Contestants: Eric Gnoske, Colin O’Flynn, Axel Wachtler
Affiliation: Colorado Micro Devices
Award: $5,000 USD
Colorado Micro Devices has designed a small low-power wireless hardware node, which can be interfaced to IP-based networks for simplified product design. Here they have demonstrated two IP-based solutions: one is door lock sensor, which can be added to any standard deadbolt to detect the state of the physical door lock, and the other detects an asset as it moves around a network. Thanks to the use of IP-based services, all devices can be managed from a central server which is located in the cloud.
How does your Smart Object/Solution use Internet Technology?
Internet Technology is used as a method of managing individual nodes. Rather than relying on proprietary protocols or gateways, native IP support in the system means users can leverage existing services. The door lock sensor for example can be read by M2M protocols such as MQTT, where the door lock pushes updates. For simple human monitoring a dynamic website gives status information, and alerts can be sent over XMPP which is received by Google Talk or cell phones.
Why did you choose to invent this? What problem does the inventor see that it can solve?
We choose to design the small low-power nodes due to our involvement in the IEEE 802.15.4 industry, as we saw a need for very simple devices. Once we had created these devices, we realized we could use them for our own product development. As an example we saw a need in alarm systems: normal door lock sensors only detect if a door is closed, not if it is locked. We designed a simple device which is inserted into the cavity behind the strike plate, to detect if a deadbolt is actually locked. This requires almost no modification to existing doors, and the wireless connectivity means no wires are needed to be run. How many times has one said “did I lock the doors?”. While now you could easily check that all doors are locked remotely, without needing to run back to the house.
What is the practical application of your innovation for the everyday user?
What does this mean to everyday users? While as a supplier of smart nodes, everyday users can expect to see our smart objects making more innovative products available at a lower cost. Our specific example products entered into this IPSO challenge demonstrate how small wireless nodes simplify installation of systems to make their environment more secure. Beyond these specific products, developers and makers can use the hardware nodes to build their own amazing solution, or just extend our ideas to build the next great idea.
Did you invent new technology? How is your device unique?
As part of our development process, we tried to leverage existing technology as much as possible. This meant using existing standards and IP services where possible. The core part we designed is the hardware itself – the hardware is low-cost, and easy for other developers to use due to a variety of simple software libraries.
What hurdles did you overcome in creating your device? Were necessary parts easily obtained?
By providing this radio node, we allow other developers or users from having to overcome the effort of hardware development themselves. Designing a radio device and getting the required FCC/CE certification is something which will be difficult for the small development shop or maker, meaning they are stuck using existing products to create their ideas. Until now there has been no IEEE 802.15.4 compliant node available at a very low cost, and our development of this product is the result of many hours of testing and tweaking the hardware design. For the IPSO Challenge we pulled in some other products, such as the use of a Raspberry Pi running Linux for some of the IP-connectivity. The Raspberry Pi runs a simple embedded webserver, but also communicates to a server running in the cloud, demonstrating how IP means you can manage your network from anywhere.
Are there plans to produce your entry for the marketplace, or is it already a product that can be purchased/obtained?
The RadioBlock wireless nodes are readily available for purchase from www.ColoradoMicroDevices.com for anyone interested in purchasing them. Our example dead-bolt detection lock and asset tracker are not planned to be commercial products yet, however if there is sufficient interest we could make them available for purchase. Of course users of our RadioBlocks may build their own products based on these ideas, and expand them to include even more features.
Why would you consider your device/solution to be “innovative”?
This solution demonstrates how a simple answer to real problems can come from the use of IP-enabled products. Our design is innovative in part due to its simplicity: it makes a simple and small radio node using IEEE standard wireless protocols, and combines that with established IP protocols for services. The hardware allows placing sensor nodes places they couldn’t normally go – like inside the strike plate of doors to detect the presence of a deadbolt. The IP services gives one the ability to easily integrate these devices into your existing networks or devices. Rather than needing a special webpage to check the status of your door locks, you can use Google Talk to send XMPP messages for example right from your webmail or mobile phone.
What would you like to see in the future for the Internet of Things? Why should more companies utilize IP?
The Internet of Things means better integration of all these gadgets we love to invent, by using standard protocols and services for communication and management. Already available protocols such as MQTT or CoAP for example allow querying or subscribing sensor data for example, making it simple to use a unified web front-end to capture data from different sensors made by different vendors. Companies which embrace IP will allow their products to become part of this bright future; companies that don’t may find users becoming increasingly unwilling to jump through hoops of non-standard protocols and management applications.