A Better Mousetrap

I recently got an access control system installed in my office – revolutionised the way we access the place. Should have done it years ago. System works a treat, and in addition it creates a log that we can refer back to if need be.

All was good until I found out that I needed to have a Windows computer running 24×7 to log the events, and this system was also what I had to use to program access levels. What? In this day and age? Give me a break.

I then found out that this “server” software (that looks like it was written in the 80’s) runs as a console application and not a service. This was the final straw. I am determined to build a better system.

Unlike this archaic beast I have installed mine will be far more modern and specifically work as follow:

  • System will support various ways to gain access: RFID, Keypad, and Bluetooth proximity.
  • System management will be performed via Cloud Management, this includes granting access, logging access events and producing reports
  • Access control will work when disconnected from the internet, when access is restored then configuration will be refreshed, and buffered events will be uploaded.
  • System will connect to internet via WIFI to remove the need for additional network cabling

I am sure the list will grow but these are the key requirements.

To start this quest I headed directly to Jaycar to see what form of electronic controllers I could base my design on and there were two candidates:

  • Raspberry Pi – which is basically a tiny computer
  • Arduino – which is a micro controller

mmm, microcontroller – that sounds cool – never worked with them before. A bit of googling later and it seems it’s achievable with both devices.

The arduino is lower cost and seems to have more modules (shields) available in terms of peripherals (sensors) like RFID reader, WIFI, Bluetooth etc and it’s specialty is all things IO.

The Raspberry PI on the other hand seems to be able to more easily talk to the cloud using native libraries.

I figure that to start with I need to control a door strike with an RFID reader, and well I decided to kickoff with the Arduino. Maybe it’s because I convinced myself it was the right tool for the job and maybe it’s because I wanted to learn something new and get into electronics rather than mini computers.

I left well equipped with an Arduino Duo, a 12v electric door strike with transformer, an n-channel mosfet, a breadboard, a tri state led and an RFID breakout board.

Got back and opened everything up and realised I knew nothing at all about Arduino, so next stop was google.

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