45 connector for the 1-Wire interface and two RJ11 connectors – one for the UART and the other for the external I2C. It has one P1 header and another P5 header along with a 2.1mm standard power connector and an RBPi power jumper.