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Advanced Contactless Multifunction Control unit with gesture detection

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ACMC (Advanced Contactless Multifunction Control unit with gesture detection)

Reporting period: 2015-12-01 to 2016-05-31

Status Quo and Business Opportunity
Touchless gesture input devices have a potential to support wide span of applications. However, in the first stage we plan to focus on three big global markets: (1) home automation (hereafter: HA) market, (2) market of switches for household line voltage lighting and (3) speciality market, mainly using our type of gesture control for controlling blinds, elevators, doors, alarms or any machine requiring input that would benefit from customized look or from touchless operation (sterility).
Touch screens and button controls, currently used in such applications have some drawbacks. We intend to overcome those with the Advanced CMC gesture interface.
First problem of existing controls is the limitation of design options, they can offer. Design and aesthetics of our surrounding (homes, offices) is becoming more and more important. Most features of the home environment can be fully customized (furniture, walls, flooring, lighting etc.) Architects are more empowered to complete the entire design space and practically all the elements that are in it. The only exceptions are control units for lighting and home automation systems. Growing number of keys and displays in such units contradicts modern architectural-design principles where clean, aesthetic lines, consistent with other design elements in the room/house, are sought. Another problem of existing home automation controls is the complexity of their use. Accurate typing and reading of signs/icons is necessary, which is difficult for many people, especially the elderly, people with limited motor skills, poor sight or technologically illiterate people. Third problem of existing solutions is high price.
Based on facts, listed above, we identified shortcomings on the current market, which creates a new business opportunity for our company with unique knowledge on contactless gesture detection segment, bringing higher value for the customer and reducing the costs for the producer.

Specific objectives for the feasibility study
1. To further evolve already fully functional Advanced CMC prototypes by evolving our current contactless technology. This will include i) enabling it to support new gesture recognition patterns; ii) upgrading it to support modern communication protocols and iii) optimising operational parameters: speed and range.
2. To research and test user aspects, feedback and reflections about usability, following a lean approach in order to design, test and deliver what customer want
3. To activate existing and research new promotional and sales channels
4. To elaborate on business strategy in order to determine the best commercialization strategy and corresponding pricing model
In this feasibility study we overview the activities that were performed during the SME Phase 1 ACMC project and their results, as well as the conclusion of the action, i.e. how the status of the business idea has changed from the initial proposal and what support would be required to further pursue the idea.

In Phase 1 we focused both on technological and market & business-related aspects. We analysed and developed our prototype and assess market, user groups, product range and commercialization options. Please see Feasibility study for more. According to the specific objectives of the action, we describe the work done and results in the following sections.
Our Advanced Contactless Multifunction Control unit with gesture detection (ACMC) is designed for people to control lighting and electronic installations just with hand gestures, without actual input surface. This innovation will replace usual switches, buttons, screens and similar input units in houses and other workspaces. Without the need for a dedicated sensing/input surface, ACMC will work through various materials, allowing tiles, furniture or walls to become control panels.
Our goal is to provide technology which adapts to human ways of communication. Advancing technology allows us to take a step away from solutions, where humans are forced to adapt to input devices. Dictated by technology, move towards solutions, where technology adapts to human ways of communication is viable today. We developed a genuinely new contactless control unit, the “Advanced Contactless Multifunction Control unit with gesture detection” (hereafter ACMC) which will deliver new type of human/computer interface based on hand gesture recognition.
Our solution provides: Ease of use, Retrofit, Futuristic Feel, Extensive design options, Wide range of usability, Low manufacturing price and Flexible hi/lo selling price, among others.
Geographical markets for ACMC gesture control units are global and we divided it into three main user groups or segments: Switches and other controls for households (Household Controls, HC); Home automation (HA); and Industrial intelligent Lighting (IL). According to our research conducted during this study the global market cumulatively for all our segments is estimated at €16,2 bil per year and we expect to grow to €6 mil in 5 years from investment.
Based on our work in Phase 1, we can provide following elements of ACMC product range that goes beyond the state of art:

- Ease of use and user-friendliness: ACMC switch in this implementation is activated by a simple wave of a hand in front of switch’s surface. Management of the unit is easy and does not require precise hand swing, only approximate sweep in the right direction, making it suitable for people with limited mobility or vision because sensing range of the ACMC is large. This allows even individuals with physical disabilities to operate it. This quality makes it ideal for installation in facilities where users could have limited motor abilities, such as in nursing homes, hospitals as well as in kindergarten, etc.

- Design: Aesthetic possibilities of ACMC sensors are limitless. The visible part does not require any holes, groves or openings. Switch plate can also be made in any shape and material and can thus truly fit into any design environment. Having countless discussions with Architects, Interior designers and other similar experts as well as deducting from our own experience from contacts with end users we have strongly confirmed that clean, aesthetically complete lines, consistent with other elements of spaces’ internal design are most appealing to most people. ACMCs’ proprietary screw-less means of attaching decorative/protective plate delivers on this design and facilitates simple disconnect which allows for frequent, thorough cleaning and even sterilization. Furthermore, the ACMC technology enables replacement of several switches with a single control unit. This further improves interior wall design and reduces wall clutter with multiple mechanical switches by replacing them with a single elegant control.

- Placing of ACMC - Retrofit: Our products for the HC market are designed to fit into a standard single or double wallbox. This eases market penetration since rebuilding / rewiring is not necessary or minimal, reducing the installation costs for users. We found out that reducing the cost/time needed for installation is one of the most important factors influencing homeowner’s decision to buy the product. When installing the ACMC (or replacing the old mechanical switch for this matter), one uses existing wires, wall-boxes, etc. We have tested complexity of installation with many test users to establish optimal ways of mounting including all documentation. Although it is a bit more complex to install ACMC unit as a regular mechanical switch we found that majority of test users managed to install the unit with no or minimal support from our side.

- Price: There is a constant need for less expensive solutions. Reduced price in exchange for higher quality and usability is the driver for our endeavor. It is important to emphasize that our innovation, ACMC - without any additional effort, will be suitable for high price and low price range because the same unit can be offered to low cost markets (large store chains) and high-value, exclusive market. Innovative and unique features of ACMC will enable price/value differentiation based on design (decorative tiles) and functionality (different functionality can be programmed into the same device) characteristics, both for the same production cost. Controls with simple, inexpensive decorative tiles can be sold at a lower, more affordable price; on the other hand, exclusive, designer tile can reach high prices for specific customers. Devices that detect just simple, rudimentary control gestures can be sold at lower prices, but same unit can be programmed to detect gestures that are more complex and sold at higher prices. ACMC can be, although a new breakthrough technology, a low-cost unit, especially when comparing to current “button” or “touchscreen” solutions. Prices in North America start under $1 and in Europe under €2. The highest priced light switches retail for $30-40 and €20-30 respectively. They are technically the same. They achieve high price through design and brand name, such as Maestro (Lutron), Acenti (Leviton) and BTicino (Legrand). Prices of dimmers start at $4 in North America and under €10 in Europe. The prices of those which dim only incandescent light bulbs reach $120 because of modern design and brand name such as Vierti (Lutron). Prices of magnetic transformer dimmers and electronic transformer dimmers are higher and reach $180. None of these switches can be made nearly-invisible. According to our research a better price range of our portfolio corresponds to competitor offerings in a 30EUR – 70EUR price range.

- Futuristic feel: Because the control is operated by natural gestures (not required to be highly accurate) and without any visible control, communicating with computers in such way seems almost magical.
- Wide range of usability: Even in complex systems - each gesture represents another command for the system – from simple gestures controlling basic functions, to more complex gestures operating complex devices or advanced functions (such as inputting a password into a home alarm).

- Elimination of physical contact: As there is no need to touch the unit this makes it ideal for all those locations and applications where there is a need for control of spread of germs, pathogenic microorganisms, etc The switch can easily be environmentally sealed, which is ideal for locations with hazardous materials thus making it suitable for use in industries such as Cleaning & Sterilization-in-place, Bio-tech, Pharma, Medical, etc.
- Resistance to harsh environments: Because the switch can be completely sealed and has no moving parts that can produce sparks, it can be used in any harsh environment, such as environments with corrosive, flammable or toxic atmospheres. Furthermore it is completely resistant to dust or other deposits that can accumulate on the surface of the sensor since it can operate through the dirt unlike IR, touch screens and other input devices that require optical clear path to operate and are unsuitable for such environments.
- Wireless connectivity: With Wireless connectivity the unit can be connected to existing wireless networks, Internet-Of-Things, Smart-Home and other solutions.
- Invisibility: The unit can be installed in such a way that it is invisible to the operator. Therefore it can function as a security device, presence sensor, etc. We have tested a solution where the unit acts as an invisible security lock.

Please see more also in Feasibility study itself.