Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences

Smart doorbell works through vibration

30 Jan 2017 11:20 | Communication

Ding-dong! The doorbell rings and we know someone is at the door. But this is not true for Jorrit Overweg, who has impaired vision and hearing. Five ICT students at Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS) have developed a ‘smart doorbell’ for Bartiméus, the expertise centre for the blind and partially sighted. The result: a doorbell with a fingerprint scanner that will be presented to Bartiméus next week. Vibrations on his wrist will inform the client who is at the door.

Jorrit Overweg (23) has Usher Syndrome, which means both his vision and hearing are impaired. The doorbell is one of the many ‘obstacles’ he faces in everyday life. "The whole day is a challenge in itself", Jorrit says. "I want to take in as much as possible of what is going on in my surroundings, and preferably be able to participate in ‘normal’ society like everyone else. For someone who is only blind or sight-impaired, or only deaf or hearing-impaired, it takes twice as much energy to participate. But for someone with this combination, it takes about ten times the energy to get involved."

Fingerprint scanner

The ICT students at AUAS carried out this assignment for Bartimeús as part of the AUAS minor The Internet of Things. They visited Jorrit regularly, talked to him about the day-to-day limitations he faces owing to his condition, processed his feedback and are now presenting a working prototype: a smart doorbell with an integrated fingerprint scanner.

The postman always rings three times

How does this smart doorbell work? When someone rings the bell, the sensors on the fingerprint scanner register the unique fingerprint of the person at the door. This fingerprint scanner has a wireless connection to a mini-computer in the home. The ICT students programmed the server of this computer so it links these unique fingerprints to Jorrit’s contacts, for example his mother, the postman or a friend.
The mini-computer then sends a signal to the client’s iPhone, which is connected to the Smartwatch on Jorrit’s wrist. The user then feels a particular pattern of vibrations on his wrist, depending who is at the door. The user can define these vibration patterns himself using the app for iPhone developed by the students specially for this purpose. For example, two long vibrations for his mother, three sharp ones for the postman and another pattern for unknown persons.

Fire alarm

The system built by the ICT bachelor’s students can easily be adapted for other applications around the home. Jorrit was already working on a wake-up and alarm system to which the fire alarm could also be connected, for example. But this involved a "big box", compared to which this system represents considerable progress.


Paul de Nooij, ICT project leader at Bartiméus, is enthusiastic about the result. "This illustrates how important it is to use students for these kinds of questions. Not only do they contribute creativity and new ideas; it is also important that students increase their consciousness. All kinds of new technologies are becoming available, and it’s important that people with a visual or other disability can also make use of these. This is why it is so useful to make young ICT students and designers aware of this target group, while they are still in training – and to get them to design for them", says De Nooij.

The students will shortly be presenting the doorbell at Bartiméus, with Jorrit in attendance. If everyone is satisfied with it, the doorbell will then be installed next to Jorrit’s front door. Bartiméus will then look into the possibilities of making the doorbell available to other clients.