Using Vex cortex as a house controller

I always liked the Vex controllers, easy to get a project up and running. I am impressed with the Vex cortex and the USB wifi connection.

I am researching using the controller for some house controls (AC). Can I communicate to the cortex via USB wifi connector and have a PC control the cortex program?

Also could I have an app on a smart phone via wifi and remotely from internet control the cortex?

We did something like this with the older vex via the serial port.

As far as I have been able to identify there is no straight forward way to do this with a Cortex. if you really want to jump into PC to Robot (or robot controller) WiFi communications in an open form using Vex products check out the Vex Pro.

If you don’t have to have a wireless mechanism. There are 2 serial ports on the Cortex, you could interface via Serial Port.

According the summary at the start of this thread:
https://vexforum.com/t/open-source-development-for-the-cortex/21578/1

The USB i.e. WiFi is under the control of the master processor i.e. Master Firmware. Until Vex provides a pc-cortex interface capability, it has been hinted at but never announced, we are limited to the Joystick Interface, there were some interesting side topics in the thread which discuss partner joystick protocols.

I would imaging if you are planning some sort of home control capability, you don’t really want a joystick in the mix.

Honestly for small for factor and robustness (based upon reputation I don’t own one) I would look at the Vex Pro
[http://www.vexrobotics.com/products/vexpro/217-2180.html

Cheers Kb](http://www.vexrobotics.com/products/vexpro/217-2180.html)

I know you can use an Arduino board to control a robot from your iPhone. A team mate of mine did that.

The cortex is pretty expensive, and not really marketed for that kind of application. For what you’re describing, I would suggest looking at the Pickaxe or Arduino.

Home automation is more suited to distributed control rather than a centralized control system. In the “old days” X10 devices were used, I had a small system based around these at one point with a laptop acting as a controller (really just an elaborate timer). I think technologies such as ZigBee are now the trend.

If you do want to go the route of a centralized controller the VEXpro would be a better solution than the cortex although expensive. As magicode says, an arduino would be even better at 1/10 the price of a VEXpro.

Can you describe your application in more detail?

The USB i.e. WiFi is under the control of the master processor i.e. Master Firmware. Until Vex provides a pc-cortex interface capability, it has been hinted at but never announced, we are limited to the Joystick Interface, there were some interesting side topics in the thread which discuss partner joystick protocols.

I would imaging if you are planning some sort of home control capability, you don’t really want a joystick in the mix.

Honestly for small for factor and robustness (based upon reputation I don’t own one) I would look at the Vex Pro
[http://www.vexrobotics.com/products/vexpro/217-2180.html

Cheers Kb](http://www.vexrobotics.com/products/vexpro/217-2180.html)

That was helpful and it makes sense. Look into it further.

I have done a arduino project, maybe I will relook at it for this.

In addition to all the above mention recommendations to use the Arduino, you are very likely to find some Code Examples and Hardware Solutions for your AC Control using the Arduino…

The Vex would require you to Build it from Scratch.

The Arduino development environment is quite easy to use. It is probably the Easiest system I have seen to get working, that doesn’t require a proprietary system like EasyC or RobotC.

Also, if you find appropriate Atmel AVR Code that is not in the Arduino sketch format, it will still compile in the Arduino IDE, automatically.

For Ideas, have you seen the Nest Learning Thermostat??

I was first made aware of this thermostat, because Honeywell is suing them over what I would guess is the Round Design, and that its a Thermostat that Honeywell didn’t think of…

Google Search Links relating to Honeywell vs. Nest

I am redoing my AC at my house. We have a large 3000 sf house, but now the kids are gone, some of the rooms are used off and on upstairs. But most of the rooms are not used. Also we have a renter that is gone during the day.

So I want to go to a multi-zone AC setup at home. I have a variable speed air handler and getting a two stage compressor. So we can deliver at least two speeds of AC.

So I want to be able to control each room. I have found a temperature sensor:
http://www.smarthome.com/30421/Venstar-Indoor-Outdoor-Remote-Temperature-Sensor/p.aspx
And there are dampers to control the vent, these are 24v and will be controlled by relays:
http://www.smarthome.com/307109C/8-Inch-Diameter-Normally-Closed-Electronic-HVAC-Air-Duct-Damper-with-Power-Supply-ZC108/p.aspx

I need 8-10 analog in for sensors and 10-12 digital out to control relays, plus wifi IO.

Now it will need to be under smart control, because you must have at least a certain number of vents open else the AC unit will be under stress.

Then I want this connected to a wifi so we can get at it from a smart phone and control the rooms.

Only reason I was thinking Vex is because I have several at home and being a FIRST mentor was familiar with it and using easyc made it easy for me to program without doing pure C, which I can if I have to.

I am on another forum that knows AC and those issues, but control is beyond them. I love this kind of stuff and feel I can easily do this with my electronics engineering background. I do management and don’t get to do this fun stuff.

I hope this helps to explain what I am doing.

All the advice is good.

Doug

very cool!

I have a 2 zone system in my house but it an off the shelf commercial system, not one I built.

It uses dampers similar to the ones you linked to and Venstar thermostats to set the temperature for each zone. It controls heating as well as cooling. I have a 2 stage compressor as well as a 2 stage furnace for heat, there is a temperature sensor in the main airflow from the air handler that determines which stage of cooling/heat is needed.

A couple of things to consider, the air dampers should not be moved when the air handler is a maximum. When a second zone turns on, the air handler fan decreases in speed before the damper is changed. The air handler also runs at different speeds depending on cooling or heating.

After heating, the air handler runs for a while until the furnace cools down.

After cooling, there is a delay before the compressor is turned on again.

Some of this may be controlled by your existing system but in my installation the “normal” control system was bypassed by the multi zone unit.

You also need to consider what happens when power is lost and restored. The lack of non volatile storage on the cortex makes storing parameters based on things like fuzzy logic hard, most commercial systems tend to learn how a house reacts to cooling and heating and will modify the algorithms accordingly.

@jpearman

Thanks. Since my last posting I found this guy who did a multi-zone unix based control. His site gives a lot of hints that are helpful. See
http://diy-zoning.sourceforge.net/index.html

After being reminded of the Arduino, I looked at that again and found just about what I wanted, some gaps yet to fill. Programming is not too hard.

There are a lot of projects that use wifi to control things, so there are examples of doing that.

Doug