Bringing comfort and safety  to your home

Bringing comfort and safety to your home

ROMA – SOMETIMES adding a little convenience makes the biggest difference.
Likotsi Phoka is doing just that. The way this National University of Lesotho (NUL) Electronics Engineering student controls gates and garage doors borders on the captivating.

Consider one case where his system would have helped.  There is this story of one parent who had to rescue his two-year-old son.
His son’s hand was caught between the garage floor and the automated garage door.
Apparently, the two-year-old, like most of his peers, was the experimental type.

He wanted to see what would happen if he tried to push an automated garage door up, when it was going down.
He was caught up. “That wouldn’t have happened if the parent installed the system I am developing,” Likotsi says.
“My system would have sensed the presence of the child’s hand and refused to move closer.”
How about this one?

With his system, you don’t only control gate and door movements, you also control gate and door locks.
Imagine how it unfolds. It’s cold and raining and you are coming from work sitting comfortably in your car and oops! You have to get out and open the gate and then, the garage!

But you have probably seen a reasonable number of average folks just taking a tiny remote control system out of their pockets and pressing.
The gate is open and the garage door is open. But hey! There is more to that gate control system than meets the eye.

“In this project, we explored three different ways of opening and closing a gate,” Likotsi says.
“First, we tried and tested the normal remote control system.”

On the gate, you place a receiver and on your hand-held device, you have a transmitter.
A transmitter sends a signal to the receiver to either open or close the gate.
It is by far the most common way of gate control.

The challenge is that, your average automated gates and garage doors don’t sense obstacles on the way and many gates don’t have automatic locks.”
Likotsi began to differentiate his system. To solve the problem, “we use ultrasonic sensor.”
It continually sends sound (which is so faint, only an insect will hear it) to measure a distance to any obstacle on its way.
Suppose the garage door in the case of the two-year-old had to hit the floor to stop.

“In that case, the sound will travel to the floor, hit it and come back to the sensor, in which case, we have programmed the system to recognise that there is nothing on the way of the door. Therefore it can close.” But what if the sound hits the child’s hand (or anything on the door’s path)?
“In this case, the sound would immediately bounce back. We have programmed the system to notice that if the sound bounces back so quickly, it means there is something on its path, then it sends signals to the door motor to stop moving.”

That would have saved the young explorer’s tiny little hands from being squeezed.
But it is not only children’s hands that garage doors and automated gates try to squeeze.
It is practically anything standing on their path, including, perhaps, you and your car!
Let’s suppose you are now happy, you don’t have to jump off your car when it’s raining.
You just cruise into your house.
But there is still a lingering problem.

You have opened and closed your gates without having to leave your car, that’s right, but who will do the locking once you are in your house?
Having to go back to lock the gate when you just cruised past it a little earlier is a bit of an inconvenience.
“That is why our system also controls the gate lock,” Likotsi says. “We programme the system such that after pressing the open button, it automatically unlocks before opening the gate. Similarly, after closing the gate the system automatically locks.”

No doubt you can now sleep peacefully, resting assured that you kept thieves and rascals at bay.
To be sure, that is until you lose your hand-held remote control system.
“This is a big problem.”

Likotsi brought another “twist” to his story. “The challenge now is not only how to open your gate and garage door if you lost the system, it is also, what if someone picked it up and will soon find his way into my house while I am sleeping?”
That is why you need an alternative.

“We are exploring the use of bluetooth because it comes with a number of security features such as pins.”
Also it is very flexible, it is in your phone, when you lose your phone, you will use another one.
In another case under exploration, the gate system just senses your car when it comes close, without you having to press anything.
It is a hands-off operation, no buttons, no pins.

With these systems, one thing is getting clearer – your family comfort and safety. This is Likotsi’s number one priority.

Own Correspondent

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