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Hackable home automation controller runs Android

Apr 8, 2014 — by Eric Brown 2,932 views

Habey has launched a Kickstarter project for a hackable, Android-based “HIO Wallpad” home automation controller that offers PoE for drop-in deployment.

Habey USA briefly noted its HIO Wallpad home automation universal controller earlier this week when it announced its open-platform, Freescale i.MX6-based HIO-EMB-1200 single board computer. The stackable HIO SBC forms the basis for the Android-ready HIO Wallpad, which is designed to control a home’s lights, HVAC system, and thermostat, among other smart devices. You can program the HIO Wallpad to control indoor, outdoor, and perimeter security lights, as well as security surveillance systems, says the company.

Today, Habey launched a Kickstarter page for the device, which will sell for $300 when it ships in September. It is available in early bird packages starting at $139 (first 50), $159 (second 50), $169 (100 through 200), $189 (200 through 300), $199 (300 through 500), and $239 (500 through 700). There are also 20 development kits available for $499. This adds a 7-inch touchscreen to the device, which already integrates a 3.5-inch touchscreen.

HIO Wallpad has a 3.5-inch touchscreen interface
(click images to enlarge)

The HIO Wallpad incorporates the HIO SBC, loaded with PoE and display daughter boards. A USB-connected WiFi module, installed on the display board, is listed as an option.


The touch-enabled controller can run on Power-over-Ethernet (PoE), which means you don’t have to electrically wire the device or depend on batteries. Simply mount it to any wall or surface using the wall-mount kit, which includes a white faceplate, or pop it inside a standard 2-Gang Box electrical housing. Instead of using screws, the wall-mount kit uses magnets (see diagram farther below).

Inside the Wallpad

In addition to being used for power, the gigabit Ethernet connection also provides a high-bandwidth, secure alternative to WiFi. Future options will include larger touchscreens, as well as camera ports, audio input/output, and support for other home automation communication protocols. A Z-Wave radio appears to be a priority option, followed by Zigbee.

Wallpad details
(click images to enlarge)

There are few details about available software on the HIO Wallpad, or to what extent the device acts as a standalone Android 4.2.2 device. Habey does note a screen mirroring feature that lets you “view your entire security feed all in one place.” The feature can be used to share videos and pictures from a home or cloud server, and can act as a smart hub for playing music and videos through a home entertainment system, streaming apps to a TV screen or projector, says Habey.

The HIO Wallpad can also be used for office automation, says Habey. It can control office thermostats, lighting systems, and conference room projectors and screens. Finally, like the embedded HIO SBC within, the Wallpad can also be deployed in a variety of embedded applications, such as dispensing and vending machines.

The HIO Wallpad is a hackable, open source system. Habey’s HIO Project will provide customers with CAD files, Gcode, and STL files of both the SBC’s daughter boards and the HIO Wallpad, including drawings of the standard faceplate. You can 3D print your own custom faceplate in different colors and different shapes to match wall colors and room decor.

Built around an open, hackable SBC

The HIO Wallpad is based on the team’s HIO-EMB-1200 open-spec SBC, which is fully accessible to users who may want to add new daughter boards as they become available, or even build their own. The specs listed below are therefore very similar to the HIO board, which supports both Ubuntu Linux and Android. However, the HIO SBC supports Dual and Quad versions of the Freescale i.MX6 SoC, delivering two or four 1GHz Cortex-A9 cores, whereas the HIO Wallpad uses the “DualLite” SoC model, which has a slower Vivante GC880 GPU compared to the Dual.

HIO Wallpad’s internal boards
(click images to enlarge)

The SBC is implemented in Habey’s new 80 x 72 x 10mm “HIoTX” form-factor, which is 20 percent smaller than Via’s Pico-ITX standard. Real-world ports on the mainboard are limited to HDMI, a USB OTG device port, and a UART console interface. The SBC also features dual USB 2.0 host headers, a 5VDC power input, and a JTAG connection.

The board offers modular expansion opportunities in three dimensions. It’s equipped on either side with 200 expansion pins, configured as four 50-pin headers, allowing stacking of daughter boards on the top or bottom. The HIO board launches in May for $100 with three available daughter boards having a variety of interface mixes, ranging in size from 80 x 72mm to 72 x 40mm, and in price from $20 to $60. In addition to top and bottom stacking, the SBC also offers wing-type expansion on the side, which is useful for maintaining a low profile, and also can be used on carrier boards.

Summary of HIO Wallpad specifications

Specifications listed for the HIO Wallpad include:

  • Processor — Freescale i.MX6 DualLite with 2x Cortex A9 cores @ 1GHz
  • RAM — 1GB DDR3 on-board
  • LAN — 1x Gigabit Ethernet
  • Wireless — USB WiFi module (optional)
  • Storage:
    • 4GB NAND flash on-board (default)
    • microSD slot (internal)
  • USB — 1x mini-USB 2.0 OTG (device only, internal)
  • Display:
    • 3.5-inch, 800 x 480 LCD projective capacitive touchscreen
    • Parallel RGB interface
    • Brightness — 500 cd/m2
    • Contrast ratio — 500
  • Audio — Mic-in internal header; 2x header to 2x 1W internal speaker (optional)
  • PoE board:
    • RJ45, PoE 802.3af compliant
    • Ethernet — RJ45 PoE input or standard GbE input without PoE module
    • DC input — 2-pin terminal block or RJ45 12V DC
    • Serial ports — 1x RS-232 (Tx/Rx) via RJ45; 4x RS-232 (Tx,Rx) via internal pin header
  • Enclosure:
    • Bezel — White (default), interchangeable
    • Materials – plastic, aluminum, steel
    • Cooling — fanless
    • Mounting – 2-Gang Box (vertical), screwless faceplate
  • Operating temperature — 0 to 50°C
  • Dimensions — 164 x 114 x 40mm

Further information

The HIO Wallpad is available now for Kickstarter funding with early bird packages starting at as little as $139, depending on how early you get in. Final pricing when it ships in September is $300. More information may be found at the HIO Wallpad Kickstarter page. More details on the HIO Wallpad’s embedded electronics are available in our detailed article about the HIO-EMB-1200 open-spec SBC.

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