Concept Phone Works As A Universal Remote For IoT Devices

Concept Phone Works As A Universal Remote For IoT Devices
Design

By understanding the world around it, this phone unlocks a singular experience for controlling your smart home

Ido Lechner, Home Editor
  • 23 may 2017

The smart home industry is projected to grow from its $46.97b valuation back in 2015 to upwards of $121b by 2022, with a slew of new interfaces and concept designs promising to bring automation and connectivity to every nook and cranny of one’s living quarters. Already we’ve seen various takes on how Internet of Things will manifest within the home, from plug and play motion sensing utilities you can customize on the fly, to more pervasive technologies such as Amazon Alexa. And while these technologies offer an intuitive means for interaction with one’s home, they lack an underlying infrastructure to acquaint themselves with one another for a truly interconnected setup.


Indeed, in order to reach that elusive stage of widespread adoption, smart home app, infrastructure and utility manufacturers will ultimately have to create collaborative designs capable of tying into larger frameworks, without forgoing their own carefully crafted user experience. To that effect, researchers from the Future Interfaces Group over at Carnegie Melon University have developed a new prototype smartphone dubbed ‘the EM-sensing phone,’ capable of identifying which device a user intends on controlling and surfacing relevant apps to make it possible.

By tapping the phone to whatever product they want to control – be it a refrigerator, thermostat or television – the EM-sensing phone lets users seamlessly manipulate the devices around them. It even goes a few levels deeper than that by feeding on contextual clues to make life easier: tapping a phone that’s already primed with a document to a printer for instance will automatically surface print settings, instead of forcing you to go through the motions of connecting to that specific printer, selecting the document and manually inputting your preferences. The same practice holds true for sending files to one’s computer, or anything for that matter.

While the phone doesn’t necessarily universalize the many different products in the household, what it does do is grant immediate access to control them on a whim. The immediacy of our actions with the devices surrounding us can have large implications on the form factor of those devices – as assistant professor of human-computer interaction over at Carnegi Melon Chris Harrison puts it,

“Instead of having 50 touch screens in your house for every appliance, you could use the smartphone as this gateway. That’s a really powerful notion… It’s not a magic bullet, but it gets us closer to the smartphone knowing the context around me. That’s a much more magical, powerful experience than what we’re seeing right now.”

The death of the TV remote, and most mechanical button-based interfaces in the household draws near, as the smartphone will centralize physical functions much likes its done already for clocks and timers, surfing the internet, GPS,  making a payment, listening to music and so on.

From a technical standpoint, the smartphone works by using an electromagnetic sensor to identify frequency signatures emitted by various household appliances, whereby it narrows down the possible functions someone is trying to achieve. A machine-learning chip embedded within the device further determines the likeliest match for each signal, with up to 98% accuracy according to the Future Interfaces Group. And, since technology doesn’t require any external tagging, coordination between manufacturers, or third-party apps in order to manage a host of smart appliances, it’s essentially ‘bootstrapping a smart environment’ as Harrison puts it.

While the technology is still in its infancy, the team behind it speculates that the the EM-sensing phone (or some iteration to follow) will come to market quite fast once partners and manufacturers pick up on this new approach. With the inevitable barrier to adoption however, it’ll only prove feasible when smart products themselves pick up some major steam in infiltrating households across the globe. Until then, the researchers promise to prime the technology for the day they strike a deal with a corporation that deems the EM-sensing phone revolution ready.

EM-sensing phone

The smart home industry is projected to grow from its $46.97b valuation back in 2015 to upwards of $121b by 2022, with a slew of new interfaces and concept designs promising to bring automation and connectivity to every nook and cranny of one’s living quarters. Already we’ve seen various takes on how Internet of Things will manifest within the home, from plug and play motion sensing utilities you can customize on the fly, to more pervasive technologies such as Amazon Alexa. And while these technologies offer an intuitive means for interaction with one’s home, they lack an underlying infrastructure to acquaint themselves with one another for a truly interconnected setup.

+Amazon Alexa
+home
+human-computer interaction
+IoT
+IoT
+mobile
+Mobile
+motion sensing
+technology

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