If you’re anything like the average technology writer you’ll have a drawer full of old kit lying around the place, gathering dust. Well here’s what looks like a neat use for old smartphones that are still functional even if they’re no longer good enough to be your everyday device. Reusing tech kit so it gets a second life to extend its usefulness is obviously to be encouraged — and the plethora of sensors in the average smartphone mean there are plenty of options for use number 2.
U.S. startup, Xavage Technologies, has come up with one: it’s created a phone-housing-plus-app combo — which it’s calling Xentry — that turns an old iPhone or Galaxy S Fascinate into a door-mounted caller-display so you can see who’s at the door and communicate with them via the corresponding app on your own in play smartphone. The old phone is mounted on the inside of your front door, with a customised peephole attachment replacing an existing peephole lens, allowing the phone’s camera to spy on whoever’s outside.
The “smart door” system streams real-time video and audio over your home Wi-Fi network so no need to have a SIM in the door-mounted smartphone. Other features include the ability to disguise your voice when you respond to the caller at the door; door movement detection (using the phone’s gyroscope) so that you can set alerts if someone is trying to enter or exit the house; and a virtual receptionist feature to trigger a message when someone opens the door.
The app also lets you take still photos of the video of whoever is at the door, and supports zooming and exposure adjustment. Simultaneous connection to the door-mounted camera is also supported meaning multiple in-home smartphone owners can see who’s outside.
Xavage is looking to raise $200,000 via Indiegogo to fund production of the two Xentry models, one designed to house old iPhones (3GS/4/4S) and one for the Samsung Galaxy S Fascinate (chosen because it was a popular device in the U.S. market in 2010). The phone housing will be manufactured from either ABS or recycled ABS. The top housing may be aluminium in the shipping version of the product. Xavage added that it plans to expand the range to other “top selling smartphones”, and is working on a universal model for business applications that can be attached to glass surfaces, such as office doors.
Charging the Xentry sounds like it may be a bit of a chore. The housing is designed to incorporate the phone’s charging cable but Xavage adds: “Backers are expected to use their existing charging plug and USB cable while Xavage provides a 15 feet (3 meter) USB adaptor cable.”
So, in other words, you’re going to have to plug a charger cable into the device that’s mounted to your door for at least some of the time. Unless the phone can easily be removed from the housing for charging. Still, for a little inconvenience, you’re getting a low upfront cost video caller door display — and reusing your old phone to boot. The cost per Xentry looks to be around $55. The startup expects to be shipping its first batch in December, if it makes funding.
Update: Xavage said it’s looking at a couple of options to improve the charging scenario. “For the first Xentry model, our power solution is to have the unit connected to the wall outlet via a charging cable. This solution doesn’t impede the normal operation of the door. For next generations we are optimizing our software for power. Additionally, we are looking at an extended battery or a retractable cable system inside the unit.”
It added that the current version of the app, which streams video only when a viewer is connected to the camera and viewing mode is selected, should support about two days of battery life.