Raspberry and the remote controlled relay: a low-level approach (a.k.a. “AT modem commands: the usual suspects”).

Hi my dear microelectronics F&M (female & male) friends! 😉
Here we are again with the remote controlled 220V relay using a Raspberry PI. In my previous post I used a Huawei 3G dongle with the famous gammu daemon as SMS receiver.
But… do you remember the end of the post? I was talking about a thriller/horror movie by the great Lucio Fulci.
So, the horror turned to real, since gammu-smsd, after 20-25 minutes of correct activity, decided to die himself, without any clear cause. Or better, it continued running in background but when a SMS arrived, the daemon did nothing.
I tried to “reanimate” it in several ways, removing the screensaver and the blank screen from the Raspberry, writing a script which stop/restart the daemon every 5 minutes etc. But nothing changed. 😦
I noticed also after the above mentioned 20-25 minutes, the daemon start/restart (using sudo /etc/init.d/gammu-smsd start/restart) fails.
Only a reboot works in this case….but NO PANIC please! 🙂

I think there is some problem in gammu-smsd (related to Raspbian memory management? Hmmmm…I dont want investigate it because I want to live again 😉 ).
So….I decided to try another approach, using a more simple hardware and writing myself a more simple (= with a simple maintance and debug phases) software.
I bought the ITEAD GSM Sim900 module for Raspberry PI from my usual store (Robot Italy). Price: 37 euros. I think it is a good price for a GSM/GPRS phone without keys and display! 😉
I placed my SIM in the module, then I placed the module on the Raspberry.
The module reports the unused GPIOs on the higher side, so I connected the three wires used to command the relay (Vcc, GND and command) directly to the SIM900 module.
Note that the Vcc available on the SIM900 module is 3.3V , but I noticed that my relay module works well also using 3.3V instead the requested 5V. 🙂
Note also that GPIO18 used to command the relay in my previous post, is used now by SIM900 module as software reset, so I modified my relay ON/OFF scripts in order to use GPIO22.

This is the schema of SIM900 module used GPIOs:Mappatura RasPi GPIO-ITEAD SIM900
Ok, let’s go powering the Raspberry board (with a 2A minimum power supplier, since the SIM900 can use also peaks of current of 1A).
But firstly I needed the right soundtrack for this activity, and the right soundtrack in this case is “The City Sleeps”, a powerful and aggressive crossover-progressive rock cd, in my opinion the best work of Touchstone, the band of my friend Kim Seviour.

Let’s return to us… now the Raspberry boots up but the SIM900 module is powered off (no green led is ON on the surface).
There are two ways to power it on:

  • the first approach is to simply press the power on button :-). Too simple for me.;-)
  • the second way is to set the GPIO17 high….well, you know this is my preferred solution. 😉

The python code (remember you must before install python extensions devoted to GPIO commanding, following my previous post!) is the following:

#poweron the RPI GSM SIM900 module
def PowerON_SIM900_module():

Raspberry talks with SIM900 module via a serial link mapped on /dev/ttyAMA0, but Raspberry locks this port at startup. The document reporting the correct actions to free the serial port (before to try to talk with the module) are in ITEAD provided C library…but they are written in chinese! 😦
So I googled aroud a lot before to find the solution to this problem, damn! 😦
This is the correct procedure in order to “unlock” /dev/ttyAMA0 port (application note taken from ITEAD blog, related to another ITEAD product):

In /etc/bootline.txt change:

dwc_otg.lpm_enable=0 console=ttyAMA0,115200 kgdboc=ttyAMA0,115200 console=tty1 root=/dev/mmcblk0p6 rootfstype=ext4 elevator=deadline rootwait


dwc_otg.lpm_enable=0 console=tty1 root=/dev/mmcblk0p6 rootfstype=ext4 elevator=deadline rootwait

and in /etc/inittab comment out or delete the following line (in my case it is the last line):

# T0: 23: respawn :/ sbin / getty-L ttyAMA0 115200 vt100

Well…after this, a reboot is necessary.

The Itead GSM module...with "The City Sleeps" of Touchstone!

The Itead GSM module…with “The City Sleeps” of Touchstone!

Now, I tried using the examples provided in the official C library from ITEAD, but I encountered some error (very strange errors, such as “SIM not registered, some unpredictable error code and so on…), so I decided to talk directly to SIM900 module using AT commands.

Firstly I installed the old, well known minicom software then I connected minicom to SIM900 module with the following (the “old style values”) parameters: port: /dev/ttyAMA0, speed: 9600 bps, no flow control, no parity, 8 bit per word, 1 stop bit.

I sent some famous AT commands, such as “AT” (in order to verify if the momdem is responding), “AT+CMGS” (in order to send to my phone a text SMS), etc. and I verified that all worked well.

Quasi-incredible! 🙂

At this point I decided to implement (in Python, of course) the main code, which: receives the SMS message (many thanks to this tutorial for inspiration of this part), parses them and, if a valid command is received, it powers ON/OFF the relay. Plus, the script can send to my phone  a SMS reporting the action (Power ON/OFF) executed.

I used only three AT simple commands:

  • AT (in order to verify if the communication between module and Raspberry is OK)
  • AT+CMGS (used to send SMS messages)
  • AT+CMGL= “REC UNREAD” (used to read received unread messages)

Note that I added some delay, since I noticed that in some case the modem is a little slow to execute the AT commmands and to reply. This is the complete Python code.

But first don’t forget to install the python extension for serial communication using sudo apt-get install python-serial.

#! /usr/bin/env python

import serial
import time
import RPi.GPIO as GPIO


#poweron the RPI GSM SIM900 module
def PowerON_SIM900_module():

def PowerONRelay():
    #send message to my phone that Relay is ON

def PowerOFFRelay():
    #send message to my phone that Relay is OFF

def SendSMS(value):
   #send SMS about the action
   print line;
   if (value==1):
       ser.write('Relay powered ON!\r');
   elif (value==0):
       ser.write('Relay powered OFF!\r');

def CheckNewUnreadMessage():
   print "Check for new messages..\n";
   #print line;
   ser.write('AT+CMGL="REC UNREAD"\r')
   print response;
   return response;

#main loop
   print "Registering the sim...\n";
   time.sleep(15); #wait for sim to resgister to the net
   print "Started main loop\n";
   while True:
          print "PowerON commanded\n";
      elif (message.find("poweroff")<>-1):
          print "PowerOFF commanded\n";

As you see from the code, the new, unread SMS messages are checked every 5 seconds.

If a new message is found, it is copied in the message variable. If the message contains the poweron keyword the relay is powered ON. Else,  if it contains the poweroff keyword, the relay is powered OFF.

In both cases a SMS is sent to my phone (well… this is not my real number, also if I know you would like to know it! 😉 )

In order to auto-start the script after the Raspberry boot, you should add this command to /etc/rc.local (prior, remember to “executabilize” 😀  your script using the old chmod +x name_of_your_script.py ):

sudo /home/pi/name_of_your_script.py &

IMPORTANT NOTE: Add the “&” in order to launch in background the Python script, or you won’t be able to stop it neither using CTRL+C or swithcing shell . I will re-take the control of your Raspberry only via remote connection (using ssh)! 🙂

Now, rebooting the Raspberry, you will be able to receive/send SMS message using AT commands, power ON/OFF a 220V relay…and the most important thing: I tested the system for 3+ hours, and it worked well all time!!!

So ….I think we executed today another litlle step in my and in your “knowledge database system” called BRAIN. 🙂

Now I will take a relax time with the aid of the new Touchstone cd: “Oceans of Time”. It’s an kick-ass prog-rock album, of highest level guaranteed (as we say in Italy, it’s “Lemon guaranteed”, that is “Garantito al limone”).

Bye bye Raspberry freaks, it’s rock time for me! 😉