As many smart home product developers are working on the perfect integration with all smart home management programs, Carnegie Mellon University is taking a different approach.

They developed a general purpose sensor for the whole room that tracks all activities from all smart products. Not only does it help the user, but it's safer for them as well because the information is never sent to the cloud.

Ubiquitous sensors seem almost synonymous with the internet of things (IoT), but some Carnegie Mellon University researchers say ubiquitous sensing — with a single, general purpose sensor for each room — may be better.

The plug-in sensor package they have developed monitors multiple phenomena — sounds, vibration, light, heat, electromagnetic noise, temperature, etc. — in a room. With some help from machine-learning techniques, this suite of sensors can determine whether a faucet's left or right spigot is running, if the microwave door is open or how many paper towels have been dispensed.

"The idea is you can plug this in and immediately turn a room into a smart environment," said Gierad Laput, a Ph.D. student in CMU's Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII). "You don't have to go out and buy expensive smart appliances, which probably can't talk to each other anyway, or attach sensors to everything you want to monitor, which can be hard to maintain as well as ugly. You just plug it into an outlet."

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