Category: Home / building automation and security

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

Article

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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Pay-TV security technology is relevant for the Internet Of Things

D-Link DCH-3150 myDLink  motion sensor

An Internet-Of-Things sensor that would require regular software updates to be secure

Article

Content security vendors need to prevent babycam hacking nightmares | VideoNet

My Comments

A problem that will get worse in this day and age is weak security affecting home automation and security. This is based around easy-to-misconfigure hardware pitched at home users on a “set it and forget it” basis. It has led to consumer IP-based cameras being hacked and their content being thrown to undesirable Websites.

This is driven by a common mindset associated with devices sold to consumers where the goal is to buy it. install it and use it without requiring the consumer to worry about it more.

The Pay-TV ecosystem invests in and uses a high-security path to protect the expensive content such as the Hollywood blockbusters or the big-league sports that it provides to its subscribers. This is always evolved and updated to counteract new threats to this ecosystem and to handle new applications. They also used the “end-to-end” approach including supplying hardware to consumers and updating the software in this hardware automatically and without the consumer having to do anything extra.

Similarly, regular-computer setups have been made secure with Microsoft and Apple delivering security updates to Windows and MacOS X on a regular basis as threats come about. This is because of these systems having a heritage of being used in the business environment for a long time.

The article raised the concept of companies who provide home monitoring and allied services offering a turnkey installation and configuration service to their customers as a premium service or simply alerting customers to misconfigured hardware and hacking attempts if customers prefer to install their own hardware. They could use the Pay-TV technology to secure the content path between the cameras and the Web dashboards or mobile apps that the customers use.

“Blind updating”

AVM FRITZ!Box 3490 - Press photo courtesy AVM

AVM FRITZ!Box – self-updating firmware = secure network infrastructure

What I would like to see more is the ability to patch network-infrastructure hardware in a similar manner to what is done with pay-TV, regular-computer operating systems and some cloud-hosted services. This is where security updates and patches are delivered and installed automatically to these devices. In some cases, it may be preferable to provide an interactive update process for major software versions that add or change a device’s functionality.

A good step in the right direction was AVM with their Fritz!Box routers where they introduced the concept of automatic software updating to this class of device when they released new firmware for the Fritz!Box 7490.

These processes will have to require manufacturers to instigate software authentication and verification workflows and have their devices verify software updates before deploying them. This is to prevent the deployment of malware to these devices.

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A set-top box could aggregate the Internet Of Things

Article

Set top boxes could work as the hub of an "Internet Of Things" network

Set top boxes could work as the hub of an “Internet Of Things” network

The cable box might solve the Internet of Things’ biggest problem | Engadget

My Comments

This article suggested that a set-top box or PVR could do more than select channels or be a customer interface to a pay-TV system.

There is a problem that exists with the Internet Of Things where manufacturers herd their smart-home devices in to “silos” that are controlled by the apps they develop or work on a particular physical link like Z-Wave, Zigbee, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. This makes it hard to create a heterogenous system based around these devices and either requires many apps on your smartphone or requires many gateway boxes to be connected to your home network.

Draytek Vigor 2860N VDSL2 business VPN-endpoint router press image courtesy of Draytek UK

.. as could modem-routers

But it suggested that a cable box or similar device could do a better job by aggregating the different “silos” that exist in the Internet Of Things. They even suggested that an advanced set-top box could work as a control/display surface such as to pause what you are watching and throw up a video of whoever is in the garage, courtesy of a security camera installed therein, when your garage door opener is actuated. Another application I could think of would be that if you start your kettle boiling or coffee dripolator making coffee, you could then start watching your favourite show knowing that a message would pop up on the screen letting you know that the kettle or coffee pot is ready. You could even use the TV remote to adjust the heat or air-con to your liking with the current setting appearing as a pop-up message.

This has been highlighted in the concept of cable companies and telcos offering “multiple-play” services with fixed-broadband Internet, fixed-line telephony, pay-TV and/or mobile telephony in the one package, encouraging customers to have all their “eggs in one basket”. The telco or cable company would then be able to realise that Integrating a home-automation / security service in to their service mix is another way to keep customers loyal to them. This is even if a customer dispenses with a service like pay-TV or fixed-line telephony. Here, a set-top box for their pay-TV and/or an Internet-gateway device like a modem-router that they lease or sell to customers could be the actual device that does the bridging.

A data-security advantage has been found where all bridging functionality is confined to one device because that device can be hardened against cyber attack. But I also look at the fact that two “hub” devices can work in tandem, offering some functionality to each other. In this case, the aforementioned set-top box could work as a rich control / display surface for the modem-router and other devices in the IoT ecosystem as well as serving as a repeater or secondary access point for wireless systems that support this functionality.

At least the idea has been thrown about regarding adding functionality to existing devices like set-top boxes and modem-routers rather than having a home network riddled with dedicated-function devices.

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Tado’s smart air-conditioner control now on the scene

Article

Tado Smart Air-Conditioner Control press picture courtesy of Tado

Tado Smart Air-Conditioner Control in action

Tado Makes Your Dumb AC Smart | Tom’s Guide

Video

Previous Coverage

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

From the horse’s mouth

Tado

Smart AIr Conditioner Control

Product Page

To Buy

My Comments

Tado previously initiated a Kickstarter campaign to get the idea of a smart air-conditioner control device up and off the ground. Now this idea has successfully come to fruition and is available for regular sale.

Air-conditioner remote control

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

The device works like the newer smart thermostats but controls air-conditioners that are typically controlled by an infra-red remote control and adds network-based remote control along with the extras associated with it to these systems.

It answers a reality where there is a large number of these air-conditioners; whether in an integrated unit that installs through a wall or window, a portable unit or the more common ductless-split units; that are in service for a long time. Like with anything that is about maintaining comfort in the home, there is a resistance by most of us to substitute the existing unit unless it has broken down beyond repair or too uneconomical to use.

The Tado Smart Air-Conditioner controller is a white box with a white-LED dot-matrix display that serves as the user display. This has to be installed in line-of-sight of the air-conditioner unit because it substitutes the role of that remote control that the A/C depends on. As well, it connects to your home network (and Internet) via Wi-Fi wireless and also supports Bluetooth Smart for proximity detection.

As well, you install an app in your smartphone to turn it in to a control surface for this controller. But it is not just about setting your air-conditioner’s temperature, fan-speed and operating mode from your smartphone’s display but also about functionality like geo-fencing and IFTTT or HomeKit connectivity.

The geo-fencing, IFTTT and HomeKit functionality allow you to have the air-conditioner turned off when you actually leave or switch it on just before you get home so it is comfortable by the time you are there. As well, the Wi-Fi functionality that the Tado Smart A/C controller provides will also be a godsend to those of you who manage your holiday home or shopfront so you can get these places warm or cool by the time you arrive.

Tado are intending to release a multiple-AC function to this controller soon so as to to allow you to manage the growing reality of places with more than one air-conditioner. This will obviously handle the common situation where there is one unit per room but I would like to know whether this multiple-AC function can handle larger rooms heated or cooled by multiple air-conditioners.

What this shows is a Kickstarter project that satisfies a genuine need as is actually put to market in a real continual way. It is also about gaining more value out of existing equipment by enabling it for today’s expectations.

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NuTone joins in the smart-home bandwagon

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NuTone Announces Smart Home Line | SmallNetBuilder

From the horse’s mouth

NuTone

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My Comments

NuTone is an American brand that has been associated with integrated home systems like central vacuums or intercoms for a long time. Most of you may know this name for their Food Center integrated appliance system which has a motor base integrated in to the kitchen bench where you attached a special food-processor bowl or blender jug in to a panel for them to work.

But they are cutting in to the smart-home scene by supplying a collection of smart-home sensors that work to the Z-Wave standard. They claim that this device can work with most Z-Wave home automation hubs like the Securifi Almond+ router.  These include light and appliance control modules either as an integrated or plug-in variant along with a garage-door opener module and the devices were developed along with Nortek.

One of the devices that they have offered is a “smart fixture control” which is simply a Z-Wave relay box that can control other devices by virtue of a relay. This can appeal to anyone who wants to integrate this kind of control in to different devices which just respond to a switch being opened or closed.

What I have seen of NuTone’s effort is to release a range of Z-Wave smart-home modules is that they put their faith in the concept of the devices being compatible with standards-based Z-Wave home-automation systems on an application level. Here, they weren’t supplying a “home automation” hub or home-network gateway for these devices and expecting their customers to bond them with whatever Z-Wave-compliant home automation hub they were using. It is something that will be considered important as

This attitude appeals to people who are starting out with a so-called “starter kit” comprising of one or two plug-in light or appliance modules and a home-automation hub, then want to extend the control ability to more appliances. As well, a person who uses a network-enabled Z-Wave home automation hub that answers the “Internet Of Things / Internet Of Everything” call doesn’t need to displace this device just because they are enrolling a few new devices in to the system for network-wide and Internet-based control.

I would see this opening up wider paths for home automation becoming increasingly mainstream as people become aware of the “Internet Of Everything”.

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