How it's Made: Smart Cabinetry- Powered by UniKey Pt 2

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A few weeks ago we sat down with Mohammad Hammad, our test engineering intern turned full-time engineer at UniKey Technologies. Mohammad filled us in on all the aspects of how rigorous and time consuming a senior design project for UCF’s College of Engineering and Computer Science can be. The weeks leading up to the final Smart Cabinetry project, Mohammad worked relentlessly, spending many late nights in UniKey’s hardware lab to put the final pieces of his project together. However, “UniKey’s mobile access control platform made it much easier to implement the BLE communication/authentication and gave me the ability to focus more on the overall functionality of the product,” he stated. Designed to be a simple and straightforward process through the utilization of sophisticated SDKs and hardware reference designs, Hammad was able to bring his smart cabinet to life within 5 months time. Below we break down the pieces of UniKey’s platform that helped him make it happen.

The Hardware

When you think of a cabinet, generally the first image that pops into your head is a kitchen cabinet. Naturally, “it was the most common design for cabinetry and we wanted our product to be designed for common use. We pictured it being used for medicine cabinets, pantries, liquor cabinets, and home office setups.” Whether it would be used to keep hazardous products away from children or to simply protect confidential documents, certificates, or records, Hammad wanted a design that could be suitable for multiple purposes. Diving more into the nitty gritty parts of the hardware, in order to create a mobile access control cabinet with an automated opening/closing feature, Hammad built his own locking mechanism. The lock is powered by a M995 servo to give it the kind of torque needed to open the cabinet door.

As the project was sponsored by UniKey, Hammad inherently wanted to utilize one of the company’s greatest assets: Touch-to-Open® Technology. TTO packs a powerful user experience as it not only supplies the convenient touch to unlock feature, but it is also fortified by Inside/Outside Intelligence® that authenticates the location of a user’s location upon their interaction with the lock. TTO, however, proved to be a challenge for this project as it’s something that had only been rendered on smart locks and readers. To supply the cabinet with this level of functionality, Hammad built a touch-pad sensor and housed it within the cabinet to maintain its outer aesthetic. The sensor uses a cap touch circuit that’s triggered by a user’s touch, initiating Touch-to-Open® and a frictionless experience for cabinetry.

For the embedded portion of the project, Hammad used a Printed Circuit Board (PCB) to serve as the hub for  microcontrollers which run the system, the coprocessor and host. The coprocessor was modeled after UniKey’s PBU (Powered by UniKey Module) reference design and handled the BLE communication for the PCB. The host simply needed to communicate with the coprocessor and control the hardware peripherals. To enable the mobile applications for the smart cabinetry, Hammad leveraged UniKey’s coprocessor firmware that handled the security processes and BLE communication between the phone and cabinet. Due to the design of the cabinet, an external BLE antenna was required. With guidance from some of UniKey’s expert team members and reference design, an antenna was built that could handle the communication protocol. This was done by using a copper plate and wire to create a “patch antenna”, which was then plugged  into the PCB, and routed to the coprocessor to amplify the BLE signal.

Just the Half of It

In this post we focused on half of the components and thought processes that went into the cabinet’s hardware and its corresponding embedded technology. “When I first came up with the idea to make a smart lock-enabled cabinet, I was inspired by all the technology I got to work with at UniKey on a day to day basis. The project was definitely a challenge but it was made feasible by UniKey’s platform and its straightforward APIs, SDKs, and hardware reference designs”. In the upcoming weeks we’ll sit down with Mohammad once more to hear about the the software and mobile applications that were used to power the SmartCabinet’s user experience. Until then, you can learn more about the SmartCabinet and UniKey’s platform by visiting www.unikey.com.