May 16, 2017

How To Make Older Appliances Smarter?

BY :     May 16, 2017

What are the Challenges?

  • User faces the following challenges with an old Air conditioner
    • Lack of Energy Saver/Thermostat/Temperature Control option available
    • Not easily programmable as per user needs
    • Consumes more electricity that adds to cost
    • Inconvenience to users and not good for environment
    • Users like Air Conditioner to start before entering home to get a perfect temperature
  • The user is not able to record their favorite Program remotely on demand using old TV or Cable set top box.
  • Any much more

Way around:

Consumers use the remote control to control Electronic/Electrical Appliances. Mostly, the remote is an Infra-Red (IR) Remote Control and any button pressed on the remote control sends IR codes to the device that responds appropriately to the command.

Manufacturers get Sensors, Microcontrollers cheap nowadays and a lot of free firmware software/libraries are available. Developers easily create a simple circuit using Arduino to gather the IR codes using IR receiver from the pressed buttons on  IR remote control, program the sequence of operations of user’s interest. These programmed IR codes are transmitted using IR transmitter (e.g. Arduino has IRRemote library for this purpose). The manufacturer can make Smart Nodes battery powered or USB powered that is running in an optimized way with IR emitter pointing to the device to be controlled. So, the User can control the Device using smart Node within the home while the user is asleep or remotely receive IR commands just before the user arrives home.

e.g. For an Air Conditioner, simple sequence of commands to be Programmed remotely or in-house while asleep for better energy usage and convenience

  1. Power On
  2. Set Desired Temperature
  3. Timer to keep the Air Conditioner running (e.g. 40 minutes)
  4. Turn OFF” or “JUST keep the A/C Fan running”
  5. Duration of Turn off (e.g. 20 minutes)
  6. Restart with point 1.

Adding a Temperature Sensor to the Node makes the circuit smarter and turns off the Air conditioner once a particular temperature threshold is met.

Adding a motion/human sensor makes the node smarter to detect that no one is in the room and turns off the Air Conditioner automatically.

Cost:

The making cost of this circuit and firmware is low. Hardware cost with Sensors is less than 1000 Rupees or 15 USD. Mass production brings down the cost price further.

Device Management:

Smart nodes are connected to a gateway via ZigBee or Bluetooth, which transmits data using MQTT or any standard protocol to any IOT/Analytics platform(Watson, Kaa IoT, ThingsWorx, etc)  for real-time analytics and control.

Furthermore, Consumer can have a service call registered automatically for Appliance Service by Smart Node that senses/listens/feels Appliances from outside. This is similar to the way doctor analyses human by checking their pulse and stethoscope, etc. & suggests appropriate remedy. Similarly, IoT Platform Analytics & Learning engine learns the pattern over time and suggest a remedy or send a Technician to handle for the scenario.

With this, Manufacturers can make the legacy Appliances a Smart and a Managed IoT device using Smart Nodes.

Opportunities/Challenges:

  • End Consumers has convenience, better service  by attaching cost effective smart node to the appliance makes Legacy or old appliance(Home or any industrial) smarter.
  • Manufacturers has new revenue in terms Services and add-on Products.
  • User’s usage patterns is understood and suggest options or services accordingly. User can have Auto Program option of the Smart node based on the usage pattern, etc.
  • User is able to control any Legacy appliance using Smart node via IR, it makes Legacy appliance vulnerable to threats and needs to be secured in some cases.
Deepak Kotian

About

Senior Technology Architect/Director with 20+ years of software development experience. Experience on various Technologies like C/C++/Java, Linux/UNIX System Programming, Shell Scripts, Windows, Web, IOT, Sensors, middleware, mobile, databases like Oracle/Oracle Spatial/Postgres/PostGIS, and firmware/Linux device drivers.

More on Deepak Kotian.

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    *Opinions expressed on this blog reflect the writer’s views and not the position of the Sogeti Group