There are lots of home monitoring devices on the market with built-in cameras, motion sensors, smoke detectors, and microphones to pick up unusual sounds, along with Wi-Fi or cell connectivity to transmit video footage or alerts in real time.
To Kallidil Kalidasan, the CEO and cofounder of MindHelix, that set of features sounded awfully familiar.
“From an engineer’s point of view, these devices are built from the same stuff smartphones are built from,” he says. “That’s when it struck me that you could actually repurpose used smartphones into home security devices.”
MindHelix is in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to fund its Rico line of home monitoring systems, which are designed to be connected to a used Apple or Android phone, which many people already have at home.
The smartphone provides audio and video capabilities, along with network connectivity, and the Rico units provide additional sensors for smoke, heat, humidity, and carbon monoxide. “Everything that’s not there in the smartphone, we put into Rico,” says Kalidasan.
In addition to monitoring for these dangers, the devices will provide live or cloud-recorded video streams and integrate with Rico-branded “smart sockets” that sit between ordinary outlets and appliances to add remote power control.
Because most of the functionality for the system is provided by the equipment customers already have sitting idle, Rico systems will sell for $99. That’s $50 less than Dropcam or Simplicam, neither of which offer temperature, carbon monoxide, and smoke detection.
The company says the Rico units should be able to work even with cellphones that have broken screens, a problem faced by as much as a quarter of all iPhone owners according to one insurance company. And given Apple’s annual release cycle, it’s not uncommon for people to have an older model to sell or recycle–Horace Dediu analyzed the market in 2011 and estimated that half of people buying a new iPhone were also discarding an old one.
MindHelix will provide Android and iOS apps to integrate the phones with the Rico units, says Kalidasan, a serial entrepreneur who initially founded the company as part of the Startup Village incubator based in Kerala, India.
The company has since relocated to the Bay Area and participated in the Alchemist Accelerator program, which is backed by Cisco, Salesforce, and other companies focused on enterprise and Internet of Things startups.
MindHelix plans to begin shipping Rico units to backers in Fall 2015.