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This IIT student has developed an indigenous, low-cost smart home system

Turning your home into a smart home needn’t be all that hard or expensive; you need not even buy smart electrical fixtures. According to Pranjal Kacholia, a third-year student at IIT Delhi, all it takes is a module that is to be placed behind your switchboard(s), to control the electrical fixtures and appliances with an app in your smartphone.

“We put this module behind each switchboard, the module is connected to the wi-fi router in the house, which is how it can be controlled by the smartphone. We have purchased an Amazon server for this. Once the command is sent through the smartphone, the module works with the switchboard. Each switchboard has one module, we have a separate module for high-power devices such as air-conditioners and geysers,” says Pranjal, who has named the venture ‘Eden’. He is also the Marketing Co-ordinator – Entrepreneurship Development Cell at IIT Delhi.

“It takes nearly 15 minutes to install a module into a switchboard. During installation, the wires of the module are connected to the switchboard wires. The module receives its commands through wi-fi. It acts as an interface between the load (appliance) and the switch. Normally, the loads are connected directly to the switches; here, they will be connected to the module. This way, regular operations through the switches are not hampered.”

Pranjal emphasises that there is no danger to the circuits in the process. “In fact, the module itself tries to stabilise voltage fluctuations, since it has to save itself. It also has its own fuse, so it’s safe.”

The project was sparked off from a college research project in agriculture. “I stumbled into the home automation and the IoT space. After I talked to the big players in the space, I realised that a conventional smart home system would cost over ₹8 lakhs for a 3-bedroom apartment.”

Finding the price points too steep, Pranjal brought together a team of engineers to crack the problem. It took them a few years to develop this indigenous technology which would offer the same features, at a much lower cost.

“With Eden’s smart home system, people can manipulate the switches in their home from anywhere in the world, even monitor the real-time status of these devices. So suppose they are out of the home and aren’t sure whether they have left a device on, they can check its status and turn it off if they need to,” he explains. “They can also group devices, such as the lights in the house, so they can be turned off at once, before bed. We also have a scheduling feature: geysers, for instance, can be turned on and off in advance, so your water is ready by the time you wake up. This helps save electricity.”

He adds that this system would also be useful for senior citizens who don’t have to keep getting up to turn off or turn on switches or appliances. “And suppose you are on vacation and you find out that there have been some burglaries in the neighbourhood, you can switch on the lights in the house as needed.”

They have been testing their product over the last few months, and have begun manufacturing in Delhi. They are planning to begin sales in the next month through distributors, and by partnering with real estate developers and architects.

“We have filed a patent on the technology. Other companies in this domain have an external hub; we have eliminated that, and included all such basic components in our module, so there is no external component. We had filed for the patent over seven months ago. We also registered under the Startup India programme, as part of which we were granted assistance from a lawyer, who took care of the legal proceedings for us.”

The price of their product, he says, can be customised based on home size and requirement. “Most players in the market have imported the smart home technology that they are marketing; this adds to the high cost. Since we have developed our own technology, our costs are lower.”

Pranjal says they are now working on smart door locks, which would also notify owners in case of break-ins. For details, call 8107872713.

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Printable version | Apr 12, 2021 9:44:25 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/internet/smart-dont-cost-a-thing/article25426766.ece

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