Project Idea: Household Pager

When we’re doing several other things at the same time as baking, it’s easy to forget to check the oven, and things get burned. When we’re watching a movie and the phone rings, it’s annoying to have to go to the phone to check the caller ID to see whether it’s worth interrupting for.

I want a household pager that vibrates and has a single-line alpha display. Range limited to my house, and integrated with everything.

Set the oven timer; when it goes off, the pager says “Oven timer.”

Incoming phone call, pager shows the caller ID. Doorbell could show “Doorbell,” in case we were upstairs where we can’t hear it.

Washing machine, dryer, or dishwasher finishes running, pager lets you know.

Integrated with everything in the house, I think it could be incredibly handy. Sensor modules could be serial-numbered, so you assign text to functions in the base station rather than at each sensor. Of course, the trick is integrating with everything in the house.

9 Responses to “Project Idea: Household Pager”

  1. Matthew says:

    Sounds like a good application for zigbee. That would certainly simplify integrating with lights, outlets and whatnot.

  2. Joe Zimmerman says:

    I’ve tried this a couple times now, tied in with my home automation. First attempt was to use a motorola IMFree

    I picked one up for sure cheap, and it was a little goofy bring that around the house with me just so I could get notifications.

    Then I switched over to sending a text message to my actual cell phone. It seemed to work pretty well, but for a lot of things I decided just a voice announcement over my house speakers was better in most cases. “The washing machine has finished it’s cycle”, or “The thermostat has been set to 68 degrees” One of my favorites that has saved me in a few occasions, is “The refrigerator door has been left open for (X) minutes.”

  3. IgorM says:

    I’m working on a similar project. The best way to solve it, I find, is to use some PIC16F628 (or alike) USB and/or TcpStack capabilities. This allows to convert a serial/parallel interface into a computer understandable communications (my dream to give ALL the devices their own IP address). All this allows to have a single gateway for the house to the outer world. You can easily send an e-mail or an SMS (or even to call) to your cell phone. In this case you don’t need an extra device like beeper to carry around (you carry the cell phone anyway) and you’ll get vibration for free ;-)

  4. David says:

    I would agree with Matthew that this sounds like a great application for ZigBee. Atmel has a free stack available which you could build upon. The ZigBee alliance also has a home automation specification which might be of interest as part of this project.

  5. Keith Neufeld says:

    Matthew, David — I don’t know ZigBee, although what I read sounds very promising. Either of you want to take a stab at building this for me? :-)

    Joe, I’m fascinated by your description of your home automation. Do you have a web page about it? How did you integrate with all your appliances?

    Igor, I’m not interested in using an existing pager or cell approach because of delay and reliability. When the cookies are done, I need to know now, not in one minute. Likewise when someone is at the door ringing the doorbell. Around here, text messages usually take minutes to be delivered, sometimes hours, occasionally (and bizarrely) days, and sometimes they’re lost entirely.

  6. shavenwarthog says:

    would this be appropriate for FRS radios? They’re VERY cheap, small, durable, long-range, and have two-way audio.

  7. Tom says:

    This sounds like a fun project, but wouldn’t a cell phone with SMS already get you most of the way there? X10 technology is a bit hacky but well-established; you’d just need to integrate it with the appliances and write some routines on a central controller to send email-to-SMS messages when various events occurred.

  8. John M. says:

    One way Hams tackle this is to put a new crystal into a regular pager so that it receives amateur radio frequencies and then broadcast on that frequency using a pocsag program. There are some basic rules and guidelines which I will not detail in this post, but you can set up your own pager server and broadcast your own pager messages.

  9. Phillip says:

    I’ve been working on home automation stuff as well – you can see a few things on my Ubuntu blog.
    I’ve got the speaker system hooked up and Bonjour instant messaging for the “need to know NOW stuff”
    I don’t have a pager, but I know what you mean about message delays ;-P I use SMS on my cellphone to control things and get status information

    I want to add additional sensors – It’s just running all those wires to interface everything….

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