Powerbot connecting real world to twitter
via Raspberry Pi using GPIO pins

Intro

This post is long overdue. Recently, had a chance to present what I did with Raspberry Pi some years back. Powerbot is a fun experiment publishing the status of electricity availability in my home town back when we faced an electricity crisis.

Why and What

  • Back in 2012, we were facing serious load shedding.
  • Trying to figure out the time and duration of the load shedding.
  • Heard about Raspberry Pi and was looking for an actual use case to buy it.
  • That is when I imagined using Raspberry Pi to automatically collect electricity availability and publish it to the world via Twitter!

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” - Albert Einstein.

System Layout

GPIO pins

GPIO - General Purpose Input Output pins. We can read/write state. State can be either 1 or 0, purely binary based on the voltage level.


Sensor Unit

  • This is a simple circuit that changes the state of the GPIO_IN_4 using LDR. LDR - Light Dependent Resistor.
  • LED light powered using mains line is placed in front of the LDR.
  • 3 wires are connected to Pi.
  • 2 for powering the circuit and one for detecting the state.
    • 3.3 V line.
    • Ground line.
    • GPIO 4.

Software

  • Built using Python. Simple Program would check the status of the electricity every second.
  • If there is a change in status, it will trigger generating twitter message.
  • Message will be buffered in local as well just in case internet connection goes down.
  • I had used Twython client library to connect with Twitter. Even built a wrapper around this to overcome the unstable Internet connection.
  • Additionally, the software would publish the stats of the electricity over last day, week, month, quarter etc.,
  • Entire source code available at https://github.com/sakthipriyan/powerbot

Following code is used to set up and detect the status.

import RPi.GPIO as GPIO

def init_sensor():
    GPIO.setmode(GPIO.BCM)
    GPIO.setup(4, GPIO.IN)

def get_status():
    return not GPIO.input(4)

Twitter

Let’s revisit what happened on the Feb 26, 2013.

Apparently, latest tweets in the account has some issues probably due to hardware malfunctions.

In retrospect

  • I truly enjoyed it!
    • Doing electrical wiring, taking out the electrical wiring out of the switch box.
    • Identifying the electronic components and soldering it to the board.
    • Writing the software to read the GPIO pins.
    • Tweet it out to the whole world the status of electricity in my hometown.
  • I still missed the original goal of predicting the load shedding. :(
  • It would have been real fun if powerbot tweeted the ON/OFF time before it happened.
  • At least one of my friend from other part of the town started following this twitter handle to check if I had electricity in my home. :)
  • I did powerbot, before the IoT became famous. It happened in early 2013. Loooooong time back.

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About Author

Sakthi Priyan H
Passionate Programmer

  • Sakthi Priyan is passionate about building high quality reliable software.
  • He has vast experience in full stack web since 2006.
  • He primarily codes in Java, Scala and Python.
  • He currently works in backend API services and big data technologies.