This week the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Google that reveals one of the first Home Automation devices that they had their eye prior to acquiring Nest, the maker of the smart thermostat. Is this invention now under the direction of Nest? Only time will tell.
Right out of the gate, Google notes the problem that they want to solve: Most garage doors are not capable of being opened or closed from far away. Google's invention covers methods and devices for remote monitoring and controlling a door, such as a garage door and beyond.
An implementation of the invention may obtain a state of the door from a position sensor located within a removable device, which may be attached to the door. The state of the door may include whether the door is open or closed. An implementation may indicate, over a wireless network, the state of the door to a user. The user may send a command to a wireless transmitter located within the device to change the state of the door. An implementation may also send a signal to the door to change the state of the door.
According to Google, "the device" could be a smartwatch, smartphone, tablet, ultraportable computer, notebook and media devices to name a few.
In accordance with another aspect of Google's invention, a device may include a processor, position sensor and a wireless transmitter. The position sensor may be configured to obtain a state of a door, such as a garage door. The processor may be configured to indicate, over a wireless network, the state of the door to a user.
A wireless transmitter may be configured to receive a command from the user to change the state of the door. A device may also include an attachment mechanism for attaching to the door. The removable device may weigh no more than about 300 g, and may have at least one dimension not more than about 120 mm. It also may be 60mm thick or less.
In another implementation of the invention, a second wireless transmitter may be configured to send a signal to a door control mechanism, such as a garage door opener, to change the state of the door. In an implementation, a user may be a person who desires to change the state of the door. The user may also be an automated system, such as a home automation system that is capable of being configured by a user.
Although Google's patent FIG. 3B noted above illustrates an example of a device in connection with a garage door.
Beyond the Garage Door
Although the focus of Google's invention is the smart garage door for a home automation system, Google clearly states in one area of their patent filing that "it will be understood that similar devices may be used with other types of doors with appropriate sensors." In fact Google notes that "many other devices or components (not shown) may be connected in a similar manner (e.g., document scanners, digital cameras and so on)."
Although this area of the invention has some interesting potential, the patent filing provides no other clues or examples of what they have in mind specifically. Yet technically, the invention covers Google's special door sensor with the Garage Door just being the central example of their choosing.
A Part of Google's Home Automation System
Google patent filing further notes that implementations of the invention may interface with a home automation system, such as by way of a communication subsystem. The home automation system may be configured to send a command to change the state of a door automatically.
For example, if a device as disclosed herein indicates the door is open after a time period designated by a user, the home automation system may send a command to close the door automatically.
As another example, the home automation system may track the presence or absence of one or more automobiles used by a family or household. If a garage door is open when all automobiles are present in the garage, the home automation system may send a command to close the garage door automatically.
Recognizing the arrival of vehicles associated with a home may be accomplished by known techniques of obtaining signal strength data associated with the vehicles, image recognition techniques or other known techniques of vehicle recognition.
More generally, the home automation system may be configured to control the state of a door according to any parameters set by a user of the system. Google noted in their patent background that today's garage door opening systems have a limited range as to when a remote can open a door. Google never explains how the distance will be extended through their system.
Google's patent FIG. 5 shows a network configuration
Lastly, Google's invention covers a hand-held or similarly-sized device that may be attached to a garage door by an attachment mechanism such as a magnet, a pre-applied adhesive, a drying adhesive or similar mechanism on the device. In addition, and perhaps more importantly, Google's invention may be able to work with existing garage door openers that are already in place - though I'm sure there will be some restrictions and date sensitive warnings should this ever come to market.
Google's patent which was published this week was originally filed back in July 2013, about six months prior to acquiring Nest for U.S $3.2 billion. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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