Written by Tom on Thursday 04/01/07
The Remote Automatic Secure Switch (RASS) was born from a project at work and a conversation with my Uncle.
The company I work for makes Personal Mobile Radios (PMR’s) and sells them to dealers, a proportion of the dealers income is from hiring out sets of PMR’s to people for events. The problem is that people are tardy at returning the radios. So the dealers requested a method of disabling the radios. The thought was to put a calendar chip in the radio and program it for the hire period after that it would render the radio inoperable. I was tasked with writing the programming software that the dealers would use to configure the radios.
The conversation with my Uncle was about a friend of his that ran a TV rental company. He was saying that he wished he had a way to disable TV when the rental was over due.
So it was decided to look into a device that would disable a TV remotely when it was out of hire.
It just so happened that another feature of the PMR’s I worked on was selective calling. You could call a single radio based on it’s unique ID. So most of the hardware was there, a chip that enabled you to select an individual device (TV) and disable it. We drew up a paper solution including a database interface and a UHF system that could be used to transmit the signal to the TV sets. Another person did some filter simulation to ensure that the signal would get down a TV antenna to the RASS, all looked promising. Our RASS would have to be installed inside the TV, inline with the RF input to ensure that our signal was picked up and connect to a little bit of electricity. When it would receive the out of hire signal it would display an ‘Out of Hire’ sign.
Next came time to approach the manager of the rental company. And wouldn’t you know it I could not even get an interview with him to show him our idea. Apparently the thought of having to open up every TV to put our device in was too daunting they wouldn’t have a bar of it.
Lesson learnt: Do the due diligence and build a business case with a market share estimate before you embark on a serious project.