Creating an iPhone-enabled Raspberry Pi Squawk Box

Recently, I had trouble getting ahold of my wife at home. She had forgotten to take her phone off Do Not Disturb mode, and when I tried to call, she didn’t answer. This happens fairly often, so to address this problem, I decided to build a text-to-speech “Squawk box” using a Raspberry Pi and some other hardware that I had at home.

Acquire Hardware

First, let’s gather the hardware we need.

Item Purpose
Raspberry Pi 3 or newer Board (Raspberry Pi 2 may also work)
Raspberry Pi Micro-USB charger Power the Raspberry Pi and speaker
Anker Soundcore Mini (any speaker will do) Inexpensive speaker that can be reused later
MicroMini plug cable Micro USB cable for powering speaker
Project Box Not necessary but provides a more polished experience
2″ Speaker Grille Again not necessary but looks more polished.
Clear caulk For keeping speaker grille mesh in place

Prepare Project Box

Next, we’ll prepare the hardware.

I drilled a 2″ hole in the front panel of the project box for the speaker. I also drilled the same size hole in the back because my project box wasn’t deep enough for the speaker. Finding a larger project box would have been ideal, but I already had an extra one on hand.

I also drilled a couple of holes in the project box for running the power and audio cables.

I then mounted the speaker grille on the front panel. I drilled holes for the screws and used some clear caulk to keep the mesh in place.

Install Hardware and Connect Cables

Then, we’re ready to connect things up.

  1. Slide the speaker into the project box.
  2. Connect micro-USB power cable to Raspberry Pi
  3. Connect audio cable and micro-USB to USB-A cable from speaker to Raspberry Pi
  4. Slide in the Raspberry Pi.
    I was able to simply push the Pi in next to the speaker. I didn’t need to use any method for attaching it because it was already a snug fit.
  5. Attach front panel.

Set up System and Required Software

Next, we’ll set up the software.

After installing Raspbian onto your Raspberry Pi, install Festival text-to-speech Software:

$ sudo apt-get install festival

Create Helper Script

We’ll create a simple script to pipe standard input from the iPhone Shortcuts app into the TTS system:

echo "$ cat | festival --tts" > squawk
$ chmod +x squawk

Prepare Remote Access

Generate SSH keys for your Raspberry Pi account:

$ ssh-keygen

We are now ready to set up our iPhone to use the squawk box.

Configure Shortcuts App on iPhone

Add a new shortcut with the following:

Configure Run script over SSH:

Use the IP address and username you set up with you first installed Raspbian. Configure the script to run ./squawk (the script we created earlier).

Share the Public Key for your Shortcuts app on iPhone with yourself:

Add the public key to your ~/.ssh/authorized_keys file on the Raspberry Pi. This will allow password-less access to your Squawk box from your iPhone.

Test It Out

Run the Shortcuts app, enter some text, click okay, and listen on your new Squawk box:


This was a fun little project that required very little effort to set up. I wanted to make the outward appearance of the box acceptable enough to sit on a nightstand beside the bed, but of course, you can do as little or as much customization as you wish.