Remote Control and Automation

Welcome to this week’s post.

Ok, so I´ve listed and organized all my equipments and components and managed to find suitable softwares and apps for most of them, now what´s next?. Enter remote control and automation.

As some of you may know my shack is located in one half of my oldest son closet in his bedroom, which is kind of challenging to operate freely most of the time therefore I ended up working remotely most of the times. Sometimes remotely means from the living room, from my bedroom, from my office, from anywhere. And that pushed me to set up everything with remote operation in mind.

It was simple: I wanted to control all (or the most of) my equipments and components thru my computer and in turn, access my computer from anywhere. I started looking for this capability in any piece of equipment I needed to buy, started reading how a lot of hams have been doing it and then adapted and adopted a system that works for me.

Flex radios is an excellent choice when remote operation is wanted. With Smartlink we can access our radios from literary anywhere with a Maestro, a laptop, a PC, an iPhone or an iPad. Now we can even do FT8 natively with SDR for iOs. For the Icom there are plenty of software available that can be used for rig control but I find Win4Icom to be the best available, as explained in my previous post.

But then, there are other pieces that needed to be controlled as well. We have antennas, amplifiers and tuners that need to be managed in any given moment. And there is the safety aspect of being able to control your shack remotely in case anything goes bad, for example being able to turn off the radio and other components.

As I mentioned in my software post, the help and guidance of fellow hams in reflectors and groups is invaluable. For the purpose of my remote operation set up I´ve been blessed with the help of a lot of hams that had done it before, they had stayed with me during the process, answering endless questions (including a lot of dumb ones), making recommendations, etc.

I would like to name a couple : Jeff -W2FU from Green Heron Engineering,  Mack W4AX, John AI4FR and there are many more that in reflectors and groups had helped.

Remote Operation

As mentioned, I ended up remote operating due to limitations to access my shack freely. One thing led to another and the rest is history.

Using the Flex 6300

When I want to use my Flex radio, I simply ask Alexa to “Turn SMX on” and Alexa run the following Gosund tasks:

    1. Turn on the shack PC
    2. Turn on the Flex power Supply, wait 5 seconds
    3. Turn on the Flex relay causing the radio to turn on
    4. Turn on the DCU-2 rotator control
    5. Turn on the Acom 600s
    6. Turn on the Palstar HF Autotuner

Once I´m done I close all apps, shut down computer and ask Alexa to “Turn SMX off” and Alexa will turn off all equipments.

Using the Icom 7300

In case I want to use the Icom 7300, then I simply ask Alexa to “Turn Icom on” and Alexa will:

  1. Turn on the shack PC
  2. Turn on the Icom Power Supply
  3. Turn on the DCU-2 rotator control
  4. Turn on the Acom 600s
  5. Turn on the Palstar HF Autotuner

Once the computer boots up, using Win4Icom I turn on my Icom 7300 and then I open the rest of the apps.

Once I´m done I close all apps, shut down computer and ask Alexa to “Turn Icom off” and Alexa will turn off all equipments.

Operating remote

Once I´m set to operate here is what I do:

  1. Access my shack pc with AnyDesk (I use TeamViewer too sometimes)
  2. I use Green Heron Software to select my antennas using the Green Heron Select 8 switch. with this I can choose and change antennas as I want. Currently I have 4 antenas (6-20 Hexbeam, 40m kit on the hex, a 5elem 6m LFA and a 10-80 end fed).
  3. I use PSTRotator to move the hex and the LFA around as needed. PstRotator could also be controlled with Log4OM and with FRLogger as well.
  4. I use Acom Director Plus to control my Acom 600s amplifier
  5. I use HF Auto Software to control my Palstar HF Autotuner

This gives me complete control of my radio while remote.

Automation and Alexa

After reading a post in the Flex Community I got interested in using Alexa to automate certain parts of my shack operations. Based on the recommendations in that post and the off line help of some members I ended up doing the following:

  1. Got some smart sockets for the equipment. I decided to go with Gosund smart socket . They are good, not that expensive and have performed quite fine. See here
  2. Put an enclosed relay on my Flex 6300 to stimulate the on/off switch. With the relay and the Gosund Smart Socket I can turn the Flex on and off remotely. See here.
  3. Gosund has its own mobile app to control the sockets from the web. This way I can turn the equipments on/off thru my phone in any moment.
  4. In the Gosund app you can create scenarios grouping multiple equipments and automation that are triggered by conditions, such as weather. In example, I´ve created a scenario where if the weather is lighting or storm all the equipments are shut off.
  5. In my Alexa app I´ve created routines that triggers the Gosund scenarios such as weather, proximity to my home, etc.

Everyday I try to find things to do and to incorporate into my remote operation and shack automation. Now, I´m expanding this set up to include a Green Heron Remote base and two A/B switches from Top Ten Devices which will give me the control to (i) select between the 2 radios remotely and (ii) select which radio will use the Acom.

Please feel free to share your comments or questions. See you on next week post.

73, Santiago

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