Here at Waterfall HQ, we have the ability to integrate not just other software with our flagship platform, but hardware as well. The sms-to-garage-door-opener project was born out of an internal need – many at the office always faced problems getting into the garage because building management only gave us two remotes.

The project used only off-the-shelf hardware and took an afternoon to complete. The key was a USB-to-serial converter. This module converts USB signals into lower level digital signals that low-level electronics, such as a garage door opener, can understand. Then it was just a matter of writing some simple code, in our case using PHP, to activate the remote when an SMS message is sent to Waterfall.

By using Waterfall’s dynamic content keyword feature, every time a request for the garage door opener’s keyword is received, Waterfall forwards the request to the opener’s web service hosted within our office. The web service then validates the phone number requesting the service as a security precaution to prevent unauthorized openings. If the number is valid, the web service triggers the hardware and voila! The door opens. An added feature is the ability to make the keyword interactive, so whomever is first to arrive and takes one of the two parking spots, can text their name. This way everyone in the office can know whether a spot is open and adjust their commute accordingly.

The only problems that we ran into were mostly caused by the delay of message delivery from the carriers or aggregator into our service. Usually it’s near instant as soon as the SMS leaves the handset.

The model is designed to be completely portable. If our building management decides to switch garage door opener models, we can adapt the hardware to the new remote with a few simple tweaks. We also are planning to build a smaller and more integrated version to make the garage door opener even more portable.

The sms-to-garage-door-opener project only scratches the surface of what SMS and simple integrations can do, especially with physical hardware. Currently there are numerous services available that tote the virtue of using SMS to do everything from mobile payments, to location-based marketing, and robust search services. However, few projects out there address how convenient it is to have SMS physically control the every day objects we use.

But with Waterfall’s ability to integrate with other web services, and even physical hardware, a developer can easily extend SMS into every facet of daily life!

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