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Home automation hub runs Linux, offers cloud services

Aug 19, 2014 — by Eric Brown 4,574 views

[Updated 7:15PM] — Cloud Media launched a Kickstarter campaign for a Linux-based “Stack Box” home automation hub with cloud services and Raspberry Pi expansion compatibility.

Do we really need yet another crowdfunded Linux-based home automation hub? Of course we do! The Stack Box is now vying for Kickstarter funds through Sept. 17 at prices starting at $79 in black, with shipments due in December.

Stack Box front and back


Popcorn Hour
(click to enlarge)

Cloud Media is no Kickstartup, however, but a company formerly known as Syabas that has been around for years selling its Linux-based Popcorn Hour and Popbox media players. A $329 funding package for the Stack Box gives you a new Popcorn Hour A-410 media player along with one of the extra-cost orange colored Stack Box models. The dual-core A-410 sells for $248 on its own.

Popcorn Hour A-410 (left) with orange version of Stack Box

The Malaysia- and California-based company is now getting into the crowded home automation market with a rather ambitious, open source Linux product that will offer cloud services, an app store, an open SDK, and even Raspberry Pi expansion bus compatibility. The Stack Box, which also goes under the name Xuan, features an extensive list of wireless radios and related smart devices from major automation ecosystems.


The Stack Box will launch with WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, and Z-Wave, and will offer optional XBee, Insteon, and Dust Networks wireless connectivity, as well as X10 powerline networking. New additions will then be added every month, including ZigBee, RF433/315, and RFID. WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, and Z-Wave come standard on the Kickstarter models, but “after Kickstarter, we will have two models for sales to users: WiFi only and WiFi + Bluetooth 4.0 + Z-Wave,” said TT Chong, project lead for Stack Box, in an email to LinuxGizmos.

Stack Box components
(click image to enlarge)

The device ships with no sensor devices on its own, but is said to be compatible with smart home devices including most Bluetooth speakers, Sony, Sonos, and Pure Jongo WiFi speakers, Belkin WeMo smart devices, the Foscam IP Camera, and Yale, Kwikset, Schlage locks. It also supports Philips Hue lights and various Z-Wave based systems from GE, Intermatic, Aeon Labs, and Leviton.

The 110 x 110mm cube runs on an ARM11 Cavium processor clocked at 640MHz, probably one of Cavium’s Econa SoCs. The Stack Box also provides 256MB DDR3 RAM, 512MB flash, and an SD slot.

The Stack Box is further equipped with a 10/100 Ethernet port, five USB 2.0 ports, a serial port, and “optocoupler” I/O, says Cloud Media. There’s also an XBee bus.

Inside the Stack Box

One fairly novel feature is a 26-pin Raspberry Pi-compatible expansion bus. “We support a Raspberry Pi Bus, the UART, I2C pin of the Pi Bus can run at hardware mode, but the SPI will need to run at software emulated mode,” explained Chong.

Stack Box cloud architecture
(click image to enlarge)

Cloud Media plans to build a cloud platform, as well as an app marketplace where third parties can sell their own apps related to the Stack Box or any of the smart devices it supports. Personal cloud features similar to Dropbox are provided, although there are few details.

The main Stack Box app for interfacing with smart devices through the hub is available for Android and iOS, with desktop access coming soon in the form of Windows 8 and Chrome browser support. The device’s open SDK will offer “if-then” scripting for automatically controlling devices.

Specifications for the Stack Box include:

  • Processor — Cavium (ARM11 core @ 640MHz)
  • Memory:
    • 256MB DDR3 RAM
    • 512MB flash
    • SD slot
  • Standard wireless communications:
    • 802.11n WiFi
    • Bluetooth LE 4.0
    • Z-Wave
  • Optional wireless communications:
    • Dust Networks
    • Insteon
    • RF433/315 (coming soon)
    • EnOcean (coming soon)
    • ZigBee (coming soon)
    • XBee (coming soon)
    • DCLink (coming soon)
    • RFID (coming soon)
    • IR (coming soon)
  • Standard wired communications — 10/100 Ethernet port
  • Optional wired communications — X10
  • Other I/O:
    • 5x USB 2.0 ports
    • RS-232 port
    • 2x optocoupler in and out
    • XBee Bus
  • Expansion — Raspberry Pi-compatible 26-pin bus
  • Dimensions — 110 x 110mm
  • Operating system — Linux Kernel 3.10

Stack Box video

Further information

The Stack Box is available on Kickstarter through Sept. 17 at prices starting at $79 in black, with shipments due in December. The final price is expected to be $149. More information may be found at the Stack Box Kickstarter page, as well as the Cloud MediaStack Box page. More on the open SDK and API, and other developer information may be found at the Xuan developer site.

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One response to “Home automation hub runs Linux, offers cloud services”

  1. David Legg says:

    Looks brilliant, but there’s nothing much said about graphics/video capability here.

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