Bluetooth low energy beacons, iBeacon or not, are changing the way we interact with the world by allowing it to interact with us. This is one realization of the Internet of Things that is coming to fruition.
Over the past several months while writing firmware for the TI CC254x family of Bluetooth Low Energy chips, I found myself imagining little ways in which my home could be more intelligent. Why can’t I know the temperature of my grill when I’m not standing in front of it? Why can’t my ceiling fan turn on when I go to bed and turn off when my alarm sounds? Why can’t the garage door close when I pull out of the driveway and open when I pull in? Why don’t the rooms in my house tell me when it’s time to clean?
Most of the time I find myself thinking it’s a matter of implementation rather than one of possibility. Many of the individual technologies already exist. What’s missing is combining them in interesting ways and providing the proximally sensitive communication component; And that’s where Bluetooth Low Energy comes in.
1. The Grill
No grill should be without a temperature beacon. You could be standing next to your grill, in your house, or on the other side of your yard and know exactly how hot it is under that lid.
While you’re talking to your neighbor your smart watch would vibrate to let you know that pre-heating is complete. No more opening the lid too early or too often to check the temperature; No more permanent attachment to your grill in order to check temperature.
What comes next? Remote timers and temperature control, apps that save grilling recipes and information, a platform to share those recipes, and a wide-spread and accessible community whose knowledge can be easily tapped.
One family of products that is starting to embark on this is iGrill.
2. Ceiling Fans
Ceiling fans are a commonly overlooked appliance that need a digital upgrade. They’re the kind of appliance you install once and never touch again which makes them a prime candidate for interacting with them over BLE.
Who hasn’t lain in bed at night and wanted to turn the fan on but didn’t want to get out of bed? Or, who hasn’t awakened on a chilly morning and wanted the fan off but couldn’t leave the warmth of the blanket? I can never find the little remote that came with my fan. Plus, who wants a different remote for every device in your house? We already have a set of remotes – our phones, tablets, and laptops; At least one is generally nearby.
We don’t have to stop with on-off functionality. We could have intelligent fans that are controlled with timers and support simple rules around temperature, humidity, and motion.
It’s 80 degrees. Turn the fan on. I just left for work. Turn the fan off. I’m home and it’s 10pm (my nightly ritual begins).Turn the fan back on.
3. The Kitchen Counter
This one is for the inner chef in all of us. Kitchen counters should have built-in scales that communicate the current weight to listening devices and applications.
Whether you’re following a recipe or creating one, you’d no longer need an additional appliance cluttering your counters or filling up cabinet and pantry space.
4. The Garage Door
Knowing when to open and close is one intelligence that all garages should have. Carrying keys is much less common these days and the garage is often the entry point to the home.
No more driving half way to your destination to wonder if you closed your garage and then turning around just to make sure. No more going for a walk or a bike ride and accidentally locking yourself out–which happened to my wife and I not too long ago.
Once the basic functionality is in place more interesting and valuable things can be added: access code management. Why? Well, then when out-of-town friends come to visit I don’t have to stay up until 3am for their arrival or be with them every time they want to come and go from the house. There are also the times I leave for vacation and need a neighbor to check on the pets. It would also allow a friend to borrow or return something when I’m not home.
5. The Doorbell
All doorbells should support BLE. ALL OF THEM.
I can only hear the doorbell from ~2 rooms in my house. If I’m downstairs (where the family room is) you can’t hear it. I can only imagine how many neighbors think I’m ignoring them.
It shouldn’t matter if you’re downstairs, upstairs, in your garage, or in your yard. Your doorbell should be able to reach you. While the range of BLE signal might not be enough in some instances it will suffice quite nicely for most people.
If the BLE doorbell profile was open you could not only have the doorbell ring and message phones, tablets, and computers, you could also purchase speakers, or TV manufacturers could bake in support to notify you.
6. Under-the-sink Water/Humidity Beacons
Every now and then a faucet leaks. I usually don’t find out until days later when the leak has soaked into everything under the sink and it’s leaking out onto the floor. It’s extremely frustrating. Where are my early warning signals?
How about a BLE water sensor under each sink in my house? It just sits there calmly and quietly waiting for that leak, no matter how small, to start. Once it happens it advertises the leak and my phone or smart watch picks it up and informs me of what’s happening.
I shut the water off, wipe up the small leak, resolve the issue, and turn the water back on.
I’d like to buy these as standalone sensors and add them to any area where I’m concerned about leaks, but I imagine it won’t be too long before these are a part of a contractor’s standard installation process.
I’d pay a few extra bucks to avoid the frustration and fear that I’ll need to replace flooring and cabinets.
8. The Clean Room
My wife and I have different thresholds for the perception of clean. I can go much longer than she when it comes to dusting, vacuuming, etc.
Rather than having to debate or schedule when to clean I’d rather have each room in my house tell me. Then I’d know I wasn’t wasting precious cycles when I could be doing something else; And she’d know that the room wasn’t really dirty yet.
How could this work? BLE-enabled “clean” sensors of course. One way to do that is to combine BLE-chips and optical dust sensors. Add the ability to not only advertise the current level of cleanliness but also to adjust the clean sensitivity threshold and you’re good to go.
You gain efficiency in terms of when and how often you clean which means you’ve got more time to do other things; And I’ve got no shortage of other things to do.