Binary IP address display for Raspberry Pi

Hardware components:
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Raspberry Pi Zero Wireless
Pimoroni Unicorn pHAT
Hand tools and fabrication machines:
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Soldering iron (generic)


Project Overview

I recently built a really cool project using a Raspberry Pi Zero Wireless board and a Pimoroni Unicorn pHAT LED matrix. (It displays the status of my running unit tests in real time – check it out here). This project is designed to be “headless” – it’s not connected to any display.

This poses a problem – although I’ve configured the WiFi, I’m using DHCP and therefore don’t know what IP the Pi will be using when it boots! Without this information, I can’t SSH into the device or connect to my project remotely. I therefore needed a way to have the Pi inform me of its IP address on boot.

My solution: display the IP address on the Unicorn pHAT LED matrix in binary!Not only is this practical, but it also boosts my geek cred 😉

In this tutorial, I’ll walk you through how to replicate this solution for your own projects.

Binary IP address display for Raspberry Pi


This project uses a Raspberry Pi Zero Wireless, but it should work on virtually any Pi device with a 40-pin header.

Besides the Pi, you’ll need the following:

  • Pimoroni Unicorn pHAT
  • A 2×20 header
  • Soldering iron

Plus the usual essentials for your Pi:

  • 2 amp MicroUSB power supply
  • Micro SD card with Raspian
  • (optional) USB WiFi dongle, if your Pi doesn’t provide on-board WiFi

Assembly is very straight-forward – place the 2×20 header between the Pi and Unicorn pHAT and solder it together. A detailed guide to soldering your pHAT can be found here:

Code & Dependencies

This script was designed to run on Python 3. Therefore, make sure you install Python 3 on your Pi:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install python3 python3-dev python3-pip

(It probably works on Python 2, but I have not tested this).

We’ll also need to install the unicornhat library for Python:

curl -sS | bash

Here’s the full code listing for our Python script:

import socket 
import time 
import unicornhat as unicorn 

# From 
def getNetworkIp(): 
   s = socket.socket(socket.AF_INET, socket.SOCK_DGRAM) 
   s.connect(('', 0)) 
   return s.getsockname()[0] 

# Prepare the Unicorn pHAT display

# Obtain our IP address and split it into the 4 components ("octets")
ip = getNetworkIp() 
octets = ip.split('.') 

# Render the binary representation for each octet
y = 0 
for octet in octets: 
 bits = '{0:08b}'.format(int(octet)) 
 x = 0 
 for b in bits: 
   if int(b): 
     unicorn.set_pixel(x, y, 0, 0, 128) 
   x += 1 
 y += 1 

# Render the display 

# Keep the LEDs lit for 30 seconds

It’s very straight-forward: we determine the IP address, split it into four parts (or “octets”), and then render each one in binary

Running the Script on Boot

Upload the script to your Pi – perhaps to your home folder (/home/pi) . Lastly, add this line to your /etc/rc.local file so the script runs on boot:

sudo python3 /home/pi/ & 

(The ampersand on the end will prevent our script from holding up the rest of the boot process).

Booting the Pi

Now that everything is in place, let’s go ahead and boot up the Pi! If you’ve previously configured your wireless network, the Pi should join it on bootup and then light up the LEDs like this:

Read More: Binary IP address display for Raspberry Pi


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