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Smart Home

Answer the door even when you're out with SmartBell

A 23-year-old student has won a competition run by Japanese giant Sharp with his idea for a smart doorbell that plays video messages to visitors.


"Knock knock." "Who's there?" "Harry." "Harry who?" "Harry up and open the door!" "Very funny Harry, but the joke's on you -- this is a video message on my smart doorbell and I'm actually thousands of miles away."

Japanese tech giant Sharp is planning a smart doorbell that will enable conversations like that one. The competition-winning idea of a British student, SmartBell adds a screen and camera to the standard doorbell, which would connect to an app on your smartphone or tablet.

When someone rings the bill you can then video chat with them from wherever you are in the world, whether you're thousands of miles away on holiday or upstairs in the bath.

The competition-winning original idea for SmartBell by 23-year-old student Daniel McGrane. Sharp

If someone calls while you're not available, SmartBell could be set to play a pre-recorded video message greeting your visitor or giving instructions for deliveries -- basically, an answering machine message for your front door.

SmartBell is the brainchild of 23-year-old student Daniel McGrane, who won a paid internship at Sharp for his idea. He will be involved in developing the prototype. Looks like Daniel's idea is -- wait for it -- opening doors for him.

The humble doorbell is one of the everyday products getting a new lease of life as part of the so-called "Internet of Things": objects in the real world that connect to the Web, to phones and to each other, thanks to wireless technology.

One example is the DoorBot , a smart doorbell that started out as a crowdfunded project. Unlike SmartBell, DoorBot doesn't have a screen so won't play video messages to visitors, but it does have a camera so you can see the caller on your smartphone.

Other ideas in Sharp's competition for innovative new ideas included an interactive blackboard and a multiple allergy sensor.