AngelBlocks : Home Automation Redefined (Canceled)
Small Internet connected wireless devices that work together to automate your apartment, house, farm, or wherever you call home.
What is AngelBlocks?
Unlike normal home automation that only works with lights and appliances, AngelBlocks works with all of your things, from your kitchen lights to your bathroom trash can. AngelBlocks are tiny, battery powered, wireless building blocks that can be attached to your things giving them the ability to sense and control the environment around them and to communicate with you using messaging and popular social media. Push an AngelBlock into your plant and it will text you when it gets thirsty. Stick one on your washer and get notified the instant your laundry is done. Place one in your car and it can automatically shut your garage door, turn off lights and appliances, and enable your home's security when you pull out of the driveway.
AngelBlocks work together to create the most inexpensive, easiest to use, flexible home automation system on the market today. They work with existing technologies like Belkin WeMo, Philips Hue Lighting, NinjaSphere, and IP Cameras to name a few.
AngelBlocks are truly wireless: they can operate for more than 5 years from a couple of AAA batteries and transmit more than 1000 feet indoors and 2 miles outdoors. They are so powerful, they can transmit through metal, allowing you to use them inside of mailboxes and refrigerators without a problem.
Your privacy and security are protected because we do not use an external cloud server; your data and control remains local even when you are half way around the world. In fact, your AngelBlocks will continue to work for you even if your Internet goes down. When this happens, all Internet related activity is buffered. When the Internet comes back up, all of the stored actions are executed.
AngelBlocks Think Like You Do
AngelBlocks “learn” their senses. They learn the difference between light and dark, motion and no motion, saturated plant soil and completely dry soil. Using automation rules, you can then specify an action level for any sense on a 0-99 scale with 0 being completely dark and 99 being fully bright. This makes creating automation rules easy because there are no complicated units to remember or calibration procedures. It just works. Here are a few examples to get your left brain on board with the AngelBlocks "anything automation" concept.
Have you ever had to wash the same tub of clothes twice because you forget about them? Now you can get notification when the washer finishes it cycle.
Waiting on a big check? Now you can know the instant the mail man opens the mail box.
Ever had a plant die because you forgot to water it? Now it can tell you its thirsty.
Here is a silly one. As a prank, make the kitchen lights flash for 30 seconds when someone opens the refrigerator.
Location and Presence Tracking
By attaching an AngelBlock to people, pets, and things, the system can respond to their coming and going. When the AngelBlock detects motion, it transmits a low power tracking beacon and the system begins to track presence of that AngelBlock using signal strength from other AngelBlocks and the AngelGate.
You can use the presence or absence of an AngelBlock in the system as a condition for automation rules. One way we use this feature is to put an AngelBlock in our vehicle and configure the system to close the garage door, shut off lights and appliances, and enable the security system when we leave.
This feature creates many new possibilities for home automation. For example, you could attach an AngelBlock to your toddler and get notified when she escapes the house. Or, put one in your brief case and have the system notify you if you pull out of the drive way without it.
When you attach an AngelBlock to things you want to keep track of, you can locate those things whenever you like. Using your smart phone, tablet, or PC you can activate the location feature and the AngelBlock will active a bright LED strobe and loud buzzer. The system will also tell you which AngelBlock it is closest to so you can have an idea where to start looking.
Our road map for this feature includes a custom AngelBlock optimized for location and tracking: the AngelTag. AngelTags will be smaller than a typical keyfob and cost around $10, making them small and inexpensive enough to attach to anything you like.
Comprehensive and Powerful
Unlike other solutions that offer one or two devices, AngelBlocks offers a comprehensive selection of sensor and control functions. Our devices are small, and thanks to interchangeable AngelWings, every AngelBlock can be configured and reconfigured for any application you might have as often as possible.
AngelBlocks are small, battery powered, and wireless so they can be attached to nearly anything you want to monitor or control. With more than 2 years of battery life and 2 miles of range outdoors, you can use them in a small apartment or on a large farm.
And, thanks to a new proprietary radio technology called LoRa, AngelBlocks can communicate over insane distances: one thousand feet indoors and two miles outdoors. They work great in an apartment, in the entire apartment complex, or on a farm or ranch.
While most solutions expand their sphere of monitoring and control by integrating expensive WiFi, Zigbee, and ZWave technologies, our philosophy is to offer a robust selection of AngelBlocks that cover all applications. From energy measurement to lighting automation to entry control, our roadmap for AngelBlocks is as comprehensive as it is powerful. AngelBlocks are less expensive than the third party devices, they are battery powered, and they can transmit over large distances without mesh networking making AngelBlocks a better choice for just about any application. The above image shows the current AngelWings we will be shipping with AngelBlocks when the project is finished.
Our stretch goals will include several additional AngelBlock functions including the following, to name a few.
- Waterproof submersible soil monitoring
- IR remote control for home theater control
- RFID reader for access control
- HVAC controller
- Remote outlet with integrated energy meter
- Peel and stick toggle switch with motion and ambient light sensor
Blue Sky Security - No Cloud Server Required
We say that AngelBlocks is a blue sky automation solution because our solution is fully integrated and requires no cloud server to operate. By keeping your private data and control over your AngelBlocks local, we ensure your privacy and keep your AngelBlocks secure even when you are half way around the world.
For applications that require cloud based automation, we support integration with the open Ninja cloud (which includes NinjaSphere). In fact, our AngelGate is shipped from the factory with the Ninja client installed so your Ninja Sphere can monitor and control AngelBlocks, extending the reach of your Ninja Sphere considerably.
Of all of the cloud services we evaluated, Ninja is the most secure and robust we found. They have a small security footprint, all communications use HTTPS and SSL protocols to prevent interception, and they have intrusion detection that will stop a hacker in his tracks.
Easy To Use
Integration - OtherBlocks
AngelBlocks are awesome, but there are some functions provided by “other devices” that can add a whole other level of awesomeness to your life.
AngelBlocks are able to talk to any device on your local area network via the AngelGate. This includes lighting such as Philips Hue, thermostats such as those from Radio Thermostat, and any IP cameras.
To integrate these devices with the AngelBlocks, we needed a unified way to allow you to control both. We came up with the concept of OtherBlocks.
Anytime we integrate with a third party device using another interface (WiFi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, or Z-Wave) we create a driver for that device called an OtherBlock driver. This driver makes the device look like an AngelBlock to the automation rules. Now, OtherBlocks can be used to sense and control the environment just like AngelBlocks.
When the project ships, we will have support for the following OtherBlocks:
- Philips Hue
- Radio Thermostat
- H.264 IP Camera
- Belkin WeMo switches and outlets
Our stretch goals will include additional OtherBlocks. Here is a partial list of OtherBlocks we are thinking about integrating. Let us know of any others you might want on the list.
- Goji smart lock
- Zigbee home automation devices
- Z-Wave home automation devices
The easiest way to get started is with one of our automation kits. Once you have selected the kit you want, add additional AngelBlock/AngelWing and Remote Outlet rewards to get everything you need. Just add the total of all rewards together and pledge that amount. If you are ordering more than one kit, just include shipping for one of them.
We will send a survey once the project is done and you can specify exactly what combination of AngelWings you want; if you want to substitute AngelWings, that is OK with us.
These are our two most popular rewards.
If you are a maker, make sure you see our "We Love Makers" section for an explanation of the maker rewards. Also, if you happen to have a Pi laying around, check out our Bring Your Own Pi kit and save a little money.
If you have any questions or comments about rewards, please ask us. Our backers will tell you that we are very good about quickly answering questions and very receptive to suggestions for improvements.
These videos show real demos of our system. The AngelGate and AngelBlocks are prototypes; the enclosures will look different when we start shipping, but the functionality will be essentially the same.
Under the hood
If you don't care what goes on under the hood, we understand. Just skip this section and move on to "Our Story" if you would like to know how AngelBlocks came to be.
The three components of the AngelBlocks system are the AngelWing, the AngelBlock, and the AngelGate.
With these AngelWings, you can control electrical loads, monitor temperature, detect motion, actuate relays and buzzers, and much more.
As we have explained, the AngelWing is plugged into a connector on the front of the AngelBlock. This connector has 16 pins and provides access to 14 general IO pins, VCC, and GND.
The 14 general IO pins are automatically configured by the system depending on the type of AngelWing selected. They can be configured in a number of ways including digital, analog, and serial variations.
The AngelBlock is powered from two AAAA batteries, which are designed to last 2 years. It communicates with the AngelGate using a proprietary radio link that can achieve amazing range: up to 1000 feet indoors and more than 2 miles outdoors. For more information about the AngelBlocks, check out this article on our website. The following video also contains a lot of technical information.
The AngelGate is a Raspberry Pi linux computer with a special adapter board containing the RF module and circuitry required to communicate with the AngelBlocks. It can connect to the Internet via Ethernet, WiFi, and cellular. For remote locations that require cellular service, we offer a $7.50 per month connectivity plan with no commitment or setup fees. For more information about the AngelGate, check out this article on our website.
We Love Makers
Originally, AngelBlocks was envisioned as a maker oriented product. We quickly realized its broad appeal, but AngelBlocks never lost their maker roots.
Whether your favorite tool is a soldering iron or an IDE, we have tools that will help you extend and customize your AngelBlocks solution.
You can directly connect your AngelBlock to a breadboard, use a maker AngelWing to make your own sensor or actuator, or you can write your own control application using Arduino, Netduino, PC, Linux, or MAC OSx.
Arduino and Netduino supporters should order the Arduino Maker Kit.
Programmers and developers should order the .Net Maker Kit. This kit includes a USB bridge adapter to enable any computer with a USB port to monitor and control AngelBlocks.
We offer libraries and support for the following languages and platforms:
- Arduino Sketch - C/C++
- Netduino - C#
- .Net/Mono - C#
If you want to write your own control applications for AngelBlocks, the following rewards are for you.
Arduino Kit $99 - Includes an AngelGate Shield for any Arduino compatible platform and (3) AngelBlock + IOWing.
.NET Kit $99 - Includes USB bridge for any computer that supports virtual COM: ports and (3) AngelBlock + IOWing. This is the right choice for programmers who prefer to use Windows, Linux, or MAC OS instead of an embedded platform.
You can use these kits with any AppWing or IOWing enabled AngelBlock. Just add the appropriate reward to your pledge.
AngelBlocks started life 5 years ago as a way to remotely monitor and control oil and gas wells using the Internet. I had to park that project some time ago for a number of reasons, but many of the components were versatile and capable of reuse in the IoT application space and ultimately gave me a starting point for this project.
Fast forward to February 2013. I almost lost a child in a house fire many years ago and I am particularly fierce about fire safety. Despite that, I am notoriously bad about leaving my soldering iron on when I leave the house. Indeed, 10 months ago, I went away on a business trip and, sure enough, I left my soldering iron on. I tried over and over to get my son on the phone to tell him to turn it off, but was unsuccessful.
I vowed then that I would finally put in a home automation system and started thinking through what I would need. Interestingly, that night when I spoke to my wife, she started complaining about "my" dog because he got in the trash and made a mess. She reminded me that I had been designing wireless products for more than 20 years and then asked when I was going to use all that experience to help her out with "that stupid dog".
That gave me an interesting problem. The soldering iron is easy, but the trashcan is not. It adds requirements that no off-the-shelf solution meet. I need a small, battery powered device that can sound a particular cadence on a speaker when vibration is detected and send text message to a phone when the trashcan is knocked over. The cadence would mimic the sound their electronic fence collars make which would discourage the dog from further mischief. The text message would let me know to call my children and tell them to clean up the mess before their momma saw it.
As I researched potential off-the-shelf solutions, I found a couple that showed real promise. In fact, one solution claimed to be able to connect anything to the Internet, even the dog's bowl. As a dog owner, this intrigued me. Furthermore, I assumed that if the solution could make dog bowls smart, doing the same for trashcans wouldn't be a big stretch. Unfortunately, when marketing hype met reality, neither the dog bowl nor the trashcan were practical. For example, I didn't want to have to plug my trashcan into the wall to provide power and I knew my wife would never let me hang an Arduino Uno or a BeagleBone sized board on the side of the trash can.
This seemingly simple application requires a solution that provides a small, low cost, battery powered device that can monitor for tilt and vibration, actuate a speaker, and reach out over the Internet.
I realized that if I could come up with a solution that met those requirements, especially if it is flexible and easy to use, I could actually deliver on the promise of "connecting anything to the Internet". Best of all, as my wife said, I have 20+ years developing this kind of stuff and I had a great head start in the form of ScadaSTUDIO.Net.
I quickly envisioned a flexible automation platform that would allow me to rapidly connect anything to the Internet and provide a way not only to monitor and control it, but also allow it to interact with other things using automation. Most importantly, the solution must be easy enough for the average person to use yet flexible and open enough to be extensible and customizable by makers, developers, and programmers.
My first attempt involved making stack-able electronic bricks that could be combined together for a specific need. The system would include wireless, power supply, IO, and communication bricks that could be combined in any format.
There were a ton of problems with this approach, but the two biggies were size and complexity. The picture above shows one of the early prototypes in a couple of different applications and you can see it is rather large and ungainly. Configuration of the stack was way too complicated; it was too easy to get wrong which made it a bad fit for non-technical users.
I ultimately decided I was trying to do too much. I simplified the "stack" down to two boards: a wireless microcontroller board and an IO interface board. I also settled on a single power supply option: two AAAA batteries. In the beginning, I was working around AA and AAA batteries which were causing the size problems. The change in radio technologies solved that problem: the new LoRa technology increases range and decreases power consumption, allowing us to achieve more range with smaller batteries.
With this new design, the size is very small and the resulting device is very simple to configure and use. It took two major hardware iterations to get to this point, but there were untold paper iterations of the design. Here is a picture of some of the many notebooks I filled with mechanical, electrical, and software design ideas.
You can see system level design schematics, GUI layout, mechanical drawings, and so on here. When the project is done, we will make copies of pages with relevant design information and make a PDF of the scans available to all supporters. I will even sign a copy for any pledge over $2500.
As you can see from our presentation so far, we have a lot of the functionality working.
All of the AngelWings are in at least their 2nd PCB revision, except for the RemoteControl AppWing; that AngelWing is still a breadboarded prototype that will require PCB layout. The current status is:
- Environmental, alarm, smoke, and switch AngelWings are in their final revision. No further engineering is required to complete these
- Remote control AngelWing is in breadboard stage. It will need a formal design pass including schematic capture, PCB layout, as well as probably two prototype iterations before it is in its final revision. the design is straightforward and shouldn't take more than a couple of weeks to complete in its entirety.
The AngelGate adapters for the Raspberry Pi and PC are complete and in their final revision.
The AngelGate Arduino Shield is in breadboard stage and will require a formal design pass. See the description of the RemoteControl wing above for more information because the process and time table are the same.
The AngelBlock hardware is complete and in its final revision. The AngelBlock firmware is finished, but requires more testing.
The CommandCenter application is partially functional. It is capable of creating and configuring new AngelBlocks, monitoring and interacting with AngelBlocks using speed buttons and control panels, and creating new rules. The GUI for creating new control panels is in the design stage of software development. At this point, the UI design is generic and uses the standard JQuery Mobile styling. While not critical for initial release of the application, we do want to improve the look and feel of the UI by creating custom styles for the various widgets.
The Gateway application is complete but requires more testing and bug fixes.
The plastic enclosure design is complete and prototypes have been generated with our 3D printer. We can print the enclosures for the rewards if required to meet our shipping deadline, but our preference is to ship injection molded enclosures. No work has been done on the plastic mold to date. The mold will take 6-8 weeks from funding to complete.
In other words, we have a lot of the work already done. However, in the interest of full disclosure, there is still a lot to do.
Final PCB Revision for AngelGate.Arduino (REQUIRED)
PCB layout and prototyping for the RemoteControl AngelWing. (REQUIRED)
Complete AngelBlock firmware development and debugging. (REQUIRED)
Complete CommandCenter application development and debugging for AngelGate.Pi(REQUIRED).
Tooling for putting all AngelBlock, AngelGate adapters, and AngelWings into production (REQUIRED)
Construct mold for plastic enclosure (REQUIRED)
Our estimated schedule for completion of these tasks is:
Feb 2014 - Funding is complete. Early target date for completion of development tasks listed above. Order parts for initial production run.
April 2014 - Late target date for completion of development tasks. Early delivery of injection molded plastic. All parts in house, ready for production run. Early start of PCB production.
May 2014 - Late delivery of injection molded plastic. Late start of PCB production.
Based on this schedule, we expect to start delivering rewards in the May-June time frame.
Use of funds
By the time the funding is actually complete, we think we can have all development finished. However, with much experience developing these kinds of products, we acknowledge that a certain safety margin must be built in. Therefore, our funding goal does include a small amount of money allocated to development to cover any tasks not yet completed at the time of funding. If we have finished development prior to funding, we will use the development allocation of funds to add new features to the software.
Most of the money will be allocated to production related tasks including:
- Plastic molds for AngelBlock and AngelGate
- FCC certification
- Various pre-production items like test fixtures, paste stencils, and tooling
- Production costs for initial rewards
Dev team - Steve Montgomery, Hunt Hawkins, Joey Biorato
IP Protection - Monty Simmons, Simmons Patents
Logo Design - Lindsay Manson
Plastic Injection Molding - North American Plastics
Support Team - Ryland, Tracey, and Jeri
Risks and challenges
Right now, we are in the prototype stage. We anticipate that the remaining design work can be completed by the end of the funding period. However, it is not done until it is done. Therefore, there is some risk that it will take longer to finish the development and that would affect the final delivery date and until development is finished, it will be the biggest risk.
As you can see from the videos, our CommandCenter application GUI is fairly plain. Depending on the level of funding we get as well as feedback from backers, we may choose to invest additional time in that application changing both the GUI and the workflow. If we do choose to make these kinds of changes it will only be as a result of direct request by the backers. No decision to modify the work plan and schedule will be made until the consequences are explained to the backers and feedback is gathered from the backers.
Once development is complete, we will move the project into production. We will be producing the AngelBlocks components at our facility in Yukon, Oklahoma. The main risks and challenges at this stage involve supply chain issues. We have established supply chains for most of the key components we are using, thereby mitigating some of these risks. However, certain custom components like the printed circuit boards and plastic enclosures can be delayed for a number of reasons and will require careful management.
So, in summary, the biggest risk is going to be development. Factoring in extra time to fix problems that come up, we project that we will start shipping rewards in May or June.
If, for some reason, our delivery schedule slips, we will make every effort to communicate the reasons and what we are doing to address the delays.
Digital Six Laboratories (D6 Labs) is an agile early stage company focused on embedded wireless technologies and the Internet of Things market. We are an official US distributor for HopeRF and offer a complete line of embedded wireless modules, antennas, and connectors. In addition, we provide turn-key product development and manufacturing services. We will be building the AngelBlocks components at our Yukon, Oklahoma facility which is equipped with modern automated assembly and testing equipment.
Feel free to visit our website (www.d6labs.com) for more information about the company.
Our team has collectively developed and produced hundreds of products over a 20+ year time frame. We know how to manage and mitigate risks to the schedule's critical path and will use our best efforts and experience to ensure that your rewards will ship as soon as possible.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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