Hackaday Prize Entry: Alarm Detection For The Hearing Impaired

A few years ago, [K.C. Lee] woke up in the middle of the night to the smell of smoke. He was drying a futon next to the heater and it caught on fire. A smoke detector would have helped in that situation, but wouldn’t have for anyone who was hearing impaired. Since we’re in the Assistive Technologies portion of the Hackaday Prize, [KC] decided to build on his previous work and build an alarm alarm – a device that would tell anyone when an alarm is going off

Smoke detectors and other alarms are surprisingly standardized – loud, somewhere around 3kHz. (Not coincidentally around the resonant frequency of a 3/4″ piezo disc.) Some modern alarms use a 520 Hz alarm, but in either case, you’re looking at something very loud with a very narrow peak when viewing the audio spectrum.

[KC]’s Alarm Detector relies on this one property to detect alarms and light up, vibrate, or really do anything else that can be controlled electronically. Right now the device is a tiny STM32F0-based device with an old Nokia LCD working as a spectrum analyzer, with the entire device lighting up whenever an alarm is detected. It’s simple, it works, and it’s a great entry for the Assistive Technology portion of the Hackaday Prize.

22 thoughts on “Hackaday Prize Entry: Alarm Detection For The Hearing Impaired

  1. Every hospital I’ve been to, and even the handicap accessible apartments I’ve seen, have visual fire alarms as well as audio ones. Bright, xeon strobe lamps that will catch your attention as easily as the loud buzzers. The accessible apartments in my complex even have them hooked up to a strobe light on the porch; don’t want someone opening the door to a raging fire.

    Not to rain on the prize entry. I just thought these audio/visual alarms were pretty common. And the device vibrating for an alarm would help someone who is both blind and deaf, which it seems that the normal alarms are lacking support for.

      1. I sleep during the day and strobe light doesn’t work on me. My hearing loss starts at 95dB on low frequency and goes off at 125dB at 3KHz, I would need insanely loud alarm, the kind that wakes the dead across ocean to rouse me. Vibration doesn’t work well either for me. I doubt my apartment would let me install a jackhammer on my bed for emergencies.

        1. After my deaf girlfriend’s house was broken into while she was sleeping I built a security system out of X-10 devices and X-10 wireless security. When the alarm went off, all the lights in the house flashed on-off. Also, I used an existing sound monitor that worked for the intruder alarm and smoke detector that send a wireless signal to the alarm clock with bed vibrator. Nowadays we could use an SDR to hack the wireless signal to the bed vibrator.

          The only problem was that after some years, there seemed to be some new strange RF interference and the clock would start vibrating madly. The X10 also randomly turned on lights, an independent wireless system.

      2. My youngest boys will sleep through the sound of F-18’s taking off only 2000 meters away, and they have perfect hearing. So yeah something that actually works for the specific sleeper is vital and you can’t safely assume anything until you test it.

    1. How about using one of those smart connected wristband to vibrate in case of alarm ?
      Despite that, it’s actually challenging for a blind and deaf person. No matter what it is. How do you make that person understand that the vibration means a dangerous situation ?
      Even if the person is aware of the dangerous situation, how can he/she manage to escape without help ?

      1. What about a wristband that gives a “painful” but not harmful electric shock, that would wake the dead, and have a button on it that must be hit in a certain pattern to deactivate it, you would have to be awake and alert to enter the pattern. But you say an electric shock is mean? Well dying is meaner.

  2. It takes up space, but why not one of those screwed to the floor ultra-base house thumpers for at home. Maybe for public buildings …—… (sos) in ultra bass Morse code with thumpy feel in your thorax freq tuned speakers and resonance boxes/tubes. The Morse SOS to differentiate form some idiot spamming the neighborhood with his personal music.

  3. “He was drying a futon next to the heater and it caught on fire.”

    Actually, he wasn’t the one drying to futon. Sounds like it might have been a roommate. He woke up from the smoke and discovered someone had placed a heater (maybe a space heater) next to a wet futon to dry it off. Honestly, smoke detectors are a wonderful safety net to have but education is far more important. Regardless if it was a mistake or not, you should never leave a space heater unattended.

    1. I know what happened, the roommate had a bucket of water hooked up to a servo. When the alarm sounded it splashed over the futon and he had to dry it for the next night, not knowing it would trigger another alarm ;)

    2. Actually i was living at a converted basement at the time. I got out of school and needed a cheap place to stay before finding a job. The people 2 floors up with a kid had a case of wetting the futon and decided that it was a good idea to place the futon directly on the heater and crank up the heat to dry it. The slump lord didn’t install a smoke detector. (It is required by law these day.)

      I put out a few small fires since hight school so far all of them are set off by others because they were fooling around or being stupid. My first instinct is to put out the fire. Most of the people have no situation awareness and simply stand and stare at the fire. These days they would be the ones pulling out a smart phone and record instead of trying to help or flee.

        1. Sander would still destroy the bed after a few emergencies. A jackhammer without the chisel end would probably work better. I’d have the house or apartment sounded first, those strong vibration could shake the nails out and collapse the building!

  4. Very similar to the “Leeo” … a product that has been on the market quite some time, and VERY useful. This, combined with some other minor automation, is what I use for my mother and sister who both have hearing loss… also, so I know when their alarms go off (sends push notifications and calls to an emergency list of family). For those not so DIY-inclined, a pretty good solution.

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