Category: Home / building automation and security

Honeywell launches the answer to the NEST thermostat

Article

http://www.engadget.com/2013/04/10/honeywell-wi-fi-smart-thermostat/

From the horse’s mouth

Honeywell

Product Page

My Comments

Over the last few years, a Californian start-up had designed the NEST programmable central-heating thermostat which integrates with your home network via Wi-Fi for control via your computer or similar devices.

Now Honeywell, who is a well-known company in the central heating and air-conditioning field, have answered this device with a touchscreen-operated device, known as the WiFi Smart Thermostat, that also links with your home network. This uses an interface that most of us would find common with our smartphones or tablets; or with the recent HP multifunction printers like the OfficeJet 8600 series or the Photosmart 7510.

Like a lot of these network-based home automation devices, this thermostat uses Web-driven remote and local access for management. This can be facilitated through the mytotalconnectcomfort.com Web dashboard page or a client app for the iOS and Android mobile platforms. It facilitates the ability to have your heating or air-conditioning at home set to the preferred comfort temperature before you head home so you arrive at a comfortably warm or cool home.

It can work with most HVAC systems that use an outboard thermostat and also keeps tabs on humidity so you could use your refrigerated air-conditioning system to control overly-humid environments. The display uses a “multi-colour” background so you can have it integrated with your home décor as well as user control over its illumination so it doesn’t appear to be glowing too much.

Of course, it can work with most heating and air-conditioning systems but there are some setups which these thermostats need to cater for. One would be to work with hydronic (hot-water-based) systems that manage domestic hot water as well as room heat – a setup common in UK and Europe; as well as central heating and air-conditioning served by two separate systems – a setup common in Australia.

The NEST thermostat and the Honeywell WiFi Smart Thermostat will open up the market to increased real interest in network-enabled HVAC control.

Send to Kindle

AT&T–the first telco to offer home automation as a mainstream product

Alarm system keypad

The monitored alarm system could be sold as part of your telephony, cable TV and Internet service

Article

AT&T to launch Digital Life in 15 markets, hopes to enter home automation field  | Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

AT&T

Product Site

My Comments

AT&T has just become one of the first main telecommunications companies to offer the concept of home security and automation to their customers. Initially this service will appear in 15 markets after they thought of eight markets. They will then achieve a goal to have 50 US markets switched on to this service by end of 2013. This is although a handful of ISPs including a few French and British operators are running home security and automation as the “fifth play” service.

This service, known as AT&T Digital Life will feature the 24/7 monitored alarm service which will let you and the police or fire brigade know about emergencies including where they occur in your home like what most monitored alarm systems are capable of doing. As well, the service will let you manage and control home security and automation functions through the use of programs and alerts including non-time-specific events such as you opening the garage door causing lights to come on or the heating or cooling to be adjusted to the “comfort” setting.

They reckon that this will be a wireless-centric experience with a variety of sensors and controlled devices including movement, glass-break, carbon-monoxide, water-leak sensors with controlled devices including lighting and heating controllers and electromechanical door locks.

What would typically happen is that the telcos and similar firms would resell monitoring services from established alarm-monitoring companies like ADT and Chubb. Then they would integrate the control functionality through a Web dashboard that has their branding on it. This could easily be facilitated through the security monitoring firms that the telecommunications or cable-TV firm engage to protect their premises having their business relationship strengthened by being in a position to wholesale the service to the telco’s retail customers.

Similarly the wired-broadband link provided by the telco, rather than a separately-sold link could end up as the monitoring link. This can be augmented with the use of a wireless-broadband link sold to the customer as the mobile solution for an “eggs in one basket” deal serving as a fail-safe link.

I would be observing which ISPs, telcos or cable-TV providers would offer one or more home-security and automation packages as an attachment to a multiple-play ( fixed and mobile) telephony, TV and (fixed and mobile) Internet service package. Here, I would observe whether these services are broadly advertised across common media like the TV ads or large display ads in the womens’ magazines and local newspapers.

Send to Kindle

Consumer Electronics Show 2013–Part 3

Introduction

In Part 1, I had covered the home entertainment direction with such technologies as the 4K UHDTV screens, smart TV, and the presence of alternate gaming boxes. Then in Part 2, I had covered the rise of touchscreen computing, increased pixel density the 802.11ac Wi-Fi network segment amongst other things. Now I am about to cover the mobile-computing technology which is infact a strong part of the connected lifestyle.

Mobile technology

Smartphones

A major direction that is showing up for smartphones is the 5” large-screen devices that have been brought about by the Samsung Galaxy Note series of smartphones. These are described as “phablets” because they are a bridge device between the traditional 4” smartphone and the 7” coat-pocket tablet.

Sony are premiering the new Xperia premium Android phones which are the Xperia Z and Xperia ZL 5” standard with 1080p display. The Xperia ZL is a dual-SIM variant of the XPeria Z. As well, Huawei have increased their foothold in the US market by offering more of the reasonably-priced regular smartphones.

There has been some more effort towards standardised wireless charging for the smartphone. This is although there are two groups promoting their standards – the Power Matters Alliance and the Wireless Power Consortium who maintain the Qi (chee) wireless-charging standard. Examples of this include Toyota implementing the Qi standard in their 2013 Avalon vehicles and Nokia integrating it in to their Lumia 920 smartphones.

On the accessories front, Invoxia had launched an iPhone dock which connected two desk phones to the iPhone. The original device used the iPhone as an outside line for the desk phones whereas the current version launched here also works as a VoIP terminal for the desk phones. It also works with a supplied iOS softphone app to have the iPhone as a softphone for the VoIP setup.

Tablets

Now there is an increasing number of the 7” coat-pocket tablets which were previously dismissed in the marketplace but made popular by the Google Nexus 7 and Amazon Kindle Fire. The Windows-RT-based devices were showing up more as a 10” tablet or a detachable-keyboard hybrid device.

Polaroid, trying to keep their brand alive in consumers’ minds after the demise of their legendary instant-picture cameras, have launched a few of the Android tablets. One is a 7” unit pitched for use by children. Here, this model uses 8Gb onboard storage and microSD expansion, 2-megapixel camera and works only with 802.11g/n Wi-Fi networks. It is built in a rugged form to withstand little ones’ handling but can work well for environments where a coat-pocket tablet device could cop a lot of hard wear-and-tear. The M10 is a 10” variant with a brushed-metal finish.

RCA fielded an 8” Android tablet that is made by Digital Stream and has integrated TV tuners. Here, it could pick up conventional ATSC digital TV and mobile ATSC (Dyle) broadcasts and works to the Android ICS. Personally, I would suspect that this device could be sold out to other markets, perhaps under other brands and equipped with local-spec tuners like DVB-T tuners.

Mobile technology

The ARM-based microprocessor has raised the ante for more powerful work by offering the same number of processor cores as the newer IA-32 or IA-64 processors used in regular computers. Yet this could allow for increased computing power with less power requirements thus making the embedded devices, smartphones and tablets that use RISC processing do more.

Here, NVIDIA launched the Tegra 4 which is a4-core ARM CPU that can yield faster response from tablets and smartphones. Samsung raised the bar with their Exynos 5 Octa which is an 8-core ARM CPU.

Samsung used this event to show a prototype 5.5” (1280×720) flexible screen and a 55” flexible screen as a proof-of-concept. As well, LG increased the pixel density by exhibiting a 5.5” 1080p smartphone screen.

The connected home

There has been very little happening concerning home automation and security through the past years of the Consumer Electronics Show but this year, the connected home has increased its foothold here.

This is demonstrated through the concept of mobile apps being used to control or monitor appliances, thermostats, security systems and the like.

Here, Motorola demonstrated a “Connected Home” router being a device that allows you to control a network-enabled central-heating thermostat using an app on an Android phone. What I liked of this was that the mobile device used to manage that thermostat wasn’t just the Apple iPhone and you were able to move away from that hard-to-program wall thermostat.

This has been brought about through the Nest thermostat opening up the market for user-friendly thermostats for heating / cooling systems. Here, this could lead to a commercial-style heating-control setup with a small wall-mounted box that works as a temperature sensor but may have a knob or two buttons for you to adjust the comfort level “on the fly”. Then you use your smartphone, tablet or computer that runs an easy-to-understand app to program comfort levels for particular times of particular days.

Alarm.com, a firm who provide monitoring for home automation and security sold through large retailers, has provided a “dashboard app” for their equipment that works on their platform. This app runs on the common mobile-phone platforms (iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone 8) so you can use your phone to check on the state of things with your Alarm.com setup.

Similarly, the Securifi Almond+ 802.11ac Wi-Fi router was exhibited at this year’s CES. This is a regular home network router but has integrated Zigbee / Z-Wave wireless home-automation-network support. Here, this device can be seen as a dashboard for the connected home and they are intending to fund this with a Kickstarter campaign.

As for appliances, Dacor integrated a 7” Android tablet into their high-end wall oven and this provides for guided cooking including recipe lookup. Of course, Samsung hasn’t let go of the Internet fridge dream and exhibited a four-door fridge with an integrated app-driven screen that can work alongside their Android phones and tablets. They also exhibited a top-loading washing machine that uses an LCD control panel and is able to be controlled with a smartphone.

This is part of the “Internet of things” and this concept was underscored by a few manufacturers becoming charter members of the “Internet Of Things Consortium”. It is about an open-frame vendor-independent infrastructure for interlinking home automation / security, consumer entertainment, and computing devices using the common standards and common application-programming interfaces.

Automotive Technology

Of course the car is not forgotten about at the Consumer Electronics Show, and is considered as an extension of our connected lives.

A main automotive drawcard feature for this year are the self-driving cars; but the core feature for now are the app platforms for vehicle infotainment systems. Infact, Ford and GM are encouraging people to develop software for their infotainment setups. This is exploiting the fact that midrange and premium cars are increasingly being equipped with Internet connections and highly-sophisticated infotainment systems that have navigation, mobile phone integration and media playback.

Here, you might think of navigation, Internet radio / online content services and communications services. It may also include “one-touch” social destination sharing amongst other things.

For example, Google Maps to come in to Hyundai and Kia cars as part of their UVO connected infotainment platform. The first vehicle to have this is the Kia Sorrento (model-year 2014). Similarly Hyundai are implementing the MirrorLink smartphone-user-interface-replication technology in the infotainment setups.

As well. TuneIn Radio and Apple Siri integration are to be part of model-year 2013 Chevrolet Sonic & Spark cars. Ford has implement the Glympse social-destination-sharing software as part of their SYNC AppLink platform.

Similarly, Pioneer are extending the AppRadio functionality across most of their head-units so you can have certain iOS apps managed from the dashboard. They have also provided connectivity options for Apple’s iPhone 5 device with its Lightning connector and iOS 6 platform.

Last but not least

Pebble were showing a Kickstarter-funded concept of an E-paper smartwatch that interlinks with your smartphone. Here. I was wondering whether E-paper and E-ink could become the new LCD display for devices that can rely on an available-light display. It was also a way where these “smartwatches” were having us think back to the 80s where the more features and functions a digital watch had, the better it was and you could start showing off that watch to your friends.

Conclusion

This year has underscored a few key trends:

  • the 4K UHDTV display and displays with increased pixel density being mainstream,
  • the acceptance of touchscreen computing with regular computers courtesy of Windows 8,
  • the arrival of very lightweight laptop computers,
  • NFC becoming a common setup method for smartphones and consumer AV,
  • the draft 802.11ac Gigabit Wi-Fi network segment being exhibited with relatively-mature equipment,
  • the 5” smartphone and 7” tablet becoming mainstream mobile options

and has shown up what can be capable in our connected lives. Who knows what the next major trade shows will bring forth, whether as a way to “cement” these technologies or launch newer technologies. Similarly, it would be interesting whether these technologies would catch on firmly in to the marketplace.

Send to Kindle

IRIS now integrates home automation to the ageing population

Article

Iris Care Lets You Know When Your Parents Have Fallen and Can’t Get Up | Gizmodo

My Comments

As part of a new trend for the home automation and security industries, there is strong interest in technology to facilitate “independent ageing”. Here this allows older people or those of us with chronic illnesses to be able to live independently yet there is the gentle eye for illnesses or accidents.

Iris, which is sold through the US Lowes hardware-store chain, have set up an option for their home-automation and security offering which does this. Here, you have the standard medical-alert fob that hangs around the person’s neck but there is the ability to notify if certain things are out of order as you determine. For example, you could know if there is continual normal movement or, for example, know if the front door had been left open or the stove was left on at an odd time.

What I see of this is that the industry is answering to the ageing baby-boomer population which is becoming older; and a desire for “ageing with dignity” where an older person can live independently yet their relatives and friends are safe in the knowledge that they are OK.

Send to Kindle

Home automation and security–now the differentiator for ISPs and telcos

Article

La Bbox seA lance dans la domotique – DegroupNews.com (France – French language)

My comments

If the marketplace for “triple-play” Internet service is so cut-throat, what can a telco, cable-TV firm or ISP offer to their loyal customers to increase service value? Could it be an Internet terminal like a T-Hub, or an Internet-connected device like an online picture frame or Internet radio?

No, it is another service that customers have previously bought through separate providers with names like Intamac or Chubb. This service is home automation and security, with monitored alarm systems and Internet-driven energy dashboards for residential users.

These solutions will typically link to servers or monitoring stations via the Internet link that the telecommunications company provides as part of the package. In some cases, there may be home-automation / security services that work “wholesale” and engage the telco or ISP as a reseller like they do with people like alarm installers. This is with the main goal of having these services available as an extra-cost a-la-carte option or as part of one or more premium communications service plans.

People in the security industry may discredit this move because of reasons like lack of “alarm-event response service” with security guards responding to alarm events, deployment of cheaper “quick-install” hardware rather than fully-installed systems, amongst other things. As well some of them may discredit single-box security/home-automation “panels” that can yield a single point of failure for both these functions.

The example cited in the DegroupNews news article is Bougyes Telecom providing a basic DIY system that links to their Bbox Internet gateway and uses a wireless link to the various peripherals.

This is available in two packages, with one focused on energy monitoring and remote control of appliances and the other focused on security, comfort and energy monitoring/ remote control. The first package, costing EUR€5 per month,would come with a home-automation “base”, a few plug-in appliance controllers and an electricity-meter interface which works with the newer smart meters being deployed in France. The second one, costing EUR€9 per month, has extra sensors for temperature and humidity, PIR motion detectors and a magnet-reed door-contact sensor; with the ability to send an SMS alert in case of alarm conditions.

The article described the provision of these services in a telecommunications package as “quintuple play” ï.e: fixed telephone, Internet, pay-TV, mobile telephone, home automation / security.

This effort of ISPs and telcos providing home automation could make the concept become mainstream and appealing to most householders. This is rather than the DIY “tinkerers” who have the time to mess around with these systems or rich people who own pimped-out “MTV Cribs” and have the money to have professionals design highly-customised home-automation systems.

For this to work effectively, the hardware and software infrastructure needs to work with known standards in order to permit these systems to be evolved through their long lifecycles. As well, these systems must work in a manner where they “just work” properly and exhibit graceful degradation to primary functionality when other systems in the network or key network links fail.

As well, a professioally-designed system must be able to be “re-worked” by other knowledgeable professionals or the householder. This is so that if anything happens with the regular or original installer, the system can be kept in good working order or evolved to newer needs.

I would think that the trend of telecommunications companies and Internet providers providing home automation and security services will become an interesting trend to observe.

Send to Kindle

Answering the main entry door using a video intercom based on standards-based IP telephony–that is now real

Articles – From the horse’s mouth

T24 IP Video Door Station – Mobotix Website

My comments

The Mobotix T24 video entryphone (door intercom) system piqued my interest with this site because it is a device of its kind that is primarily driven by IP connectivity with access provided through a standard IP-based network.

This has allowed you to “release that door” to a world of innovation as far as these systems are concerned because there is the ability to build out a cost-effective and flexible door intercom setup for that apartment block or gated community.

Standard IP connectivity

Here, the resident or tenant can use an IP-based SIP-compliant hardware or software videophone (or a VoIP telephone for voice only) connected to their Internet service. It can be feasible for the door intercom to be connected to its own Internet service, which may be the case for tenants who want to let in visitors using their smartphone while out at the shops for example; or for use at the entry gates of a larger property or gated community, where you can’t affordably extend the main Internet service to those gates.

What the door intercom offers

Of course, this unit has all the features necessary for a door intercom of its class that would pique the apartment-block / gated-community market. For example, it has its own access control system for the associated door or gate, which can be driven by a PIN number or an RFID (near-field communication) card.

As well, by virtue of innovation, the system has recording abilities for logging what happened as well as a feature not often associated with the door intercom setup. This is a video-mail system that allows visitors to leave “while you were out” messages for tenants.

Questions worth raising

A major reality that will affect the door intercom over its lifetime is how the unit is set up as far as the equipment installed in the resident’s or tenant’s unit is concerned. This is more so as VoIP telephony becomes mainstream with triple-play services, VoIP business telephony and cut-price long-distance VoIP telephone services coming on the scene.

There needs to be knowledge about how this unit can be provisioned in to IP telephony setups especially as different residents or tenants, with differing technology skill levels, move in to and out of the units over the development’s life. It also includes enrolling additional handsets to the intercom so that users can answer the door from the device they feel comfortable with and are near.

Similarly, there needs to be support for a “function key” setup for devices like this when they are integrated with standards-based IP telephony setups so that one can know which button to press to unlock the door for example.

As well, there should be knowledge on how the residents or tenants can get at the messages that are left on the video-mail system while visitor-resident privacy is assured. This also includes support for and integration with standards-based email or unified-communications setups.

Conclusion

The Mobotix T24 IP video door station has set the cat amongst the pigeons as far as IP-telephony is concerned. Here, it has defined a particular device and usage class that will become increasingly real especially as residents or tenants in multiple-tenancy units and gated communities welcome the arrival of IP-based telephony technology.

It also allows further innovation to take place with these devices, such as improved security and aesthetics and the potential to improve the user experience for both the resident and the visitor.

Send to Kindle

Smartphones and tablets now working with sensors and controllers

Introduction

A trend that we may be seeing with smartphones and similar devices is that they work with various third-party sensor or controlled devices through the use of various apps written by the sensor’s or controlled-device’s vendor. A main driver for this trend has been the “There’s an App for that” mentality that has been established around the Apple iPhone with that smartphone becoming the centrepiece of most people’s lives.

Examples of this include the recently-launched Parrot “ARDrone” remote-control helicopter that uses a dedicated Wi-Fi link to an iOS device running a special app that is its controller; a barbecue thermometer being launched at the Consumer Electronics Show 2011 that uses a Bluetooth link to an iOS device that acts as a remote temperature display. There were even other examples like the Nike running-shoe pedometer that uses a dedicated wireless link to an iPod Nano running an exercise-tracking application.

These applications may be novelty ideas of implementing an iOS or Android smartphone as a SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) device but there will be more applications that will become more real in our lives.

Examples application fields will include:

  • Food safety (thermometers that measure temperature for areas where perishable food is stored)
  • Personnel health and wellbeing (blood pressure and heart-rate monitors)
  • Building automation and security (dashboard apps that work with HVAC, security systems, smart meters and the like; garage door openers that work with a touchscreen smartphone)
  • Automotive and marine instrumentation (engine monitoring and diagnostics)

The current situation

The main problem is that whenever an application that works with an outbourd sensor or controlled device is developed, a lot of code is added to the program to work with the sensor or controlled device. This extra “bulk” is written by the app writer usually because the writer is the one who designs the device. The communications between these device and the host smartphone or tablet is typically using USB for wired connections; Bluetooth, dedicated or network-integrated Wi-Fi for wireless connections and the application developer has to work with the link that is appropriate to the device.

If the device designer wants to build a lively application-programming environment around the device, they have to either prepare a software development kit which usually requires the distribution of a runtime module with the application. This can take up memory and can put a strain on the battery life of the device.

What can be done

An improvement to this situation that would improve the lot for device designers and application developers who write SCADA for smartphones and tablets would be to establish a “driver” model for sensor and controlled devices.

Here, the operating system could run a “driver” for the application in a similar vein to how peripherals are managed by desktop operating systems. Here, the operating system can do things like manage the polling cycle for sensors or transmission of events to controlled devices, including responding to sensors that are set to trigger software events for the device class.

This can help with conserving battery power by disconnectiong from a sensor or controlled device if the destination apps aren’t run; or sharing data between two or more apps benefiting from the same sensor data. This could benefit some platforms, most notably Android, where one can write lightweight indicator applications like “widgets”, notification-area icons or active wallpapers which just benefit from sensor data or respond to certain conditions.

The problem is that the smartphone operating systems such as iOS and Android don’t support the same kind of programmatic modularity that desktop computing has permitted due to limitations placed on them by battery-operated handheld device designs with constrained memory and storage size. This issue may have to be examined whenever a subsequent major revision of the smartphone operating system is being worked on; and could include whether a separate “driver store” is maintained at the platform’s “app store” or that drivers are supplied as “apps”. This can then allow the manufacturers to update drivers as necessary, for example to add new functionality.

Conclusion

The idea of controlling or monitoring devices from computers or mobile devices is going to becoming something more mainstream rather than just a novelty and the operating system designers may have to factor this in to their designs.

Send to Kindle

Wi-Fi and HomePlug collaborate on the smart-grid aspect of the connected home

Articles

WiFi, HomePlug Collaboration Facilitates Interoperability of Smart Grid Applications -  SmartGrid.TMCNET.COM

Wi-Fi, HomePlug Alliances Collaborate On Smart Grid Apps – InformationWeek.com

Wi-Fi strikes alliance with mains networking tech – The Register (UK)

From the horse’s mouth

Wi-Fi Alliance® and HomePlug® Powerline Alliance Collaborate on Connected Smart Home – HomePlug Powerline Alliance

My comments

This news article is certainly placing the two main “no-new-wires” network technologies that exist in most home networks as being able to have their place in the “smart-grid” home-automation and energy-management scenario.

General home-network applications

From what I have read in this article and also from my experience with handling home networks, the Wi-Fi wireless technology and the HomePlug powerline technology are considered as established “no-new-wires” connection methods in this class of network. This is typified with most network-Internet “edge” devices being Wi-Fi wireless routers and nearly all laptops currently in use being equipped with some form of Wi-Fi technology. As well, most mobile-phone contracts that have been signed are for phones that are equipped with Wi-Fi technology alongside the cellular-phone technology.

Similarly, HomePlug AV has been considered as a data transfer medium for bringing IPTV to the main lounge area. This has become more so in Europe with the “triple-play” service providers who are using the home network to distribute TV. Here, they use a HomePlug AV connection to provide a network link from the network-Internet “edge” router to an IPTV set-top box in the lounge area to obviate the need for users to run Ethernet wiring to achieve the same purpose.

The main benefit of HomePlug is that it makes use of existing AC wiring including extension cords, which can become data+power cables. I have talked about this as a preferred solution with multi-building home networks where it is not worth the cost or effort to run Cat5 Ethernet cable to an existing outbuilding and Wi-Fi wireless wouldn’t work well with some buildings like “quick-assemble” garages or static caravans because of their metal construction.

Smart-grid applications

Both technologies would complement each other in the smart-grid space.

One main use for Wi-Fi would be smartphones and other programmable devices as consumer-facing energy monitors. Here, this application would capitalise on the installed base of laptops, netbooks, smartphones and tablet computers that have integrated Wi-Fi functionality as well as the Wi-Fi segment of the home network rather than having to reinvent the wheel.

As well, once manufacturers work on Wi-Fi chipsets that can work for a long time on two AA batteries or a regular “button-cell” watch battery, Wi-Fi could become a “sensor and control network” in its own right. Here, it could be feasible to use it as part of wireless movement sensors, thermostatic radiator valves, wireless room-temperature sensors and the like.

There is also a subset of the HomePlug technologies being developed to replace the role of the old X10 home-control system as data-transfer conduits for AC-wire-based home automation. This could lead to affordable home-automation systems that work hand-in-glove with the smart grid. Common application examples would include the ability to have appliances like washing machines, dishwashers, and pool-filter pumps come on when the off-peak tariffs apply or air-conditioners go in to “set-back” but with the fan running during a high-demand period where the utility wants to apply “load-shedding” measures.

Similarly, the management of electric-vehicle charging will be achieved through HomePlug technology as the primary data conduit for the command-and-control data. This will also be important for vehicles that are managed as part of a fleet and for countries that want to make sure that they tax the fuel that is used by road vehicles ostensible for maintaining the roads.

Conclusion

At least the new “smart-grid” applications are becoming another area where the dominant “no-new-wires” network technologies are able to have a foothold in and thus avoid reinventing the wheel with.

Send to Kindle

Use of the Ekahau Real-Time Location System in a residential or small-business environment

I have been talking by e-mail to Mika Kouhia from Ekahau about the use of their WiFi-based real-time location technology in the typical home or small-business network. The applications that may come to mind here will typically cover an emergency-response / nurse-call system that is an integral part of the at-home care of elderly, infirm or convalescing people; or small businesses, especially those who are partners to large business, who need to track assets in a similar manner to what is done by large organisations.

What is the main complication that concerns the Ekahau Real-Time Location System

The main complication that limits this technology is the fact that most of the wireless networks deployed in this space only have one access point, typically the one that is integrated in to a wireless router. You may be lucky to use this technology on a wireless network that has an extra access point such as a wireless router that is repurposed as an extension access point and connected to the main router via a HomePlug powerline link or one of those access points that work with a HomePlug powerline backbone.  On the other hand, you would have to deploy “infrared beacons” around the premises and rely on the Wi-Fi wireless link provided by the router as primarily a communications link.

The infrared beacons work on a similar infrared frequency to the remote controls used to control the majority of TV sets and other consumer-electronics devices in circulation. Thus they won’t interfere with the passive-infrared sensors used in most security systems or automatic “sensor-light” setups because these sensors are tuned to an infrared frequency emitted as part of body heat.

The primary reason for implementing the technology in the home

Ekahau T301BD Wi-Fi Pager Tag

The primary implementation that I was talking about with Mika was to use their T301BD Wi-Fi Pager Tag which hangs around the neck of a person. This tag has an integrated display and two function buttons that also work as emergency-call buttons. As well, if the tag is pulled on the neckstrap, it can initiate an emergency response. The tag supports direct paging with push-button response, which can allow it to work with a “response-check” setup where if the user doesn’t respond within a certain time to a call, the system initiates emergency action. The display could come in handy by showing the person’s name, which would be a good help with people who have memory-loss disorders.

In this implementation, there may be the need to establish Internet access to the pager tag in order to permit this device to work as part of a solution provided by an external service provider. This may involve use of hardware or software on the network that provides at least dynamic DNS functionality and integration with UPnP IGD-enabled routers to provide access to the tag. The functionality could be extended to provide local nurse-call functionality with in-house location display through a local screen and / or Web page available through the home network.

Similarly, the pager tag could work with other technology to assist people who have memory-loss disorders by enabling the use of electronically-generated “reminder screens” for particular tasks. This is relevant to an article that I wrote about in my blog concerning technology that is to assist the elderly in their daily lives. Here, I had talked about a kitchen equipped with various technologies like pico-projection systems, RFID and Wii-style motion sensors to provide reminders through different food-preparation tasks.

How this could be taken further

Ekahau should then consider studying this application as a technology that suits the current home-driven health-care direction.

Here, we are dealing with an older population as people of the baby boom move in to the later years of life and more people live longer. As well, there is more emphasis on home-based health-care so as to provide patients with the dignity of being looked after in their own home environment. This also includes an emphasis on independent living for elderly people, including having younger relatives be part of the older person’s life in a support role.

Similarly, there are disabled or chronically-ill people who want to be in the familiarity of their own home and family and these people can be able to work as carers, whether alone or alongside paid staff members who work on a rostered system.

The supporting software could be integrated in to computing devices that work on any of the common desktop-computing, handheld-computing, set-top box or embedded-device platforms in order to establish an assistive-technology ecosystem in the home.

Send to Kindle

Use of WiFi technology for safety and security

Ekahau Enhances Staff Safety of Hospital Psychiatric Wards

My comments on this issue

The Ekahau press release that is linked to from this article details the use of a WiFi-based staff badge that can be used to locate particular staff members in the hospital’s psychiatric ward and deliver messages to them.  But the feature that drew me to this device was the remote panic-alarm functionality that sends its signal via the hospital’s WiFi network.

Any panic-alarm or medical-alert system that is deployed in the home typically requires a transmitter and receiver working on a dedicated frequency, in a similar manner to garage-door openers.  If they are monitored by an external agency, the devices then transmit their alert signal to the monitoring station via a dedicated telephone or cellular circuit.

Now there is a different reality being brought about with cost-effective Internet service provided to WiFi-based wireless home networks in many households. This has included the concept of providing telephone and multi-channel television service through the same pipe, all thanks to the magic of IP-based packet networks. The classic circuit-based signalling methods used by these alarm devices are becoming less relevant in the packet-based signalling. Similarly, most users will want to benefit from the infrastructure that is laid down in a home network, such as the establishment of a multi-access-point WiFi network with a HomePlug-based backbone to cover a difficult house.

The Ekahau setup could be scaled back to allow an alarm installer or broadband Internet provider to sell a similar system in to the home. Any moveable sensor like a medical-alert pendant could make use of the existing WiFi network for transferring its data to the monitoring facility. It could then lead to e-mail and / or text (SMS) messaging if the device is triggered. Similarly, the unit could be used to deal with “wandering” behaviour that can be part of dementia-related illnesses by alerting if the person goes out of range of the WiFi network. As well, such systems could support local monitoring through the use of a local server device, thus providing their output through a Web page, platform-specific “widget” or desktop application.

This setup may appeal to broadband providers who want to gain more “average revenue per unit” by reselling basic security services as part of their package. It could also be a way of achieving a legitimate upgrade path for currently-deployed building security systems, especially in the context of the “switched-on” Internet-enabled home.

Send to Kindle