Apr 192012

Since the demise of the Eaton Home Heartbeat monitoring services back in June of 2011, their customers have been left without any remote notification of their home’s status. Some enterprising hackers have taken up the cause to bring this abandoned system back to life. A few are frustrated home owners with idled Home Heartbeat systems, while others are tinkerers itching for a new project.  They took advantage of the hoards of surplus Home Heartbeat hardware that suddenly came on the market at pennies on the dollar.

The hardware has been dissected, photographed, analyzed, and documented. Investigations hoped for any avenue that could breath new life into these systems. They thought of interfacing the Eaton sensors with other ZigBee networks. They pondered the idea of reprogramming the on-board micro-controllers. But the idea that stuck is to use the Home Heartbeat system, unmodified, by interfacing to its unutilized USB port.

It had always been Eaton’s intent to support this USB port with a PC application that could configure and monitor the Home Heartbeat. It had even been discussed, on blogs, that Eaton would someday release technical notes so that others could also write applications. Alas, none of this ever came to be, so it was up to this latest round of hackers to sleuth the mysteries of the USB port. The credit for determining the USB protocol, and the command set of the Home Heartbeat goes to Steve Davidson. Here in his blog entry, “Hacking Eaton Home Heartbeat Part 2: They’re Heeeeerrrrrreeee…“, he reveals how to interface to the USB port as a serial device, and he lists all of the commands that he discovered.

The most useful command discovered in Steve’s quest is the “s” command, possibly short for “status”. Each time the command is sent across the serial link, a single line of data is returned. This data describes one device in the Home Heartbeat system. Repeating the command will return the state and configuration data for each sensor, Home Base, and Home Key. There is enough information available to create a decent home monitoring application.

  6 Responses to “Hacking the Eaton Home Heartbeat”

  1. I’m extremely grateful for your work (and Steve’s) on reverse engineering this protocol. I’m wrapping up my own code to talk to the base station. I was wondering did you discover a command that can be sent over the serial port that will clear the ‘STATE=NEW’ transmissions?

    I’m able to code around them, but I’d like to just turn them off, programatically if possible.


  2. Thanks! I just added a check for that in my code. Not too invasive! This thing is pretty nifty! Time to see if I can find some more sensors. 🙂
    Again – thank you for decoding the protocol. I wouldn’t have a working system without your work!

  3. Thanks for your excellent reverse engineering of the Eaton Home Heartbeat.
    My son Michael put together an open source project to make use of this product. It’s written in Javascript and uses node.js.
    “HHB Alarm and Monitoring Service provides a service to view the current status of the Eaton Home Heartbeat and attached sensors and send alerts via email (and SMS).”
    I have it running on a Raspberry Pi.

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