Category: Home / building automation and security

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

Article

NuTone Announces Smart Home Line | SmallNetBuilder

From the horse’s mouth

NuTone

Product Page

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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Securifi to release home-automation-capable routers

Article

Touchscreen-enabled routers double as home automation hubs | Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

Securifi

Almond routers

Product Page

My Comments

Previous, if you were to integrate home automations or the “Internet Of Everything” to your home network, you had to use a separate “bridge” device for sensor devices that worked with Zigbee or Z-Wave. Most of these devices worked as a control surface for these devices such as showing their current status or turning appliances on at certain times or in response to certain events.

Now Securifi have built up the latest iteration of their Almond series touch-controlled routers and integrated Zigbee in them and Z-Wave in the Almond+ premium version. Both these devices can be set up to work as wireless access points or range extenders as well as routers.

They have the ability to show the current state of nominated sensors or allow you to control the sensors from the router’s touchscreen. But they also have a time-switch functionality or triggered functionality so that an appliance can come on or off according to certain conditions. These use the application-based standards associated with Zigbee and Z-Wave which is on an open-frame basis.

As well, Securifi have been working on iOS and Android apps that provide the ability to manage the home-automation ability from your smartphone’s or tablet’s screen. This may mean that you can check whether that heater in your room was actually on using your iPhone’s display and turn it off remotely as you are getting in your car rather than run in to check that it is off as I have seen before. As well, you could avoid having to glance in that rear-view mirror as you drive out slowly from home to check if that garage door is closing properly.  Securifi could extend the Almond app to work with the iOS and Android in-car, wearable and voice-assistant functionalities in order to show the various status reports on your dashboard or smartwatch or allow you to ask Siri or Google Now the current status of various appliances.

Could this be a chance for router manufacturers to integrate the home-automation hub functionality in some of their products? Here, it could open up the path for more of the smart-home ideas to come across for most people and reduce the need for extra boxes to be part of your home network.

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A smart-lock solution arrives for the Euro-standard mortice lock

Article – French language / Langue Française

La Poste vend aussi des serrures connectées (The Post Office also sells smart locks) | Le Figaro (France)

From the horse’s mouth

La Poste

PostAccess Product Page

Press Release

Video (Click to play – French language)

My Comments

At the moment, most smart-lock solutions are catering towards the “bore-through” cylindrical deadbolt that is common in the USA and some other countries.

But there is an established “open-frame” cylinder-mortice-lock platform, known as the “Euro-profile” platform, which has a strong presence “across the board” in most of Britain and Europe and has some presence in Oceania. This is based around a single-piece module that houses the key cylinder and / or a thumb-turn which slides in to a mortice lock or multi-bolt locking system already installed in to a door. This platform hasn’t been served by this technology until now.

La Poste, the French post-office, have started marketing a smart-lock kit as part of their foray in to the connected-home scene. This is based around a “swap-in” module that replaces the cylinder module or cylinder / thumbturn module that is part of a European-standard mortice lock or multi-point locking system and, like some of the other smart locks, works with a fob or your Bluetooth-linked smartphone dependent on the package.

Here, the hardware based around a high-security outside cylinder module which “drives” the lock’s bolt and provides access using a traditional key. This interlinks with an inside module that has a thumbturn along with the electronics including the Bluetooth Smart radio subsystem that is part of the PostAccess system. It also has an integrated door-alarm which can be set up to work as a simple “buzzer alarm” that sounds when someone opens the door, or it can simply be set to sound if someone attempts to force the door open.

It also works with an NFC card reader that looks like a wireless doorbell and comes with the PostAccess Sérénité package. This card reader actually links with the lock using Bluetooth Smart technologies so it can read NFC cards, badges or wristbands and use these as keys.

People who buy the PostAccess Services Connectée package also receive a Wi-Fi – Bluetooth bridge that links the lock to your home network, This allows for you to manage your PostAccess lock remotely through a Web portal that is set up by La Poste in France. The standards around the online service encompass a high-security data transfer setup between the PostAccess smart lock and the servers which are located in France.

What I like of this smart lock is that it is the first product of its kind to work with the Euro-profile cylinder-mortice-lock platform purely on a retrofit basis in a manner that suits a “screwdriver expert”. As well, it is the first product of its type to be a hub for two peripheral devices i.e. the NFC card reader and a home-network bridge while working with smartphones for authentication and management purposes.

Like other early entrants in to the network-based connected-home or “Internet Of Things” idea, it will show the problems and bugs associated with these devices. This is where you rely on particular vendor-supplied equipment, smartphone apps and services to get the full benefit from them and they don’t work on an “open-frame” platform. To approach this better, the manufacturers would need to make the PostAccess smart lock software-upgradeable to newer “open-platform” standards

La Poste could be seeing this as a way to get their foot in the door to the connected home rather than trying to run their own “n-box” triple-play Internet service in to a highly-competitive Internet-service market. They could take this further with other products of the connected-home class and / or build out their Services Connectée package for remote home management.

To make the “smart-lock” idea work, there has to be an emphasis on seeing more products of this class appear on all of the commonly-used form-factors that the typical door lock appears in. As well, there has to be the ability to see the connected-home “Internet-Of-Things” concept mature on a level playing field along with encouraging a distinct role for these devices in the connected home.

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Consumer Electronics Show 2015–Part 2

Previously, in Part 1, I covered the trends that are affecting personal computing which encompases laptops / notebooks, tablets including the “2-in-1” convertible or detachable units, and the smartphones.

As I continue coverage of the trends shown at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, I am highlighting what is being highlighted when we think of the connected world and the Internet Of Things. This is where devices we have on ourselves or use in the home, or the cars we drive, connect to each other and the Internet to acquire a range of impressive capabilites.

Wearable technology

There is an increasing number of smartwatches and other wearables being launched at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. These are based on the Android Wear platform along with Tizen and other proprietary wearable platforms. It is although Apple has their smartwatch close to launch as part of their iOS ecosystem. A question that often came to mind is whether the smartwatch is to be seen as a bridge device between your smartphone and other wearable devices.

Sony raised the bar for Android Wear by integrating a GPS in to the metal-look variant of their Smartwatch 3 Android Wear watch. It may be seen as a way to provide standalone navigation and distance measurement for this watch or to serve as a secondary GPS sensor for your smartphone.

LG had headed towards smartwatches by putting forward one that is to run WebOS. This is part of having their devices run the descendent of the Palm operating system which HP refashioned as WebOS.

Lenovo had jumped on the wearable bandwagon by offering the Vibe lineup of wearable products. At the moment, the first of these products is the Vibe Band which is a water-resistant fitness band that uses an e-ink display, allowing for this device to run longer on a single battery charge.

There have been a few weirdly wonderful wearable devices like some snowboard bindings that help you plough through the powder better. These bindings measure the forces you apply on your feet as you slide down the slope and an app uses your smartphone’s GPS and these sensors to assess your snowboarding prowess. There is the Misfit LED which works alongside the Misfit range of activity trackers to show how you are performing. But the most weird device is the Emiota Belty which is a men’s dress belt that records your waistline and reports it back to your smartphone.

Hyundai Blue Link smartwatch app press photo courtesy of Hyundai America

Hyundai Blue Link smartwatch app – your smartwatch is your keyfob

The smartwatch is becoming part of the “connected car” ecosystem thanks to some vehicle builders. As I will mention below, BMW uses the smartwatch as a key fob that is to be part of their self-parking setup that they are working on. But Hyundai has presented the Blue Link app for the Apple Watch and Android Wear platforms so you can use this watch like the typical button-equipped car keyfob. Think of this as being to touch your watch to start your Veloster from afar, open its doors or have that coupe flash its headlights so you can locate it in the car park.

The connected car

Speaking of which, the car that links to the home network and the Internet is being given a fair bit of airtime by most of the vehicle manufacturers. This is promoted by Mercedes-Benz who were exhibiting a capsule-style self-driving concept car, Ford demonstrating their idea of a self-driving car, and other vehicle builders talking about the self-driving idea for cars.

Smartwatch control surface for car press picture courtesy of BMW America

Smartwatch as control element of BMW car

BMW took the modest path by demonstrating a self-parking variant of the i3 car. This smartwatch-controlled car looks for a parking spot by itself and implements a map-based setup where it has pre-loaded maps of car parks. This is very like a valet-parking setup but without the car-park attendant parking your car for you in that car park.

BMW self-parking car press picture courtesy of BMW America

It parks itself

Ford launched the third iteration of their Sync connected-car technology which will implement a touchscreen as part of its control surface and use of Blackberry QNX technology. This is intended to be part of what will be offered for the 2016 model-year vehicles.

Even the chipset manufacturers have dipped their finger in the connected-car scene with NVIDIA announcing that they are purposing Tegra and similar processors to power the connected-car dashboards.

Next generation VW infotainment setup press picture courtesy of VW America

Next generation VW infotainment works with Apple Play, Android Auto or MirrorLink

As for infotainment, there is a trend to support both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay in both factory-supply and aftermarket infotainment setups. This means that the advanced abilities of these systems can work in a system-native manner to both iPhone and Android users. The Volkswagen Group had put this forward in the latest factory-spec infotainment setups and were even involved in the level-playing-field idea of MirrorLink even when it was put forward.

Parrot have premiered the RNB6 which is a 2-DIN media unit which runs both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay but has 55 watts per channel output for all of the channels along with more options. Pioneer have launched this function in to some of their newer 2-DIN car radios. These efforts satisfy realities that exist in countries like Australia where people are likely to keep their cars on the road for a very long time.

Internet Of Everything

The Internet Of Everything has become a key feature of this show with companies either showcasing new gadgets that link with the Internet or showcasing improvements for existing gadgets with this kind of ability. Most of these devices are still pitched as a “system” of devices, cloud services and apps supplied by the same vendor that are dependent on each other and there haven’t been any devices that are pitched in a manner where they can work with other manufacturers’ devices, services or apps.

There have been some devices that are targeted at your baby’s health such as a smart baby bottle holder measures food intake. Another of these is a Bluetooth-connected infant thermometer that uses your smartphone as its display with this being developed by the company that is behind Moto’s smart temporary tattoo.

Parrot has launched houseplant water monitors that link to the home network. One is the H2O which is a sensor and automated watering system that you can use in-situ with your plants and the other is the Parrot Pot to put your plant into.

D-Link DCH-S160 myDLink water sensor press picture courtesy of D-Link America

D-Link myDLink water detector alerts you via your smartphone if your washing machine leaks or the bath overflows

BeeWi and D-Link are snapping at Belkin’s WeMo home-automation technology with their own technology. The latter have packaged it in as their myDLink package which is dependent on a home-automation hub even for the Wi-Fi devices. They have Z-Wave motion sensors and door magnet/reed sensors which interlink with this hub and also work as ambient temperature sensors.

They also have a Wi-Fi-based water-leak sensor that uses a wire to sense leaking water from that dribbling washing machine along with a Wi-Fi siren unit and smart plugs. This system is managed on your mobile device through an app that D-Link supplies. TRENDNet are running a HomePlug-based home automation package that links with their TPL-406E HomePlug AV500 adaptor and the THA-102PL appliance controller with both devices using the AC wiring to communicate to each other. They also have the THA-103AC which is a Wi-Fi-managed appliance controller that works as an AC750 Wi-Fi range extender and both these systems are controlled using an app for the iOS and Android platforms.

Kwikset Kevo cylindrical deadbolt in use - Kwikset press image

Kwikset Kevo Plus extends online monitoring and control to this Kwikset Kevo smart deadbolt

Two companies that are known for the common door lock have fielded some “smart-lock” products, but they are focused around the “bore-through” cylindrical deadbolt form-factor that is common on many American front doors. Firstly, Kwikset have provided an IP bridge and online service for their Kevo smart deadbolt. Here, the Bluetooth-IP bridge and online service allows for such functions as “remote unlock” for situations like when you have a friend or relative who doesn’t have a smartphone with the Kwikset Kevo app to come to your house to do some caretaking or fetch something for you or to have a repair technician visit your house to perform some repair works on an appliance while you are at work. The service is offered as an annually-billed service. August who offer a similar Bluetooth-driven smart lock have come up this path using their own IP bridge to provide “remote check / remote release” functionality.

Yale Real Living NFC-capable smart deadbolt - outside view (brass finish) press picture courtesy of Yale America

Yale Real Living smart deadbolt – enter using the code on the keypad or touch your open-frame smartphone to it

As well, Yale have launched an NFC-based smart lock that works to the Seos NFC-based smart locking platform that ASSA Abloy, the “Electrolux” of the door-hardware industry, have established. This is one that comes in the same form factor as the Kwikset Kevo but doesn’t use a key outside as a failover method. As well, it requires you to touch your NFC-capable Android smartphone to the outside keypad to unlock your door.

Tagg are working with Alarm.com to implement a tracker system for your pets. This will be based around a collar attachment that implements GPS to locate and uses 3G as a “report-back” mechanism.

The CES tech fair has given Roost some boost with their “smart battery” for existing smoke alarms. Here, they were able to show and demonstrate this battery in action as a monitoring device for the common smoke alarm.

Appliances

Unlike the Internationaler Funkaustellung where a home-appliance trade show had been merged with this consumer-electronics trade show, there has become an increasing de-facto presence of home appliances at the Consumer Electronics Show. This has been brought on by some of the Korean and Japanese consumer-electronics manufacturers wanting to show their appliances at this trade show along with appliances, both major-class “white-goods” and countertop “small-goods” and is demonstrating that home appliances are increasingly becoming part of the “Internet Of Things”.

Dacor used this show to premiere their Android-controlled ovens which used an “app-cessory” approach to controlling these ovens. This also goes alongside the use of a touchscreen as a local control surface and is representative of what is to come about for premium “white goods”.

LG Twin Wash System press photo courtesy of LG America

LG Twin Wash System – two washing machines in one

LG have fielded some interesting “white goods” at this show. The show-stopper for them in this department was the Twin Wash “drawer-load” second washing machine which is installed underneath their recent front-load washing machines. It works in a manner where you can wash a small load while the main machine is processing another load. The example often cited was for ladies to wash a change of delicate underwear on the delicate-wash cycle while the main machine runs a lot of normal-cycle washing. Another example from my experience would be to turn around two white shirts by themselves while a large quantity of coloured clothes is being washed, with everything being ready to dry at the same time. They also fielded a “double door-in-door” fridge for easier organisation of food in the fridge. Samsung were fielding some interesting appliances like a dual-cavity oven and their “ActiveWash’ washing machine which implements an advanced wash action.

The coffee making scene closes in to the home network more with Smarter running a “bean-to-cup” espresso machine for the US market which uses Wi-Fi technology to facilitate its app-cessory control surface.

In the next part of this series, I will be looking at what the Consumer Electronics Show 2015 is representing for entertainment in the connected home.

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A 9V battery that makes your smoke alarm a smart smoke alarm

Article

Internet-connected battery turns your old smoke detector into a smart one | Mashable

Roost’s smart battery will school your old smoke alarm | Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

Roost Smart Battery

Product Page

Press Release

Kickstarter Page

My Comments

Although Google’s Nest has released a smoke alarm that can tie in with your home network, a Kickstarter project is in place to develop a replacement lithium battery that gives your existing smoke detector or carbon-monoxide detector “connected” abilities. This is addressing a situation where a lot of these alarm devices have ended up with dead or missing batteries most likely due to user forgetfulness.

The Roost Smart Alarm Battery works as a replacement battery for your smoke or carbon-monoxide alarm and links to your smartphone via your home Wi-Fi network and a cloud service to achieve its “smart abilities”. This is facilitated through the use of a low-power Wi-Fi chip that doesn’t place much demand on the battery and capitalises on the fact that these alarm devices don’t call on battery current except during an alarm event.

The smartphone app lets you know of the battery charge status and alerts you if the battery is critically low before the smoke alarm’s “low-battery” audible alert kicks in. As well, it becomes an extra “alarm surface” for your smoke alarm so that if you are away from your premises and the smoke alarm sounds, you are notified on your smartphone. The only limitation with this battery is that it won’t give you access to the “test” or “alarm-mute” functions that these devices have.

The optimistic life-span for the battery is around 5 years in this application compared to a typical 9V alkaline battery which lasts for one year at best. As well, the goal price for these devices is US$35 compared to a new Nest smoke/carbon-monoxide alarm which would set you back US$99. Even if you do go for the Nest smoke alarm, you may want to “bump” your existing smoke alarm to a secondary application like a holiday home but want the smart abilities.

At least it is another attempt at retrofitting existing devices to become part of the “Internet Of Things” by working on their power-supply needs.

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Belkin and Mr Coffee introduces the first Wi-Fi-capable drip-filter coffee maker

Articles

Mr. Coffee Smart 10-Cup Drip Filter Coffee Maker - press image courtesy of Belkin

The first connected drip-filter coffee maker

Belkin and Mr. Coffee want to brew your first pot via WiFi | Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

Belkin

Press Release

Mr. Coffee

10 Cup Smart Optimal Brew Coffeemaker

Product Page

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=uGODQUtxQD4

My Comments

After the success of the WeMo-capable Crock-Pot slow cooker, Belkin and Jarden have worked together on another smart appliance. This time it is a drip-filter coffee maker, courtesy of the Mr. Coffee brand.

Mr. Coffee WeMo coffee maker app in use - press image courtesy of Belkin

Check or set up this coffee dripolator using your smartpnone

The coffee “dripolator” works on the same “app-cessory” setup as the WeMo-capable slow cooker where you connect this appliance to your home network via Wi-Fi wireless and you download an app to your iOS or Android smartphone or tablet. Here, the app becomes another control surface for the appliance, typically offering the ability to set up more functions like delayed brewing in this case.

With the app, you can schedule when you want the coffee maker to start brewing the coffee, know if it is still brewing the coffee as well as having the ability to place an “on-device” reminder about setting up the machine for the next pot to be brewed later.The second function comes in handy when you are entertaining because you could just glance at your smartphone to know if the coffee’s ready to serve.

This appliance can turn out 10 cups of coffee in its steel insulated carafe, which avoids the risk of having “stewed coffee” that can taste awful and was often associated with this class of coffee maker which typically heats the carafe to keep the coffee drinkably warm. Something I would like to see is a way for the software to gauge the brewing time for the coffee so you can know how much time there is left for you to, for example, get the cups, milk and sugar ready when serving that pot.

The use of Belkin’s WeMo infrastructure underscores a desire by Jarden, who own the Mr. Coffee and the Crock-Pot brands, not to “reinvent the wheel” when it comes to creating a network-connected appliance. Personally, I would like to see Belkin apply WeMo technology to the HomePlug powerline network path rather than using Wi-Fi wireless for “smart-appliance” applications. This is to make use of the appliance cord as the data path rather than making sure the appliance is within range of your wireless router for reliable network operation.

As well, I would see the app-driven “smart-appliance” concept work very well with appliances that are based around a “process-driven” operation. Here, their operation requires you to prepare them to complete a process that will finish some time later like making a pot of coffee, and you can have them tell you that it’s ready through your smartphone or use that smartphone to have them commence the job “as late as possible”.

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The Nest thermostat receives a major firmware update

Article

Nest Learning Thermostat courtesy of Nest Labs

The Nest thermostat now on new firmware

Google’s Nest thermostat becomes a faster learner with major software update | PC World

From the horse’s mouth

Nest.com

Software update product page

My Comments

As the Internet Of Things starts to evolve slowly, there has been news about a home-automation device being “refreshed” with new firmware with the ability for equipment in current use to benefit from the software update.

Here, the Nest thermostat will benefit from a large software update which improves its learning abilities and preemptive operation functionality. Rather than having the user spend a lot of time adjusting the system to suit their lifestyle, this thermostat can learn your requirements more quickly. As well, Google published an API so it can interact with other devices and become part of the “Internet Of Things”.

Google tweaked the operation algorithm using a continual “opt-in” feedback loop involving existing users and this could be seen as a way to further fin-tune any machine-learning or “preemptive operation” algorithms. There is also other functions like time and outdoor temperature / humidity display abilities as well as a “system check” function to help you troubleshoot your central heating or air-conditioning, especially before a season change.

The Nest thermostat will receive the updates by itself as long as it is connected to your home network and the Internet. This allows for a hands-off update process and is an example of what should be done to allow for reliable and secure operation of equipment that is part of the “Internet Of Everything”.

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Internet Of Things connectivity issues

Article

Don’t get sidetracked: Connecting the residential IoE | The Beacon (Wi-Fi.org)

My Comments

Saeco GranBaristo Avanti espresso machine press picture courtesy of Philips

Appliances like this coffee machine are now working with dedicated mobile platform apps.

As the “Internet Of Things” or “Internet Of Everything” becomes ubiquitous in one’s lifestyle, there will always be some key issues with implementing this concept. It doesn’t matter whether it is for our health, wellbeing, convenient living or security that these issues will come in to play.

The core issue around the initial complexities will be due to use of network transports that don’t work on Internet-Protocol methodologies that have been established well before the Internet came to fruition in the mid-1990s. Rather, some of these implement an industry-specific data transport that requires the use of a so-called “bridge” between the non-IP transport and the IP transport.

Current implementation issues

Filling your computing devices with apps for each device and cloud service

Kwikset Kevo cylindrical deadbolt in use - Kwikset press image

The Internet Of Things should be about allowing these smart locks to work with other home-automation devices

At the moment, a lot of devices that offer control by smartphone require the use of vendor-developed apps and as you add more devices with this capability to your network, you end up filling your mobile device with many different apps. This leads to user confusion because you end up with having to work out which app you use to work with which device.

The same issue also affects cloud-based services where each vendor impresses on users to use the vendor’s supplied apps to benefit from these services. Again this leads to operator confusion which typically we would have noticed when we use social-media, over-the-top messaging or cloud-storage front-ends on our computing devices for each social-media, messaging or cloud-storage service.

This kind of situation makes it harder for one to develop software that makes best use of a device’s functions because they have to engineer a device to work specifically with a particular vendor’s devices. It brings us back to the days of DOS-based software where games vendors had to write the driver software to allow their software to interface with the computer system’s peripherals. This made it harder for customers to determine if that program they are after was to be compatible with their computer hardware.

Home-control systems and the home network

One issue that was highlighted was linking devices that use non-IP networks like Zigbee, Z-Wave or Bluetooth to the IP-based home network which works on Cat5 Ethernet, Wi-Fi and/or HomePlug. Typically this requires the use of a network-bridge device or module that connects to one of the Ethernet ports on the home-network router to link these devices to your home network, the Internet and your mobile devices.

Multiple bridge devices being needed

Nest Learning Thermostat courtesy of Nest Labs

… such as this room thermostat

The main question that was raised was whether we would end up with multiple bridge devices because each non-IP sensor or controller system was working in a proprietary manner, typically bound to a particular vendor’s devices or, in some cases, a subset of the devices offered by that vendor.

The worst-case scenario is a vendor who implements a Zigbee-based distributed heating control system for a UK-style hydronic central heating system that has thermostatic radiator valves for each radiator. In this scenario this system’s components will only link to the Internet and home network using the network bridge supplied by that vendor even though it works on the Zigbee network. But if you introduce a lighting system provided by another vendor that uses Zigbee technology, this system may require the use of another bridge that is supplied by that vendor for network-based lighting control.

Support for gradual system evolution

Also there is the issue of installation woes creeping up when you install or evolve your home-automation system. Some of us like the idea of “starting small” with local control of a few devices, then as funds and needs change, will change towards a larger more-capable system with Internet and mobile-device connectivity. The issue that is raised here is that a vendor could impress upon us to buy and install the network bridge before we start out installing the home-automation devices rather than enrolling the network bridge in to an established control system at a later date. In some cases, you may have to perform a reset operation upon all of the existing components and re-configure you system when you install that network bridge.

This also underscores the situation where a vendor may allow in-place upgrading and integration of a device known to have a long service life like most major appliances, HVAC or building-security devices. This is typically achieved through the use of an expansion module that the user or a technician installs in the device and this device gains the extra functionality. Here, it should be required for the device to be integrated in to the “Internet Of Things” network without you having to reset your network or do other difficult tasks.

To the same extent, one could easily start a system around one or more older devices, yet install newer devices in to the system. For example, you have a UK-style central heating system that is based around an existing boiler that has support for an advanced heating-control system if you choose to have a control module retrofitted to that unit and this module has an LCD touchscreen as its user interface.

You purchase this module and ask the central-heating technician to install it in your boiler so you can save money on your fuel bills. Here, this system uses a room thermostat which you start out with but also can work with thermostatic radiator valves and you buy and attach these valves to the radiators around the house to improve the heating efficiency and these devices work together properly, showing the results on the module’s LCD touchscreen.

Subsequently the boiler reaches the end of its useful life and you replace it with a newer more efficient model that has integrated support for the heating-control system that you implemented but in a newer form. Here, you don’t want to lose the functionality that the room thermostat or the thermostatic radiator valves offered, but want to fully benefit from what the new unit offers such as its inherent support for modulated output.

Needs

Task-focused application-level standards

The needs highlighted here are to implement task-focused application-level standards that work for the purpose of the device and support a simplified installation routine. As well, the role of any bridge device implemented in an “Internet Of Things” setup is to provide a proper application-level bridge between different medium types independent of device vendor.

But what are these task-focused application-level standards? These are IT standards that are focused on what the device does for that class of device rather than the device as being a particular model from a particular vendor. An “Internet Of Things” example would be a smart thermostat that is known to the other devices as a “HVAC thermostat” with attributes like current temperature, setpoint (desired-comfort-level) temperature, setpoint schedules and other comfort-control factors. This makes it easier for other devices to interact with these devices to, for example set up a situation-specific “preferred” room temperature for your heating when you use a particular user-code with your building alarm system or have a weather-forecast service cause the temperature to be adjusted in a manner to suit an upcoming situation.

Some good examples of the application-level standards are the UPnP Device Control Protocols for IP networks, or the Bluetooth application profiles. In one case, the Bluetooth Human Interface Device profile used for the Bluetooth keyboards, mice and remote controls was based on the USB Human Interface Device standards used for these similar devices. This simplified the design of host operating systems to design interoperability with Bluetooth and USB input devices using code that shared the same function.

Ability for a fail-safe network

An issue that is starting to crop up regarding the Internet Of Everything is being sure of a fail-safe network. This is in the form of each device in the network always discovering each other, control devices controlling their targets every time and sensor devices consistently providing up-to-date accurate data to their target devices.As well, a device that has a “standalone” function must be able to perform that function without being dependent on other devices.

Some devices such as smart locks have to he able to perform their essential functionality in a standalone manner if they lose connectivity with the rest of the network. This can easily happen due to a power cut or a network bridge or the Internet router breaking down.

Network bridges that work with multiple non-IP standards

As well, manufacturers could be challenged to design network bridges that work with more than two connection types such as a bridge that links Zigbee and Z-Wave home-automation devices to the one IP network using the one Ethernet connection.

This would include the ability to translate between the different non-IP standards on a task-based level so that each network isn’t its own silo. Rather, each device could expose what it can do to or the data it provides to other devices in the same logical network.

This may come to the fore with the concept of “meshing” which some standards like Zigbee and Z-Wave support. Here, a network can be created with each node being part of a logical mesh so that the nodes carry the signals further or provide a fail-safe transmission path for the signals. The “bridges” could work in a way to create a logical mesh with IP networks and networks that work on other media to use these other paths to create a totally fail-safe path.

Conclusion

It will take a long time for the “Internet Of Everything” to mature to a level playing field as it has taken for desktop and mobile computing to evolve towards to that goal. This will involve a lot of steps and place pressure on device manufacturers to implement these upgrades through the long working life of these devices.

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