When Sam Harrell arrived at the TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon this weekend in New York City, he had an idea for creating something to do with Internet of Things — an ambitious project to complete in fewer than 24 hours. He succeeded in creating CloudSense, an IoT solution that combined hardware, the cloud using a service provided by sponsor Atlantic.net, and an iPhone and Apple Watch app.
Harrell, who got his day job at NBC Universal after attending a hackathon, said he typically works on mobile solutions, but he came to this weekend’s hackathon with the idea of learning more about how the Internet of Things works.
He had a sense of doing something to do with the smart home, but wasn’t sure what tools would be available that he could string together in the limited timeframe.
“I wanted to get something that could bolt onto existing appliances and home infrastructure,” he said. “The problem I see is we can’t afford to rebuild everything [in the house] to connect to the Internet.”
Harrell, working by himself, managed to make an impressive amount of progress, getting the group of sensors communicating with the board, then the board communicating with the web server, and finally the apps communicating with the web server. He also had to write the iPhone app, and then a simple Apple Watch app. He actually had just gotten his on Friday and hadn’t had much time to work with it.
“It was fun because it was my first foray in Internet of Things hardware and the Apple Watch,” he said.
He used light sensors, a speaker, temperature sensors and an accelerometer. You can buy kits that include all of these sensors, but some of the sponsors supplied parts he needed. He got his Intel Edison board from another hackathon.
The solution can let you know things like if you left your garage door open, if your appliance is on or off and how much water you’re using with monitoring capability on the iPhone and Apple Watch.
“The commercial version would be a starter pack of 10 or more small [sensors] the size of a half dollar that you would stick around your house to appliances, electrical equipment, doors or anything you want to monitor. And then you could monitor and track these devices from your phone and watch from anywhere in the world,” he explained.
He spent the entire time working on the project by himself, which left little time to prepare for the presentation. He admitted coding up until the very last minute and his board setup actually caught on fire just as he was going on stage to present. He was able to complete the demo, but with just a minute to present, it was hard to communicate the full breath of his solution.
He said he wanted to make the Apple Watch app fancier with color-coded alerts, but the coding wasn’t taking. He ended up keeping it simple and leaving the alerts in black and white, but the fact he was able to include an Apple Watch solution at all in the allotted timeframe was impressive.
“I look at this as the start of working on the Internet of things. I learned a lot about hardware and wearables,” he said.