By Lakshmi Sandhana
Wouldn't it be nice to have a digital house elf that handles the operation of all your various electronic devices? That's what the Ninja Sphere aims to be, a one stop intelligent hub designed to add your various household devices to the Internet of Things. Like other home automation systems, such asRevolv, Ninja Sphere can monitor and allow the remote control of connected devices, but offers expanded capabilities with its gesture control interface and the ability to map the location of devices in the home in real time.
Ninja Sphere was created by Sydney-based company, Ninja Blocks, which released its namesake product in 2011. Not unlike Twine, Ninja Blocks are wireless sensors that connect to a home network and allow electronic devices to be controlled remotely or triggered automatically in response to environmental factors. Ninja Sphere takes things further, with the system consisting of a sleek dome-like unit called a Spheramid, which features an LED matrix that can display information.
Depending on the size of the house, multiple Spheramids can be placed around the home and act as gateways to the "Ninja Sphere," a wireless network that consists of the Spheramids and all the devices connected to them. While the Spheramids act as a gateway to the Ninja Sphere, additional gateways can be located around the home in the form of "waypoints." These are small USB devices that act as additional nodes and, by analyzing their overlapping Bluetooth low energy (BLE) signals, allow the system to construct a digital 3D model of the environment. This lets the system locate where various devices are within the house and recognize when something is out of place.
In addition to smartphone or smartwatch control, users can operate their various devices by simply gesturing at the Spheramid gateway. With a few hand swipes, you can check things like how much energy you've used, or turn the heating, lighting or sound system up or down.
The information and operations available will naturally depend on the devices and sensors connected to the Ninja Sphere system, which currently supports Bluetooth, BLE, Wi-Fi, Zigbee Light Link and HA, Philips Hue,Belkin WeMo, openHAB, and ODB2 connectors, just to name a few. However, the system is open source, meaning that third party developers are free to write drivers to connect a device to the system.
Moreover, the system is able to monitor any object within the environment once a Bluetooth-enabled smart tag has been attached to it. This opens up almost endless possibilities, like keeping tabs on your pets when you're out shopping or revealing where you've put your keys. Want to make sure that vintage wine stays in the cellar? Once you tag the bottle, the system will alert you if it detects the wine being moved when you aren't at home.
It's also possible to set rules in place so that Ninja Sphere does things automatically in response to predefined triggers, such as turn on the lights when you walk in, switch the heater on when you're on your way home, or send a text message asking whether you'd like to activate cameras in the area when some valuables are on the move.
The Ninja Sphere system with one Spheramid that is suitable for a small apartment or home was available to early backers for AUD199 (US$180) on its Kickstarter page. However, this and various other tiers have already been filled, so the minimum pledge currently remaining is the AUD259 (US$230) tier, which includes one Spheramid gateway, two waypoints and a smart power socket. The campaign has easily surpassed its funding goals and the first units are expected to ship in June 2014.