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Smart devices and sensors haven’t really taken off yet because of the hassle and cost of setting them up. An East of England start-up company has launched a technology that is easy to adopt for both manufacturers and end-users and furthermore, is often cheaper than the ‘dumb’ version. Manufacturers of doorbells, smoke alarms, and all types of sensors are sought for license agreements.
The UK startup was founded by two engineers in chip design. They went to solve the typical problems challenging the uptake of smart home technologies, but also industrial IoT. The existing offerings talk about flexibility and customisation but in practice, the user has to have another hub installed, or find an additional power source, or buy some subscription.
The new platform makes use of what most homes (and workplaces) already have: smartphones and local WiFi. See the schematic below. It provides a hardware design (or a small chip) to the manufacturer, and an app to talk to the hardware, to the user. Through the app the user introduces the new device to their WiFi and that completes the setup. A lot of effort has been spent on privacy so the pre-existing hardware design remains protected.
The smartphone app now subscribes to notifications from the smart devices and sensors. It may be “doorbell rang” or “smoke alarm went off” or any other message.
The hardware is extremely low power. There is already keen interest from the makers of doorbells. Even with the smart functionality, with a single AAA battery the doorbell will last for 3 years. The hardware is also very low cost. Manufacturers can sell a doorbell that comes without a chime and only sends notifications to phones. This makes the smart product much lower cost than the dumb version.
Currently, the data traffic is one way and the data rate is only limited by the battery. One could send audio and video from the device, but the battery life time would be relatively shorter then, or the device needs to be plugged into a socket. In the future, it will be easy to make the platform more complex or data intensive, but already now it is perfectly good to make a use case for various sensors. For example, it will make the adoption of various fire alarms and air quality sensors a lot easier. Smart home appliances can be made without any price increase.
The UK company seeks manufacturers of devices and appliances for the smart home, but also for assisted living, and industrial IoT, for license agreements.
The innovation lies in resisting from creating additional hubs or devices, but making the best use of existing hardware.
The advantage this brings is the users getting new smart applications without having to change their habits or worrying about setup.
Applications submitted in the UK with a view to extend throughout the developed world.
Type of partner sought: industry
Specific activity of partner: manufacturers and developers of sensors and devices in fields such as smart homes, assisted living, industrial IoT.
Role of partner sought: to adopt the reference design, or buy the chip, under license.