Part 1: Using BlackBerry PlayBooks As Video Intercoms At The BlackBerryCool Office


At our offices in downtown Ottawa, we have a problem where our door requires a biometric thumbprint scan in order to get in so we have to rely on people knocking to receive guests and deliveries. This doesn’t work so well when everyone in the office has headphones on and we can’t hear anyone knocking. The great thing is that we all have BlackBerry PlayBooks at our desk and the video chat system can act as a visual notification so you can not only know when someone is at the door, but you can see who is there too.

To get started, I purchased a Defender Series Case by Otterbox for the BlackBerry PlayBook. I then drilled a couple holes in the case and mounted it on the wall. The PlayBook gets a WiFi signal from inside our office and it’s strong enough to initiate video chats. I’ll need a little note that explains how to activate the PlayBook if it’s in sleep mode, as well as a brief explanation of the Intercom system.

This is just the beginning and sort of a pilot run for the project. I’ll need to find a permanent power solution for the PlayBook and drill a power cord through the wall. Also, I’d like something a little more secure for the PlayBook. There’s a security camera that monitors the floor as well as the PlayBook, so anyone in the building would be caught on camera, but ideally there’s a better way to secure the PlayBook from theft. I’m thinking of cementing the case shut once the power solution is in place. It’s nearly impossible to rip off the wall and cementing the case shut would ensure it can’t be removed.

Another phase of the project will involve actually creating a receptionist app for the PlayBook. Ideally, it will act a little like ReceptionMSSNGR but with a video component. Anyone want to develop it with me? We can sell it to enterprise too.

If anyone has suggestions on how this project can be improved, please leave a comment. RIM, you should really be doing something like this at the your offices. Get rid of all your receptionists and replace them with PlayBooks. Apologies to any receptionists I’ve offended.

  • Allsystemgo

    I love the idea. Not the laying off receptionist but the playbook as a video monitor.

    Just hate the fact that it goes on sleep mode and turn off! A motion sensor would be nice.

  • John Pinkerton

    Why not do a flush mount in the wall, well it’d be recessed a bit because of the Defender, and I bet when BB10 gets released services will work well on the PlayBook to have a receptionist style app. Also with all the Cascades stuff coming up in May…You’ll have all the groundwork (wall work?) done and be ready to go! Just need a remote control app so you don’t have to leave your desk to do app updates on the PlayBook!

  • Kyle McInnes

    Awesome idea. I’ll definitely look at a better mounting solution. The case works fairly well but it’s not as “snug” as I’d like it. And I totally agree that BB10 will add a cool dynamic to the project.

  • Kyle McInnes

    Yeah I was being a little tongue in cheek. But I do think a PlayBook could at least be an effective receptionist tool that large corporations could be leveraging.

  • AnOutsider

    If you have it plugged in, can you just write an app to keep the screen awake? Then you can code in your own “sleep” mode that just puts a black background on the screen with text like “tap to call”. On tap it would wake up and ring you?

  • Anna

    If you allow users to switch between receptionist and always-on mode something like this might also appeal to parents as a baby monitor.

  • AnOutsider

    Pretty expensive baby monitors though

  • Sith_apprentice

    Couple of things,
    1 - If you cement it in with a wired power solution you would lose the ability to use the USB to load apps, etc onto the device.
    2 - Talk to Peter9477 on CrackBerry, he wrote Battery Guru and has the always on functionality in it. This would allow you  to put that into your native app.
    3 - You could use your native app to invoke the video chat and keep your app running in the background.

  • Mayme Anders

    Anyone want to develop it with me? We can sell it to enterprise too.