Another company links the existing air conditioner to the home network

Articles

Beat the summer heat with the Monolyth smart AC unit | Digital Trends

Crowdfunding-Kampagne für selbstlernenden Klimaanlagen-Regler | Gizmodo.de (German language / Deutsche Sprache)

From the horse’s mouth

Monolyth

Product Page

Indiegogo crowdfunding page

Previous coverage

Tado Cooling brings the smart thermostat concept to the typical air conditioner

My Comments

Monolyth air-conditioner controller controlling a window air-conditioner - press image courtesy of Monolyth

This is how the typical room air-conditioner will be controlled

Another company has followed Tado’s lead in providing “smart-thermostat” and home-network capabilities to the existing room air conditioner. Here, we control a lot of the recently-installed, usually “split-system”, air conditioners using an infra-red remote control and this device, along with Tado’s device mimics the remote controls we use for these units.

Monolyth, who are seeking funding through the Indiegogo crowdfunding platform are providing this device which is a black obelisk box that links to your home network’s Wi-Fi segment to enable control from your mobile device or to benefit from various cloud services that it has. Here, you use your iOS or Android mobile device with the platform-specific app to control your air-conditioner and can use the mobile device’s GPS facility to have the AC unit off when you are away to save power or have it come on just before you arrive to get your premises comfortable by the time you are there.

Air-conditioner remote control

The Monolyth air-conditioner controller works with air-conditioners controlled by these devices

Compared to its peers like the Tado, the Monolyth implements extra sensors to determine the comfort level such as barometric pressure, humidity and air-quality sensors. This also works along with learning weather-forecast data to optimise your air-conditioner’s behaviour to the prevailing weather situation.

Monolyth also promotes the concept of using the one app to manage systems on many properties as well as multiple air-conditioners on the one property as is becoming the typical case for most installations.

What I value of these devices is that manufacturers are adding a level of network-enabled smart-thermostat functionality to the existing installed base of air conditioners, thus allowing us to see the equipment serve us for a longer time. It also satisfies the reality that we don’t “dump” heating or air-conditioning equipment unless it totally fails or becomes hopelessly inefficient and would rather add functionality to the existing equipment using add-on kits.

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The French campground and caravan park scene is now switched on in new ways

Article (French language / Langue Française)

La fibre optique et la domotique débarquent dans les campings | DegroupNews

My Comments

Travelling is now becoming more of a connected affair with Internet connectivity being considered a valuable amenity wherever you stay. Even the humble campground or caravan park now offers a level of Wi-Fi-based Internet connectivity as a value-added service.

But the French have taken this further with the use of fibre-optic broadband to assure the people who lodge at these facilities have proper high-speed Internet access everywhere. They are typically in a position to do this because that country is fast becoming the poster child for a highly-competitive highly-affordable Internet service. This is in contrast to the typical cost-effective setup with one or a few Wi-Fi access points to cover the campground with Wi-Fi wireless Internet.

Yelloh Village have worked with Covage to achieve this goal and also provide an IPTV service with access to international TV channels.They have also implemented the “smart-home” concept in the bungalows or cabins that are becoming part of what the typical campground or caravan park offers. For example, when a guest leaves their bungalow, the electrical installation and hot water heater shuts down like as expected in a lot of newer hotels.

Some people may think that the idea of using a campground or caravan park for their holidaying needs is a chance to seek a humble cheap holiday but as more of these places equip themselves in a manner similar to a resort, it may become that camping in the wilderness may be the way to have that humble holiday.

Similarly, the goal to see proper rural Internet service can play in to a campground owner’s hands as a way of seeking to provide high-calibre public-access Internet to holidaymakers who are wanting to camp the “connected way”.

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Google to get their fibre claws in to the UK

Article

Google Considers Bringing Google Fiber to UK | Broadband News and DSL Reports

Google aimed to build ultrafast broadband in Britain | The Telegraph (UK)

My Comments

Google are putting their fibre-optic next-generation broadband paws in to the UK market while trying to provide competitive Internet service in some US communities. It is seen to be their first foray in to the European market.

This is being achieved with them working with CityFibre, which may not be seen as adding extra competition in that market. Firstly, this is to be seen as a threat to BSkyB’s partnership and place themselves at loggerheads with a BSkyB / TalkTalk fibre-optic rollout which is passing 20,000 households in York.

But it is set to put more pressure on BT to deploy more next-generation broadband, especially as the British Internet press is complaining about BT Openreach taking a long time to roll out this service across the biggest Internet-service market outside the US. Google will also see this as a platform to run an HD-capable IPTV service which is ready for 4K UHDTV.

My question is whether Google could make further efforts in working as a competitive next-generation broadband provider for the British market, whether as a wholesale provider or as a retail provider. As well, could they be in a position to help with Scotland’s broadband goal if Scotland does go independent? Similarly, could they be able to put their claws in to other European areas like Spain, Germany and Italy with a goal to upset the applecart when it comes to competitive Internet service there.

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A network-attached storage could be the next PVR

Those of us who love particular TV shows are enamoured by the personal-video-recorder. They are a follow-on from the video cassette recorder as a tool for recording these shows for later viewing because they use a hard disk rather than tape to hold these shows.

What is the typical PVR nowadays

The TiVo set-top PVR - what we think of this class of device

The TiVo set-top PVR – what we think of this class of device

When we think of a PVR, we typically think of TiVo or a cable-company-supplied device. These are set-top devices with an integrated hard disk and 2 to 4 TV tuners that are connected to a TV antenna (aerial), a satellite-TV dish or cable-TV infrastructure. With these devices, you pick shows to record from an electronic-programme-guide on the TV screen. with the ability to even search for particular shows. Some models even implement a cloud-based Web page for programming shows, operate a recommendation engine and the devices worth their salt can keep recording each episode of a TV serial.

The NAS as a PVR

Synology DiskStation DS415play NAS with media transcoding - Press image courtesy of Synology

Synology DiskStation – one of an increasing number of NAS devices that can become a PVR

A trend that is starting to appear is to equip a network-attached storage server as a PVR, which Synology and a few others are doing as part of their app ecosystem for their NAS devices.

Here, you connect a USB TV-tuner module to the NAS or point it to a broadcast-LAN tuner device of the HDHomeRun ilk to pick up the TV broadcasts. Similarly the NAS could receive streamed or downloaded content from one or more IPTV services without the need for TV-tuner modules. You would typically program the shows using a Web-based interface or mobile / smart-TV app and play these through your TV, computer or mobile device using either DLNA technology or, again, the same mobile / smart-TV app.

These offer a sense of flexibility because you could add on extra tuner devices to “beat the ratings period” where many good shows are being run at once. As well, you have the high-capacity hard disk for recording your shows so there is less of a need to delete shows you have or haven’t watched.

Personally, I would see these devices augmenting a set-top PVR device or work in lieu of one. But there has to be a way to provide a native set-based experience for programming recordings or viewing them, something I would see as being facilitated if UPnP AV 4 which offers remote scheduling, or RVU which offers a “set-based” user interface for other devices is implemented,

Other capabilities that can be opened up include:

  • record all prime-time news bulletins from many channels to allow you to examine how different channels treat particular stories
  • record “like” shows as part of a recommendation engine, including to record previously-curated “critic’s lists” of TV content or recording all shows with particular attributes without tying up a primary PVR’s tuner and disk resources

Similarly, these devices could work well in this respect when the goal is to serve multiple users who want to view the recorded content on different TVs or mobile devices. It could also allow for the design of “lightweight” set-top PVR devices that send broadcast content to a NAS and play content from that NAS rather than recording to a local hard disk. These would have a solid-state storage of a low capacity along with a single tuner for “slip-viewing” content for example or even use a low-capacity hard disk and a tuner to capture content to be stored on a NAS.

Once the concept is well-executed, a high-capacity multiple-disk network-attached storage device could end up serving as a personal video recorder for a household or business.

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HomePlug AV500 now available with newer Freebox Révolution

Article (French language / Langue Française)

De nouveaux Freeplugs à 500 Mbps pour la Freebox Révolution | Freenews.fr

My Comments

Freebox Révolution - courtesy Iliad.fr

Freebox Révolution now available wiht HomePlug AV500

The Freebox Révolution is the first wireless modem-router to support software updating to 802.11ac through its latest software update (mise à jour). But both the Freebox Server and Freebox Player came with the “Freeplugs” which are power supplies that integrate a HomePlug AV bridge in their functionality. This is typically to link the Freebox Player in the living room to the Freebox Server in the study or home office.

Both the “Freeplugs” were compliant to the HomePlug AV specification which worked the link at a best-case line speed of 200Mbps. This is although there are many HomePlug AV500 devices that can work the link to 500Mbps and are compliant to the IEEE 1901 specification for powerline local area networks.

Free have raised the game for the Freebox Révolution by delivering newer systems with “Freeplug” power supplies that work to the HomePlug AV500 specification rather than the older HomePlug AV specification. The only problem that I see with this is that customers who own an existing Freebox Révolution can’t easily purchase these adaptors as accessories for their existing setup i.e. they are only available to customers who are upgrading existing equipment or establishing a new installation. Personally, I would recommend that they be sold as aftermarket accessories for existing users.

On the other hand, you could use separate HomePlug AV500 devices to link these boxes while the existing Freeplugs are used simply as power supplies. This could allow you to use a uninterruptable power supply with the Freebox Server to avoid loss of telephony when the power goes down.

At least this is another example of the Freebox Révolution being considered cutting-edge for carrier-supplied consumer-premises equipment especially in an Internet-service market that has healthy competition.

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Public-access computers now being seen as a security threat

Article

The danger of using PCs in hotel business centres | HOT For Security

Data thieves want to track what you type at hotel business centers | Engadget

My Comments

A very common part of the Internet landscape is the availability of public-access computers that are connected to the Internet. These were made available in schools, universities and libraries but then ended up as being part of cafes, bars and the like, including hotel business centres.

But there had to be a level of control over what software ended up on these computers so that they don’t become a conduit for mailware. Even before the Internet, there was the issue of people bringing in software on floppy disks and these were known to be a conduit for viruses. For example, the computer systems that I used at the TAFE college where I studied my computer course were connected to a network but these were set up to boot from the network where the IT department had control over the software that was made available. In some cases, the boot sequence required the computer’s local hard disk to be “swept clean” of data and the locally-required software image to be reinstalled on that hard disk.

A common reality with public-access computers nowadays is that they operate all the time the business is open, surviving the day without being rebooted. In some cases, it becomes feasible to install software on them thus allowing any “Tom, Dick and Harry” to install software off removeable media or the Internet. As well, there is a culture amongst a lot of organisations who run these computers where no-one cares about what goes on with them, usually due to technically-inept or overworked customer-service staff or IT support staff who are distant from the venues.

This has lead to situations like keylogger malware being planted on these machines because users enter personally-identifiable information in to these computers to complete transactions or communicate with others.

What can we do

If you can, use your own computer equipment to perform your sensitive communications or transactions. If you have to use a public-access computer, make sure that the machine you intend to use implements a “wipe-clean-and-install” arrangement where the local hard disks are “wiped clean” and the software reinstated from a known image after every usage session.

What venues can do

Encourage the staff to keep an eye on the public-access computers and respond to issues that the users may have with the systems. As well, they keep an eye out for any physical tampering with these systems such as installation of hardware keyloggers or similar devices.

Another issue worth considering is deploying system-management software that can either restore from a known disk image when the computer is restarted (Faronics DeepFreeze), lock down the computer (Anfibia Deskman) or provide a simple “Web kiosk” environment (Webconverger). These can limit the effect that malware can have on the public-access computers.

At least, they could keep the computers running operating systems, application software and desktop-security software that is kept updated with the latest security patches. In a lot of cases, the software could be set up with “blind updating” where the updates are downloaded and installed automatically. As well, making sure that the computers are restarted on a regular basis to be sure of updates being properly installed and can increase the effectiveness of “wipe-clean” system management software.

General comments

Personally I see the public-access computers becoming the Internet equivalent of the public pay phone – something that we are making less use of and people who use these devices regularly are seen as social pariahs. This is although they become a stop-gap measure for computing tasks when we deal with laptops or smartphones that are out of battery for example.

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The smart-lock arrives in the key-in-knob form factor

Article

Genie Smart Lock Opens Doors with Your Phone | Tom’s Guide

From the horse’s mouth

Genie Smart Lock

Product Page

My Comments

Genie Smart Lock - press image courtesy of Genie

Genie Smart Lock – as a door latch

Most of the “smart-locks” that work with your smartphone, home-automation setup or home network, and are being pitched through the technology press come in the “bore-through” cylindrical deadbolt form. This style of lock typically has the cylinders (in a double-cylinder setup) or outside cylinder and inside turn-knob integrated in a tapered housing with a deadbolt coming out from the door’s edge.

Some of these “smart-locks” are “new-install” types that either are to replace an existing deadbolt and make its keys redundant where as some come as a retrofit kit that is installed in lieu of the turn-knob on an existing single-cylinder deadbolt without making its keys redundant. This is most likely because this form-factor is very popular in North America as a residential front-door lock and most of these “smart-lock” products are designed in that area.

At last someone has offered a highly-capable “smart-lock” that is in a different form-factor i.e. a “key-in-lever” lockset that is intended to replace the main door latch. Locks based on the form factor typically had a locking mechanism integrated in to a door-latch mechanism, typically with a “push-to-lock” button or thumb-turn and access from the outside via a key cylinder integrated in the outside knob or handle.

Here, the Genie Smart Lock works like these “key-in-knob” units but allows you to unlock the door either with your smartphone running a Genie-supplied app, a Bluetooth key fob or the traditional metal key. This setup is installed in that same “bore-through” manner as what is expected for most residential door hardware in America and some other countries. For some people, the usage experience may be very close to the card-driven lock on their room door when they stay at their favourite hotel.

This smart lock will offer the typical “asked-for” functionality with access logging, integration with smartphones and the Wi-FI home network, and the ability to “send” keys to others. But it even runs rings around most other residential and commercial access control setups by providing a display on the front surface that shows more than “success” or “failure” information. Here, this unit shows the current time and temperature and the name of the user who just unlocked that device. Personally I see this feature as an opening for a programmable text or graphics display on these units such “special-occasion-text” or “reminder-text” applications.

What I see of the Genie Smart Lock is a device that brings uncharted territory to the smart-lock device class, whether reaching to another common form factor or adding a programmable display to these devices. But do I still see the smart door lock still become the “tech-head’s” door-accessory-to-have rather than something that most of us can accept as part of the home?

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Up, Up And Away with Android Wear

Article

Hacking the friendly skies: creating apps for wearables at 36,000 feet | Engadget

My Comments

There are some efforts taking place to make the wearable devices and sensors become relevant with air travel which is part of our business lives. This has been underscored by a recent “hackathon” programming contest sponsored by American Airlines to encourage the development of apps to bind wearables with the air travel experience.

The goal with this challenge was to make apps that are relevant to the passenger through the various phases of the experience i.e. checking in, passing through a security checkpoint, boarding the plane, flying using the newer inflight Wi-Fi system and having an Economy class seat as your workspace then arriving and collecting your luggage.

One application that won “first prize” in the challenge was a push-notification system that was able to let you and family / close friends know where you were in your air journey. Here, this could push messages to your phone or smartwatch or the device owned by your friend depending on where you are, and could show up electronic boarding passes as required. For your relative or friend, it would mean, for example, when to start driving out to the airport to pick you up. This application would be driven by GPS and iBeacon technology in order to get its bearings.

Another application that won the challenge was an “area social network” that applied to your flight. Here, this would tie in with Facebook and LinkedIn and the in-flight Wi-Fi to indicate whether you have “bumped in to” someone in your personal or business network by the fact that you are on the same plane. This could also work with groups that are likely to be “split up” due to travelling different classes on a long-haul jet or simply for solo travellers who are heading the same direction to do things like share cabs at the destination.

Someone even tendered a personalised proximity-signage setup which can show things like gate information for connecting flights or directions to a particular baggage carousel. I also see this application work with the hire-car scene by avoiding the need for drivers of these cars to show signboards relating to their pick-ups in the arrivals hall. This application assures privacy by deleting the information on the signs when you walk away from them.

Even the idea of travelling with your four-legged friend interstate or overseas by air on the same flight is catered for with a special collar that lets you know how they are. This could be augmented with a system that allows you to know how they are if you and the pet are on different transports once suitable technology is implemented as part of the “Internet of Things”.

This is a situation where innovation is taking place by encouraging situation-specific software development goals through programming challenges focusing on that situation.

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Synology now premieres their NAS with hardware transcoding

Article

Synology announces DiskStation DS415play, shipping August | CNet

From the horse’s mouth

Synology

DiskStation DS415play NAS

Product Page

Press Release

My Comments

Synology DiskStation DS415play NAS with media transcoding - Press image courtesy of SynologyI have previously covered Synology’s direction with including hardware media transcoding in consuner-grade network-attached-storage units on this Website when they were mooting this feature as part of their product lineup for this device class. This will take the pressure off the device’s CPU when it comes to optimising multimedia content for the destination device’s capabilities, thus opening up the reality of enjoying high-resolution video files or high-grade audio files in a “best-case” manner on your home network.

This feature has come forth in the form of the DiskStation DS415Play 4-bay multimedia NAS which also has Intel Atom dual-core horsepower and 1Gb RAM. The hardware transcoding can, for example work “best case” to 1080p on-the-fly, while the NAS can work as a network DVR for TV broadcasts once you use a USB digital-TV tuner module with it. Even the DLNA-certified media server software supports the ability to use the hardware transcoding for use with high-grade video and audio files. The only question about this is how well does the DLNA media server handle already-created playlists or the metadata associated with the audio, photo or video files.

The 4-bay design supports up to the RAID-5 disk arrangement and includes the ability to upsize these RAID-5 disk arrangements whether through adding extra hard disks to the unit or upsizing already-installed hard disks. This may be a chance for this unit to attain a long usage life by allowing you to increase its capacity to suit new needs.

Synology is laying down the gauntlet for what can be part of a high-end multimedia storage device for your home network, and who knows who will answer them when it comes to the same feature set for these devices.

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Scotland to have rural broadband as part of its USO

Highland Piper Creative Commons http://www.panoramio.com/photo/58988884

A Highland piper will be on a better path with rural broadband being part of an Independent Scotland

Article

UPDATE Independent Scotland Could Gain a USO for Broadband Internet | ISPReview UK

From the horse’s mouth

Scottish Government

Connecting Rural Scotland position paper

My Comments

There is a lot of talk in the UK about Scotland’s push for independence coming through with a referendum occurring on the 18th September 2014. If the vote on this referendum turns out “Yes”, Scotland would become an independent nation rather than part of the United Kingdom which is what true-blooded Scots have been looking forward to since 1603.

Flag_of_Scotland_(navy_blue).svgOne of the issues that will be called as part of an independent Scottish government’s roadmap would be improved rural connectivity. Here, this will encompass access to public transport and proper teleccomunications in areas like the Highlands or Campbelltown.

For that matter, Scotland will integrate real broadband in the country areas as part of the universal service obligation. This is something I stand for with HomeNetworking01.info in order to allow those of us who live, work or do business in the country areas to be on an even footing with those of us who live in the cities. As far as Scotland is concerned, the rural sector is what gives the country its character, especially in the form of the whisky the country is known for or the farms that can turn out the “neeps and tatties” or the meat for the haggis that is to be piped in as part of the Burns supper..

There is a level of public-private investment taking place concerning the provision of rural broadband infrastructure but the integration of Scotland’s broadband projects in the UK efforts will change should the devolution go ahead. There are unanswered questions about issues such as infrastructure technology or minimum assured bandwidth, which may also include issues like dealing with the mountains of the Highlands.

What I at least like about this is that a country that is wanting to start out independently is factoring in rural broadband as part of its road map. Here’s to Scotland for the right direction!

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