Feeling hot when coming back from work and wished that your air-conditioner was on before you entered home? Or you had forgotten to switch off fans and lights while leaving home and desperately want to turn them off given that tariffs are rising. Don't worry. Soon you will be able to control all your home gadgets through mobile text messages, significantly reducing device clutter.
Three 22-year-old students from MCKV Institute of Engineering (situated near Kolkata) are working on a solution that if not novel, is pretty simple. Recent airconditioners are coming with in-built SMS switch on/off features but then one can just control the airconditioner and no other equipment, apart from the fact that you need to replace your AC. Digital smart home gateways devised by tech majors -- including one launched by Infosys earlier in 2011 -- which allows linking of mutiple home devices are much more complex and costly hardware boxes.
Biplob Ghosh, Rahul Verma and Suman Nath wanted to build something for their intra-college technology competition. They put their minds together to come up with a solution that will need a cellphone, a PC or a laptop and a small gadget that will connect the comp to the home electrical systems. Leaving out the cost of the PC, the entire system will come in for as little as Rs 1,500.
Having initiated the process of patenting the product, Tirthankar Dutta, head of the department at electronics of the college - and a guide to the students -- said: "We are now trying to replace the the PC/laptop with an embedded controller for this system. It will be the box that will receive the text messages and send on/off commands to the switches at home." This box is estimated to cost Rs 7,000, much lower than the price of a PC.
"Text messages from anyone will not work. The system has an authentication procedure that will accept commands from a set of known numbers only, doing away with the possibility of the system being abused by others," he points out. "This system doesn't just work with SMSes, in case you are feeling a bit lazy to get up and switch off the light in the next room, just say 'light off' the fan will be turned off. Moreover, one can also schedule routine turning on/off of gadgets like water pump and geysers at a preconfigured time," says Biplob.
"The system is an economical solution because its logic is in the software that can easily be modified using the interface, unlike existing automation/scheduling/ controlling solutions that are mostly electronics based and need expensive components that are not easily re-configurable," said Rahul Verma.
"This application can run on any Java-enabled mobile phone. Right now, we are in talks with a host of telecom companies so that we can offer a SMS package along with the equipment say at five paise per text," says Avijit Bose, the third member of the team. There three students and their guides are now thinking of commercialising the product. "The owner of our college has a manufacturing facility and we plan to use it soon," said Bose.