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How To Make Older Appliances Smarter?

So how do you make old appliances smarter? And what are the challenges? Let's take a look...

Written by Deepak Kotian

  • Users face the following challenges with an old air conditioner
  • Lack of energy saver / thermostat / temperature control option
  • Not programmable to user needs
  • Consumes more electricity that adds to cost
  • Inconvenient to use and not good for the general environment
  • Air conditioner needs to start before entering home to get a perfect temperature
  • User is not able to set their favourite Program remotely using old TV or Cable set top box.

And much more…

How to resolve these issues:

Consumers use the hand held remote control to operate Electronic/Electrical Appliances. Normally, the remote is an Infra-Red (IR) Remote Control where any button pressed on the remote control sends IR codes to that device which then responds appropriately to the command.

Manufacturers buy Sensors and Microcontrollers cheaply nowadays and there is a lot of free firmware software/libraries are available for them.

Developers can easily create a simple circuits using Arduino to gather the IR codes using IR receiver from the pressed buttons on the hand held IR remote control, program the sequence of operations of user’s interest and operate it using mobile phone technology.

These programmed IR codes can then be transmitted using an IR transmitter (e.g. Arduino has IRRemote library for this purpose). The manufacturer can make the Smart Nodes battery or USB powered so that it is running in an optimised way with an IR emitter pointing to the device to be controlled. So, the User can control the Device using smart Node within the home while asleep or remotely receive IR commands before they arrive home.

e.g. For an air conditioner, simple sequence of commands to be Programmed remotely or in-house while asleep for better energy usage and convenience

  1. Power on
  2. Set desired temperature
  3. Timer to keep the air conditioner running (e.g. 40 minutes)
  4. Turn OFF” or “JUST keep the A/C fan running”
  5. Duration of turn off (e.g. 20 minutes)
  6. Restart with point 1.

Adding a Temperature Sensor to the Node makes the circuit smarter and can turn off the Air conditioner once the desired temperature threshold is met.

Adding a motion/human sensor makes the node smarter to be able to detect that no one is in the room and turns off the Air Conditioner automatically after a programmed delay.

Cost:

The making cost of this circuit and firmware is low. Hardware cost with Sensors is less than 1000 Rupees or 15 USD. Mass production would bring down the cost price further.

Device Management:

Smart nodes are connected to a gateway via ZigBee or Bluetooth, which transmits data using MQTT or any standard protocol to any IOT/Analytics platform (Watson, Kaa IoT, ThingsWorx, etc)  for real-time analytics and control.

Furthermore, Consumers can have a service call registered automatically for Appliance Service by Smart Node that senses/listens/feels Appliances from outside. This is similar to the way doctor analyses human by checking their pulse or using a stethoscope, etc. and prescribes an appropriate remedy.

Similarly, IoT Platform Analytics & Learning engine learns the pattern over time and suggests a remedy or sends a Technician to handle the service requirement armed with the correct spares if required.

With this, Manufacturers can make the legacy Appliances a Smart and provide a Managed IoT device using Smart Nodes.

Opportunities/Challenges:

  • End Consumers has convenience, better service by attaching cost effective smart node to the appliance makes Legacy or old appliance(Home or any industrial) smarter.
  • Manufacturers has new revenue in terms Services and add-on Products.
  • User’s usage patterns is understood and suggest options or services accordingly. User can have Auto Program option of the Smart node based on the usage pattern, etc.
  • User is able to control any Legacy appliance using Smart node via IR
  • It makes Legacy appliance vulnerable to security threats and needs to be secured in some cases.

Read this on SogetiLabs blog here.

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