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Google-funded ‘super sensor’ project brings IoT powers to dumb appliances


The so-called ‘smart home’ often comes across looking incredibly dumb. Either you have to shell out lots of money to replace perfectly functional appliances for their Internet-connected equivalents — which might then be vulnerable to hacking or whose functionality could be bricked at manufacturer whim.

Or you go around manually affixing sensors to each appliance and moveable fixture in your home — and end up with the equivalent of interior pebble-dashing comprised of stick-on gadgetry; a motion sensor and/or ugly-looking Dash-style button on everything.

And that’s before you even consider how, in inviting this bevy of connected device makers into your home, you’re typically letting out a flow of what can be highly sensitive personal data to be sucked into the cloud for profit-seeking entities to pore over.

Researchers at CMU’s Future Interfaces Group are taking a different approach to enable the sensing of indoor environments, and reckon there’s a quicker, less expensive and less cumbersome way to create what’s at least a smarter interior. And one that might have some privacy benefits too, depending on the deploying entity.

What they’ve built so far does not offer as many remote control options as a fully fledged, IoT-enabled appliance scenario could. But if it’s mostly signals intelligence on what’s going on indoors that you want — plus the ability to leverage that accrued real-time intel to support contextually aware apps for the lived environment — their approach looks very promising.

The team is presenting their research at the ACM CHI Conference in Denver this week. They’ve also produced the below demo video showing their test system in action.


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