Android joins the 'internet of things'

The top prize winner announced at Demo 2012 and poised to launch on Kickstarter, innovator Ube builds Android-based home automation.

The Ube team applied their experience in consumer electronics, semiconductors and high-volume manufacturing to improve and reduce the cost of home automation. They believe that they will find customers that will buy their smart power outlets and light dimmers. Made digital by the addition of an Android SoC, these commonplace devices are designed to control and measure power. Expensive home automation system controllers are replaced with a mobile phone app. It is an example of the consumerization of industrial devices.

This approach is incredibly efficient. By replacing a physical analog control plane with Wi-Fi and using a mobile app, home automation is simplified and standardized.

Consider the current approach to home automation. To automate the control and measurement of electricity or remotely turn on or off a device, a second set of wiring needs to be run through the walls and ceilings back to a central controller. The consumer interfaces with the system controller with a custom-built remote control unit. Using present day technologies, it is expensive to install and, once complete, the consumer gets an inflexible custom control system with one-of-a-kind modified software.

Ube has designed an Arm processor SoC into each power outlet and light dimmer that includes Wi-Fi and Android software. This brings energy savings and convenience to the consumer.

Some examples of the energy savings are:

  • The app will know that you have left the house and shut off lights and other devices ambiently draining ambient power.
  • The homeowner can manually or automatically turn on heating or cooling before arriving home to a comfortable environment, without using energy to maintain a comfortable temperature when no one is home.
  • Homeowners can use less energy, such as setting a limit on how bright lights can shine or shifting the time a dishwasher or clothes dryer runs to a time when electricity is less expensive.
  • For convenience after recording and analyzing the homeowner’s behavior the app might suggest to the homeowner that it automate turning on the lights at a certain time based on the workweek and length of day.
  • A consumer could use its Ube smartphone app to control other IP-enabled devices over Wi-Fi, such as garage door openers, thermostats and smart TVs.

These devices will sell for $50 to $60, which is less than the analog controlled devices, and do not require extra wiring or an expensive controller. Ube’s approach should provide greater flexibility and much lower cost in renovation applications, because the homeowner can choose to add control and measurement only where they want it without first devising a comprehensive electrical design and building out a complete home automation project.

Consumerization of industrial products with Android and ARM, such as home automation, puts the products on a declining cost curve as Android and ARM volumes increase and provide flexibility. This permits the dimmer panels to perform more complex tasks, such as turn off a series of lights with a two finger swipe.

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