Sherlock “Homes”

A trio of former OnStar developers introduces a home-monitoring device.


HouseSetter, a monitoring device for homes, boats, and other facilities, was launched last summer in Northville. Since that time, the company has sold several hundred units. It works on the Verizon wireless network. 

After being on the launch team for OnStar, the advanced in-vehicle communications platform operated by General Motors Co. in Detroit, Chet Huber, Walt Dorfstatter, and Debbie Frakes retired from the automaker — but they didn’t go quietly into the night. Rather, the trio decided to “get the band back together” to develop a home-monitoring system.

The product, called HouseSetter, is a portable device in the shape of a dog named Sherlock that monitors and provides alerts to homeowners. The unit uses a built-in camera set in the neck of Sherlock, along with an integrated backup battery, to ensure continued monitoring of a home’s temperature, power status, and humidity.

The device sends the information it collects through a built-in connection to a cellular network, which is then used to create reports or email alerts that customers receive on their computer, tablet, or smartphone. All the technology is housed in the nearly 6-inch-tall dog, which is plugged into an outlet.

Plans for the monitoring services from Sherlock, which costs around $120 upfront, are available starting at $5 a month. HouseSetter, based in Northville, uses the Verizon wireless network to connect the device.

“We started talking about HouseSetter in 2011 because I had a house in Florida and wanted to keep track of the home when I was away,” says Huber, who spent 37 years at GM and is a mechanical engineer. “If my AC went out in the summer it would be like a mold farm in my home, so Sherlock alerts me when there’s a problem.”

The backup battery lasts for three or four days, and the device will alert a subscriber if the electricity goes out. “We wanted to keep the device super simple and super inexpensive,” Dorfstatter says. “If the power goes out, you don’t have Wi-Fi service. Plus, if you live in a second home for six months, you don’t want to pay for Wi-Fi year-round. The cellular antenna connects with distant towers.”

Frakes says the target market for Sherlock is seasonal homeowners, but it’s also recommended for boat owners who want to monitor an electrical connection. They’ve also sold the device to restaurant owners who want alerts in case a freezer or a wine cellar starts to heat up.

“I call it Walt and Chet’s excellent adventure,” Frakes says. “We have a team of five people, and we project revenue will quadruple this year.”

Edit Module
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Articles

Green Wave

OHM Advisors in Livonia helps limit environmental challenges like harmful algae.

Books and Mortar

Local comic book stores suffer as online retailers and auction sites become more prominent.

Data Highway

KLA Laboratories is moving into the digital world of autonomous and connected vehicles.

Vested Interest

How a local real estate agent built a $60 million client base from scratch.

Expansion Draft

Ferndale's Urbanrest Brewing temporarily shut its doors for a week for an unusual reason.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. William Davidson Foundation Makes $1.7 Million Donation to the Belle Isle Aquarium
    The Belle Isle Conservancy today announced that the William Davidson Foundation in Troy has...
  2. Restoration of Old Wayne County Building in Downtown Detroit Gets $7M Makeover
    The ownership group of The Old Wayne County Building, located at 600 Randolph Street in downtown...
  3. $136M Mixed-use Development Slated for Detroit’s East Riverfront District
    City Growth Partners in Detroit today announced it would construct a $136-million mixed-use...
  4. Ford Brings 600 Employees to Wagner Place in Downtown West Dearborn, Announces Commercial Tenants
    Ford Motor Co. today announced it has started moving 600 employees into Wagner Place along...
  5. Retail Tenants Announced For Bedrock’s Shinola Hotel in Downtown Detroit
    Bedrock has announced four retail tenants that are coming to the 1400 Woodward block in Detroit,...
  6. Delta Offers Two Detroit Metro Flights With New A220-100 Aircraft, Service Launches in 2019
    Delta Air Lines Inc. today announced it will begin offering domestic business routes on the new...