element14 Pi IoT Smarter Spaces Design Challenge

Earlier this year, I was asked to be a judge for the element14 Pi IoT Smarter Spaces Design Challenge. It has been fantastic to be involved in a contest where so many brilliant ideas were developed.

The purpose of the competition was to get designers to use a kit of components that included Raspberry Pi, various accessories, and EnOcean products, to take control of the spaces they are in. Spaces could be at home, at work, outdoors, or any other space the designer could think of.

Graphic showing a figure reflected in a mirror as they select breakfast from a menu displayed on its touchscreen surface

Each entrant provided an initial outline of what they wanted to achieve, after which they were given three months to design, build, and implement their system. All the designers have detailed their work fantastically on the element14 website, and if you’re looking for inspiration for your next project I would recommend you read through the entries to this challenge. It has been excellent to see such a great breadth of projects undertaken, all of which had a unique perspective on what “space” was and how it needed to be controlled.

3rd place

Gerrit Polder developed his Plant Health Camera. Gerrit’s project was fantastic, combining regular and NoIR Raspberry Pi Camera Modules with some very interesting software to monitor plant health in real time.

2nd place

Robin Eggenkamp created a system called Thuis – that’s Dutch for “at home”, and is pronounced “tous”! Robin presented a comprehensive smart home system that connects to a variety of sensors and features in his home, including a keyless door lock and remote lighting control, and incorporates mood lighting and a home cinema system. He also produced a great video of the system in action.

1st place

Overall winner Frederick Vandenbosch constructed his Pi IoT Alarm Clock. Frederick produced a truly impressive set of devices which look fantastic and enable a raft of smart home technologies. The devices used in the system range from IP cameras, to energy monitors that can be dotted around the home, to a small bespoke unit that keeps track of house keys. These are controlled from well-designed hubs: an interactive one that includes a display and keypad, as well as the voice-activated alarm clock. The whole system comes together to provide a truly smart space, and I’d recommend reading Frederick’s blog to find out more.

Thanks to each and every designer in this competition, and to all the people in the element14 community who have helped make this a great competition to be part of. If you’re interested in taking part in a future design challenge run by element14, they are run regularly with some great topics – and the prizes aren’t bad, either.

I urge everyone to keep on designing, building, experimenting, and creating!




Joost Scholte avatar

About the second place winner Robin Eggenkamp.
He is from the Netherlands and his project is called ‘Thuis’. That is Dutch for ‘At Home’. So not Danish :-)
‘Thuis’ is sort of pronounced as ‘Tous’ in English.

Robin Eggenkamp avatar

Thanks again Roger for awarding me with the 2nd place! I really enjoyed the contest and plan to continue working on Thuis.

ps: “Thuis” is Dutch for at home, not Danish, and is pronounced a bit differently :-) See https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/thuis
Sorry for using this terrible word for non-Dutch-natives as my project name!

JAVE avatar

Just a slight nit to pick: ‘Thuis’ is Dutch, not Danish for ‘home’.

dan3008 avatar

am I the only one that thinks the touch unit of the 1st place winner looks like the computer panels from startreck? Stick a LACARS interface on the front and it would be complete.

Frederick avatar

After making it, I started seeing a microwave oven … :p

dan3008 avatar

yeh, I can see the microwave oven too… Either way, it has to be the best project I’ve ever seen with a pi :D it even trumps the pi 3d printer i saw :D

Frederick avatar

Yay, thanks! :D

valies avatar

“Robin Eggenkamp created a system called Thuis – that’s Danish for “at home”” -> Robin is from the Netherlands, so (and) “Thuis” is for “at home” (source: Robin’s twitter + I speak Dutch myself). Aside from that, nice article!

Elihias avatar

These are all good projects, but do any of them address the real ‘elephant in the room’ with IoT?

Namely the glaring holes in the security of most (I cant say all) IoT devices. Passwords sent in clear text over networks, devices calling home via the Internet, ports left open, default passwords, et al.

I think not. So as much as I admire them, I cant see me implementing anything like them in my home. Not that I have anything worth taking, simply because somebody might mess them up ‘because I can’.

Google IoT botnet and you’ll find people are already invading our homes and co-opting systems like these to cause havoc out there. And until (if ever) manufacturers safe guard us instead of throwing half-baked equipment out simply to make money, it is not worth the risk.

A far better project for our makers to conceive and implement would be a -secure- IoT framework, developed by
the community, that patches all these holes. One that encrypts passwords, demands the changing of defaults before use, and protects the resources we have in our homes from subversion and use in ruining other peoples lives and businesses. The same can be said for the future of ‘IoT’ in
cars, with woefully large security holes being exposed daily to the public.

This is not a rant, though some may think it is. It is an attempt to highlight current faulty practise by IoT manufacturers, and an appeal to our community to provide a standard and direction that those erring manufacturers can join, and push forward, towards the safety of us all.



pakt avatar

Thanks Elihias for saying that so eloquently. I couldn’t agree more.

Oh, and that’s no critique on the projects themselves; I liked them :)

Sergio avatar

Hi Eli,

I just agree with you that anything connected to the Internet must be secured, always. Some of the posts and projects covered partially this problematic, it was insisted on changing the default passwords, or explained how to force SSH to only accept sessions with shared keys, or how to set up the VNC via SSH tunneling (see link below as an example).

I´d say that the time to develop the projects, 15 weeks, was tight to go into all of the details required to secure the devices and at the same time develop an useful project…

In any case, I agree that security in the IoT is not any enhancement, it is a must and basic feature.



Elihias avatar

Hi Sergio,

I absolutely agree with you. There is nothing wrong with these projects. They show the individuality, technical ability, and fun that can be gained from using a Pi. :)

My beef is with the companies who are essentially selling us
goods that by their very design, guarantee easy access to our homes, passwords, etc.

It’s like handing someone a gun, with the safety off. The
expectation is that -we- will protect ourselves (if we can), and it’s not up to them to provide the basic, common-sense protection that should come as standard with their products.


Elihias avatar

Sorry to dual post, but I just couldn’t resist this one:

‘This morning, coffee, this afternoon, the world!!!1’



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