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Thread: Wireless Connectivity to Holley ECUs

  1. #1

    Default Wireless Connectivity to Holley ECUs

    I wanted to be able to connect to my Dominator ECU wirelessly to make tuning changes and datalog, so I started researching into available methods to accomplish this. A&P Electronics offers a product called the Cable Blaster that passes USB communications over TCP/IP via an ad hoc wireless network. It’s a nice device, but at over $300 I figured I could do it myself for less. It’s nothing more than a Raspberry Pi that is configured to encapsulate USB messages into a TCP/IP payload.

    To start, I flashed a lite Linux distribution onto a Raspberry Pi 3 B+. You want the install to be as minimal as possible to speed boot times and limit system resource usage. USB/IP sharing can be configured a number of ways, but the cleanest client/server arrangement that I found was developed by VirtualHere. There are two software components that need to be installed and configured. The USB/IP server will reside on the Pi and the client will be installed on the host computer running the Holley EFI software. VirtualHere has compiled server packages for a variety of architectures including multiple iterations of the Raspberry Pi (ARM). Download the appropriate version for whatever platform you decide to run, and configure the server daemon to start on boot. The remaining server configuration will be handled through the client application.

    Download and install the USB/IP client software. With the Pi and USB/IP server up and running, an ad hoc wireless network should be broadcasting. By default, the SSID is cloudhub66. Once connected to this network, launch the client and it will negotiate with the server. The broadcast SSID and other parameters can be managed through the client, if desired. No other configuration should be required to communicate with the ECU. The ECU USB cable can be plugged into the Raspberry Pi, and the client will recognize the device and expose it to the computer as if it were plugged in directly. Interaction with the ECU through the Holley EFI software can be done as normal.

    This arrangement has worked well for me so far. For less than $50, I can interface with the ECU wirelessly as if it were connected directly with the cable. There are some drawbacks to this setup, however. There will be the delay in the Pi booting and starting the server plus the time to join the network. This isn’t always a significant issue, but if you want to log a quick startup for example, it can get cumbersome. Security and software updates on the Pi are another matter that need to be considered as well.

  2. #2

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    With the basic functionality sorted out, I decided to make an enclosure for the Raspberry Pi that would be suitable for an external mounting location and work with 12 VDC. I spent an embarrassing amount of time researching connectors and power supplies. I wanted the enclosure to be weatherproof and be removeable. There are certainly other ways (viz., cheaper) to do this, but here's what I ended up with:






    Here's the parts list:

    The power hat that I chose has 5 VDC output terminals, so I can expand and add other sensors such as an accelerometer to the case. Addition signal outputs can be sent out through an open cavity in the connector assembly.

  3. #3

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    That's a nice little setup. Are you looking into longer range connectivity options so that, for example, a crew member can be monitoring live data while the car is on track?

  4. #4

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    Thanks for the feedback. I haven’t looked into longer distance solutions, but it’s possible. One potential way to do it using this Pi framework would be to use consumer premises equipment (CPE). This is typically used for high-speed, stationary data links, but it could work in certain ideal settings to provide live telemetry from the ECU.

    Instead of using Wi-Fi, something like pair of Ubiquiti Airmax NanoStation locos could provide point-to-point connectivity. They are relatively cheap ($67 each) and have a range up to 10 km. The catch is they effectively need line of sight between each other, and the antennas are more or less unidirectional. Assuming this isn’t a deal breaking limitation (I’m assuming a drag race scenario where the data monitoring is being done near the starting line), it could be configured as follows.

    The radios are powered by Power over Ethernet (PoE). Usually, this is supplied by a PoE network switch, but a PoE injector can also be used. The locos require 24V passive PoE (there are multiple protocols and voltage levels for PoE devices). Surprisingly, there are several 12VDC in PoE injector options. Here's a link to one example.

    The PoE injector is placed in line between the Pi and one radio mounted to the car, wired to 12VDC, and all these components are interconnected with standard ethernet cables. The other radio would be connected to the laptop, and another PoE injector will be required to power it. This is another complicating factor, because a 120VAC PoE injector is going to be the simplest option. This would limit the portability of this configuration.

    Once everything is connected, the radios are configured with a software utility, and the Pi and laptop will have wireless connectivity. The USB/IP client-server setup would work as described in the original post. There are certainly better ways to pull this off, but this is the type of technology that I’m familiar with. Perhaps others will have ideas.

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