Smart HomeIn the latest episode of the “The Ben Heck Show,” sponsored by element14, the first collaborative community and electronics store for design engineers and electronics enthusiasts, modding guru Benjamin J. Heckendorn, a.k.a. Ben Heck, morphs average household products into time-saving and convenient solutions.

Inspired by countless trips to shipping hubs to retrieve packages that couldn’t be left on the doorstep, Ben configures a standard door buzzer to be controlled remotely from an Android-powered smartphone. Using a Parallax Spinneret Web Server development board complete with a propeller microcontroller and an Ethernet cable, Ben creates a Java-powered Web page application to buzz the door open from any location using his cell phone.

“It would be awesome to live in a fully-automated robo-home straight out of a science fiction movie, and not have to worry about those tedious tasks like waiting for a package to be delivered,” said Ben. “But since that’s a little out of reach for most people, I’ve come up with a few simple tricks that can help turn your humble abode into an automated, intelligent oasis.”

Ben wraps up the episode by showing viewers how to turn a manual thermostat into an automated system that adjusts to pre-set temperatures at programmed times. Using a stepper motor, the built-in Real-Time-Clock (RTC) in the Parallax Spinneret Web Server, and a makeshift timing belt made from a microphone wire, Ben rigs the original Honeywell thermostat to precisely regulate the temperature controls throughout the day.

“In this episode, Ben uses 21st century technology to improve everyday household products,” said Kevin Yapp, chief marketing officer, Premier Farnell. “This aligns with element14’s goal to provide engineers and electronics enthusiasts with up-to-date technology, tools and peer collaboration to develop innovative projects.”

Show fans are invited to join the element14 community to send Ben a challenge for a future build, engage with community members, and enter for a chance to win one of Ben’s builds featured on the show, including his Xbox 360™ CD disc changer and portable 3D printer. In addition, element14’s two-year birthday celebration continues until the end of July, during which 214 prizes will be awarded to new and existing community members.