Researchers combined a bunch of different sensors into one small device that can monitor all kinds of activities.
Rachel Metz reports: Gierad Laput wants to make homes smarter without forcing you to buy a bunch of sensor-laden, Internet-connected appliances. Instead, he’s come up with a way to combine a slew of sensors into a device about the size of a Saltine that plugs into a wall outlet and can monitor many things in the room, from a tea kettle to a paper towel dispenser.
Laput, a graduate student studying computer-human interaction at Carnegie Mellon University, built the gadget as part of a project he calls Synthetic Sensors. He says it could be used to do things like figure out how many paper towels you’ve got left, detect when someone enters or leaves a building, or keep an eye on an elderly family member (by tracking the person’s typical routine via appliances, for example). It’s being shown off this week in Denver at the CHI computer-human interaction conference.
While it’s not yet a consumer smart-home device, it was pretty accurate in his initial tests. His team is now stress-testing the 100 units manufactured so far. Laput says they cost about $100 apiece to make right now, but he thinks that could be cut to about $30 if they were manufactured in high volume.
Laput says he and fellow researchers were curious to see if they could find a compact, capable alternative to existing smart gadgets, which can be costly and don’t always play nice with each other, and wireless smart tags, which have to be stuck to various things around the house. They also wanted to see how much sensing they could do without a camera, which their research showed people found invasive.
To try this out, the researchers put together a sensing board that can track motion, sound, pressure, humidity, temperature, light intensity, electromagnetic interference, and more … (read more)