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Electrical Engineering

House under control

Company from São Carlos develops low cost equipment for building automation

eduardo cesarSystem switches on, switches off, and controls the intensity of the light at selected times, using a timereduardo cesar

The automation of the functions of a house is always in the images that we make of our daily life of modernity and the future. Although the technology in this area is now making it possible to put into effect many functions of automation in residences, industrial environments and offices, the systems are still often prohibitive, due to their high cost. This problem is beginning to be diminished in Brazil, with a novelty developed by Sensis Equipamentos Eletrônicos, of São Carlos, in São Paulo. The company has made available to the market a digital system that makes it possible, amongst other functions, switching on, switching off and controlling the intensity of the lights, opening and closing doors and curtains, activating motors, heaters, and air conditioning apparatuses, at a cost of only 30% of similar imported equipment.

The key to the reduction in price and to the savings of the system from Sensis lies in the digital language modules, created to allow the use of central low cost microprocessor. This microprocessor handles the communication between the command keyboards and the execution modules, connected by means of the cable used in computer networks.The new system can be used both in residences and in buildings, because it has the capacity for incorporating up to 30 modules and 90 keyboards, besides remote controls and presence sensors.

These sensors are activated when a person enters or moves in the environment, switching on the lighting automatically and switching it off after a programmed interval of time. In the case of incandescent, halogen, and fluorescent bulbs, there is also the possibility of regulating the intensity of the light, leaving the environment more or less illuminated, according to the liking of the user or to the needs of his work or well being. For the functions to be activated at previously determined times, everything can be programmed with the use of a timer.

The building automation technology carried out by Sensis, according to João Jorge de Faria Gomes, a partner in the company, already exists abroad, but was developed in Brazil according to the specific aspects of the local market. “The innovation lies in the characteristics of the circuit and in the digital information processed and stored in the microprocessors. Furthermore, the equipment and the whole automation system uses components available in the market, which reduced the manufacturing cost. This combination is the great differential of our system”, he says.

The first piece of equipment with this technology to arrive on the market was the Scenario SDM-8 for building automation, with the activation of lights, blinds, doors, gates, etc. The project for this equipment received financing from FAPESP, under the Small Business Innovation Research Program (PIPE) and was coordinated by systems analyst Luiz André Melara de Campos Bicudo, who is also a partner in the company. He explains that the network cable technology was adopted for being the most reliable and for permitting an effective exchange between the components of the system. “When a button is pressed on the keyboard in the bedroom, for example, a visual return is given immediately, with a light signal on the keyboard itself. The difference is that we developed a specific protocol for using low cost processors”, he explains.

Integration and security
Besides comfort and practicality, another advantage pointed out by Bicudo is that the equipment can also be integrated easily with security systems and alarm centers, because all the circuits can be programmed and activated at the same time. To guarantee the rights over the invention, the company has made a deposit of the patent for the equipment at the National Industrial Property Institute (Inpi), including the system?s module and protocol. To industrialize the product, the company outsourced the manufacture of the plastic and metallic items, and opted to do only the assembly of the components and the final tests.

“Sensis is a small company, with a staff of only eight, five of which directly involved with the production of the equipment, which comes to 40 modules a month. To make it viable to market them, we have representatives in all the regions of the country, and, for the time being, there is no intention of exporting them, because there would have to be an adaptation to the specific aspects of each market”, Gomes concludes. Since last year, about 300 units of the system have been marketed, sold to companies located in 14 Brazilian states.

The researchers at Sensis began their activities at the Advanced Manufacturing Nucleus (Numa) of the Mechanical Engineering School of the University of São Paulo, in São Carlos. From 1995 to 2001, the company was housed in the High Technology Park (Parqtec). At the moment, they are working with industrial and residential automation, besides producing a lather to be used in teaching at universities and technical schools, which is smaller and cheaper than the industrial equipment. Its function is to demonstrate a programming with Computerized Numerical Control (CNC), a technique used for repeating the manufacture of a metal part identical to the mold.

The Project
Research and Development of a Low Cost Digital Network for Building Automation (nº 00/07507-3); Modality The Small Business Innovation Research Program (PIPE); Coordinator Luiz André Melara de Campos Bicudo – Sensis; Investment R$ 84,440.00 and US$ 7,000.00 (FAPESP)