Two teams from BioE received top honors at April’s UW Foster School of Business 2015 Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge. The competition challenges interdisciplinary student teams to identify and propose solutions to environmental problems, develop business plans that prove market potential, and pitch their ideas to judges at a demo-day event. This year, 36 teams proposed innovations in clean technology, renewable energy and water resource management.
Hook makes home automation simple
Hook, a team led by Rahil Jain, a Ph.D. student in electrical engineering and research associate in the lab of Barry Lutz, assistant professor of bioengineering, received the competition’s second place $10,000 prize. Rahil’s team members include Maxwell Wheeler, a research scientist in bioengineering, Anigo, a professional software developer, and Robert Moehle, a student in Foster’s Technology Management MBA program.
Hook is a home automation hub that provides an easy, affordable way to convert one’s cell phone into a smart home remote control. “We want to make consumers’ lives simple,” Rahil explains. “With Hook we want to put the Internet to work for them and take care of basic things in life.”
Consumers can already simplify the operation of electronics throughout the home by purchasing affordable remote-controllable outlet adapters. Let’s say you wanted to turn off all the lights in your home at the end of a long day – without getting out of bed. Just install a few simple outlet adapters throughout your home, and then you’d be able to switch off the lights with the press of a button on a remote control. However, the outlets only work within the range of the remote – you might not be able to turn off the kitchen lights off from your bedroom upstairs. The outlets also have limited functionality – you can’t program them to automatically shut the lights off at a specific time each night. Fully programmable, automated solutions can be very expensive and complicated to set up.
Hook enables affordable, simple home automation by turning those remote-controllable outlets into “smart” devices. Hook connects remote controlled outlets, light bulb sockets, motorized blinds and more to the internet and enables their operation from a smart phone. Using the above example, you could launch the Hook app on your phone to program the lights in your home to shut off at 10:00 p.m. weeknights – and perhaps just a bit later on weekends. If you’re a tinkerer or hacker, you can take Hook’s capabilities even further via its open-access API.
The team Hook’s automation capabilities not only provides consumers with convenience but also energy consumption savings, increased safety in their homes and enhanced functionality of older electronic devices that might otherwise end up in landfills. The team launched Hook on Kickstarter in April, and and is currently headed into the final round of this quarter’s UW Business Plan Competition.
Looking forward, Rahil explains that Hook is just the beginning of a series of consumer electronics his team wants to bring to market. “Our vision is to make existing dumb things smart, so that you don’t have to buy new and ditch the ones you love,” he says. “If you’ve always wanted a WiFi bathroom scale but hate to get rid of the one you already have, that’s where we come in.”