Georgia Tech at the Forefront of the Internet of Things
For more than 10 years, technology experts have predicted the Internet of Things (IoT) - small, usually hidden computers attached to objects. The devices sense and transmit data about the environment or offer new ways of controlling it. IoT has always been constrained by two things, though: range and longevity. Technology such as wi-fi doesn't work under appliances like dishwashers, refrigerators or washing machines because the signal has to transmit through the air back to a hub. Recently though, with new enabling technologies, the IoT and connected home industries have exploded. Universities are also on board, including Georgia Tech (WATCH: "The Human Edge of the Internet of Things" at IPaT's 2013 People & Technology Forum).
Tech is at the forefront of the IoT trend with the development of WallyHome. The technology was first researched at Georgia Tech's Aware Home by College of Computing Professor Dr. Gregory Abowd, and his PhD students Shwetak Patel and Erich Stuntebeck. While working on power line-based technologies, they discovered Wally's underlying wireless technology. WallyHome uses a home's electrical wiring to detect environmental hazards. It monitors moisture, temperature and humidity changes. Sensors are placed with appliances or in hazard-prone spaces and Wally alerts users of impending disaster or damage as soon as it occurs. (WATCH: See how WallyHome works)
"We use a completely different approach to wirelessly sending data from our sensors to a central hub," said Patel. "By using the electrical wiring in your home as a large antenna, this allows us to dramatically reduce the power consumption of the sensor while increasing the range. Consequently, we can produce wireless sensors that have whole-home range and last 10+ years."
After receiving his PhD in Computer Science from Georgia Tech, Patel became the first Tech alum to win a MacArthur Fellowship. He also started two companies using Georgia Tech research, including SNUPI Technologies, the company behind the WallyHome system.
"(It's) very gratifying to see research ideas have a practical value and, potentially, be commercially validated," said Dr. Abowd. "It's not the first time for me (or for Shwetak), but the feeling of personal achievement does not diminish."
"They (Georgia Tech) have been very supportive of Wally and have been very easy to work with through the whole licensing process," said Jacquelyn Jaech, SNUPI Technologies VP of Marketing and Sales. "Streamlining the commercialization process is key to the proliferation of great ideas created within a university and into the hands of experienced entrepreneurs."
WallyHome continues to grow; this month, the company announced a 24-hour concierge service to users.