Say hello to “Darek”

There is nothing more annoying than driving to work, spending more than half an hour trying to find a free parking space and once you get into the office you find out that office parking is almost empty, right? Okay, okay…Frankly? Lack of coffee is the worst 😛  The whole office often discussed this, who should have access (and the remote controller) to the company’s parking. With no result. After years (yes… years of discussions) I came up with an idea to try to push the button remotely… but how?

After a couple glasses of coffee… we came up with our first idea:

Idea #1

Let’s hire somebody to just read messages, and then push the button. Or even better, just look through the window and push the button when somebody arrives… Brilliant! But… what when if you have to go to the office at weekends? Or simply in the evening, because you forgot to take your dinner/homework? We have to think harder!

Idea #2

Okay, we already have one remote. Let’s use something different than a human to push the button. Hmm, but what… we have “know-how” in software things, not hardware (yet :P). After another few mugs of coffee… Let’s use the servo drive to push the button.

Nice… cool idea. But what if the drive will not push the button enough? Or too hard and the remote controller would break? Nah… let’s find another solution. Coffee stopped working…

Bartender, another round of drinks!

Idea #3 – Say hello to “Darek”

If physically pushing the button is hard, use the electronic way! We can simply use some relay, to relay and close the circuit, like the button does. Cool! What’s next? Next, create a small app that listening to Slack messages and trigger gate opening when somebody posts the triggering phrase: Darek, otwórz. (Darek, open). Why this phrase? There is an excerpt from a Polish comedy:

Autor: mocolate chilk/www.youtube.com

For the application base, we used RaspberryPi Zero, so we were able to use one of the GPIO to send a short signal to relay, to close the circuit for a while -> simulate pushing the button on the remote controller. Let’s do it! Take a soldering iron and do the magic:

Of course, it cannot be ugly, so I used my design skills and 3D printer to make this:

And… IT WORKS!!!!111!!one!! We can now open the gate remotely 😀

Conclusion

“Darek” is the best “employee” in our company :p He works 24/7, he does not complain, and what’s more important he does not ask for raises (which I cannot say about his creators :)).
“Darek” helped us with our morning road rage, as many times we had empty parking spaces. Also, people from our back-office team are very grateful, as they don’t have to approach the window to open the gate for a delivery guy or the courier.
“Darek” works well.. most of the time 🙂 We had some range issues when it was raining or snowing as the box was simply too far from gate, or it could just freeze without any reason and hard restart was required, and then it was more annoying than before “Darek”.

We had to think about another improvement…

Maciej Roszkiewicz
About

Señor Meme Developer. The rising star of the Node.js. My motto is: "I can do everything, just give me money and some time".