Can you knock on your kitchen countertop to dim the lights, turn on your favorite music or send your partner a text message? You can if you have a "Knocki" stuck to it. Developed by Texas-based Swan Solutions, Knocki is a disc-shaped device that turns solid surfaces, such as walls, doors or tables, into remote control switches for internet-connected devices. All you have to do is knock.
Stick a Knocki on to a metal, granite, marble, drywall, wood or stone surface and it’ll work as long as it’s within range of a Wi-Fi signal. The Knocki can recognize up to 10 unique patterns of knock and taps, and each knock pattern can be programmed to trigger specific actions through a companion app. For instance, knock twice at a relaxed pace on your Knocki-enabled nightstand, and it could get your coffee pot brewing. Three rapid-fire knocks on the same surface could be set to shuffle music. And if you really want a little pampering, you could even order pizza with a few taps, all while still in bed.
“It’s the first-to-market solution to add interactivity anywhere using the existing walls, furniture, doors, etc in our homes,” Jake Boshernitzan, one of the company’s co-founders, tells Gizmag. Instead of adding hubs and accessories to upgrade their own homes into smart homes, Boshernitzan brainstormed with co-founder Ohad Nezer to find a way to make existing objects in their homes smarter at low cost. They also wanted a solution that worked in an easy, natural way without the hassle of buttons and switches. They eventually came up with Knocki.
The device uses an accelerometer-based system to sense vibrational patterns on any surface and runs on ordinary AA batteries. Users need to tap out an activation knock before following it up with a knock pattern; this prevents random vibrations from triggering actions. Once the sensor detects the initiating knock, it determines whether the following knock pattern is intentional based on patent-pending methods. It then wakes up the Wi-Fi and sends the information to a server in the cloud to trigger the appropriate action. Since Knocki decodes surface vibration using non-acoustic motion algorithms, there’s no possibility, its creators say, of it accidentally deciphering music, clapping or other environmental sounds as knocks or taps.
Once stuck to a surface, the range within which a Knocki detects knocks and taps depends on the structure’s material and its thickness. “We find that wood tables, cabinets, etc allow for a range of approximately 6 feet (between the device and a knock or tap) with typical tap/knock commands, but can exceed 10 feet in some conditions,” says Boshernitzan. While it has the same range on a drywall, it works as far as three to four feet roughly, on a stone or granite counter top. The device doesn’t have to be stuck on the visible side of anything either-it can placed on the hidden side or even embedded into something.
Multiple Knockis can be configured to carry out different functions depending on the surfaces they are attached to, through the companion app which manages them all. Since the Knocki uses Wi-Fi to control connected devices, it can also work outdoors as long as the device being controlled is within range. The technology can be used for a huge array of tasks including remote monitoring. For instance, you can activate security alarms or receive text message alerts if someone knocks on your door when you aren’t at home.
“We hope to make smart technology more accessible from a cost perspective, but also from a usability perspective,” Boshernitzan tells us. The device could, he says, liberate seniors and people with mobility impairments from having to interact with devices through software interfaces or buttons. It could also be potentially used to streamline a wide variety of user interactions. For instance, Knocki-enabled tables could allow patrons at a restaurant to request a water refill or ask for their checks by simply tapping out different knock sequences.
Knocki will be launched later this year, but there’s no exact date as yet. The device can be pre-ordered for US$59 at the company’s website.