Before there was Nest Protect or Roost, the only warning that your smoke alarm battery was about to die was the impossible-to-ignore steady beep the device gave off. It was that sound that drove Ryan Margoles and Brett Jurgens to develop the world’s best smoke detector: Margoles’s puppy was home alone at the time his battery was sounding its death knell, and the dog was definitely not a fan of the incessant beep.
The childhood friends quickly abandoned the idea even before the competing products came onto the market, shifting focus to a sensor that could simply detect the sound of an alarm. But that seemed to simplistic, and the pair started stuffing a sensor with additional gizmos to turn it into a super-sensor with eight separate functions.
The two launched a successful Kickstarter for the Notion sensor back in 2014, raising $281,655 with the help of over 1,300 backers. The round device looks a little like an Oreo dunked in white chocolate. Beneath that coating is a light sensor, temperature sensor, piezoelectric transducer, proximity sensor, gyroscope, and water leak probe. It can detect orientation, natural frequency, acceleration, and much more. The piezoelectric transducer can detect how much beer is left in your keg, for example, based on the response from the acoustic signal it sends out.
“What our goal is, is to remove the need for you to choose what devices are required to monitor the things that you want,” Jurgens tells Digital Trends. When it comes to functionality, he compares the Notion to an iPhone. “It does a ton of things you may not use, but it does everything you want it to do very, very well.”
A two-bedroom house could easily get by with three to five Notion sensors, says Jurgens. Put one on the front door and back door, affix one near the water tank and another near the toilet, and you’re pretty well covered. The one you stick on your front door to detect whether it’s been opened can also tell if a window’s been broken or the smoke alarm in the hall is going off. Because the sensor is so multi-functional, it cuts down on the amount of them you need. If you want one to attach to your liquor cabinet, so you can bust the wayward teens you call children, extra sensors are $45 each and come in packs of three. A pack of three, plus the bridge required to make the system work, is $199.
At the end of April, Kickstarter backers who paid extra to be part of beta testing will receive their Notion systems. The team hopes this will give them time to see how people are using the Notion sensors and iron out any troubles. The full launch is slated for July. They’ve already learned a lot from their alpha testing, like the fact that it wasn’t immediately obvious to some that in order for the water sensor to alert you when the toilet overflows, you need to put it on the bathroom floor and not on the side of the tank.
When you set up the system with your iOS or Android device, the app’s dropdown menu is prepopulated with common options for where you’ll place each sensor. “Door” then drills down to “Front Door.” This is ease set up, as well as provide data to enhance the Notion system. Provided they’re within a 175-foot range, the coin-cell-battery-operated sensors send data to the Wi-Fi-connected hub, and that data then goes to Notion’s cloud. The company says it takes security very seriously, and data transfer is protected with AES encryption. If the thought of all that data going to the cloud to be analyzed makes you squirm, Jurgens promises it’s to help them provide better service and not for anything “weird.”
Let’s say your heavy door swings to slowly for the accelerometer to pick up on. The gyroscope and proximity sensors will still be collecting that information. Because you have it designated as a “Front Door” sensor, that information goes to the cloud, and the software starts to analyze the information. ““Over time, as our sensor learns your door and thousands of other doors, we’ll start to hone in on how sensitive those sensors need to be to pick up the right readings,” says Jurgens. Through firmware updates, Notion will be able to adjust the sensitivity as well. Other systems, he says, are constantly sending false alarms, but he wants the Notion system to be smart enough to send alerts only when you really want to receive them. “We really want to increase the level of consciousness,” he says. Jurgens wants users to have access to all the sensors’ data, too, at a level that’s “accessible but not annoying.” It’s a concept he calls “home awareness.”
“It adds a level of simple but sophisticated data to their homes,” Jurgens says of the Notion system. “Your car’s always been able to tell you when its oil is low, when it needs to get a 2,000-mile checkup. Your home’s never told you anything.”