EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third in a series of exclusive blog posts for ECN that will explore the Internet of Things, inspired by element14’s “Forget Me Not” design challenge. Read part one here and part two here.

The engineers in the Forget Me Not Challenge are hard at work on their designs as we approach the one-month mark, and Embedit Electronics and Cypress Semiconductor recently provided them with the new RPiSoC development platform to help bring their imagined creations to life. One theme that has been consistent throughout the competition is the idea that home automation technology can prevent a household emergency. These newfound capabilities can help people protect their homes and watch over their loved ones, which are two of the ways IoT technology is bridging the gap between the entertaining and the more practical devices.

Enhancing Security

Security is a typical concern for homeowners, yet most households aren’t thoroughly protected. It’s estimated that only about 20 percent of homes nationwide have security systems in place. element14 member Eric Tsai is tackling a number of different projects pertaining to emergency preparedness, including security. One of his mini projects is titled “DIY Home Security” and will alert homeowners when doors and windows are opened, sounding an alarm and email notification. This type of technology is an affordable, homegrown alternative to existing systems on the market. It’s especially useful at night, where an audio alarm will sound if it starts raining and the windows are open, giving homeowners the opportunity to prevent water damage. Another application would be for people caring for elderly parents or small children, who could benefit from knowing when someone has opened a door to the outside.

Preventing Expensive Damage

Hundreds of thousands of house fires occur in the U.S. every year, causing millions of dollars in damage. Stopping a fire as soon as possible is critical, because it spreads in a matter of seconds. At element14, Ravi Butani is building a sensor system that will detect the presence of gas or smoke, alert a Raspberry Pi-based transceiver and then send a notification to mobile devices via the Internet.

Designer Hendrik Lipka is creating a device that will alert homeowners when they’ve left their windows open, an idea sparked from a personal experience. While on vacation, he had left the windows of his home open during freezing temperatures, exposing the interior to dangerous outdoor elements. Imagine being alerted at the first sign of water damage and the costly repairs this type of technology help to avoid.

Monitoring the Elderly

More than a third of the U.S. population ages 65 and older live alone. Mark Beckett is creating an “eLDERmon” to give loved ones a way to monitor older family members who may require assistance but wish to maintain their independence. This device will measure power, indoor and outdoor temperature and humidity, hot water cylinders, pantry doors, motion sensors in various areas of the home, light levels in selected areas and wired smoke alarms. A device like this would give family members added assurance and elderly a greater sense of freedom with added security.  

This look into emergency preparedness via home automation represents another soon-to-be booming area of IoT. element14’s designers are proving that home automation doesn’t have to be expensive and is very accessible. The next installment in this series will take a look at how IoT and home automation are making daily tasks at home easier.

About the Author

Christian DeFeo is the e-supplier and innovation manager at Newark element14, a global electronics distributor and online community of more than 250,000 design engineers and tech enthusiasts. He is currently overseeing the “Forget Me Not” design challenge at the element14 Community, in which engineers around the world are developing IoT devices with everyday applications.