Use RPi, Azure, and Cortana to Automate your Home!
There is new technology all around us and only more coming every day. Our micro controllers are getting faster, are phones getting smarter, and the cloud is becoming stronger. With all this new technology everyone is asking themselves: How can I utilize it all?
Well, today we will do just that. This guide will walk you through using a Raspberry Pi, Microsoft Azure, and Cortana on Windows Phone to automate your house hold. Did you forget to turn the lights off when you left for work? No problem. Want to turn on the Slow-Cooker a few hours before you get home? Consider it done. We can leverage the power of Internet of Things and Cortana to control our home in an entire new way!
For this guide, our primary goal is to show off a proof-of-concept device cycle that is functional and really lets you see the power of combing all of these technological resources. We won’t be making production ready code, and won’t be utilizing every device/technology to its fullest ability. This guide is already fairly long given all the ground we have to cover, and doing a full dive into each would give us quite the novel. Instead, we’re focusing on something that most “tinkers” could make as long as they have the hardware and a limited knowledge of programming. We want to give you a working project and inspire you to push it even further. This project is your ‘getting started’ guide and the real fun begins when you pick up after that!
Step 1: Requirements
We have tried to make this guide as ‘friendly’ as possible to the general audience, but in order for us to move quickly and condense the guide down from a three hour epic to a 1 hour project, we have to assume you know a little something before hand.
*Don’t know something? Don’t worry! Throughout the guide we include lots of links to other sources where you can study up beforehand and catch up quickly!
1. Limited Python and C# Knowledge
Basic programming knowledge will be needed. We won’t be diving into anything too complicated, but it’s good to have a basic understanding of these two languages
2. Raspberry Pi Basics
Because it’s a bit more popular compared to Windows Phone and Azure, I won’t be going too in depth on setting up your Raspberry Pi and wiring it all together. There are also a lot of great tutorials out there already to help you get started. Make sure you can ssh into one, know your basic Linux commands, and feel comfortable putting a circuit together (a very basic one).
3. General App Development Knowledge (Windows Phone a Plus!)
Obviously since we are going to use Cortana we will be building a Windows Phone app. While setting up the project isn’t too difficult, and we really won’t be doing anything too complicated, it’s a good idea to have a basic understanding of the application files and what they do. The code logic versus the design logic, the application manifest, etc. If all these buzzwords are second nature to you, then don’t worry. Otherwise, make sure to read up on the resources provided in that section of the guide.
What would a project be without some sweet hardware behind it? This project will actually be pretty bare in the hardware department and instead focus a lot on the software. We’ll walk through how to install the specific software packages right before they are needed in an effort to make that process easier.
- A Windows 8 Computer
- Windows Phone with 8.1 software update (Must have Cortana!)
- Raspberry Pi
- SD Card with Raspbian for Rasberrry Pi (NOOBS works just fine)
- 3 Wires for your simple circuit
- 1 LED
- 1 270 ohm resistor
- Breadboard for your LED circuit
Step 2: Setting up Azure 1: A Crash Course in Azure
It’s very likely that you have never even used a service like Microsoft Azure so we will start off with a bit of a crash course. Obviously we won’t be covering everything (that’s what the hours and hours of online material is for) but instead focusing on what exactly we are doing. This way you’re not simply building a black box and have no idea that magic happening behind the scenes, but rather a high-level conceptual understanding. This will allow you to expand on it in the future, and also understand the purpose behind why we are using Azure versus another service.
Why not Node.js? That’s probably a question a lot of you will be asking, and it’s a very legitimate question. Why not just create a basic REST server that we can hit to command our devices? Well the issue is that we live in the future, and the future is all about the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT deals with tens if not hundreds of little devices all around your home, all connected giving you unparalleled control. Will a simple Node server running on a Pi be able to handle all of that? Isn’t dealing with all of that funky server code another guide (if not an entire book) in it’s own right? Yes, yes it is, and that’s why Azure is here to the rescue. While we really won’t see the benefits of Azure in this initial guide because we are only hooking up one device, once we begin to hook up more and more devices we will be able to see the true benefits.
What Will We Be Making?
For our project, we’re going to make a Service Bus that will process Topics and Subscriptions. Don’t worry, I know we’re throwing a lot of fancy words around early, but I assure you that it doesn’t take long to get a basic understanding. A Service Bus, in a nutshell, provides a highly robust messaging framework that serves as a relay between two (or more) endpoints. It is essentially the magical ‘cloud’ that we hear so much about. Something sends it a message, it decides where that message should go, sends it, and another device gets that message. The service bus is our mail sorting facility, make sense?
So what about these Topics and Subscriptions? Why can’t we just call them messages? Well, because it’s not quite that simple. A Topic contains a message, but you can’t say that a Topic is a message. It’s just incorrect. So what is a Topic then? A Topic forms a relationship (both logical and physical) between publishers and subscribers so that a publisher (Cortana) can publish messages to multiple subscribers (all of our IoT devices). Think of it this way: Say we had 10 different IoT devices all around our home, all hooked up to different light switches. When we give the command “Turn the Lights Off” we want to send a message to each and every IoT device telling it to turn off, but we don’t want to send 10 different messages. Furthermore, how much of a pain is it that every time we add an IoT device we need to re-code our entire Cortana logic? Instead, we publish a message to the Topic “LightControls” and that Topic now publishes to all subscribers (which would be every IoT device that controls a lightswitch) to go to the “OFF” position.
Still Confused? Don’t worry, this isn’t something that’s easy to pick up (let alone explain) in a paragraph or two. If you still want to learn more, here are some great resources:
In a Nut Shell…
Cortana is going to send a message to a Topic on the Service Bus (the cloud). Our Cloud will then send that message to every device that has “subscribed” to that topic. So when we send “DeskLightsOff” to the “LightControl” Topic, our DeskLights will have Subscribed to it, will receive it, and then will process that command.
Step 3: Setting up Azure 2: Creating Your Azure Service Bus
Time to Code! Well…not yet. First, we have to set up our Azure Service Bus. Microsoft has provided a pretty slick online interface that actually lets us create the whole thing without typing a single line of code. Pretty Cool. Let’s get started!
1. Create Your Azure Account
Chances are you don’t have an Azure Account, so you will need to sign up for their free trial. It’s fairly straight forward, although you will need to enter a credit card
Worried about paying monthly for this? Don’t. The service bus we will set up will likely receive less than 1 million calls a month. It currently costs about $1.00 for 30 million. You’ll be paying a few dimes at most. If you want to continue past the free trial, however, be prepared to shell out about $11 a month.
2. Create A Service Bus
- Log into the Azure Management Portal after you have created your account.
- Figure 1: Click on ‘Service Bus’ to go to the ‘Service Bus’ Dashboard.
- Figure 2: Click on ‘Create’ In the lower pane.
- Figure 3: Enter in a name for your namespace (Must be Unique!). Note that my Region is Central US because that’s where I am. Azure will likely put in whatever region it thinks is best, and you should just leave it. Click on the Checkmark in the lower right corner to continue.
- Your Namespace will be “activating” for a short bit, and then Boom! Your Service Bus has been Created!
- ***NOTE***For this guide, I have named my Namespace “CustomNamespace“. Anywhere you see that String, you should replace it with your own Namespace name.
So basically all we did here was get started with Azure. We created an account and then a Service Bus. Remember that a Service Bus provides us with a Cloud “Mail Sorting Facility”, but right now that Facility doesn’t really have any direction. In our next step we will work on adding actual logic with Topics and Subscriptions.
Step 4: Setting up Azure 3: Creating Topics and Subscriptions
Now that we’ve created the Service Bus, it’s time to add our Topics and Subscriptions. Remember from our previous write-up that we send messages to a Topic, which is then relayed to one or more subscriptions.
Before we just start hacking away, let’s take a step back and remember what exactly we are doing. Look at Figure 1 and make sure you have an idea of what’s going on. We won’t be creating that exact model today, but it is definitely something you could do further down the road. We have a LightTopic which is going to be where we send commands dealing with turning off the lights. We then have our LightSubscription which we will label DeskLightSubscription because it’s what we want the Desk lights (the led we have hooked up to the Pi) to listen to.
1. Create the ‘LightTopic’ Topic
- Figure 2. Click on your Service Bus to go to the Service Bus Dashboard
- Figure 3. Click on ‘TOPICS’ on the upper panel to go to the Topics Page
- Figure 4. Click on ‘CREATE A NEW TOPIC’
- Figure 5. Type in ‘LightTopic’ (Or whatever you want to call it) Then Click ‘CREATE A NEW TOPIC’
Great! We’ve created our first Topic. This is where we will send all of our commands from Cortana.
2. Create the ‘LightSubscription’ Subscription
- Figure 6. Click on ‘New Subscription’ At the bottom of your Topics page (Where you should have left off)
- Figure 7. Enter ‘LightSubscription’ into the TextBox and click on the Arrow in the Lower Right Corner.
- Figure 8. You’ll be taken to a ‘Details’ Page. Leaving everything at the Defaults will be fine, so simply click on the arrow again.
- Figure 9. Once you go back to the Topic Dashboard, you’ll notice that there is now 1 Subscription attached to the topic.
Yup. We’re done. It really is that simple. Now, navigating through Azure can be a little daunting at first, especially with all the different terms which we may not all be familiar with. As we saw though, the process is actually pretty simple. I know it doesn’t really feel like we’ve done anything yet because there isn’t really anything tangible or code, and unfortunately there won’t be for a while. But we have created an essential and important part of our project!
Step 5: Setting up your Raspberry Pi 1: Environment Setup
Now that we’ve got our Azure Service Bus setup, it’s time to setup our IoT device, AKA our Raspberry Pi.
What Our Raspberry Pi Will Do:
To Recap, our Raspberry Pi is simply going to be a IoT slave. It will do what it is told to do which is either turn on or off the lights. In the future, this could be expanded to sending messages regarding different variables you want to measure, but for now we’re going to keep it simple for the sake time and length of this guide. The Pi will be attached to our ‘LightSubscription’ and listen for anytime it gets a message from that subscription, which is of course triggered by our topic.
Setting up the circuit, dealing with GPIO, and general Raspberry Pi shenanigans is a bit beyond the scope of this guide, simply because it’s quite literally an instructable in itself. Basically to get a general setup you will need to create a very basic “Blinky” circuit with your Raspberry Pi. If you need help with that, I would highly suggest checking out a few of these guides that cover the subject.
Now that you have a basic led circuit working on your Pi, we will need to install the software packages needed to interact with our Azure Service Bus. Lucky for us, there is a Python SDK for Azure which works quite well. We can simply use git to clone the repo down and install it on our machine:
>>>>git clone https://github.com/Azure/azure-sdk-for-python.git >>>>cd azure-sdk-for-python >>>>python setup.py install
If you’re having any trouble, make sure that you have done an ‘update’ and ‘upgrade’ recently.
>>>> sudo apt-get update >>>> sudo apt-get upgrade
To test and make sure that the azure SDK installed correctly, do the following commands and make sure the output is the same:
>>>> python Python 2.7.3 >>>> import azure >>>> >>>> exit()
If it installed correctly, typing the line `import azure’` should result in a blank line following it. Simply type `exit()` to leave the python terminal.
Step 6: Setting up your Raspberry Pi 2: Coding The Initial Setup
Alright! Time to actually get down and dirty with some code! The code for this is actually pretty straightforward, and it’s only about 50 lines of code. That being said, we’ll try and walk through it slowly so you can get a better conceptual understanding of how it works. If you just want to “Grab and Go” so to speak, the entire file is attached for those who wish to do so.
We have quite a few libraries we need to import for all these moving parts to work. Remember that we are also controlling the pins, we will need to import the GPIO functionality as well. In total, the top of your import statements should look like the following:
import RPi.GPIO as GPIO #For Controlling the Pins<br>import threading #To Run Async import sys import select from azure.servicebus import * import os
The 3 oddball ones are obviously the GPIO, Threading, and Azure libraries. The middle one, threading, might seem a little strange at first. Essentially we need it to make sure we are actively “listening” to the server subscription. To do this effectively, we run that “listening” on a separate thread.
Create Constant Variables
Yes, this can seem a bit trivial, but it will also help a lot with understanding the connection between Azure and Python. The code is pretty straight forward:
# Make sure you set the following:
AZURE_SERVICEBUS_NAMESPACE='CustomNamespace' AZURE_SERVICEBUS_SHARED_KEY_NAME='RootManageSharedAccessKey' AZURE_SERVICEBUS_ACCESS_KEY_VALUE='<INSERT_YOUR_ACCESS_KEY_HERE>' GPIO_BCM_PIN = 11 #The Pin your LED is controlled by
The ‘namespace’ and ‘GPIO’ variables should be pretty obvious, but the middle two could cause some confusion. Essentially, this is your special “login Key’ that will grant access to your Azure Service Bus. For now, don’t worry about it (We’ll find out where to get this Key in the next step!).
Set up Lights on Start-up
Whenever we start our program, we want to give our Lights (or in our case, our little LED) a specific state. In this case, we will set it to ‘OFF”
# setup the GPIO for the LED GPIO.setmode(GPIO.BCM) GPIO.setup(GPIO_BCM_PIN,GPIO.OUT) # Initially turn off the LED GPIO.output(GPIO_BCM_PIN, 0)
Start Incoming Messages Thread
Here is where we start to work the magic. We will create a thread and have it target a new function (which we have not created yet) called process_messages. We will create this function in the next step. For now, let’s create and start the thread.
# start a thread listening for incoming messages t = threading.Thread(target=process_messages) #will create 'process_messages' next step t.daemon=True; t.start()
We will then ‘wait’ for any raw_input from our user. Essentially, don’t end this program unless somebody hits a key. Finally, we’ll release any GPIO resources to ensure a safe exit from our program.
# wait until the user enters something char = raw_input("Press enter to exit program") # release any GPIO resources GPIO.cleanup()
So what does this code do? Well, not much. In fact in won’t even compile right now (we’re missing that process_messages function!). But we’ve set up the structure for how our IoT device will work. We will set the light to ‘OFF’, then listen for any command from the Service Bus on a separate thread. The next step will show us how to do that.
Step 7: Setting up your Raspberry Pi 3: Coding The Subscription
This step completely revolves around the process_messages function that we talked about in the previous step. We will use the Python Azure SDK to actively listen for messages from the Azure subscription and update our LED accordingly.
Initialize the Service Bus Object
First things first, we will create this ‘process_messages()’ function and then the service bus object.
def process_messages(): # Initialize the service bus service_bus = ServiceBusService(service_namespace=AZURE_SERVICEBUS_NAMESPACE, shared_access_key_name=AZURE_SERVICEBUS_SHARED_KEY_NAME, shared_access_key_value=AZURE_SERVICEBUS_ACCESS_KEY_VALUE )
Pretty simple, right? Notice that we used our namespace, Key Name, and Key Value to hook up to the Service Bus. These are the key things you need to actually log in and interact with your service bus. We will find out how to add the key name and value at the end of this step.
Get the Topic and Subscription
Pretty Straightforward. We’re going to get our ‘LightTopic’ topic and ‘LightSubscription’ Subscription’. This way our Service Bus knows who to interact with.
Looping and Logic
Now comes the interesting part. We will do a basic ‘While True’ loop (an infinite loop) to actively listen for our Subscription.
while True: msg = service_bus.receive_subscription_message('lighttopic', 'lightsubscription', peek_lock=False) if msg.body is not None: print(msg.body) if msg.custom_properties["led"]==1: print("turning on the LED") GPIO.output(GPIO_BCM_PIN, 1) else: print("turning off the LED") GPIO.output(GPIO_BCM_PIN, 0)
You can see that we have a few debugging statements in here (by printing the message body to the console, along with LED commands). You are free to delete them if you wish.
This code is pretty straight forward. Our ‘msg’ object gets whatever message came from the subscription, and then we look at the custom_properties of it. If there is an Object ‘led’ that equals 1, we turn the LED On. Otherwise, we turn it off. When we start to program Cortana and deal more with the publishing side of things, we will see how exactly we interact with this ‘led’ custom property.
Find and Insert your Azure Key
Yes, I know, I’m a tease. It was the first thing I started with and now I’m ending with it. The process is pretty straight forward:
- Go to your ‘CustomNameSpace’ Dashboard on the Azure Management Portal
- Click on ‘Configure’
- You will see see a section labeled ‘shared access key generator’
- The ‘POLICY NAME’ is your Key Name
- The ‘PRIMARY KEY’ is your Key Value
- Insert those two things into your code in their respective spots
- See Figure 1. for help
Run Your Code!
And now you’re ready to run! Everything should compile and work. If it doesn’t, be sure to check out the attached code sample to see if you missed any parts.
That being said, it really doesn’t do much. That’s because right now it’s only listening, but we’re not sending anything! It’s just sitting there and happily listening to an empty cloud. Next, we’ll dive into Cortana and Windows Phone to publish a message to the cloud so that our Pi actually has a message to hear!
Step 8: Creating Your Windows Phone App Part 1: Intro to Windows Phone 8.1
Introduction to Window’s Phone 8.1
Despite its low market share, Window’s Phone really is a great phone that gives you a lot of power as a developer. Because I know that it may not be the most frequently developed platform, and not everyone is familiar with C# here, I’ll be trying to go a bit slower and with a bit more detail in this section of the instructable. If you already are comfortable with the Window’s Phone platform, Natural Language Processing (SSML), and C#, you will probably be able to zip through this pretty quickly. Otherwise, grab a cup of coffee, find a comfy chair, and buckle up. We’ve got an app to write!
Setting up your Environment
First things first, as with all coding projects, is setting up our environment. If you’ve never developed with C# before, chances are you might not even have visual studio installed. Let’s get it all set up.
- Make sure you have a computer that is running Windows 8. You must have this!
- If you don’t have Visual Studio, download Visual Studio Community 2013 with Update 4
- The Windows Phone 8.1 SDK should be installed with Visual Studio Community
- If you have a Windows Phone, you’ll want to register it for development
Not too hard, right? Visual Studio is a big download and quite a large software package. It may take some time to install, but it usually works out of the box pretty well. Next we’ll get started on actually creating our Windows Phone App!
For more detail: Use RPi, Azure, and Cortana to Automate your Home!