Home sensing and monitoring systems can alert homeowners to problems, such as a failing furnace or a leaky pipe, before damage is incurred. One challenge with the wireless sensors used by these systems, however, is that they tend to be power hungry and require frequent battery replacement. Developed by Associate Professors Shwetak Patel and Matt Reynolds and ECE (formerly EE) alumnus Gabe Cohn (Ph.D. ’14), the SNUPI home monitoring system takes an innovative approach to home monitoring that dramatically increases battery life and enables practical deployment of home monitoring systems.
SNUPI’s approach consists of small, low-power sensors that monitor a home for problems, such as moisture in the attic or an overheating water heater. SNUPI’s unique wireless communication technology leverages the existing electrical wiring in homes as a whole-home antenna. A single base station receiver is connected directly to the powerline by plugging it into an outlet. The nodes in the network then transmit wireless signals to nearby power wiring, and the signals travel through the home wiring infrastructure to the base station. This allows sensor nodes to transmit at much lower power because their signals do not need to travel all the way to the base receiver. As a result, the battery-powered wireless sensors have an average battery life of more than 10 years. This is a significantly longer battery life than competing sensors using WiFi or Bluetooth, which have a battery life of less than two years.
To commercialize this unique approach to low-power wireless communication, SNUPI Technologies was founded in 2012. The technology originated at UW and the Georgia Institute of Technology and was developed to a prototype stage by alum Gabe Cohn during his graduate thesis research. The technology was then licensed to SNUPI for commercial product development. Four patents have been issued for the core technology, with several other patent applications pending.
SNUPI’s first product, the WallyHome water leak detection system, was sold to Sears in 2015 to form the core of their smart home efforts. WallyHome alerts homeowners to problems such as water leaks by monitoring changes in temperature and moisture. Sears opened a new office near the UW campus to house the SNUPI engineering team, and the cofounders of SNUPI Technologies will provide consulting services to Sears for the development of new products.