Friday, 28 December 2012

More Empirbus Configuration

I ask myself what we did today?  Jan went to Sainbury’s for essential supplies (custard filled doughnuts being one of them) whilst I stayed behind and pottered around Waiouru.  She staggered back to the boat around midday with a large shopping bag in one hand and a heavy day pack on her back.  I eased my conscience by reminding myself the exercise and free air was probably good for her.  In the saloon one of the hot water pipes had decided to migrate from inside the Finrad boxing out onto the carpet.  It just lolls about naked trying to pretend it belongs there!  We’ve noticed the pipe only appears when the cabin is warm and the water hot, so I’m guessing it doesn’t like the heat inside the boxing.  All this exposed bare skinny white sausage looks rather unsightly so I asked Andy for a few additional pipe clips and resecured it to the lining on the side of the cabin.  Then the screws holding the oak trim on the ceiling of the shower cubical needed replacing. The existing screws are mild steel and with the humidity in the shower will probably rust if not replaced.  Fortunately there’s only one piece of trim with exposed screw heads (the others have all been plugged).  It’s a 700mm longitudinal length between the ceiling and the side of the cabin concealing the wiring loom.  I removed all the screws and replaced them with stainless steel of the same size.

Yet another small step achieved today with further configuration of the Empirbus system.  The first thing I needed was a SIM card to go into the GSM Module.  If we are to communicate with Waiouru and she is to tell us what is happening. then we need a mobile communication plan.  All the communication is by text message so what I really wanted was a pre-paid, low cost, text only plan and of course they don’t appear to exist in the UK!  However I did the rounds of the mobile network providers asking if they had such a plan; and if they didn’t; what cheap alternative could they offer.  Eventually I opted to purchase a £5 SIM from Vodafone.  We will have to watch the time on the card to ensure it doesn’t expire before we top it up.

The last of the wiring to the GSM module was then completed and the SIM installed.  Where upon the module burst into life with LED’s flashing madly!

GSM/GPS Module - Arrows point to LED’s and SIM Card

Then I realised we needed to test the SIM to ensure it was working.  The obvious way was to insert it into a mobile phone to see if the SIM was active and whether it could send and receive text messages.  I inserted it into Jan’s old mobile phone….. “SIM not active” <Oh No!>.  Put it into my old mobile “SIM not Active” <double Oh No!>.  More thinking…….. We purchased both mobiles in Australia…. perhaps they are locked to Vodafone Australia?  Jan’s current phone is also originally from Australia but she had it unlocked when we moved to Plymouth.  Inserted the SIM into her phone <success!>.  So the SIM is active and works.  It was then inserted back into the GSM module.  More reading of the instructions and the “penny dropped”.  I needed to text the word Empir?? from our main mobile phone to the GSM Module.  This would start the module and recognise (remember) our mobile phone number.  Well that worked and I can now communicate with the GSM module.  The module is also sending messages to our phone.  At the moment it’s only the standard queries.  I send……

  • Volt?  -  It sends me the current battery voltage
  • Status?  -  Reports general information of GSM and GPS including number of satellites it can see
  • Pos?  -  It sends the GPS coordinates for Waiouru.
  • Waiouru will send a message if the burglar alarm is activated

I’m now working out how to configure some additional requests and alarms.  Initial ideas are:

  • Report when bilge pump is activated (the boat might be starting to sink!)
  • Report battery low voltage reading.  I think I’ll set it to 11.8V (don’t want the battery bank to be damaged)
  • Start Hurricane Heater (arrive to a warm boat)
  • Start Fridge (have the fridge cool [importantly the lager] on arrival)
  • Report change in location when alarm activated (boat to advise it’s being stolen?)
  • Disable engine on text command (stop the thief from making off with the boat)
  • Start/stop bilge pumps (remote routine emptying of the bilges)

What else could I get the system to either report or control remotely?  Jan has already suggested it could do the dirty dishes whilst we are out! Smile


nb Lola said...

sound SOS on the horn and flash the lights to the same?

Tom and Jan said...

Good idea. The alarm already has it's own loud siren but we could configure the system so it also activating the headlamp and navigation lights.

Chris Trotman said...

Report water pump running, indicating a leak somewhere.

Anonymous said...

Turn some set of lights on/off to make it appear someone is onboard. Perhaps random set or random times.


Tom and Jan said...

I've just remembered their is a master isolation switch for the Empirbus system. It gets turned off to turn on the alarm. The boat regulations stipulate the only devices that can be activated with the master isolation switch off are any bilge pumps and alarm systems. So I'd need to first remotely turn on the master isolation switch before remotely controlling any of the lighting.

Eric said...


Iron/Steel screws stain oak black.

It is normal to use brass screws in oak for this reason. I am not sure about stainless steel.

If you use brass screws first screw in a steel one then take it out and replace it with brass because brass screws will break if the thread is not cut first by a steal screw.



Tom and Jan said...

Hi Eric,

I wasn't anticipating the ss screws would rust (they shouldn't) however I'll keep an eye on them just in case!


Eric said...

Hi Tom

I did not mean rust.

Iron/Steel screw should not be used in oak even in dry conditions because they stain the oak, there is a chemical reaction between oak and steel that results in the oak being stained. I do not know if stainless steel screw are Ok or not, but they may be OK, but not normal iron/steel ones.

Normally cabinet makers only use brass screw with oak because it is a chemical reaction between the oak and the steel in the screw. It is nothing to do with rust. So I would suggest changing all your iron screws for brass, even where it is not damp.



#See this thread -

Tom and Jan said...

Hi Eric,

I can't see your email address but if you'd like to email me directly then I'm happy to discuss the use of canbus.