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Home automation device offers plug-in apps, computer vision

Nov 30, 2015 — by Eric Brown — 2,690 views

“Matrix” is a sensor-studded Ubuntu Snappy based home automation and surveillance hub that supports voice automation and gesture and face recognition.

In 2014, AdMobilize applied its computer vision (CV) expertise to the AdBeacon, a recently upgraded Linux-based device that sits next to display advertising and watches, and analyzes public response (see farther below). Now, the Miami Beach-based firm has gone to Kickstarter to sell a Linux-based home automation hub called the Matrix, which uses similar computer vision technology, including gesture and face recognition.

The Matrix, which is still $20,000 shy of its $100,000 Kickstarter goal with 10 days to go, is available for $249, with shipments due in May 2016. The developer-focused Matrix is primarily aimed at the home, but the videos also show applications in stores, restaurants, factories, warehouses, and mobile and outdoor venues.

Matrix from two angles
(click images to enlarge)

According to an email from AdMobilize Chief Hardware Engineer Andrés Calderón, the device’s Node.js development environment is built on Docker containers and the transactionally updated Snappy Ubuntu Core distribution. As shown in the block diagram supplied by Calderón, the Ubuntu Linux-based Snappy stack spans from the device all the way up to a Docker and Google Cloud enabled backend component.

Matrix architecture
(click image to enlarge)

The disk-shaped, 4.04 x 1.38-inch Matrix can be mounted to the wall or on a stand. Although full specs have yet to be released. AdMobilze says the device runs the Ubuntu Snappy-based “Matrix OS” on a Freescale i.MX6Quad system-on-chip, which has four Cortex-A9 cores that are typically clocked at 1GHz to 1.2GHz.

The Matrix is further equipped with 1GB of 800MHz DDR3 RAM, 32GB storage, as well as 3G (1900MHz), Bluetooth 4.0, and 802.11a/b/g/n dual-band WiFi. GPS and NFC chips are onboard, and ZigBee and Z-Wave are under consideration for the future.

Matrix detail view
(click image to enlarge)

A 5-megapixel, 1080p @ 30fps camera is located in the center of the disk for home surveillance and face and gesture recognition. The device is equipped with a microphone for voice activation, speakers for voice response, and sensors, including light, humidity, temperature, orientation, altitude, motion, and pressure.

There are no bundled endpoint sensor devices, and it’s unclear what third-party smart devices it can control. Much like D-Link’s simpler Komfy Switch with Camera, all the sensors are located in the hub itself. While the Matrix can work in concert with other Matrix devices, sprinkling these around a large suburban house could prove more expensive than a rampant Sonos addiction, especially at the eventual $349 retail price. We’re also not sure we want an always-on video camera inside our home, but to each their own.

The Matrix ships with a “currently” open source development environment that leverages Google’s V8 JavaScript engine via Node.js, says AdMobilize. It ships with three voice-activated apps that run on both the device and as a mobile app. Matrix Connect is a voice-activated home automation app that is said to work with unnamed “3rd party APIs.” The Mobile Security surveillance app makes use of the device’s camera, motion detector, and GPS.

Matrix exploded view
(click image to enlarge)

Like Mobile Security, the Matrix Intelligent Assistant (MIA) app supports both voice and gesture commands to provide Siri-like reminders and recommendations. The MIA app makes use of a user-customizable LED array called the Everloop, which encircles the camera with multi-colored lights.

The Snappy Ubuntu Core based development environment enables the creation of IoT apps in under seven lines of code, claims AdMobilize. Calderón noted to LinuxGizmos that while the platform currently offers Node.js, the use of Docker containers will allow AdMobilize to add other development languages as well.

The development platform offers readymade libraries including Matrix CLI (command line), Matrix ML (machine learning), and Matrix CV, which offer computer vision routines for face detection and recognition, gesture detection, and blob detection. The platform includes event filters, dashboards, and the ability to interact with raw data.

The platform’s Google Cloud component enables “complex detections and predictions,” according to AdMobilize. The platform is “encrypted via SSL over HTTPS from the initial set of communication, to the message you deliver to your apps, to the data sending to the dashboard,” says the company.

The Matrix is touted for its Matrix App Market, which will let you browse apps by popularity, category, developer, and tags. AdMobilize notes that “IoT products with an open API can become an app available on the Matrix Market.” Snappy Ubuntu Core is notable for its built-in support for app markets.

Planned apps include apps for sign language translation, animal tracking, NFC mobile payment, meetings, earthquake alert, merchandise transports, store rating systems, available seat checking, roommate communications, and elder care. Videos show some more possibilities, including gesture-based TV interactions.

AdBeacon goes to version 2.0

In July, AdMobilize released version 2.0 of its AdBeacon device, a smart camera that analyzes video of the public as they view outdoor displays. AdBeacon enables advertisers to track dwell time, gaze ratio, demographics, and emotions. Advertisers can access performance data by “location, time, audience, engagement, demographics, and other key factors to adjust campaign strategy and drive revenue,” says AdMobilize.

AdBeacon (left) and with mobile and browser analytics apps
(click images to enlarge)

According to VentureBeat, AdBeacon runs on embedded Linux. Many of AdBeacon’s features are also available on the Matrix, including a 5-megapixel camera, WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, optional 3G, and GPS. The 4.75 x 2.5 x 1.0-inch device runs on 5V power, and supports an optional 24-hour battery. iBeacon is also listed as an option.

The 5-megapixel camera offers 53-degree horizontal, 40-degree vertical, and 66-degree diagonal fields of view. The camera can capture 1080p30 video, as well as 2592 x 1944-pixel stills.

It’s unclear what features are new to version 2.0. However, VentureBeat suggests this is the first version to be offered publicly beyond beta trials. The press release notes the availability of AdRemote apps for Android or the iPhone for easy configuration of the device. There’s also an AdDashboard available via a browser that provides a real-time analytics display.

Further information

The Matrix is available on Kickstarter through Dec. 10 at packages starting at $249, with shipments due in May 2016. A developer version that includes one year of free access to the “currently” open source developer platform, goes for $289. More information may be found at the Matrix Kickstarter page. More on the AdBeacon may be found at the AdMobilize website.

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