Hackaday Prize Entry: Fochica Alerts You

It seems like no one should need to be reminded about the importance of not leaving children in cars, but it still happens. The Fochica project is a Hackaday Prize entry that equips the family minivan with car seat monitors—the name comes from FOrgotten CHild in Car Alert.

It’s an Open Source project consisting of a Bluetooth LE-equipped Arduino that monitors whether the seat is empty or occupied. Paired with a phone app, Fochica monitors pressure sensors and the seat belt’s reed switch to determine whether there’s a kid there. The user’s app checks whether he or she is within Bluetooth range of the car, while also checking whether the kid’s seat is occupied. When the first comes up false and the second true, an alert is sounded.

We could see this technology also being useful for home automation tasks–for instance, reminding you to close the garage door before you go to bed. It’s a great project, and also one of the finalists in the Best Product challenge of the Hackaday Prize this year.

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Smart Child Seat Aims to Prevent Tragedy

For most of us, a memory lapse is as harmless as forgetting to bring the garbage to the curb, or maybe as expensive as leaving a cell phone and cup of coffee on the roof of the car before driving off. But when the toddler sleeping peacefully in the car seat slips your mind in the parking lot, the results can be deadly.

We have no doubt that child detection systems will soon be standard equipment on cars, like backup cameras and trunk-escape levers are now. Not willing to wait, [ayavilevich] came up with his own car occupancy sensor for child seats (Update: We originally linked to the Instructable but [ayavilevich] wrote in and mentioned this is actual Hackaday Prize entry and he’s looking for more people to get involved in the project).

Dubbed Fochica, for “Forgotten Child in Car Alert,” the system is clearly a proof of concept right now, but it has potential. The Arduino Uno senses Junior’s presence in the car seat with a homebrew capacitive sensor under the padding of the seat and a magnetic reed switch in the chest harness buckle. An Android app on a smartphone pairs with a BLE module to get the sensors’ status, and when the phone goes out of Bluetooth range while the seat is occupied, the app sounds an alarm. Simple, but effective.

We like how well [ayavilevich] thought this through. Systems like this are best left uncomplicated, so any improvements he makes should probably concentrate on engineering a reliable, fieldable device. Another hack we’ve presented in the kid-safety space is fast stairwell lights for a visually impaired girl, which might provide some ideas.

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