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Node-ify Brings IoT to Homes at Low Cost

Palo Alto Innovation intends to release its product later this year, using BLE and LoRa technologies to capture sensor data, ranging from water leak detection to an opened door or refrigerator temperature, in the cloud.
By Claire Swedberg

The Axon's firmware stores the recipe for each device, and the system turns off the BLE radio on the Axon to conserve battery life. Once in use, the Axon begins capturing sensor data, filtering that information before transmitting it at the specified frequency. For instance, the Axon could be used as a weight sensor on which a dog's bowl could be placed. As the animal drank water, the sensor would detect a reduction in weight. Then, at a predetermined level, it could issue an alert to the gateway, indicating that a refill was needed. Similarly, the Axon could track the opening of a door based on movement or light, or monitor toothbrush use based on a change in weight applied to the sensor.

According to Tramiel, the company opted to use LoRa technology for the long-range transmissions it can accomplish (up to a mile) and the long battery life enabled by the low power consumption (about six months). The solution can be integrated into other systems, he says—for instance, it could turn off a router for eight hours at night in order to save power.

Each Axon could also be used for multiple functions, since there are several sensors built into the device. For instance, it could be mounted behind a washing machine to detect water leaks, while also monitoring for a change in vibration, thereby enabling it to notify a user when the machine's cycle is finished. The device will be powered by either AA lithium or rechargeable batteries, or simply by being plugged into an outlet. Since the Axon comes with capacitive touch on its top surface, it can also be used as a smart button to turn the Core off and on.

The key point for Palo Alto Innovation, Tramiel says, is to make the solution inexpensive and easy to deploy. The firm may opt to sell the sensors and gateways at cost, he adds—less than $30 each for an Axon sensor and less than $100 apiece for a gateway. A user would then pay a monthly subscription fee of $5, plus $1 for each Axon. Some potential customers might not want subscriptions, so the firm will offer a model by which sensors can be purchased outright at a higher price, with data made available at no cost.

The company still has work ahead in creating the software and app, Tramiel notes. It plans to offer 20 to 30 room options, with five to 10 recipes appropriate to those rooms. The device could also be used outside—for example, to track when a mailbox is opened, signifying mail has been delivered. Some business owners are considering use cases for the technology as well. For example, a beer company is interested in using the device to track the weight of each of its beer kegs, in order to predict when those kegs require refilling in its server room.

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