A Wi-Fi Based Controller for Model Trains, Halloween Props, Energy Monitoring and More!




Introduction: A Wi-Fi Based Controller for Model Trains, Halloween Props, Energy Monitoring and More!

About: UConTroll is a Wi-Fi enabled controller that lets, Makers and hobbyist control their devices using their iPad, tablet PC, smartphone or laptop. Visit our Web site for more information, or to place an order:...
People have become accustomed to using their portable devices to perform all kinds of things from watching videos, to playing games, to managing their shopping list.  But despite the popularity of these devices, makers, hackers and hobbyist haven’t been able to use them to control their projects. 

I’m Andy Beck and my product, the UConTroll, is about to change that. The UConTroll is a Wi-Fi enabled controller that allows hobbyist to control their products using the web browser on their iPod, iPad, tablet PC, or laptop.   Now their projects can offer the rich user experience people have come to expect from modern devices.

In addition to the web-based control interface the UConTroll contains powerful automation software that allows it to change its outputs, or send commands, when an input changes state or at a particular time.  This makes it easy to build sophisticated Halloween controllers, Christmas light displays, or home automation and entertainment systems.  It can also send data to a web site, like Facebook, or send an Email or text message when an event occurs.

I’ve just started selling the UConTroll to the Hobbyist market – for those that want to incorporate it into their projects.  However, the real opportunity for the UConTroll is in plug-and-play products targeting specific applications.  Products that consumers can purchase, plug in and start using right out of the box.

I’ve identified a couple of plug-and-play products that have a lot of potential. The first is a Haunt Box - a controller used to automate Halloween lighting, effects and props.  Haunted attractions are a huge industry in the United States. Americans spend about $500 million a year on haunted house tickets, with the average haunt attraction serving about 8,000 guests a season.  In addition to the large commercial operations, there are many smaller haunts run by small businesses, civic groups and other organizations. Haunt boxes can also be used to control Christmas light displays, lighting and special effects in film & stage, and to animate interactive displays.

There are a number of haunt boxes on the market, but most of them need to be connected to a PC to operate and many support only a small number of inputs and outputs. A UConTroll-based haunt box would provide a lot of features not currently available, including easy setup through its web interface, the ability to control effects and props in real-time using a browser, and the elimination of wiring and cables.  And because of the large number of configurable I/O lines on the UConTroll more props and effects could be controlled.

Another plug-and-play product idea is a model train controller. There are about half-a-million model railroaders in the U.S and Canada, with the average one spending over $500/year on their hobby.  The most popular technology used to control model trains is Digital Command Control (DCC).  DCC allows hobbyist to run multiple trains on the same track and to remotely control switches, lighting and accessories.  A UConTroll-based DCC controller would allow model railroaders to control their layout using realistic looking controls on their iPod, IPad, iPhone or tablet PC and not be encumbered by cables.  Multiple people could run trains at the same time by simply logging their device into the UConTroll – no need to buy additional (expensive) controllers.  The UConTroll would also enable them to automate crossing gates, switches and other accessories on their layout.

With the increasing cost of energy, more and more homeowners are looking for ways to monitor and control their energy usage.  A UConTroll based home energy monitoring system would allow homeowners to view their energy usage on their home or office PC, or smart device.  They could look at usage trends and determine which conservation efforts reduce energy usage the most.  They could also compare their usage to those of their neighbors or others with similar houses.

I’ve recently started selling the UConTroll board to hobbyists and makers, but feel there’s a limited market there.  However, I believe I could increase sells significantly if I developed some of the products I’ve described above.  The prize money from this contest would be used for three things.  First, to research those markets to determine which have the greatest sales potential.  Secondly, to fund development of one or more of those products.  And finally, to support advertising to promote the products in those markets.

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    4 Discussions


    4 years ago

    I saw your booth at New York Maker Faire 2015, and got one of your flyer. I like what I saw, how do I get your kit and software ?


    6 years ago on Introduction

    ok nice vid of yrself talking. but we the people want to see the the actually board. and doing what u claim it can do. not a fast clip of said board


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    stupit post the web page is in Chinese