littleBits kits make prototyping simple, and the littleBits Smart Home kit takes this easy project development into the smart home space.
But there’s still more that this kit – available on Amazon or direct from the littleBits website – can do. Here we’re going to look at how to use the microphone module to detect audio – such as a landline ringer – and let you know when a call is missed.
When Voicemail Isn’t Enough
Landlines are all but ignored by many, but on the whole, many people still keep one in their homes. They’re useful for contacting the emergency services, for example, or keeping in touch with older relatives who don’t own smartphones and are concerned with the cost of making calls to cellular networks.
Many people find that they just don’t bother with their landlines, even when the voicemail feature is configured. These devices, whether wired or cordless handsets, are becoming an afterthought in a world dominated by smartphones and portable devices with Skype. Yet they remain an important household item.
What this project will do is use the components of the littleBits Smart Home kit to detect an incoming call on your landline, and send you an SMS alert. You’ll then have enough reminders to check the landline when you arrive home from work or your vacation, and hopefully avoid missing that important call.
The littleBits Kit: What You’ll Need
For this project you’ll need the littleBits Smart Home kit, or a standard littleBits kit with the cloudBit component. From the box, take the following components:
- p3 USB power
- i3 button
- i20 sound trigger
- o14 bright led
- w20 cloud (the cloudBit)
- a mounting board.
Before proceeding, if you haven’t already, activate your cloudBit at http://control.littlebitscloud.cc/.
You’ll also need to set up an IFTTT account. Not sure what IFTTT is? Check our extensive guide to using the automation website. When you’re done, leave the browser window open, as we’ll be switching back there shortly.
Testing the cloudBit
You’re almost ready to go, but first connect the p3, i3, o14 and the cloudBit, and attach to a power source. It should look something like this:
As things stand, you should be able to activate the LED using the button. But what we want to do is make sure that the cloudBit is correctly configured and connected to your wireless network.
To do this, head back to the littleBits website and use cloud control web interface to test the cloudBit function, by switching on the LED. Once you’re happy that this is working correctly, you can proceed. You might like to spend some time exploring the possibilities of the cloud control interface for other projects.
Create Your IFTTT Recipe
Back at the IFTTT website, it’s time to create a recipe. The aim of this is to send an SMS to your smartphone when triggered.
You’ll need to select the littleBits IFTTT option, setting your cloudBit as the device to use. Note that this will require a brief set up with the cloudBit.
Once this is done, set the trigger, and select SMS or Android SMS to add your cellphone number, and save the recipe.
Whether you’re using a smartphone, “feature phone” or even an old style mobile phone, this IFTTT recipe will send you the information via SMS. You’ll have the opportunity to edit the text that is displayed in the SMS text message when adding the SMS channel to the recipe, and if you wish to tweak this later, you can do so under Action on the recipe summary page.
Next, confirm that the recipe works (that is, everything that is required is entered) using the Check now button
Alternatively, simply select my pre-prepared IFTTT recipe.
Test the Recipe
With the IFTTT recipe created, we need to test it. We can do this by confirming the littleBits circuit is still online and powered up, before pressing the button. Two things should happen:
- The LED will light up.
- You should receive a text message.
If further testing is required, we suggest you switch the alert from SMS to email, as the SMS option has a 100 messages per month limit.
When you’re happy with how things are going, you’ll be ready to develop the prototype further.
Change the Trigger
Currently, the project has a manual trigger: the button. But that’s not going to detect the ringing of a bell too well (unless the bell was phenomenally loud!), so we need to swap this out for the i20 sound trigger, essentially a microphone.
If you haven’t already, use a mounting board to secure the pieces, and position close to your landline phone. You should start talking now, keeping an eye on the LED. If the LED lights up brightly, you’re too loud, which means that it is likely that ANY sound will trigger the SMS alert – not what we want.
To calibrate the microphone, use the littleBits purple screwdriver to adjust the sensitivity of the i20 sound trigger. When you get to the stage of everyday sound being ignored, you’re more or less there.
You can test the success of this by using your mobile phone to call the landline, and keeping an eye on the LED. If it lights up brightly, you should receive an SMS message informing you that the call has been received. You can then ensure that you check the voicemail when you get back home.
Other Projects with Sound-Triggered Alerts
There is more to this setup than detecting whether or not your landline has had a call, however.
Any household sound can be detected and used to trigger an SMS or email. For instance, you might like to know when your dog is barking (or, in the case of noise complaints, your neighbor’s dog). Alternatively, it might be useful for you to know when someone has been at your home, knocking on the door or ringing the bell. You might prefer to be informed when a delivered envelope hit your doormat. Both of these things could be coupled with an online video security camera solution for additional awareness of what is going on at home.
Other sound triggers that you might wish to use to send an SMS or email include alerts when a child or baby cries or wakes (useful if you’re keeping tabs on how your babysitter performs), when a washer or dryer has finished its cycle, or if you’ve gone out and left the TV or radio on. No doubt you can think of many other sound-based triggers from your everyday life.
What do you think? Is this a littleBits project you will build? Perhaps the prototype is enough and you’re interested in a more capable, fixed solution? Tell us about it in the comments!