The smart home of the future has been just out of the consumer’s reach for decades. We constantly read stories about how our homes will turn down the temperature when we leave, turn on the lights when we enter, or call the police and text us when home security has been breached, yet these goals have remained elusive to all but the most tech savvy and wealthy homeowners. Even rudimentary forms of intelligence, such as integrated fire and burglar alarms, can be prohibitively expensive for the average consumer. Therefore, I propose a line of small, cheap, battery powered wireless nodes that can be coordinated using a standard PC and programmed using a simple graphical interface.
The sensor node itself is a small, non-intrusive device of very limited intelligence, but rich with sensing equipment. I envision these nodes to contain a micro switch, magnetic switch, temperature sensor, light sensor, even an audio microphone or a small pinhole camera. These nodes would also contain several general purpose IO (GPIO) lines that can be controlled by the base station, to enhance scalability and usefulness for future applications and hobbyists. Each sensor can be dynamically programmed to report its sensor data periodically, on an event, whenever polled by the base station, or some combination of the three. The sensors would be hot-pluggable and self-announcing, meaning that sensors can be added or removed from the system dynamically, making this system fully scalable and adaptable to any situation. Sensors can be placed on windows, doors, and in rooms to sense the status of entry points and the current conditions of the area.
The base station would consist of any available PC and a specially designed wireless adapter. Since the bandwidth and processing requirements are minimal, the PC can be any inexpensive model currently on the market. Using a graphical interface, the user can employ the base station to program sensor nodes using simple commands, Boolean logic, and event structures. The base station can be programmed to act upon certain information, such as calling the police when a security area is breached, or emailing you when the home falls below a certain temperature. The base station can also act as a web portal for users to view, or even control their sensor network while away from home.
While this proposed sensor node network will not propel us into the “home of the future,” it certainly is the right step towards home automation. By providing a cheap, simple, and scalable network of sensors, the average consumer can experience a web enabled home, and the peace of mind that goes with it.