Simon Churches of Vodacom’s Machine to Machine communications (M2M) team believes that home automation will be the next ‘iPhone’ moment – where something big happens that changes the way we use technology forever. He may not be wrong, and he’s certainly doing his best to prove it: he’s helping to develop a smartphone app that will allow you to remote control your hot water over the internet and monitor the state of your tank with your phone.
The system – which is as yet unnamed – is being developed in conjunction with an insurance company. According to Churches, that company approached Vodacom looking for a way to detect geyser faults and shut them down remotely. More than 70% of the damage from a broken geyser comes from the water leak that accompanies it. It’s not uncommon, apparently, for a geyser to break down in the morning and carry on flooding the house until people get home from work.
The result is a small black box which replaces your current geyser’s on/off switch. It consists of a power control, a sensor to detect water in the drip tray, a thermometer and a flow control inserted into the inlet pipe. And, of course, a SIM card to transmit all the data those sensors collect to Vodacom’s cloud servers.
From there, it can be monitored for unusual behaviour – like water in the drip tray or a rapid emptying of the tank – to trigger an automatic shutdown. But it can also do a ton of stuff that’s clever than that.
So if you’ve forgotten to turn your geyser off when you go away over Christmas, for example, you can just boot up the app to do that. You can also change the timer settings, override them if you need hot water when you get home and control the temperature setting of your element.
Churches says that are currently 20 devices installed for testing right now, with a further thousand due to be sent out soon.