Building a CrowdSourced Security System
One of the most frequent questions I get is “what are you supposed to build with a BUG?” to which I typically respond “whatever you want!” When pressed, we have a few different examples we use to illustrate the importance of programmable, open gadgets. During CES this year, we often used an example of a fully controllable home security system, built using the BUGbase, a motion detector module and a camera module. The idea, in a nutshell, is a security system that could take pictures when motion was detected, and direct those pictures to a selectable location. But that’s not where the idea stops for us, it actually extends much further.
The key here is to think well beyond the static/automatic nature of an off-the-shelf consumer electronics device. A static device is designed to do its task very specifically. When it comes to communication and photos, however, there are too many options to build into any one product. For example, what if I want my security system to send pictures to my cell phone during the day, and archive them on a local PC at night? Or what if I want the pictures sent to my Flickr account? Easy so far, except the next 20 “customers” might want different combinations of photo sharing services, different motion detector sensitivity settings, and numerous options beyond. Gets a bit trickier. Now let’s explode the concept out to think about the “crowd”.
What if I am on vacation, and while I’m gone, I want the system to really work for me. I’d want my friends or family to know someone’s in my house, right? So one option is to have the photos emailed to them, but another, much more powerful one would be to integrate with Twitter or Facebook. Now the “crowd” who knows me is able to work as a group to notice the motion event. Think of the impact of a community of users watching out for one another and each other’’s valuables (house, car, etc) using social networks and automated alerts/notifications. Simple stuff.
This week we decided to try it out. We set up a BUGbase with camera and motion detector modules and placed it in our office in a place where it detects someone coming in the door. We then configured it to send out a Twitter and start logging pictures to Twitxr whenever motion was detected. The application is now available on BUGnet here (please note we are making improvements to it – it’s fun to tinker!).
It’s dawned on us that this example is more interesting than just “another gadget”. In essence, by setting up a Twitter feed triggered by a motion sensor we’re extending the online conversation to include machines – let’s call it a Social Gadget Network. This has potentially useful implications. Now, anyone can subscribe to our security camera Twitxr feed (hence the name “crowd-sourced security”). The BUG community can now help us keep an eye on our office.
We’re still getting our heads around the concepts of ever-connected gadgets that do more than the functions at hand. Shared data. Shared feeds. Shared inputs and outputs. The impact is going to be big, and it’s exciting to think about!