Rico gives your old smartphone a job in home security

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The Rico uses a spare smartphone as its brain and eyes

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Almost every day, it seems, breakfast is accompanied by the debut of a next generation smartphone that makes our perfectly capable current models look positively antiquated. Whether you patiently wait for the end of your contract before upgrading or contact your provider straight away, you're existing pocket pal will likely be retired to a powered off eternity in an infrequently opened drawer somewhere. The folks over at Mindhelix want to give that old phone a new lease of life in the Rico home security and monitoring system.

To put the toy-like Rico to work, a spare smartphone running Android 2.2 or iOS 6 and above will need a side app downloading and installing. The smartphone can then be placed within the Rico's colorful housing. Though larger phones and phablets will be too big to be used, anything with a 4.5-inch screen or smaller should be OK. The Rico unit is connected to a wall outlet and cables inside the housing ensure that the smartphone within is always charged.

Mindhelix says that the new hybrid device that results could have a combined feature set that includes a HD camera, microphone, integrated speaker, 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity, and sensors that monitor humidity, temperature, air quality, carbon monoxide and motion.

Loading the companion iOS/Android app onto your current smartphone allows you to remotely connect with the Rico for a live stream of your living room or office and receive event notifications via Rico cloud servers hosted on Amazon Web Services. Users will even receive an alert if the Rico loses power or Wi-Fi.

"The smartphone has an incredibly powerful processor that we can use to do really cool things in the near future like image processing, voice recognition and voice commands," CEO Kallidil Kalidasan told us. "Also, all of the above features can be pushed to the users via a simple app upgrade, when traditional smarthome devices would require a core hardware firmware upgrade. These app updates can be developed much easier and also the existing app developer community can join us in the process, unlike the rigid firmware level upgrade system that traditional smarthome devices have."

The Rico package will also come with smart-sockets, which cater for home appliance control via the app – such as switching on the lights or TV while you're at the restaurant, for example.

Mindhelix currently has a working prototype of the Rico device and a companion app in the bag, but has launched a Kickstarter campaign for the final push to full production. There are three brightly-colored Rico units to choose from, though the developers are also offering a special pledge level for a Kickstarter green model. As of writing, backers can pledge US$100 for an early bird Rico and one smart-socket. If all goes to plan, the first packages will be shipped in November 2015.

Have a look at the pitch video below for an overview of how the system works.

View gallery - 8 images

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