Our WeMo Maker Nerf Gun hack was a fun way to see what the Internet of Things black box was capable of, but we wanted to step it up a gear and create something really useful. But what?
IFTTT integration means that it has the ability to connect to many IoT devices and while scanning the site I found some amazing wifi scales with the ability to trigger an event when weight loss/ gain is detected.
[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=”#WeMo @WeMo”]What better to reward weight loss, I thought, than a sugary treat[/inlinetweet]. So I ordered an electronic sweet dispenser to do the job.
Hacking the Sweet Dispenser
Toys are always great to hack because the electronics are so basic and the cases simple to dismantle. As with the Nerf Gun the dispenser only needed the on/ off button bypassed with two wires soldered to the two switch conductors.
The wires were poked through an opening made in the case and screwed into the Relay ports of the WeMo Maker. The hack is as simple as that. Everything from this point would be software-based.
Setting up the WeMo Maker
The WeMo Maker can be a bit funny to set up and there are a few things I’ve learned. To have it using your wifi network it first needs to create its own wifi network for your smartphone to connect to. Often its unable to create this network. If this happens you must reset it by holding the reset button for around 30 seconds. The network can take a few minutes to become available, so be patient.
Once running on the wifi network WeMo’s set up instructions ask how to control the relay, whether to toggle or momentarily turn on and off. Its important to choose toggle as IFTTT doesn’t seem to be able to recognise the Maker otherwise.
Connecting to IFTTT
Connecting to IFTTT can also be a fiddle. I’ve discovered that the IFTTT app ‘IF’ needs to be closed for the WeMo app to successfully connect. But once connected rules can be created online to control the Maker. IFTTT offers nine ways to control the relay and suits most cases. To issue enough sweets I instructed IFTTT to turn the Maker on for two seconds and then off again and it worked surprisingly well.
Once the WeMo Maker is online and connected to IFTTT the system is completely reliable. The hack worked first time to my amazement. But due to limitations with IFTTT it can take anything from one minute to 15 minutes to activate an event and no one’s going to wait around in their bathroom for that long.
The problem comes from the need for IFTTT to constantly poll for triggers and this is a considerable resource hog for them. A solution (I think) would be for IFTTT to poll from the smartphone app instead of their servers where it could be run at a much faster rate.
WeMo Maker has made is possible to make a small collection of devices internet enabled for me without having to code complicated communication and queuing systems. While they can be fun to make from scratch with Arduinos [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=”#WeMo @WeMo”]sometimes you just want to get the job done, and that’s where the Maker comes into its own[/inlinetweet].