Remember when smart home sensor systems came with half a dozen special-purpose gadgets, each measuring a different aspect of the home environment? You should -- it wasn’t very long ago -- but the status quo has changed rapidly over the last year or so.
“Gone are the days of needing different types of sensors for different applications,” says Brett Jurgens, co-creator of the Notion home monitoring system. Each Notion sensor uses an identical multifunction design that can detect just about everything at once.
The disk-shaped gadgets can sense temperature, sound, light, orientation, acceleration, proximity, moisture, and natural frequencies. Tell each sensor how you want to use it -- to monitor if a door or window is opened, to see if a fish tank is leaking, to know whether a “dumb” appliance is running -- and it will use multiple sensor modes to keep tabs on the situation.
“Natural frequencies” probably deserves some explanation. This is the idea that many objects are capable of vibrating at a certain tempo, known as a “resonant frequency.” Think of blowing air across the top of a glass bottle to make a deep whistling tone. The less liquid in the bottle, the deeper the note: Changing the level of the liquid changes the resonant frequency. The example Notion touts is that it can detect how full a propane tank is, just by clinging to the outside and using a piezoelectric sensor to measure the tank’s subtle vibrations.
Notion sensors run on replaceable coin-cell batteries, and the developers are aiming for battery life in the 2-year range. The sensors transmit data to a hub via an 802.15.4 radio protocol that Notion developed in-house. The hub plugs directly into a wall socket and connects to the Internet over wifi. Most of the data processing is done in the cloud, with alerts and info passed back to users via a mobile app.
During Notion’s Kickstarter campaign, a number of folks have asked about privacy, especially as it relates to the cloud service. The Notion team has responded with assurances of end-to-end AES encryption and other redundant security checks. Regarding the audio sensor in particular, Notion says it doesn’t capture and store audio, but only monitors for patterns that would indicate an event like a knock at the door or a smoke alarm blaring.
Fresh out of the Boulder, Colo., TechStars accelerator program, Notion (officially Loop Labs, based in Denver) is deep into development and has already begun in-home testing with prototypes. There are only hours left to get in on the crowdfunding effort, which is slated to deliver the first production run in July 2015.
Learn more at the campaign page or by watching the video below.