Wireless sensor-based products that monitor homes and alert owners about water leaks or unauthorized intruders, as well as issuing reminders about household chores that need to be done, were displayed last week at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
Also shown was a device from Intel that monitors people and can alert family members or a doctor in an emergency.
While Intel's product is still in the research phase, Eaton Corp. previewed Home Heartbeat, a wireless system that monitors household devices and reports problems like water leaks, power surges or open windows and doors, said Bill Murphy, engineering manager at Eaton. If a problem is detected, the system sends an alert to a user's cell phone, according to the company.
A base station wirelessly communicates with sensors attached to water and power sources and entrances and exits. The base station in turn communicates the status of the sensors to the Home Key, a keychain LCD (liquid crystal display) that gives users a status snapshot of the home. The Home Key can also send an alert to remote users via SMS (short message service). In case of a water leak, a system add-on can shut off the water supply, he said. Home Heartbeat can also remind users to dump trash or clean dishes.
This system offers only home awareness capabilities and will not compete with a full-fledged security company, Murphy said. The first version of Home Heartbeat will cost between $150 to $200 and include one sensor. There are no monthly charges -- users pay a one-time cost for equipment and sensor add-ons, which could range between $25 to $60. It will be launched in the second half of 2005, Murphy said.
Future product versions will have motion detecting, smoke detecting, gas detecting and temperature detecting sensors, Murphy said. He couldn't provide a tentative release date for the new features.
Intruders are the focus of Actiontec Electronics Inc.'s 54M bps (bits per second) Wireless Network Camera, a 802.11g wireless security camera that sends audio and video to a PC using a wireless router. If motion is detected, it automatically sends e-mail with a maximum of five seconds of video footage attached, according to the company.
The camera records audio and video in MPEG-4 format, at a 640-pixel-by-480-pixel, 24-bit color resolution, with a time stamp and text overlay. It has an internal microphone, and a port for connecting an external microphone for higher quality audio.
Up to four people can view footage over the Web simultaneously from remote locations. Software records footage to a computer’s hard drive based on a user-specified schedule -- daily, weekly or on the spot.
The $200 camera can be mounted indoors or outdoors and is designed to withstand rain and freezing temperatures, according to the company. It comes with a wireless antenna, an Ethernet cable, a wall-mounted bracket and a swivel stand. It is compatible with Microsoft Windows systems with Internet Explorer and ActiveX. and will be available in February on Actiontec's Web site, according to the company.
Products incorporating GPS (Global Positioning System) technology to track pets or help parents keep tabs on their children were also displayed at the show.