Sensors and antennas in smarter homes

Yes, the word “smart” is definitely overused, especially for cities and buildings. When at all needed, the technology aspect should actually be there to make us smarter, collecting data to help in making better decisions. That being said, there are quite a few good ideas in the article another frontier for the digital revolution about “smart buildings.” Like printed sensors and antennas to monitor problems and failures.

Printed moisture sensors are a promising potential solution, which if integrated into walls and floors would be able to detect leaks at a very early stage and alert the owner of the building. One such approach, targeted primarily at bathrooms, has been developed by the Swedish company InviSense. A printed RFID antenna coil is coated with a moisture-absorbing material. The resonant frequency changes in response to moisture, which can then be detected by an RFID reader.

And they really mean “printed,” since some companies are working on inks that can be used in your home printer, paving the way for DIY/Fab Lab-built versions.

An alternative approach to leak detection is being developed by UK company Laiier. It offers low-cost capacitive sensors, which are made from carbon-based inks and can be produced using conventional graphics printers. The thin-film sensor format enables them to be placed underneath appliances such as dishwashers, washing machines, boilers, and pipes, or even under flooring or within walls.

Of course, one of the best ways to be smarter about our homes is to make them more energy sufficient, and new varieties of solar panels could help with that.

Another alternative is semi-transparent solar cells, which can be applied to windows as thin films. Although less efficient, since clearly less light is absorbed, semi-transparent solar cells enable existing windows to be utilized for energy harvesting.

One thing to note is that a lot of these “solutions” seem to transmit information, multiplying radio waves around the home. While they are, by all accounts, safe, it does seem like one transmitter to which sensors replies if they found a problem would be more efficient and less “noisy” signal-wise.

Image: IDTechEx, technologies for possible integration into smart buildings.