What is Fochica?

A system to alert when a child has been accidentally left unattended in a car seat.

Fochica stands for: FOrgoten CHIld in Car Alert.

How does it work?

Fochica is comprised of a Fochica open hardware, open software, Arduino-based device that is installed in a car and a Fochica app that is installed on the driver’s smartphone. Sensors monitor whether the child car seats are occupied or empty and send the data to the device. The device communicates with the app via Bluetooth Low Energy passing the information to the driver. When the driver’s smartphone goes out of range and a seat is occupied an alarm will sound on the smartphone.

Can I order the device?

Not right now. The project is currently in a beta, DIY stage. However, you or somebody you know might be able to build one using the instructions. We hope that in the future the device would be manufactured and sold as a commercial product. The design is open hardware so feel free to take on the challenge.

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Who is this designed for?

The system can be used by any adult, but currently one would need some technical and electronics skills to build the hardware device. Therefore, at this stage, the system is designed for makers, electronics hobbyists and DIY’ers (and their friends).

Why should I use such a system?

If you transport kids in a car there is potential to forget them in the vehicle. It is not something that happens every day and may never happen to you but such cases exist. If a child is left in a car alone the repercussions can be severe. We use smart devices to wake us up in the morning, to remind us about meetings and TV shows we might miss. Why not use technology to make sure you don’t forget your kids?

How is Fochica different from other similar systems?

Many devices designed for this purpose are reminders that are supposed to prevent you from forgetting a child in a seat. Those usually sound a warning when you stop or exit the car even if you would have remembered to take the child out on your own, thus creating a nuisance. Also, if you get distracted after hearing the reminder you could leave the area and the system would not know to alert you.

Furthermore, many such devices need to be turned on or activated, which you need to remember to do and is a hassle. If you can forget a child you can also forget to start the reminder, right?

How much car battery does Fochica use?

The Fochica device currently uses around 20mA of current from the 12V car battery. The exact value depends on the components you have used to build your device. A typical car battery is around 40-50Ah, so in theory you could power Fochica for longer than two month without driving the car. In practice you need to have a certain charge in the battery for cranking up the engine and discharging slowly might behave differently, so you can’t draw the full 40Ah. In addition to that, an older car battery will discharge faster and will not hold as much charge as a new one.

We suggest you use the car at least once a week to ensure proper battery charge. If you use the car every day or two then you can probably skip the “discharge protection” circuit.

What is the “discharge protection” feature?

“Discharge protection” is an optional circuit that you can have on your Fochica device. The circuit will perform an automatic shutdown of the device if the voltage of the car battery goes below a certain threshold. This makes sure you have enough power in the battery to start the car when needed. Once shut down the device is not taking power any more and requires a button press to activate again.

What is the fallback “reminder” mode?

When the Fochica device is not connected to a smartphone, it knows that it won’t be able to raise an alert in case of an emergency. The device will then fall back to a more primitive mode of operation and will remind you if a child seat is occupied when the car is turned off. The device will make audible notifications until the seat changes to an empty state. Effectively this means that Fochica can also operate as a reminder when alerting is not possible.

How much battery does Fochica use on my smartphone?

The Fochica design uses Bluetooth Low Energy technology for app to device communication. This technology allows for very low power communication. When connected, the devices listen and transmit for very short periods of time which are measured in 1/10,000 of a second. You can expect single digit % difference in daily battery charge when you use Fochica. The exact numbers will depend on your phone model and Android version. In general, newer phones have more efficient chips and optimizations than older phones. Additionally, newer Android OS versions have better algorithms allowing for efficient background operation.

The app itself is not doing any work until the system tells it that a device was found. When connected to the device, the app is processing incoming data which is sent about once a second.

Why was this project started?

The creator of Fochica, Arik Yavilevich, wanted to make sure he will not accidentally forget his daughters in the car. Arik looked at the solutions available and was not happy with them, so he decided to make his own. After successfully using his home-made solution, he decided to release it to everybody as an effective and affordable solution that will help save children’s lives. Since then it has become a social entrepreneurship venture.