IR-based home automation device for the masses

Version 4

    The IoT market today is divided coarsely between hard-code techies which code and modify development boards like the Raspberry Pi or Arduino to handle custom home automation commands, and other people which have only heard about the Internet of Things in the technology section of today's newspaper. A lot of companies have emerged in the last years, trying to encapsulate the idea of bringing this concept to our homes, yet products available today are still too difficult to install and work with, and require some technological skills. And most importantly - they're very very expensive, and price is always a major factor in customers' decision whether or not to adopt the technology.

     

    My idea is to create a simple, yet versatile, IR/RF-based home controller which enables users to control their already-controlled-by-IR-or-RF devices via the Internet (TV, DVD/VCR, cable converter/TiVo, air conditioners, HTPCs and more), followed by the possibility to add IR controllability to other parts of the house. I should state that I did not begin to work on the product I'm pitching, and all the features (although feasible) are still in the theoretical stage. Also, IR from this point on means IR or RF.

     

    The product is a small cube with 5 IR transmitters (each placed on a different side of the cube that's not the bottom one) that enables the consumer to control devices that come with a remote control. The consumer can place it anywhere he wishes (given that it requires an electric socket, of course), and the device will enable him to control devices in his home using his smartphone, tablet, smartwatch, laptop and every other device with Internet connectivity, either manually (a command is sent at the push of a button) or automatically (using geo-location, a predetermied schedule...)

     

    The device connects to the Internet using either an Ethernet cable or a 802.11 chip. Upon installation, the user downloads the corresponding app to his Android/iOS device, or uses the web interface, and creates an online account to which he binds the device. From that point on, the device's public (dynamic) IP is assigned a DDNS address which will be used by the app to provide the user control of the product anywhere - while in his home, from the car, when bringing the kids home from school or from work.

     

    Some examples:

    • Forgot to TiVo your favorite show today? Use the app to set a recording from work, and watch it when you get home.
    • Plan a romantic evening with your wife? Set a schedule to play your Ella Fitzgerald CD at 8:00PM. You don't even have to be home to do that.
    • Hot summer days? Save your home address in the app and create a recurring geo-location task to turn on the AC when you're 5 minutes away from home (using your mobile phone's location), when the temperature according to AccuWeather today is above 28C.

     

    The next step will be to create and sell IR-controlled home switches. They are optional, of course, but will enable the consumer to control more of his home. An example would be an IR-controlled light switch (a regular switch that also has a tiny IR receiver), IR-controlled water heater switch (Forgot to turn off the heater? Need hot water but you're coming home at 4:00 PM and the heater usually turns on at 6:00PM?), IR-controlled electric socket (turn off the oven the minute you walk out the door) and more. These will be superior to all current solutions for these problems as they require minimum work (replacing a switch), do not require running cables through walls and will be much cheaper.

     

    The core of the product will be, of course, the Edison, as it offers the required processing power to run the internal software required to make the product work, modules to extend it to support IR/RF transmission and Internet packets, and it's small enough to fit inside the cube. My vision is to keep the retail price of the product under $75 (as affordability is a big issue here), and that will only happen if I'm able to purchase in the future Edisons at a price lower than their $50 retail price.

     

    The product would look like a small cube and would fit anywhere, so you can place it next to the TV, on a small table, at a hidden corner in the room and more. It would look something like this (with cables, of course):

    cube_proto.jpg