Senior citizen-friendly video telephony system with a Raspberry Pi

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© Lead Image © Darek Chramienko, 123RF.com

© Lead Image © Darek Chramienko, 123RF.com

Article from Issue 246/2021
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A video telephony system with huge user benefits does not have to be complex. This project starts a phone call with just a single button press and switches channels automatically on a TV.

The coronavirus pandemic has the world in its grasp. With social distancing and family dispersion, many people are not able to see their grandchildren. Even a cellphone is too complicated for some senior citizens, and they may not want to have anything to do with PCs. One alternative could be an Internet-enabled baby monitor with a return channel, but it won't have video. Besides, grandma and grandpa don't want to be monitored, and you don't want the baby monitor to alert you every time your grandparents walk past the device.

With no simple video phone to be found thus far, the question is whether the Raspberry Pi comes to the rescue and whether it can be built without any advanced Raspberry Pi knowledge. In this article, I look at a video telephony solution based on the Jitsi [1] open source video conferencing solution that is useful for even the least computer savvy seniors (see the "Jitsi and WebRTC" box). One button turns everything on and just as easily turns everything off again. Ultimately, the Raspberry Pi needs to be able to do three things: switch the TV to HDMI, send email, and, of course, start the video call.

Hardware and Preparations

The setup of the automated video conferencing system is based on a Raspberry Pi 3B+ with a case and a power supply, on which the latest version of the Raspberry Pi OS "Buster" is installed and Internet access is configured. To be able to control a TV by CEC (Consumer Electronics Control), you also need an HDMI cable that meets at least HDMI standard 1.3 (high speed). Also pay attention to the quality of the power supply. Because the webcam is powered by the Raspberry Pi over USB, the power supply needs to output 2.5A or more. Only testing can determine whether the power source will do, because even if the label on the adapter claims the right kind of performance, it might not necessarily achieve it in practice.

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