Five years ago around Halloween, Xandem Technology posted a video on YouTube of a garage-turned-graveyard. At the back of the graveyard, a skeleton -- lovingly named Chancellor Darkskull -- stood in a cage and spoke to trick-or-treaters. And when kids walked around the space, Darkskull's red-eyed gaze would follow them.
The technology behind this setup was simple, but surprisingly clever. The hub that controlled the skeleton used nodes, spaced evenly along the graveyard fence, to sense where kids were walking. But the nodes weren't traditional motion sensors; instead, they were radio transmitters that cast a net of signals across the graveyard. By tracking which communication lines were blocked or altered by a person, the network could tell the skeleton which direction to look.
Five years have passed since the video was posted, and today Xandem Technology is hoping to enter the smart home market. The developers -- an assortment of university and government-bred engineers -- have spent the time working off grants from federal agencies and academic institutions to turn the technology behind Chancellor Darkskull into a security system for businesses and an integration system for smart homes. The latter, dubbed Xandem Home, is now live on Indiegogo, and customers who preorder the system for $499 are supposed to receive beta versions within four to six months. It ships worldwide; that price converts to about £330 or AU$710. Bear in mind that not all crowdfunding projects pay off or as expected.
Using the Xandem Home system will basically look like this: you take the 10 included nodes and plug them into wall outlets around your house. Then, using the app, you sketch a rough diagram of the home layout and indicate where you plugged in the nodes. Finally, you sit back and watch your system track people's movement throughout your home.
On its face, motion tracking doesn't seem too impressive, but a few aspects elevate the potential of Xandem's technology. First, where cameras can be expensive, invasive and, along with traditional motion sensors, limited by field of vision (see our roundup of connected security cameras), Xandem Home will feature diagrammatic imaging of movement in the home -- even if the motion is on the other side of furniture or a wall.
Xandem Home will also integrate with other proprietary APIs, like Philips Hue's or Nest's. That means you could, in theory, set up Xandem to trigger your Philips Hue lights based on where you are in the house. A motion-sensing light setup could be a big step in the direction of practical smart-home living, but it will take careful timing and clever balancing to avoid potential annoyances.
Although official partnerships with some smart-home developers are in the works, CEO Joey Wilson isn't ready to reveal any specifics on them.
Xandem Technology's tomographic approach to motion detection seems really creative, and Wilson assured me that the hardware and firmware necessary for Xandem Home is already in place. I am curious, though, about the particulars of the system. Will installation really be as simple as plugging in the nodes and sketching the architecture of your home on your mobile device? Will the nodes be able to distinguish between a pet running through the hallway at night and an intruder?
Xandem Home looks like an interesting entry into the smart home security industry, and it could have an impact on daily life, too. At the steep price of 500 bucks, not to mention the likely addition of annual costs, Xandem might intimidate customers looking for smaller-scale smart home technology integration. But if it works as advertised, and more importantly if it plays nice with other technology, it could be a big addition to the smart home industry.
Check out Xandem Home on Indiegogo, open for preorder at $500 (again, that converts to about £330 and AU$710).