Introduction: Alert System for Children or Pets Trapped Inside Motor Vehicles.

Picture of Alert System for Children or Pets Trapped Inside Motor Vehicles.

On average, 38 children die in hot cars each year from heat-related deaths after being trapped inside motor vehicles. This system is meant to alert a parent if they forget their child in the car, my main design criteria for the system are:

1- No action is required to activate / deactivate the system. It is meant to "just be there". The reason is that a parent who is running late or stressed out enough to forget a child in the car isn't likely to remember activating / deactivating a system.

2- It's not too noisy, if the system gives too many false alarms parents will end up disabling it.

The system works by monitoring CO2 levels in the car, CO2 is actually a very good indicator of the presence of people. The system will check CO2 level over N intervals, if CO2 level is continuously going up or if it gets past a certain threshold this is a sign that someone might be trapped in the car. Once detected a message is sent to all saved parents alerting them that something might be wrong. The message also includes information about location and temperature in the car.

Step 1: Supply List

Picture of Supply List

I am sure most of these items can be purchased for lower prices, but I was focusing on US based sellers since I don't like waiting 4 weeks to get my items, suggestions welcome :)

1- Intel Edison Board with arduino shield, I got mine from Amazon

2- MQ135 Gas sensor - Ebay
3- SIM900 module, I got it from Amazon as well, you can get it for a much cheaper price from or Ebay if you can wait.

4- DS18B20 Digital Temperature Sensor- Ebay

5- (1) 4.7k sensor and (1) 1k- I just purchased this kit from Amazon

6- LED for testing

7- Female - male Duport connectors - Ebay


Bread Board


Power Source - More on this later!

Step 2: Software: Insalling the Edison IDE

Before proceeding, you will need to connect your Edison board and install the IDE, just follow the instructions here

Step 3: Schematic

Picture of Schematic

Step 4: Connecting, Calibrating and Testing the MQ135 Sensor

Picture of Connecting, Calibrating and Testing the MQ135 Sensor


VCC to 5V

Gnd to Gnd

AO to A0 on your board

Calibrate (Very important)

This drove me crazy for some time, the value you get from the CO2 sensor should be around 399

To learn more about the calibration process, please check this out.

To Summarize:

Connect the sensor to your circuit and leave it powered on for 12-24 h to burn it in. Then put it into outside air, preferably at 20°C/35% rel. hum. (humidity is not so crucial). Read out the calibration value as such
float rzero = gasSensor.getRZero(); Wait until the value has somewhat settled (30min-1h). Remember, this is an ADC measurement so you might not want to wait some time between reading the sensor and also do some averaging. Once you have determined your RZero, put it into the MQ135.h. Note: Different sensors will likely have different RZero!

Run Test code

I uploaded the test code to this step, I used a RED LED to light up when the value exceeds a certain threshold. you can also check out the video of my assistant (8 years old) testing it.

Step 5: Connect Heat Sensor

Picture of Connect Heat Sensor


Point the flat side of the DS18B20 towar you.

- Left = Ground
- Center = Signal (Pin 13)
- Right = +5 or +3.3 V

- 4.7 k Resistor from +5V to Signal

Step 6: Sim900 Module

Picture of Sim900 Module

It's recommended to power up the SIM900 from a separate power supply, I did not do that for my module though

+5V <---> VCC;

GND <---> Power Supply GND;

next GND <---> Board GND

TXD <---> Pin 8

RXD <---> Pin 7

If your SIM900 is properly connected to the network you should see it blink every 3 seconds, if it blinks too fast this means it's still looking for network, I uploaded a video to show the difference - notice how it blinks fast at first, then it starts to blink more slowly

Step 7: Optional: Red LED for Testing

You can optionally connect an LED to signal you when the SMS is about to be sent, this is useful for testing. I used a 1k resistor.

Connect one end of the resistor to pin 12.

Connect the long leg of the LED (the positive leg, called the anode) to the other end of the resistor.

Connect the short leg of the LED (the negative leg, called the cathode) to the GND.

Step 8: Useful References

Power source

For different ways to power up your board, I found this great instructable:

SIM Card

I ended up buying a SIM from T-mobile for 99c and bying a very cheap plan (I believe it ended up being 5$/month) - Adafruit has a great page about different SIM options

Step 9: Code

Picture of Code

The code is available on, unfortunately the Embed function isn't working today, so you will have to download it from here

Once Downloaded you can open it with the Arduino IDE and send it to your Edison Board

Step 10: End Result

Picture of End Result

It's important to note that this is not meant to be a "Go ahead and leave your child in the car, we will let you know if things get really bad" - this is more of a "You might have forgotten that sleeping baby in the car", or "You know that person who's supposed to be watching your child? they're not doing a very good job"

Please remember to vote for me if you like this tutorial :)


Ben_Abroad (author)2015-10-16

Great, practical application of tech! Good idea, and good execution. This could very easily save a life or two.

Might I suggest giving more information about the change in CO2 concentration, instead of just the value because a number on its own is difficult to interpret... (and arguably irrelevant, because these levels fluctuate to wildly from day to day) however saying "it has increased by 4% in the last 20 minutes, so there is likely to be something in the car" is useful info.

To make this write up even more indispensable, you could do the research and maths on behalf of the masses, figuring out how much of a change would be relevant. (How many % would a sleeping baby change the CO2 levels by in a 2600L car interior in 10 minutes. How does that contrast to the CO2 produced by a potted plant in the shade, etc).

Keep up the good work

jhaas2 (author)2015-10-13

Nice idea, I'm just wondering if the Edison board has room for a small camera as well? If so a small pic sent along with the text would make checking super quick.

R-I-H-A-M (author)jhaas22015-10-13

It sure does have room, and I really love the idea, I am wondering what would be the best way to send the pic to the phone though? The board does support blue tooth but it has a small range of communication.

jhaas2 (author)R-I-H-A-M2015-10-13

LOL, now i think your talking programming, which I suck at. But is there a GSM or LTE card that can replace the SIM900 module for longer rang? Granted you'd have to add it to your cell plan but that would be a small price to pay. Additional someone much smarter than me might be able to help you use the Edison to connect to the car via Bluetooth or the OBD port to roll down the windows and honk the horn. Anything to draw attention to the car if our not within sprinting distance.

DanielN53 (author)2015-10-12

Wow fantastic idea! This is a great example of how the network society will solve old problems! Once again I loved it. Keep inventing.

R-I-H-A-M (author)DanielN532015-10-13

Thank you Daniel, glad you liked it :)

Fezder (author)2015-10-13

One of best ides seen on this site, literally saves lives! of course any parent/pet owner shoudln't forget their loved ones, but as instructable stated it, it can happen! nicely done, keep up the good work! :)

R-I-H-A-M (author)Fezder2015-10-13

Thank you so much Fezder, I really appreciate the encouragement :)

philwilliams81 (author)2015-10-13

I've mixed feeling on this project. Yes it demonstrates a solution to a real life problem, but that itself IS the problem...

No-one should leave children or animals in a car unattended, end of. I commend the author of the article and I think it's a very educational project but I suggest that people don't put themselves in situations that requires a child or a family pet to be left in a car unattended in the first instance :)

R-I-H-A-M (author)philwilliams812015-10-13

I could not agree with you more on this Philwilliams81, I tried to stress this out as much as I could in both the post (last paragraph) and in the comments, as I mentioned before I tested this by locking myself in a closed car and it was not something I would do to my kids. Unfortunately accidents happen though, and people forget sleeping babies in the cars more than you'd think :(

кстефанов (author)2015-10-13

Using Intel Edison is total overkill. This could easily be done with barebones arduino for just a tiny fraction of the price for Edison.

Keep it simple and cheap.

cammers (author)2015-10-05

Brilliant idea. This could really save lives. Thanks for sharing.

R-I-H-A-M (author)cammers2015-10-11

Thank you, I really hope it does.

EslamS5 (author)2015-10-05

Brilliant. keep it up (y)

R-I-H-A-M (author)EslamS52015-10-11

Thank you :)

kooth (author)2015-10-07

Excellent idea! This will save lives! Thanks for posting!

R-I-H-A-M (author)kooth2015-10-11

Thanks, glad you liked it :)

jpayton (author)2015-10-11

I want this for my dog. I often take him with me and if its hot or cold leave the truck running with my remote start. It works great but I still worry and I dont like to leave him for very long. Not to mention the cost of gas. I plan to build a controller that will start the truck if the temoature goes outside a set range. Like <58 or >75 it would start the truck. The auto climate control will take care of the rest. I will add this to it and have backup warnings if something fails.

R-I-H-A-M (author)jpayton2015-10-11

I really like the idea, i have a friend who is experienced in robotics who suggested something similar, basically to connect the system to the car ECU using OBD II, and start the engine + air conditioning in case of emergency. I will work on this modification!

marioandluigi87 (author)2015-10-08


albertbu (author)2015-10-06

Write me if you want to make something real with your brilliant idea. This configuration is nice for an instruct able but if you want to make a real product talk to me albertbu at mail of google

DeepDarkDead (author)2015-10-06

Terrific idea, I love it! I'd love to see you on kickstart or go fund it and have you sell these babys. One adjustment I would make is to try a thermoresistor instead of a heat sensor. They do basically the same thing, but thermoresistors areMUCH less expensive. Check it out if you get the chance! Keep up the good work!

R-I-H-A-M (author)DeepDarkDead2015-10-06

Thanks for the tip about the thermistor DeepDarkDead - it is indeed much cheaper and would do the same job, I will get one and make the design change, I have been wanting to do some cost and size optimizations.

EslamS5 (author)2015-10-05

Brilliant. keep it up (y)

Kafukai (author)2015-10-05

Wow, this is so great. Unfortunately, that's happend a lot in Israel with toddlers.

I would never forgot something or someone in a vehicle, but those who might have to use it. I know this is not that cheap, but for saving a life the price is very reasonable. Thanks for sharing :-)

wisekennedy (author)2015-10-05

I say great idea!

R-I-H-A-M (author)wisekennedy2015-10-05

Thank you :)

wisekennedy (author)2015-10-05

Sadly in Arizona it happens all the time and pets too

R-I-H-A-M (author)wisekennedy2015-10-05

People underestimate how hot cars gets - I watched this amazing video a few weeks ago, everyone needs to see it.

I tested the system by sitting in a closed car and it was quite unpleasant, would never do that to my kids.

FoxyIT (author)2015-10-05

Who would ever forget 'someone' in the car? >_<

R-I-H-A-M (author)FoxyIT2015-10-05

Sadly it happens a lot more than you'd think :( I actually got the idea after reading about grandparents who forgot a toddler in the car last month in Georgia.

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