Do you want to make your old home smart? Control your switches from anywhere in your home? Are you stuck with old switches and appliances? We all have moments of small frustration when we forget to turn off the light switch or have to get up to turn on a fan. A device connected to a phone app that toggles switches will allow one to gain remote access to everything in a home with a switch.
Also, new homes and buildings are getting smarter and smarter but old homes are falling behind due to old infrastructure. So, we took it upon ourselves to develop a solution for old homes to get smarter without making any modifications to the existing switch. If you look at the big picture, there is a huge opportunity for ioT devices that make old homes and buildings smart. Our solution focuses on retrofitting old switches, transforming them into smart devices without any electrical or functional modifications to it.
What it does
We have developed a solution to make your existing old switches smart. Our solution is an intelligently designed retrofit device that can be mounted on top of your existing switches and controlled using a phone app via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). Once the device is mounted, you can control your switch remotely using your phone. We were so thoughtful that we designed our solution in such a way that you can still manually control the switch.
How we built it
We used Arduino 101’s BLE capabilities to connect it to an android app. So by clicking a button on the app, a signal is sent to the Arduino 101 that powers a servo motor. The motor rotates the connected blade which toggles the switch on/off. The servo motor is intelligently turned at angles that turn the switch on/off without compromising the manual switch functionality.
Challenges we ran into
It was difficult to come up with a design to mount the servo motor on top of the original switch in an orientation to turn the switch on/off. Also, coming up with a universal design to mount the device on all switches proved to be very difficult as each machinery is physically unique. We also wanted our design to not obstruct the manual functionality and it took us some time to come up with a non-obstructive design. The 3D printed design was few centimeters longer than the switch we used in the video as we developed it using measurements from another switch. So, in future we will add adjustable design functionality. Importantly, we had a hard time making our solution visually appealing at the same time without sacrificing its functionalities. So, our team decided that making the switch visually appealing and reducing the physical form factor, will be done as a separate project as a next step.
Accomplishments that we are proud of
We are proud of developing an effective retrofit design to be mounted on top of the light switch and connect the Android app to the switch to successfully toggle the light switch. We realized that most of the solutions that are in the market require electrical modifications to the switch or changing the switch entirely. Therefore, we are proud that our solution is very unique and addresses a niche market need. We are also proud that we kept the manual switch functionality intact and thus provide dual functionality (auto and manual). Importantly, we are so proud and honour to be part of the Intel Hackathon and how far we have come along as a team.
What we learned
We learned many things which include:
- Connecting the Intel Curie module to a phone using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)
- Programming and Controlling the HXT900 servo motor
- Developing CAD model and 3D printing the parts
- Performing CAD simulations to encounter challenges/roadblocks before hand
- Project Management
- Effective and impactful communication
- Market research
- Product development and management
- Working in team environment
- Dealing with change
- Professionally documenting and showcasing our work
- Meeting critical deadlines
- Delegating tasks to the appropriate team member
- Moving together as a team
- Understanding manufacturing tools to manufacture our product
- Resolving conflicts in a professional manner
- Dealing with different personalities
- Lean Tools (Root Cause analysis, PDCA, Kaizen)
- Electrical Codes and Standards
What's next for Smart Switch
This is just the start and we can add so many things to this such as:
- Providing electricity usage feedback: We can do this by tracking the amount of time the switch is ON and calculating the joules of energy used based on the regional average. Then we can calculate the cost of electricity used and give feedback on amount of dollars spent on electricity.
- Modifying design for other types of switches
- Adding a Wifi to Bluetooth hub to control switches from anywhere in the world
- Adding voice control into the app to turn on/off switches
- Adding a timer using the phone clock to turn on/off devices at a certain time, such as automatically turning on coffee machine in morning, or turning off a fan in an hour.
- Adding a temperature sensor to turn on/off a fan to maintain room temperature
- Adding a sound sensor to turn on lights with a clap
- Adding capabilities to control switch by syncing them with services like Google Home and Amazon Alexa.
The list goes on and on for things that can be done as it is such a scalable idea. We have already passed the first hurdle with our smart non-obstructive design and if we get your help, we will make sure every home can become smart.
Don’t forget to watch our video!