StreetSentry will be a burglar and safety alarm system for multiple homes in a street or apartment block to create a collaborative security and safety system. It eliminates the need for individual households to subscribe to an expensive remote monitoring provider, which can cost as high as £50 per month, because the participants will respond to events as engaged neighbours as it is in their self-interest to do so. Given the immediate location of participants, the other crucial benefit will be vastly improved latency between an event and the investigation.
Why entered the competition?
StreetSentry will propel home alarm systems into the 21st century and at the same time facilitate community cohesion, collaboration and social engagement. It will also address the curse of loneliness as my experience with creating a neighbourhood group using a phone based social media app has demonstrated that people innately want to belong to a community which is based on a shared purpose.
This system provides the basis for recreating the communal village experience which has been a core human trait prior to modern times when people extending beyond familial groupings looked after each other.
Can you briefly outline how your design helps people isolated by Covid-19?
StreetSentry is a streetwide or an apartment block-wide, communal alarm system which will generate alerts when a home has an unauthorised entry or if a person’s safety has been compromised so that participating neighbours can help rapidly. As such given Covid-19 has meant that homes are rarely left unoccupied, home violation events are going to be rare, however in the event that homes are occupied by lone persons or the elderly, safety related sensors generating events are vastly more important and easily expedited by the StreetSentry concrpt.
Can you explain what motivated you to come up with such a solution and take the time and effort to enter this challenge?
I organised a WhatsApp group for our street about 3 years ago after a burglary in my home and it quickly became apparent that residents have an appetite for wanting to help and from initially only having about 6 houses in the group it now has about 60 which is about 75% of the residents of the street.
Given that I saw that residents are vested in wanting to be part of a local community and we have had home alarms being triggered and there was always someone responding on the group that they will go check that out, the idea for something like StreetSentry took root and when the design competition was announced I decided to enter.
Can you briefly explain how your solution works both in terms of features and functionality (does it use an app, is it battery powered, what are the key functional blocks)?
The system will consist of sensors (same type as you see in typical home alarm systems – window+door sensors and PIR sensors) which are wireless and battery powered. There will be a blackbox hub with no display or keypad what will have wireless connectivity per house and finally there will be a cloud portal that will function as the controller unit that will present a home+zones+sensors architectural hierarchy.
All of these components will be glued together using a smartphone app which in one implementation present the same UI as the traditional home controller, and all it does is interacts with the ‘controller box’ in the cloud. The app will only be able to have access to sensors and zones of their own home.
When the home is left empty the phone ‘activates’ the flow of events to all participants and when not required also used to deactivate. That way the home owner is in full control of when others will see events that need to be investigated.
Personal safety related alarm events will need to be treated in different way via a special category of ‘zone’ so that it is always on and so when an event is generated on the wider system, it can have a prioritised notifications in all participating smartphones.
How are the above features enabled technically including any Nordic chips and wireless technologies used, battery life (if applicable), sensors employed etc.
The wireless capability in sensors and blockbox will leverage BLE Mesh and Nordic chip like the nrf52840 is a good candidate. Given that the system uses BLE, it does not provide a path into the internet cloud and so there will be a need to create a bridge into the cloud and an option is to use the Nordic nrf9160 in the blackbox so that every home has an independent route to the internet when a resident is not at home. When a resident is at home, their phone can act as the gateway.
Another option can be to have wifi capability in the blackbox and for that I will need to look at non-Nordic solutions as I am not currently aware of a Nordic wifi chipset.
Is this design a brand new concept or an evolution of something you’ve worked on / developed / were developing before ?
[MT] StreetSentry is a brand new concept which in thought process is an evolution from having been a home alarm user for the last 30 years and a street community organiser for the last 3.
Can you give us a brief summary of your background / career and where you would like to take your career in the future if you are a student?
I graduated as a Control, Instrumention and Systems Engineering degree in 1981 from The City University in Islington. After graduation, I spent 3 years as a Research Assistant and then started working at Ford Motor Company in their R&D center, where I worked on a novel type of tyre pressure sensor that did not require any electronics. I then joined a small company that manufactured weighers for conveyor belts used in quaries and coal mines and progressed to designing automation systems to allow for those conveyors belts to load lorries accurately.
I then became a contractor and in 2000 ended up at company which became the first company to develop and sell a Bluetooth module for others to integrate into their products. That was my invention and the company also patented it.
Subsequently in 2004 I was one of 4 who did a management buyout of that company to create a startup called Ezurio to concentrate on industrial and financial sector uses for Bluetooth connectivity for data communications.
In 2008 that company got sold to Laird where I continued to develop more Bluetooth modules including the their current product line what uses BLE which is exposed via an embedded programming language called smartBASIC which is a programming language I created from scratch. I left Laird in April 2020 to become a consultant.
Over a career spanning 35 years, I have been granted about six patents and it is my hope that aspects of StreetSentry can be patented.