Hackspace security system

NESIT is the New England Society of Information and Technology in Connecticut, and they have a made a security system for their hackspace that gives us terrible feelings of envy. Their old RFID door lock, powered by an Arduino, was getting old and came bundled with some problems: it didn’t allow for easy modifications to the database of users (the old setup wrote user information straight to the Arduino’s eeprom), couldn’t output video, and would have been expensive to hook up to the network; running its server all the time would have cost about $200 in electricity over a year.

Running a Pi for a year costs about $3.

So Will, one of the hackspace members, set to work getting a Pi interfacing with an RFID reader, and finding some housing for the whole setup. It had to be secure, lockable and robust: somehow he squirreled up an old outdoor telephone network box made of heavy-duty plastic, which he cleaned up, using a Dremel to modify the door of the box so it could accommodate an LCD screen originally intended for a car reversing system.


…after. Note glistening result of elbow grease application.


Will really went to town on this build. He could have stopped there, but has also made sure that the system will tweet when someone enters or leaves. It also monitors temperature, can be controlled from his phone, sends an email alert if someone tries to tamper with the case, and detects motion: if it spots someone walking past, it’ll play a short video about the hackspace.

NESIT’s put details of the build online, and have made this video of the system in action. We note that the “beep” you’re using doubles as an excellent cat-scarer, Will; I have the scratches to prove it.


Faber Pi avatar

Really nice project. Only one thing what if you can get into the PVC control box. I see a big lock, but with a screw driver the PVC will break easily. If I’m inside the control box can you, can I circumvent the RFID reader and Raspberry Pi?

tzj avatar


I got this reader to do a similar project, but I haven’t a clue on how to interface with it as its a self-contained system.

Tho its not bad for 10 quid/dollars on amazon. Comes with 10 fobs and runs at the same frequency of 125khz.

AndrewS avatar

Fabulous setup :-)
I guess when the Pi camera add-on gets released this could be expanded into a 2-way video intercom?

NoiseMaker avatar

*www.ebay.com, Search: RFID reader…*

NoiseMaker avatar

*www.ebay.com, Search: RFID reader…* Or wait, first I’ll have to fetch me one of those R-Pi’s.

AdrianBevan avatar

Excellent work – many congratulations.

Drew avatar

Doesn’t the regulator on the front panel need a heatsink? I’m guessing that is the power supply.

Metz avatar

You’ll be pleased to hear that the London Hackspace DoorBot(tm) also runs of a Raspi :) A little more secure though, as only the RFID tag reader is outside the building. It controls a monster latched door lock, and is coded to the ubiquitous Oyster card that everyone has (will code to pretty much any RFID card).

It announces your arrival using the voice of GlaDOS :) . Ours doesn’t play video, though :(

liz avatar

Oh cool! We’ve actually stood outside and told you guys not to reply before so we could play with your doorbell; didn’t know it ran off a Pi, though. Is that a new innovation?

Metz avatar

Yes…used to be Arduino. I believe we used a Pi at the Cremer St venue towards the end…but the new premises will have multiple doorbots all pi-powered :)

Jim Manley avatar

Security systems and components are rated by time required to defeat them, with cost increasing exponentially with increase in time – with enough time, any system can be defeated. Most security systems are designed to keep basically honest people honest and only slow down career criminals long enough to maximize the probability of them being caught.

Obviously, a metal box would be an improvement, but an audible or remote alarm could alert if the box is opened without an appropriately-coded RFID tag in proximity, or the remote alarm being disarmed. If the protected area is within a larger area that has some level of physical security such as locks, guards, video monitoring, etc., that could provide sufficient additional protection.

Since it’s an RFID system, the box could be located just inside the door of the protected area, instead (with maybe just the RFID reader on the opposite side of the wall outside the door) – sometimes, you just have to think inside the box!

FidelGVelasquez avatar

That’s the exact same display I’ve used — I’d recognize its PCB anywhere!

Jungle-Boogie avatar

You sum up exactly how security works! If you’re an office building with a lot of free time, what’s to stop you from pushing a ceiling tile out of the way in hopes that you can get on the other side of a door.

Wencel Jean Carranza avatar

Good day. I am working on a project in interfacing rfid reader to raspberry. I want to know how set-up and code it. Reply is very much appreciated. Thank you.

clive avatar

Hi — you’d be better off asking this in the forums, have a search for ‘RFID’.

Garrett avatar

Can you send me the proxy code that you used to have the rfid card read and then open the door code

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