Smarter Life Challenge Inspires Home Control Innovation

The distributor element14 put out the call for ideas for smart appliances and devices that would bring home control into new innovation. The response to the Smarter Life Challenge was enormous.

In all, 138 designers threw their hats into the ring. From those, 17 designers were chosen to receive a Cypress PsoC 4 Pioneer Kit and a $500 budget to bring their designs to life. “The PsoC is an innovative product, and this challenge exposed how useful it is an how it can be deployed in many ways,” Christian DeFeo, e-supplier and innovation manager at Newark element14, told us. “One challenger called it the Swiss Army Knife of development boards.”

Three winners, including a Peoples' Choice designee, were chosen. “We made it clear that we wanted smart home office applications, realistic things that could be achieved in a reasonably short time scale.”

The overall winner bagged an all-expenses-paid trip to Embedded World in Germany this month. Runners up won $1,500 vouchers for element14's retail sites. “This challenge is a way to show how it will be, to provide a hop into the future,” said DeFeo. “We lost faith in the future and stuck with dumb appliances. There seems to be a bottleneck with smart devices in the home, and we wanted to create a challenge that would go some way to breaking that deadlock.”

The blue ribbon in the challenge went to a Canadian, Douglas Wong, and his smart thermostat, which he dubbed the Henrietta Project.

Wong enhanced a traditional thermostat to integrate a host of extended features, including speech recognition, Bluetooth connectivity, an Android app, and a GPS-based clock. This winning design will be showcased at Embedded World in the Cypress and element14 booths.

Runner-up status went to Anthony Kahl of Australia and his Smart Bicycle Light. The light automatically turns on in darkness and flashes when movement is detected. It automatically shuts off when there is no movement, and it offers a variety of flashing modes. It can be charged via USB, and it provides an audible alert when batteries are low. Kahl plans a Kickstarter funding project to make the light commercially available.

In the Peoples' Choice voting, the GeoCar from Javier Hernandez of Puerto Rico was a clear favorite. The project integrated a GPS receiver, Bluetooth connectivity, a proximity sensor, and an accelerometer to gather data on car use. “This product is the nightmare of teenagers everwhere,” said DeFeo. “This black box for the car can tell people, like parents, exactly where the car has gone.” If an accident occurs, data could be extracted from the device to determine the car's speed and direction before the incident.

Do these projects inspire your imagination? Where would you like to see more innovation in electronics controlling the home?

14 comments on “Smarter Life Challenge Inspires Home Control Innovation

  1. Daniel
    February 21, 2014

    “The distributor element14 put out the call for ideas for smart appliances and devices that would bring home control into new innovation. The response to the Smarter Life Challenge was enormous.”

    Hailey, the latest trend is IoT based home automation devices. Under this preview, devices can talk each other for taking decisions based on the current situation inside the room/house.

  2. t.alex
    February 21, 2014

    These are pretty nice and inspiring projects for the next generation engineers to dream and achieve big things.

  3. prabhakar_deosthali
    February 21, 2014

    These projects look good but somehow they do not relate to the Theme – Home control Innovation except the winning entry.

    Vehcile automation is a totally different subject – it is more related to safety feaautres and infortainment.

    Whereas the Home Control Innovatioon is more about energy management, home security against theft and such features.


    Cypress SoCs are mainly known for their configurable I/O. and the project should also highlight how they have maximised the benefits of this feature of the CYpress SoCs.

  4. SP
    February 21, 2014

    I would like to see more innovation in managing home decor, kitchen and pets. There are so many things a robot will be helpful and that too can be controlled remotely via smartphone.

  5. Himanshugupta
    February 21, 2014

    I also liked the idea of car 'blackbox'. We can have an integrated solution for the car to improve both the performance and safety. Today, we never track the reasons of a car accident but sometime accident due to technical reasons can be averted due to the presence of smart devices.

  6. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    February 22, 2014

    @Jacob, this trend is an interesting one to follow. The average home user/car driver/ etc. can hardly imagine what's coming down the pike. It's coming fast. In talking to Newark Element 14, for example, we discussed that it is now possible to create a washing machine that senses when, for example, a red sock has gotten in with the white laundry–and can sound the alarm. Pretty cool stuff.

  7. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    February 22, 2014

    @Prabhakar, actually, this challenge was a “smarter life” challenge which is a bit broader than the home. all these areas are ripe for innovation. The next challenge that Newark is doing is around wireless. It'll be interesting to see what comes out of that.

  8. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    February 22, 2014

    @SP, i could totally get behind having a robot to help care for my beloved cat. I could be in charge of ear scratching, petting, and providing a warm lap–and the robot could take care of fresh water and cat box cleaning. 🙂

  9. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    February 22, 2014

    @Himanshugupta, pre- and post- incident smarts in a car can be useful. It would be great to avoid accidents all togethr but knowing what happened can really help too.

  10. Eldredge
    February 23, 2014

    @Hailry – I'm in – particularly when it comes to the cat box cleaning. Where do I sign up??

  11. Anand
    February 26, 2014

    I think this is a good way to begin developing for home automation. With the IOT around the corner, coupling independent developers with home automation devices is going to be a good business, but only under the said standardizations set for the IOT.

  12. Anand
    February 26, 2014

    @hailey: That would mean a sensor to AI integration is cars. That is already happening (cite: Google car) but it does not have the logistics or the equipment to tend to any post event criteria. The world is going digital, so why not cars? Moreover there has to be a sensor integrated road system.

  13. Daniel
    March 2, 2014

    “this trend is an interesting one to follow. The average home user/car driver/ etc. can hardly imagine what's coming down the pike. It's coming fast”

    Hailey, technologies are developing and phase out in fast mode. So implementation has alos cope up with this speed.

  14. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    March 13, 2014

    @Eldredge, we'lll have to keep you posted on the kitty Kat front. Surely we have some designers in this community who want to jump on this problem?

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