Category: Home / building automation and security

Finnish building-management systems cop the brunt of cyberattacks

Article

There needs to be a level of cyber-security awareness regarding the design and maintenance of building-automation systems

There needs to be a level of cyber-security awareness regarding the design and maintenance of building-automation systems

Finns chilling as DDoS knocks out building control system | The Register

My Comments

Two apartment buildings in Finland became victims of distributed denial-of-service attacks which nobbled their building-management systems. This caused the buildings’ central heating and domestic hot water systems to enter a “safety shutdown” mode because the remote management systems were in an endless loop of rebooting and both these systems couldn’t communicate to each other. The residents ended up living in cold apartments and having cold showers because of this failure.

What is being realised is that, as part of the Internet Of Things, building-management equipment is being seen to be vulnerable, due to factors like the poor software maintenance and an attitude against hardening these systems against cyber-attacks. Then there is the issue of what level of degraded-but-safe functionality should exist for these systems if they don’t communicate to a remote management computer. This also includes the ability for the systems themselves to pass alarm information to whoever is in charge.

This situation has called out data-security issues with design and implementation of dedicated-purpose “backbone devices” connected to the Internet; along with the data-security and service-continuity risks associated with cloud-based computing. It is also an issue that is often raised with essential services like electricity, gas and water services or road-traffic management being managed by Internet-connected computers with these computers being vulnerable to cyberattack.

One of the issues raised included the use of firewalls that run up-to-date software and configurations to protect these systems from cyberattack.

I would also look at a level of fail-safe operation for building management systems that can be implemented if the Internet link to remote management computers dies; along with the ability to use cellular-telephony SMS or similar technology to send alarm messages to building management during a link-fail condition. The fail-safe mode could be set up for a goal of “safe, secure, comfortable” quasi-normal operation if the building-local system identifies itself as operating in a safe manner.

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August responds to its smart lock’s security weaknesses by patching its software

Article August Smart Lock press picture courtesy of August

IoT manufacturer caught fixing security holes | The Register

Here’s what happened when someone hacked the August Smart Lock | CNet

My Comments

The Internet Of Things, along with network hardware focused at consumers and small businesses, has been considered a thorn in the side of people who are involved with data security. This is because of a poor software-maintenance cycle associated with these devices along with customers not installing new software updates for these devices.

Recently, at the DEFCON “hack-a-thon” conference in Las Vegas, a few of the smart locks were found to have software weaknesses that made them vulnerable.

But August, who makes one of these smart locks which are retrofitted to existing “bore-through” single-cylinder tubular deadbolts, answered this issue in a manner that is considered out-of-place for the “Internet Of Things”. Here, they issued software patches to rectify these security issues and offered them as a user-downloadable firmware update.

What is a sad reality for a lot of these devices is that the manufacturer rarely maintains the firmware that runs these devices, if not at all. Some manufacturers think that this practice is about having to “add functionality” to these devices which they would rather do with subsequent models or product generations. But this kind of updating is about making sure that the software ecosystem associated with the product is secure and stable with all the “bugs” ironed out. Similarly, it is also about making sure that the product is complying with industry standards and specifications so as to work properly with other devices.

August uses the latest iterations of their smartphone apps to deploy the firmware updates to their products, typically requiring that you place your phone with the app running near the door that is equipped with these locks.

The computing security industry and computing press congratulated August on responding to the security weakness in its products through a firmware update with “The Register” describing it as being beyond the norm for the “Internet Of Everything”. But they wanted more in the form of them disclosing the nature of the threats in the lock’s firmware in a similar manner to how Microsoft, Google or Apple would disclose weaknesses in their operating-system software.

This issue also is something that is applying to home-network equipment like routers, along with toys and games that connect to the Internet. What is being called out for is a feedback loop where bugs and other software deficiencies in all these devices are called out and a simplified, if not automatic, in-field software-update process takes place whenever newer firmware that answers these problems is released. This also includes the manufacturers disclosing the security issues that have been found and explaining to customers how to mitigate the risks or update the affected software.

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Qarnot uses computers to provide free room heat for buildings

Qarnot Q.Rad press image courtesy of Qarnot

Qarnot Q.rad heater is actually a computer

One of the common ways of using electricity to provide room heat in a building is to use a panel or column heater that has a material like oil heated by an electric element.A variant that existed in the UK and, to some extent, Australia was a “storage heater” or “heat bank” that used a heavier material like bricks that stored more heat and was heated during overnight when the power was cheaper. Then this material diffuses this heat in to the room. These kind of heaters are able to provide this diffused heat to take the chill off a room but were expensive to run.

But Qarnot, a French cloud-computing firm, have looked at the issue of using the waste heat from a computer integrated in this heater to heat a room or building. Here, they have designed the Q.Rad which connects to your home network and electrical power and works as a data-server for their distributed-computing effort while using the waste heat to heat a room.

It also implements an integrated power meter so that you can be reimbursed for the power that it uses as part of the cloud-computing network, effectively providing “free heat”. But a question that can be raised for implementation in markets like Australia, New Zealand or, increasingly, the USA is the requirement to calculate transferred data and establish a mechanism to refund users’ bandwidth charges for this data. This is because of the practice where ISPs are either charging for data transferred or throttling users’ bandwidth if they transfer more than an allotted amount of data.

Qarnot Q.Rad exploded view press image courtesy of Qarnot

Processing power inside this heater – the waste heat from that goes to keeping you warm

The data that Qarnot processes using these heaters is typically for the likes of research labs, banks and animation studios where they “offload” calculations in to this cloud-computing array. They also have the ability to seek out distributed-computing research projects of the SETI or Folding@Home kind to keep the network alive and generating heat where needed. For data security, these heaters don’t implement any storage for the distributed-computing client’s data while implementing end-to-end encryption for this data,

Qarnot will implement an “upgrade and replace” program so that higher-speed processors are used in the Q.Rad computing heaters and there is the ability to deal with failed equipment quickly and easily to assure high availability.

Householders are still able to adjust the heater to their preferred comfort level and make it reflect their lifestyle by using a smartphone app or the controls on the heater. This kind of thermostatic control is achieved by deflecting some of the workload away from the heater that is not needed when there isn’t the need for heat output.

They rate the output of a single unit to around 500 watts which would cover a 150-300 foot area in an insulated building. Qarnot are also pitching these heaters as part of the smart-building concept by having them able to be equipped with sensors and being programmable for any IoT / building-automation application. Similarly, Qarnot have added functionality like USB or Qi wireless charging to these heaters so users can charge mobile devices on them.

At the moment, these heaters are being issued to large buildings in Europe and the USA where 20 units or more need to be deployed. But in 2017, Qarnot wants to release these heaters to individuals who want to take advantage of this heating concept. For householders, this may be seen as being advantageous for “always-needed low-output” heating applications such as kitchens, downstairs areas in split-level houses and similar areas.

In some cases, Qarnot could make it feasible to have the Q.Rad heaters provide services to a network, whether as a router, NAS, home-automation hub or something similar. This could be achieved through the use of extra hardware or software to fulfil these tasks.

What Qarnot has done is to harvest waste heat from computing processes and use this for heating rooms in buildings with little cost to the building owner.

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Telstra joins the smart-home bandwagon

Article

Telstra Is Launching A Smart Homes Monitoring System | Lifehacker Australia

Telstra Has A Smart Home Monitoring System Coming Later This Year | Gizmodo

From the horse’s mouth

Telstra

Press Release

My Comments

What can a telco, pay-TV provider or ISP do when they face competition in the Internet-service, pay-TV, mobile communications or similar markets? Some of them have looked towards contributing to the smart-home market, whether offering their own service or rebranding a service offered by a specialist company under their own label.

Telstra is the latest to engage in this practice by offering a subscription smart-home service. Here, they will offer a “Watch and Monitor” security-focused service and an “Automation and Energy” home-automation service. This will be about ideas like knowing things like if a particular person has come home or whether that door that is meant to be locked is locked or whether that appliance like the iron is on or off. It can also be about having the heating turned down when no-one is up and around.

The hardware links to your home network and the Internet via Wi-Fi but most likely may use the Zigbee technology as the “low-power” wireless backbone. Each system will have a “Smart Home Hub” which links all the devices together and to the Internet and you will find that an iOS or Android mobile-platform app or a Web-based user interface will be the main control surface.

The Wi-Fi link also serves an indoor network camera and an outdoor network camera, both of which are HD-capable. There is a smart-thermostat kit which will link to your home’s heating and cooling system which may apply to those of us who use a central heating or cooling system of some sort. Telstra are also offering the Lockwood smart deadbolt which is like the Yale Real Living Connected Deadbolt that comes from ASSA Abloy. There are also the Sengled Element LED touch smart lights which are intended as replacements for most light-bulb setups along with a smart power plug that monitors current being used along with the ability to turn the appliance on or off.

Other sensors include a window sensor, a door sensor which is a magnet-reed contact sensor and a wide-beam PIR sensor that can be set up for “pet-alley” mode with all these devices talking to the Smart Hub wirelessly most likely via Zigbee technology.

Of course, like a lot of these home-automation systems, it will be a self-install package but Telstra may point you towards specialists who can help you with installation and setup requirements.

The system, which will be offered to customers irrespective of whether they maintain a Telstra communications service or not, is intended to be launched later this year.

Personally, I would like to see Telstra offer the subscription-based service as part of a cost-effective “multiple-play” telecommunications + entertainment service for those customers who value the idea of having “many eggs in one basket” by concentrating their business with one provider.

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The CSIRO considers the Internet Of Things a viable alternative to the alarm pendant

Article

Why the CSIRO is building smart homes for elderly Australians | IT News

My Comments

The typical situation to assure the welfare of an  elderly, disabled or chronically-ill person who is living alone at home is to have them wear a pendant or wristband panic-button that signals carers or loved ones if they need help.

But issues have been raised about these devices being, for example, left somewhere in the home because the person forgets to wear it after they have finished an activity which may not play well with these devices. As well, these wearable devices are only of value if they trigger the device in response to an emergency situation like a fall.

The CSIRO are looking towards the use of the “Internet Of Everything” as a way of monitoring the welfare of these people, a use case which I do frequently refer to in the context of this technology.

Here, they would use commonly-available sensor technology like the motion sensors that are part of every intruder-alarm system, or flow meters and power meters on appliances; or door-contact sensors on wardrobes or kitchen cupboards to observe for normal activity.

Along with this, the CSIRO effort also wants to use health sensors like blood-pressure monitors or scales to register a person’s health statistics and it has been valued because the patients will be wanting to know how they are doing along with the ability to provide more knowledgeable information to their doctor about their symptoms.

They want to use knowledge of past health incidents affecting elderly, disabled or chronically-ill people to train the machine-learning algorithm to identify the abnormalities at an earlier stage rather than when a serious incident occurs. Of course, any machine-learning setup needs to be able to adjust to newer legitimate changes so as to avoid any “false positives”.

A question that will always be raised is the cost to set up this kind of observation with it costing less than AUD$3000 because of the use of common technologies and components rather than specialised hardware.

The topic of privacy has also been raised because the CSIRO monitoring system is based on cloud technology and Internet-based data access, and is of importance to reduce the risk of elder abuse. Here, the goal is to allow the patients to control their data so that it is exposed to whoever they trust in a granular manner. This is more so with relatives because they may be trusting of certain people within their family.

As well, the features that have been raised as being of importance to the elderly community for this personal-health monitoring setup include the ability to know who is at the door, the ability to engage in videocalls with family and friends along with the ability to know if one has forgotten to turn off a tap or appliance. This can easily affect older people who may become increasing forgetful about these things such as a burner on the newer gas cooker being left on but turned really down or not being able to hear clearly that the washbasin tap is still running.

The effort that CSIRO is undertaking is to be able to allow an elderly or other vulnerable person to live independently yet be able to know that help is at hand while their loved ones are sure that they are well.

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Controlling your garage door or gate from your smartphone

Relevant article:

Detached garage

Very soon your smartphone could control your garage door

Smart Garage Door Systems | Postscapes

Introduction

A feature that is available for your remote-controlled garage door or gate is the ability for you to control it using your smartphone. But this feature is primarily available from a few American-based home-automation manufacturers with some companies who sell garage-door openers offering add-on kits for their products to enable them to have this functionality. This is while the rest of these vendors offer them as a kit that is retrofitted to an existing garage-door opener or gate controller.

What do they offer?

Your smartphone is your garage door remote control

Smartphone and garage door transmitter

This Android smartphone could supplant that garage door opener

This avoids the need for you to fossick for a garage-door opener transmitter or worry whether the transmitter’s battery has died when you leave or arrive and some of these systems may have the ability to let you know if that garage door is actually closed or not. This may avoid the need to glance nervously in the rear-vision mirror when you leave to see if that door is closing as I have seen someone that I have known do when they and I left their house in their car, or to turn around to check if that gate is properly closed.

There is also the opportunity for the software developer who write the smartphone apps for these garage door controllers to exploit your smartphone platform’s abilities like asking your platform’s voice-driven personal assistant (Siri, Google Now, Cortana) whether the garage door’s open or not or telling it to close the door. Similar you can set a notification to pop up using your smartphone platform’s notification interface if certain conditions are met like the garage door being open too long or at odd hours.

Wrought iron gates

Even wrought-iron gates like these can be controlled with your smartphone

The software developers can even provide support for the in-car or smartwatch interfaces that are an extension of these mobile operating systems so that your CarPlay or Android Auto infotainment setup in the car, or your Apple Watch or Android Wear smartwatch is your key to your garage door or gate.

Increased security and manageability

All these garage door controllers have similar functionality to a smart lock where you can issue extra keys to other people yet have the ability to take the keys away from them or provide limited usage periods for these keys.

For example, you could allow your houseguests to have access to the garage or give the keys to a friend who is storing their car in your garage. Similarly, you could allow your nanny to have access to your property through the front gates for the duration of her shift.

You gain this functionality through the mobile-platform app or a Web-based dashboard in the case of those systems that connect to your home network. In a lot of cases, the latter example allows you to manage your garage from another Internet-connected computer like your workplace’s computer.

How do they work

Connecting to the garage door or gate opener

Most of these systems are designed to work on a universal-connection setup where the smartphone controller interface mimics the manual pushbutton that is used to open the garage door from inside. This is achieved through a relay (your car has these to control the headlights, horn or starter motor from the switches on the dashboard) or an optocoupler which has its switching contacts wired in parallel to the manual pushbutton and these are brought closed for a short moment when the controller wants the door opened or closed. This action causes the garage door or the gates to start opening or closing depending on their current position. The setup allows for the circuits in both the devices to be isolated thus reducing the risk of cross-voltage damage occurring while allowing for this control.

The systems that support Wi-Fi-based connectivity also provide the ability to work with a sensor that determines whether the garage door is open or closed. This allows them to report on this status either in an event-driven manner or under control of the controller’s app. This goal can be achieved using a wireless sensor that uses an integrated tilt switch and is attached to your single-panel or multi-panel lift-up garage door; or the better units may simply allow you to connect a door-contact switch to the garage door. This can work well with roller doors, sliding or swing doors including gates.

A few of these systems even have their own video-surveillance camera or can work with IP-based video-surveillance cameras so you can see if the garage door is opening or closing as well as knowing if anyone is in the garage. Some of them also offer a visual and/or audio alert so you and others know if the garage door or gate is being opened or closed, with this functionality being offered as a “get-out-of-the-way” safety warning.

The GoGoGate controller allows for increased flexibility by permitting different wiring scenarios like a separate “open” and “close” button which may be encountered with more advanced setups. On the other hand, some garage-door-opener manufacturers may offer kits that enable you to control their products from your smartphone.

An issue that may plague a lot of these controllers is that they aren’t weatherproof to outdoor conditions and installers may have to house them in weatherproof housings if they want to use them with gates.

Connecting to your smartphone

Some of these garage door controllers connect to your smartphone using a Bluetooth 4.0 interface while most of the others use a Wi-FI network interface that is linked to your home network’s Wi-Fi segment.

A few of the controllers also offer an “own-access-point” mode where they serve as their own Wi-Fi access point just for controlling your garage door or gates. In this latter case, you have to make sure your smartphone discovers and switches to that network before you can control your garage door.

Some of the controllers like the GoGoGate system may even provide for Ethernet connectivity, perhaps in the form of using an Ethernet-based USB network adaptor. This feature cannot be discounted because it can allow the use of HomePlug AV500 or HomePlug AV2 powerline adaptors to provide a reliable network link to the home network and the Internet. Use this with a HomePlug Wi-Fi access point and you could assure reliable remote access from your car outside the garage or front gates.

Software

All of the smartphone-capable garage door controllers, like other home-automation devices, rely on control apps that are peculiar to a vendor’s controller system.

They will allow you to control multiple garage doors as long as the controllers are from the same vendor. The software even allows for property-level grouping and caters toward garages which have two or three separately-opened doors. So this means that you don’t need to install a new app for each door.

The Wi-Fi-based systems that connect to your home network also work with a management Website so you can see access logs or manage your system from a regular computer. Some of them also link to a remote-access server which would be referred to as a “cloud” setup, typically established by the vendor. This would allow for functions like email alerts or the ability to open or close your garage door from work.

Another feature to expect for some of these connected garage-door-controller systems is the ability to integrate with smart-home subsystems. This feature may be delivered in the form of a software update for better-designed systems, but some smart-home platforms like Apple’s HomeKit or Google’s Nest may require the garage-door controller system to be accepted by the platform’s vendor.

Conclusion

Although there are 11 systems on the market that link your garage door or gate to your smartphone, the market is still immature and fragmented as is the rest of the “smart-home” product market.

What needs to happen is for companies involved with garage doors and front gates for the residential and small-business market to share knowledge in order to enable the garage door or front gate to be part of the smart home. Manufacturers could sell the technology on a basis that allows different vendors to integrate in to their systems thus allowing for a quicker time-to-market for newer products or a reduced need to “reinvent the wheel”. As far as retailers go, it could include reselling the various systems whether with a new installation or to retrofit to existing installations.

For most of us, it may simply be about inquiring with your garage-door contractor about the existence of Bluetooth-based or Wi-Fi-based garage door controllers and seeking to have them installed.

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Bluetooth to benefit from speed and range improvements

Articles

Bluetooth is getting big range and speed boosts in 2016 | Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

Bluetooth SIG

Press Release

My Comments

There is some talk about Bluetooth issuing a new major specification that will be tweaked further for the Internet Of Things. There have been some devices that implement Bluetooth 4.0 in this context, primarily in the form of some smart locks, but there are some limitations with operating range for example, especially when these devices work with network bridges to enable cloud-based control and monitoring.

Here they want to pitch it as a competitor to ZIgbee and Z-Wave for “smart-home”, industrial automation and location-based-service applications. The goal with this is to provide an increased operating range (typically 4x the current operating range) and 100% speed improvement but give the devices increased power efficiency. This may allow for operation for a long time like six months on commodity batteries – think of 2 or 3 AA-size or AAA-size Duracells or one coin-size battery of the kind used with watches or car-alarm keyfobs.

Similarly,Bluetooth wants to add “mesh support” where some devices act as radio repeaters for other devices to allow for building-wide coverage. This is something already practised with Zigbee and Z-Wave and could bring about Bluetooth as another option for that smart-home or building-automation system.

But with Bluetooth in the equation, a network bridge for an “Internet Of Things” setup may have to work with Z-Wave, Zigbee and Bluetooth if the goal is to provide an on-ramp to mobile or Internet control. On the other hand, it could be feasible for a device to be designed to work with smartphones and tablets while servicing a building-automation setup, using only one radio transceiver and a well-known data communications standard.

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The electronic door lock becomes more than a door-security device

Article

Vingcard Elsafe Classic hotel room lock

These electronic door locks that hotels use are being seen now also as data-capture tools

Electronic locks as data-analysis tools | Hotel Management

My Comments

A trend that is becoming real is for electronic door locks to serve as sensors or peripherals for other computing applications as well as performing their gatekeeping duties and is going to make this device class become a very important part of the Internet Of Things.

This has been highlighted with the hotel environment because it is often the first place that people experiences these devices when they let themselves in to their hotel room while they stay at their favourite hotel.

An increasing number of these systems work in an “online” fashion where they use technologies like Zigbee to exchange data through the building in a real-time manner. But they also keep operational data like an access log local to the lockset itself.

The new expectations for this class of online-based locking system start with the ability to notify the hotel’s maintenance department if the lockset’s batteries are becoming weak and are able to report system diagnostic issues to this same department if there are other problems. There is also the activity monitoring functionality which can augment how Front Desk or Houskeeping perform their work as well as working alongside energy-management setups to determine occupancy. As well, these locking systems can be seen as a tool to help hoteliers with their job in assuring the safety, security and welfare of their guests such as being able to detect if one or more wrong cards are tried against one or more locks or if a guestroom door is left open.

Personally, I also see the app-based ecosystem place another requirement on these locks where they have to convey user preferences to the other technology in the room. For example, the heating could be set to a particular temperature and fan mode while the clock-radio is set to wake you at a time you have set and the TV lights up and switches to a channel you prefer the moment you tap your phone on the lock and open the door.

The article determined that the core gatekeeping functionality is being reduced to a secondary role and these devices are ending up either as sensors or peripherals for various computer-intelligence systems.

But this same concept could apply to the residential smart lock

But this same concept could apply to the residential smart lock

But could this same trend apply to the new smart locks that are being pitched for the home? In some ways, yes!

Smart locks that connect to the home network and the Internet, typically via a network bridge, will end up being required to support working with a Web-based or mobile-based management dashboard. In some cases, they may be required to notify users of situations like whether a door is left unlocked or not, if a certain person like your teenager has come home or of system-status events like weak batteries.

Another expectation that is being drummed up is for these locks to cause heating and lighting to come on at user-preferred settings courtesy of a home-automation system or turn off the heating when everyone leaves the house. Yale even underscored the idea of one user creating multiple entry codes on their Real Living Connected Deadbolt to support “situation-specific” presets like the possibility of a particular user code that you use when it’s date night. This is because the deadbolt can be linked in to a home-automation system courtesy of an optional Zigbee or Z-Wave module.

Further expectations that would be placed on electronic door-locking devices would include integration with personnel-welfare systems such as ageing at home or independent living for people with mental disorders. Such a system could observe patterns of activity to learn the user’s normal activity pattern such as identifying that the door is opened and closed at particular times, then signal the relatives or a caregiver if activity goes against the grain, such as if there is no activity or a door is left open for too long.

It shows that in some cases, your favourite hotel can be where you find yourself experience a technology that you could end up using at home.

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Internationaler Funkaustellung 2015-Part 4-Home Automation and the Internet Of Things

IFA LogoPreviously, in my series about the Internationaler Funkaustellung 2015 fair in Berlin, I had covered computing and home network trends like Intel Skylake chips leading to improved performance for desktop and portable computers and the steady rise of 802.11ac Wave 2 Wi-Fi wireless and HomePlug AV2 powerline networks. This was followed up with home entertainment technology which was centered around 4K UHDTV becoming more mainstream, the arrival of 4K UHD Blu-Ray Discs and HDR TV technology.

Home Automation

There has been a rise in the number of home-automation systems appearing on the European market with companies offering a new home-automation platform or building out their existing platform with new sensor and control devices. Most of these systems implement Zigbee or Z-Wave and use a hub or central unit that links to your home network to allow monitoring and management of these systems from your smartphone or Web-connected computer.  Some of these systems may have some sensor or output devices work with your home network’s Wi-Fi segment rather than Zigbee or Z-Wave.

Devolo Home Control Central Unit (Zentrale) press photo courtesy of Devolo

Devolo Home Control Central unit connected to router

Devolo have built out the Devolo Home Control platform with more devices. This Z-Wave system started off with a central unit, a wall-mount room thermostat, a thermostatic radiator valve, a smoke alarm and a plug-in appliance module which turns appliances on and off and reports their power consumption. The central unit can link with your home network via an Ethernet or, thankfully, a HomePlug AV 500 connection both of which are more realistic in this application than Wi-Fi wireless. Now they have built it out with a motion detector, a reed-switch-based door/window contact sensor, a water sensor to detect leaky washing machines or flooded basements, and a humidity sensor. They also added an indoor siren to provide an audible alert to user-defined events; along with a wall-mount switch, light dimmer and blind/shutter controller that have to be installed by an electrician and connected to AC wiring. This system is managed by a mobile-platform app and can signal events by email or SMS text messaging.

D-Link have also built out their myDLink home-automation platform which uses Wi-Fi for some applications and Z-Wave for others. This system is based around a Connected Home Hub which connects to your home network via Wi-FI or Ethernet and connects to the Z-Wave-based devices. Here, they have an appliance module and motion sensor that connects directly via Wi-Fi along with a smoke alarm, siren, water sensor, 3-in-1 magnet/reed door sensor which also senses room temperature and light level, 3-in-1 motion sensor which also senses room temperature and light level, and smoke alarm.

Samsung just lately took over the SmartThings home automation initiative and brought it under their banner. This system again is based around a home-automation hub which works with Z-Wave or Zigbee along with your home network but can work with devices from other vendors like the Yale Real Living deadbolts or the Honeywell Lyric thermostats. They have also shown the SleepSense bed sensor which slips under your mattress and registers how much sleep you are getting.

Philips are building out the Hue LED-based lighting range with the Hue+ lighting strip which is effectively a string of lights. Here, you can adjust colour and control the light from your smartphone like you can with other Philips Hue devices and this can be built out to 10 metres by adding a 1-metre extension strip.

Appliances

Increasing more of the appliance manufacturers are working towards an increasingly-sophisticated “app-cessory” approach to online enablement where your smartphone or tablet becomes an extra control surface that exposes increased functionality like notifying you on your smartphone when the laundry is done so you can start the next load as quickly as possible. But it is also driven by the manufacturers implementing an interlink with their resources to facilitate assisted cooking and similar functionality.

Miele CM7 countertop bean-to-cup coffee machine press picture courtesy of Miele

Miele CM7 countertop bean-to-cup coffee machine

Miele has brought in the Edition Con@ct washing machine and dryer which implements an automatic detergent dispensing system and lets users know using their smartphone and the Internet if they need more of the detergent cartridges. As well, they are extending this concept to dishwashers so the app reminds you when to get dishwasher powder or tablets. They also are releasing the US-sized ovens and range-style cookers in to Europe because of the fact these bring out the “gourmet” in some European cultures. Their new CM7 touch-operated bean-to-cup superautomatic espresso coffee machine has been released as their foray in to the countertop coffee machine space and implements a “jug” function for making large quantities of coffee or milk as well as a cartridge-based automatic descaler. Miele’s newer electric induction cooktops are implementing the TempControl function for frying so you can get those eggs, sausages or “best of the kitchen” fry-up just right.

AEG Pro Combi Plus Smart Oven press picture courtesy of the Electrolux Group

AEG Pro Combi Plus smart oven – you can see how it’s cooking from your iPad

Electrolux have been showing their vision for the Internet Of Everything at this year’s IFA as far as their appliance brands are concerned. One application that they want to underscore with AllJoyn and the AllSeen Alliance is assisted cooking. One of their brands, AEG, has come forward with some connected cooking ideas including the ProCombi Plus Smart Oven. This takes the “app-cessory” concept further by using an integrated camera so you can peek at what is cooking in that oven using your smartphone or tablet which is connected via Wi-Fi.  The mobile device app will have access to their recipe catalogue which is searchable and sortable by diet, cost, occasion, ingredients and technique along with access to AEG’s social-Web channels. The ProCombi Plus Smart Oven is one of those ovens that implements wet and dry cooking in the same space so you can steam-cook the fish and roast some potatoes in the same space. The Hob2Hood rangehood is one of the first rangehoods that uses the hob or cooker as a control surface and will work with AEG’s cooktops.

Bosch Home Connect press picture courtesy of Robert Bosch AG

You can see in your Bosch fridge using your smartphone courtesy of Home Connect

Bosch Home Appliances has also headed down the connected appliance path with a fridge that has an integrated camera so you can see what is in there on your smartphone or tablet. As well, they also have other “app-cessory” functionality including system diagnostics across all of the appliance classes including their built-in bean-to-cup coffee machine. Let’s not forget that Bosch are releasing cooktops that are equipped with sensors for optmum cooking.

KitchenAid used the IFA 2015 to capitalise on the fad for sous-vide cooking by launching the Chef Touch Sous-Vide collection. This consists of a vacuum sealer, steam oven and freezer pitched for this technique with an ask of approximately EUR€10000. It isn’t just about that famous electric mixer anymore., W

Whirlpool are launching their Bauknecht sub-brand which is pitched at a “life-balanced” lifestyle for the millenial generation. This courts households with a family and career focused lifestyle and encompasses washing machines, dryers and fridges controlled by the BLive mobile app. For example, you can tell your Bauknecht washing machine what material your clothes in your washload are and the machine determines the best cycle for that job.

Samsung AddWash washing machine press picture courtesy of Samsung

Samsung AddWash washing machine – you can add that sock mid-cycle

Samsung had fielded a front-load washing machine that has a door which you can open during its cycle so you can add laundry that had missed the start of the cycle like a sock’s mate. Here, you can pause the cycle and this small door unlocks while the water stays in the machine when you add that item. It also is a connected appliance which supports smartphone notification.

Philips has introduced a range of devices that work with your smartphone and tablet for “cradle to grave” personal wellbeing. For example, they have an ultrasound scanner so you can scan yourself during pregnancy and see how the new baby comes up on your mobile device. They also have the uGrow in-ear thermometer to measure baby’s temperature and show it on your smartphone as well as a baby monitor. The SoniCare electric toothbrush uses your mobile device to show you how to best clean your teeth wile the Smart Shaver 7000 system becomes an electric shaver, skin buffer or beard trimmer. They even provide a location tracking device for seniors who have the wanders.

Other brands have come to the fore like Haier with a fridge that has a door that becomes a window to what’s in there and the Neato Botvac which is a robot vacuum cleaner that connects to your home Wi-Fi network and uses your smartphone or tablet as its control surface.

What is showing up here is that the Internet Of Things is being seen as an essential product differentiator for large and small appliances while some manufacturers are building out home-automation platforms to get us going in this field. These goals will be centered around smartphones and tablets being control surfaces. Who knows what next year will bring.

Part 1 – Personal Computing Trends

Part 2 – Wearables and the Home Network

Part 3 – Home Entertainment

Part 4 – Home Automation and the Internet Of Things

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Samsung pitches a Wi-Fi and Zigbee access point at the Internet Of Things scene

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Samsung launches IoT Access Point to target the B2B market | SamMobile

My Comments

A device trend that is surfacing is for wireless access points or routers to also be network bridges for Zigbee, Z-Wave and/or Bluetooth wireless device networks.

A good example of this is the latest iteration of the Almond Securifi routers which work as network hubs and bridges for Zigbee and/or Z-Wave home-automation wireless networks. But Samsung has joined the party by offering an 802.11ac wireless access point targeted at large business networks, that is also a network bridge for the Zigbee and Bluetooth wireless network technologies.

The Samsung access point, along with the Almond Securifi routers are answering a new design call to work with the Internet Of Things which is primarily driven by the concept of so-called sensor networks. This is where you have sensors scattered around a location to measure factors like temperature, light level, presence and movement of personnel amongst other things and this will be used for aggregate data measurement or to actuate various control devices.

At the moment, Zigbee, Z-Wave and Bluetooth especially Bluetooth LE (Bluetooth Smart) will still exist as wireless network platforms used for these applications because these platforms are very thrifty when it comes to battery runtime. This is considered important for the Internet Of Things because these devices will be expected to run on a couple of AA or AAA Duracells or a coin battery for six months at least.thus not requiring much in the way of maintenance.

Personally, I would see wireless network infrastructure devices acquire this feature as a product differentiator but would rather that they work with all Zigbee, Z-Wave and Bluetooth devices including network hubs in a vendor-independent manner. This includes being able to work either as a network bridge or, in the case of consumer and small-business routers, work as IoT network hubs.

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