Owl Platform Online
Owl Platform Online
A wireless sensor and notification service that lasts a decade and tracks events in your home.
A wireless sensor and notification service that lasts a decade and tracks events in your home. Read more
About this project
Whether you want to know about leaks under the sink or in the basement, make sure your home stays above freezing when you’re on vacation, or just make sure your plants are getting enough sunlight, we have a solution for you!
We have developed compact, reliable, and long life wireless sensors and intuitive software system for your home. Our compact (1 square inch) sensors last up to 10 years on a coin cell battery. With our online service you’ll know immediately if something is happening at home. Keeping simplicity in mind, the whole system can be unpackaged and set up in less than 15 minutes!
WHAT IS OWL PLATFORM ONLINE
Owl Platform Online is a wireless sensors system developed with you in mind. We have a variety of combinations of our 4 major sensors types: water, door/window, temperature, and light. We’ve designed these sensors to be small, reliable, and with a remarkable battery life.
Running with the hardware is an online service that can alert you via text message or e-mail when your sensors detect a change. You can also monitor all the sensors live on our website via your personal account.
The system is easy to set up and with up to 10 years of battery life on each sensor, you can set it and forget it.
The Pipsqueak Tags (AKA Pips) Sensors
The Pip sensors offer a lot of potential, but we are starting off with the basic functions: door, water, light, and temperature (accurate to +/- 1°C). As well as regularly sensing the environment, the sensors also send a periodic beacon confirming that the system is still active.
Each sensor can monitor several types of inputs and will send a signal once they sense a change in the environment. Information is sensed at different rates to make sure you don’t miss anything, without wasting any battery power. Doors & water sensors check 5 times per second, temperature every 30s, and light every 10s.
Our sensors last 10 years or more, yet the life expectancy depends on the frequency of changes detected. With more sensors on a Pip, more events could be generated and the lifetime shortened. For example if a sensor detects a change and transmits it once per hour it should last 10+ years, but even if it detects change 60 times per hour is will still last an estimated 7.5 years.
The base station
Until now, we've been using a Raspberry Pi to connect our sensors and online service, but our goal is to make the base station more compact and cost effective. We are working on a new prototype base station that will have onboard radios and use Arduino Ethernet shields, and we have started developing the firmware. Our new base station will be cheaper, and easier to use than the Pi, and seamlessly integrate with the sensors.
The Owl Platform Online Service
Our online service is built on an open-source platform that provides the easiest way to let you know what’s going on at your home or office. Our service focuses on home users who want to “set and forget”. Simply plug our base station into your home router and create an account at Owl Platform Online. Once the account is created, you can see your current sensor status, customize email and SMS alerts, and download logs of past sensor readings.
For the DIY crowd and users who don’t want to send their data into the cloud, we make it easy to keep your data local by allowing you to control where the base station sends sensor data. We are actively maintaining the open-source Owl Platform code so you will be able to manage and manipulate your data without relying on our online cloud service.
Click here to see Ben demo our technology, filmed at the September Maker Faire in New York City.
WHAT YOU ARE FUNDING
We’ve been developing the software and hardware for Owl: running lots of small batches and validating the designs, hand modifying cases, then extensively testing. We’re at a place where we can start pushing the final development phase. Much of the design work is underway, but funding is needed to cover capital costs (designs, molds, hardware certification). This is where you come in! By supporting our Kickstater project, you can help us achieve:
- A finalized base station design and firmware
- Optimized sensors
- Rugged and water-resistant cases
- Online service and API development
The largest task for us is to complete our base station. Up until now we've just been using a Raspberry Pi for our base station, but we want to make something smaller and less expensive. We’ve developed and prototyped our new base station design but must finalize and fully test the hardware, finish writing the firmware, and get FCC approval for the device. One more prototype run will ensure that the design is fully functioning before production runs.
The current version of our sensors is fully tested and FCC approved, but we are seeking to simplify the design to reduce costs. A few minor tweaks will allow us to reduce hardware and assembly costs. We’re also constantly adding new sensor types and experimenting with improvements to existing ones.
For our cases, we are partnering with Heliox Technologies, a California company that produces high-end technology for deep-sea divers. Their cases are made to survive repeated challenges of ocean depths over 1,000 feet for hours at a time, so we believe that they will make a good water resistant case for us as well.
The Owl Platform Online services are up and running, and are actively being used by our team, however it still needs some work. Further improvements to our security and interface will ensure that it’s easy and secure to use. API development will ensure that users can run independently the system independently, and develop their own apps as well.
KICKSTARTER SENSOR OPTIONS
For this Kickstater we are offering a variety of sensors, depending on the pledged amount, a 6-month subscription to the online service, and a base station. We are offering the following sensors and sensor combos:
- Standard Open/Close
- Standard Water
- Gold Open/Close - with Ambient Temperature
- Gold Water - with Ambient Temperature
- Platinum Open/Close with Ambient Light and Temperature
- Platinum Water with Ambient Light and Temperature
- Presence Beacon
All months below are in 2014:
This Kickstarter is just the beginning!
Our new base station design can be extended so that it can behave as a repeater. As a repeater, it will be able forward information with no need for an ethernet connection, thus making it a cheap way to extend the range of your sensors without needing to run more wires. This enhancement will involve modeling, simulation and ultimately, significant hardware and firmware modifications. If we reach $125,000 in pledges, then we can make this design extension a reality.
Additionally, we can extend our base station to run over WiFi rather than using a hardwire ethernet connection. Like the repeater design, this will involve significant engineering efforts in both hardware and firmware development. With WiFi capability, the base stations can be put virtually anywhere. If we reach $200,000 in pledges, then we can roll out base stations with WiFi as well.
WHO WE ARE
We're an unusual mix of passionate young innovators, been-there-done-that tech veterans and educators who have been working closely together for the past few years and have brought to life something that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Ben Firner (recent Ph.D.): "I pursued a PhD because I wanted to be excited about my work. When Rob and I started deploying sensors around our lab I became very excited when realized that we had found something that could be useful for many people outside of our lab as well. With Owl Platform, I hope to share that excitement with everyone else."
Rob Moore (soon-to-be Ph.D.): "I believe that research should have the biggest impact possible and as a computer scientist I try to use technology to do just that. Starting with real-time indoor location systems, I have been turning research concepts into useful tools for 7 years. When I'm not developing the core Owl Platform software, I'm constantly trying new ideas and techniques to make it even better."
Ilya Chigirev (Recent M.S./Senior Engineer/PCB Wizard): "I have been working with circuits and layout since HS and at Rutgers studied electrical engineering as an undergrad and focused on low power design as a master’s student. For Owl I am primarily responsible for the PCB layout and fabrication, as well as help with the overall hardware development and testing. As a designer this has been a challenging and rewarding project to work on, and it is very exciting to see this work, after many long nights of layout, having reach a point where it is ready to get off our lab tables and into people's homes."
Rich Howard (Former V.P. of Wireless Research at Bell Labs): "I spent 22 years at Bell Labs research working on “everything” from nanophysics to wireless, passing through machine learning and photonics along the way--retiring as VP of Wireless Research in 2001. I enjoyed doing long term research on all kinds of fun projects, but now I have a chance to take my own inventions and upend common wisdom on how sensors should be done and actually get it to customers without the agonizing processes and long delays associated with large corporations."
Giovanni Vannucci (Former Senior Bell Labs Engineer): "I burned my first transistor trying to design a radio receiver at age twelve. While in Radio Research at Bell Labs, I acquired a taste for building products that really work as advertised. After years of grumbling about devices whose battery doesn't last as long as promised, the opportunity to "show them" by joining InPoint to design the PIPs was hard to resist. I am currently responsible for the hardware design of PIP sensors and base stations for the Owl Platform."
Rich Martin (Computer Scientist and Professor): "My goal as a technologist and educator is to have positive impacts on people's lives. As a technologist, impact means developing technologies, and getting them to users, which enable people to become better connected to others, gives peace of mind, and frees people from life's burdens. As an educator, having impact means expanding students' horizons to get a better understanding of their world, and themselves, to become better people. This Kickstarter for the Owl Platform is a great fit for both of these goals."
Yanyong Zhang (Computer Scientist and Professor): "I believe that the best technology should have the simplest form and interact with people in the easiest manner. It should "disappear" completely from people's minds until absolutely necessary to interfere. With a background in designing system software for complex parallel and distributed systems, I know the power of a simple system architecture, as well as a simple communication architecture. In the development of Owl platform, I have great satisfaction that these perspectives are implemented and validated."
Eitan Fenson (Seasoned Silicon Valley Technologist and Executive): "I have gotten great satisfaction out of mentoring Ben and Rob's remarkable talent, learning at the feet of the master Rich H., being amazed at Giovanni and Ilya's wizardry, and collaborating with dedicated educators Rich M. and Yanyong. It's been a great opportunity to contribute my organizational, operational and facilitation skills to an effort that is so intellectually stimulating, has such great people, and brings innovative and real value to real people."
Risks and challenges
We have working prototypes of our hardware and have relationships with several board manufacturers in case of unforeseen problems with our primary choice.. We plan to make minor changes to our prototypes to improve radio performance and decrease cost, but do not predict that will need to make major changes that will cause any delays in our timeline. We manufacture our boards at a facility in New Jersey, so if there is a problem he can easily pay them a visit to make sure it’s resolved quickly.
Software development time can often be unpredictable, but Ben and Rob have both spent time working as professional programmers in industry and have years of experience writing software. Most of the remaining work in our software lies in documentation and expanding the features available in our online service, and in porting existing code from wire wrapped prototypes and early revisions of our hardware onto our new boards.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
What does the Owl Online subscription entail? Will the sensors still be usable after the 6 month trial ends?
The subscription-based service enables you to configure and receive alerts, view your sensor status, and download your data from our cloud service. Any mobile or web applications that use our upcoming web API will require an active subscription to interact with our services and your data.
If you choose to discontinue your subscription after the 6 month trial, your hardware will still function, but we will not store the data on our servers. In this case, you can configure the base station to send data to an alternative server that you choose. For hackers, companies, and developers, you can run your own servers and services by using the open-source tools and libraries we've developed. These are the same base components we've used to build our paid services, and we'll continue to improve them for both our and your benefit.
You can view and download the code from GitHub.
After a successful Kickstarter we will be able to sell additional sensors, and are estimating initial retail costs of $25-$30 for the standard sensors. A single receiver is able to handle up to 100 sensors, so you won't have a problem adding new sensors into your existing system.
Additional receivers will also be available to extend the range of the your system, at a retail cost under $100.
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