Category: Internet Of Things

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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Don’t forget about SDIO in the Internet Of Things

SD card

The SD card specification is also an expansion-interface specification

When people talk of the hardware issues concerning the Internet Of Things, a  technology that is being constantly forgotten about is the SDIO expansion connection.

What is the SDIO expansion connection

This is a special SD card slot that also serves as an expansion interface in a similar vein to the PCI Express, miniPCI or ExpressCard slots used on desktop and laptop computers and, in a similar way, the USB port on most computing equipment. There are improved variants based on the iSDIO specification that take the load off the host device and allow it to work at its best.

It does have validity as an expansion interface for low-profile devices due to the size of the standard SD slot and it is then feasible to design add-on peripherals that extend slightly larger than the standard SD card.

But the SDIO technology is sadly being forgotten about as a low-profile expansion interface for many different computing-device applications including the Internet Of Things. This is more so if the goal is to either sell a device at a lower cost with reduced functionality but allow the user to add functionality as they see fit and when they can afford it, or to make a device be “futureproof” and satisfy new requirements.

Where I see SDIO being of value is with wireless network interface cards that add network or other connectivity to a device. This can be performed at the time of the device’s purchase or later on in the device’s lifespan through the user retrofitting a separately-purchased SDIO card in to the device.

An SDIO expansion module wouldn’t take up much room inside the device and can lead to a highly-integrated look for that device. It would appeal to a self-install application where the appliance has a user-accessible compartment like a battery compartment or terminal cover and the user opens this compartment to install the SDIO expansion module. Even a professional-install application can benefit especially if the idea is for a technician to install a highly-comprehensive “upgrade kit” or “functionality kit” in to a major appliance – a circuit board that is part of this kit could have one or more SDIO expansion slots.

This is compared to a USB setup where you need to deal with a relatively-large puck or dongle which can stick out of the device and not provide that finished look. There is also the issue of keeping a USB port open for local ad-hoc mass-storage or input-output requirements.

The issue of being able to add options to an existing device is real when it comes to the “durable” class of devices which are expected to have a very long service life as is expected for most devices targeted at business users or for so-called “white-goods” which are expected to run for at least 7 years, if not 10 years. Here, the ability to add extra functionality to these devices through their lifetime to suit newer needs is important as a way to get the most out of their lifecycle.

Applications

Digital photography

SDIO could benefit digital photography by allowing the user to add a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth SDIO card to a high-end digital camera or camcorder. A similar SDIO slot could be integrated in to a Speedlite flash or advanced LED movie light to allow for remote lighting and camera control courtesy of a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth link. The concept of camera control from a lighting device would appeal to some photographers who have the camera on the tripod with its shutter locked open and take the flash around different angles to illuminate the subject – the wireless link could also serve to remotely control the camera by using a shutter-control button on the flashgun..

This could lead to remote control of the camera using a mobile device with that device’s screen also working as a viewfinder. In the case of video recording, the camera could also share SMPTE timecode data with an audio recorder and, perhaps, another camera to work well with multi-camera or advanced “sound-off-camera” recording setups.

For sharing the finished product, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth cam play their part in this role with the ability to support file transfer to a computer or mobile device. A Wi-Fi setup may also allow the camera to exploit DLNA or Miracast setups to allow one to show the pictures on to a large TV screen. In some cases, a camera may have integrated support for file-share, photo-share or social-network functionality thus using the Wi-Fi or Bluetooth technology simply to upload the pictures or footage.

Electromechanical door locks

These devices, especially the “smart locks” that are starting to appear on the market, could benefit from the SDIO technology. For example, Assa Abloy offers a tubular deadbolt under the Yale and Lockwood brands which supports a “dual-mode” entry system where you can either enter a user code on a touchpad or use the regular key to open it. This deadbolt also has support for a “home automation” network module based on either Zigbee or Z-Wave technology, something that can be achieved by the user sliding that module in to the inside unit to integrate this deadbolt with a home-automation system.

Here, an SDIO slot in the interior unit in these locks can offer this kind of extended functionality. For example, a Bluetooth LE (Bluetooth Smart) SDIO card could make these locks work with platform-based smartphones or a Wi-Fi, Zigbee or Z-Wave SDIO card could integrate them with cloud-based monitoring and management services.

Similarly, this could come in handy with other usage classes like hotels.where, for example, Bluetooth could allow the card-based door lock to become part of the device ecosystem in the guest room. Here, this could be used to reset heating, alarm times, etc to a default setting when a new guest enters the room or implement Bluetooth Beacon technology to add value to conference settings.

Embroidery sewing machines

The premium “embroidery” sewing machines could implement an SDIO slot in order to allow the user to add Wi-Fi or Bluetooth functionality to these units. This would come in handy with firmware updates or to allow the user to upload patterns and OpenType fonts to these machines for use with particular embroidery and monogramming projects.

This latter application comes in to its own as the manufacturers supply “CAD” software with these machines so that people can create their own unique embroidery designs for their special projects.

Here, the SDIO cards could work as a way to network-enable these machines to work with the computer software and the home network.

Large and small household appliances

Companies who sell advanced household appliances and HVAC equipment could use SDIO to add some form of network connectivity after the appliance is installed. Here, the user can be encouraged to see these appliances, which have a service life of at least 7 years if not more, as being future-proof and able to answer current needs and expectations.

This is more so as these appliances move towards “app-cessory” operation where extra functionality is added to these devices courtesy of mobile-platform apps. Similarly, some manufacturers implement this kind of technology to communicate operating information to other appliances. An example of this is some GE washing machines and clothes dryers recently sold to the US market use a wireless link to transmit information about the load just washed to the dryer so that an optimum drying cycle for that load can be determined by that appliance.

This could benefit people who buy mid-tier appliances that are enabled for this kind of connectivity but purchase the SDIO modules and install these modules in the appliances themselves as they see fit.

Conclusion

The SDIO expansion standard can be valued as a option for adding connectivity to the Internet Of Things, whether at the point of purchase or at a later date. It also preserves a highly-integrated fit and finish for the application before and after the upgrade.

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HP integrates secure firmware practices in to their enterprise laser printers

Article

HP adds protection against firmware attacks to enterprise printers | PC World

My Comments

An issue that has become a reality with dedicated-purpose devices like printers, network infrastructure hardware and the Internet Of Everything is making sure these devices run software that isn’t a threat to their users’ safety and security and the integrity of their users’ data.

Most device manufacturers tackle this through a regular software-update program but this requires users to download and deploy the newer firmware which is the software that runs these devices. It is also the same path where, in some cases, these devices acquire extra functionality. AVM, a German network-hardware manufacturer, took this further by providing automatic updating of their routers’ firmware so users don’t have to worry about making sure their router is up to date and secure.

But Hewlett-Packard have approached this issue from another angle by implementing watchdog procedures that make sure rogue software isn’t installed and running on their devices. Here, the printers implement a detection routine for unauthorised BIOS and firmware modifications in a similar manner to what is implemented with business-grade computers. This effort is based on their experience with developing regular computers including equipment pitched at business and government applications.

Here, when the printer validates the integrity of its BIOS during the start-up phase and loads a clean known-to-be-good copy of the BIOS if the software in the machine is compromised. Then, when the machine loads its firmware, it uses code-signing to verify the integrity of that firmware in a similar manner to what is done with most desktop and mobile operating systems. The firmware also implements an activity checker that identifies if memory operations are “against the grain” similar to well-bred endpoint-protection software. The watchdog software will cause the machine to restart from the known-to-be-good firmware if this happens.

Initially this functionality will be rolled out to this year’s LaserJet Enterprise printers and MFCs with any of the OfficeJet Enterprise X or LaserJet Enterprise machines made since 2011 being able to benefit from some of this functionality courtesy of a software update. There is a wish for this kind of functionality to trickle down to the consumer and small-business desktop printers that HP makes.

What I like of this is that HP has put forward the idea of continual software integrity checking in to embedded and dedicated devices. This isn’t a cure-all for security issues but has to be considered along with a continual software-update cycle. Personally these two mechanisms could be considered important for most dedicated-purpose device applications where compromised software can threaten personal safety, security or privacy; with the best example being Internet routers, modems and gateways.

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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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Fiat Chrysler are now facing the security issues associated with the connected car

Articles

Jeep Grand Cherokee outside family house - press picture courtesy of Fiat Chrysler North America

Jeep Grand Cherokee – make sure that the uConnect system runs the latest firmware

Jeep drivers: Install this security patch right now – or prepare to DIE | The Register

From the horse’s mouth

Fiat Chrysler

Blog Post

UConnect Website (Go here to update your vehicle)

Vehicle list

Model Model-years affected
Chrysler
200 2015
Dodge
Durango 2014
Viper 2013-2014
Jeep
Cherokee 2014
Grand Cherokee 2014
RAM
1500 2013-2014
2500 2013-2014
3500 2013-2014
4500 / 5500 2013-2014

The vehicles affected would be equipped with a uConnect-capable 8.4” touchscreen radio system.

My Comments

The connected car is now being highlighted as a device that has security issues. This was exemplified previously by BMW when they rolled out a patch for their connected infotainment system in the newest vehicles because of a security risk.

Now it is Fiat Chrysler’s turn where their UConnect connected infotainment system which has a stronger link with the car’s powertrain was needing a software update because of this same issue. It was brought about by a discovery that a pair of hackers found in relation to a 2014 Jeep Cherokee owned by one of these hackers concerning undesirable remote control of this “family 4WD”. The software can be downloaded by vehicle owners who have an affected 2013-2015 vehicle and can be done by downloading the update file from the UConnect Website to a USB memory stick then transferring that file to your vehicle. If you are not confident with this process, you can have the mechanics at the dealership where you bought the vehicle from perform this upgrade, while your vehicle is being serviced by them.

At the same time, the US Congress is legislating for security standards concerning connected vehicles including software protection for the vehicles’ powertrain, steering or braking in the form of the “Security and Privacy In Your Car Act” (SPY Car Act). This is in a similar vein to various design rules and standards that nations require vehicles to comply with for safety like seatbelt or lighting requirements. Even the US Senator Markey called out that drivers shouldn’t have to choose between being connected or being protected.

Again, this is a class of devices which is easily driven by the marketing impetus to have them on the market. But there needs to be a culture to encourage a secure environment for connected vehicles as there is for desktop computing.

One way would be a continual update process for the firmware associated with the connected vehicle, including aftermarket setups that have any effect on the vehicle’s steering, brakes or powertrain. This would preferably be in the form of a blind-update process like what happens with most operating systems when you set them to automatically update and patch.

Personally, this could be facilitated by having the connected vehicle work with the home network whenever it is garaged at home. This would then allow it to download the updates overnight while it is not in use. As well, the motorist should have the chance to choose what updates are provided like with enterprise variants of operating systems.

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The BBC Model B computer returns with a pocket-size vengeance

BBC Model B microcomputer By Soupmeister (Acorn BBC Model B) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

BBC Model B personal computer – the core of an original computer-education project that took place in the UK during the early 1980s

Article

BBC reveals Micro:bit, a programmable PC that fits in your pocket | PC World

Micro:bit : la BBC veut distribuer des nano ordinateurs aux enfants britanniques | ZDNet.fr (French language / Langue française)

From the horse’s mouth

BBC

Press Release

Microsoft

Press Release

TouchDevelop Website

Video

Bluetooth SIG

Blog Post

My Comments

In the early 1980s, the BBC undertook a computer-education project which was based around a series of television programmes along with a specially-commissioned computer. This computer, known as the BBC Model B computer and built by Acorn who were a relatively-new home-computer manufacturer in the UK, was sold to schools so that students can work along with the TV programmes which explored, amongst other things, coding in BASIC and interfacing and controlling other devices.

One feature that the BBC Model B had was an 8-bit user port which was used for directly interfacing digital circuits along with a “game port” typically used for analogue joysticks and knob-style “paddles” but serving as an analogue input. Some of the printed and visual courseware associated with this computer was dedicated to teaching how to use these “real-world” interfaces.

This system was Acorn’s main founding stone and Acorn evolved to become a company who sold RISC-based microprocessors and defined the ARM microarchitecture used in most of today’s smartphones, smart TVs and similar devices.

But Acorn had clawed back to their roots with an ARM-based pocket-sized board computer similar to the Arduino and Raspberry Pi. This computer has been developed in conjunction with the BBC in order to continue on the legacy left by the original BBC Model B computer.

It has 25 LEDs that can be programmed to light up and flash messages, 2 user-programmable buttons and sensors in the form of an accelerometer and compass along with input-output connections for users to connect to other circuits. It uses Bluetooth Smart (BLE) technology to interface with other devices including regular and mobile computer devices. As well, it can connect to a computing device via USB and be programmed via a browser-based software development kit called TouchDevelop which Microsoft worked on.

The TouchDevelop setup uses the Web-based interface along with a choice of programming languages as a way to program the device. It also involves two-stage compilation with the Block Editor script being compiled to turn out C++ code which is then subsequently compiled and linked to turn out machine code to be downloaded and flashed to the BBC Micro Bit.

Like the previous BBC Model B computer, this will be delivered in to UK secondary schools and students will have their own Micro Bit computer so they can learn how to program the Internet Of Everything as part of their computer education.

The goal is to have this computer replicate what the BBC Model B computer had done for British computer education and the success in bringing about a UK-based software industry. Here, they want to have Britain putting a clear foot in the door for Internet Of Things.

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Telephone Interview–UPnP Forum (Wouter van der Beek)

Introduction

UPnP Forum logo courtesy of UPnP ForumI have had the chance to interview Wouter van der Beek who is the Vice President of the UPnP Forum which defines the standards and specifications associated with UPnP technology. This interview is primarily about the direction that the UPnP Forum and this technology is heading in the face of current personal-computing trends like cloud computing and the Internet Of Things.

What is UPnP

This is a collection of standard for interlinking network-connected devices at an application level. It is to facilitate discovery of the devices by other devices on that network along with the ability to benefit from what the device has. The idea had been seeded 15 years ago when the home network was becoming commonplace thanks to affordable but powerful computers along with affordable broadband Internet services, but there needed to be foolproof ways to allow most people to set up, manage and benefit from these networks without requiring extensive computer skills.

Freebox Révolution - courtesy Iliad.fr

Freebox Révolution – an example of equipment designed with UPnP in mind

This has been facilitated initially with the Internet Gateway Device which has simplified management of Internet access for devices on a home network. If you use a UPnP-capable router and have its UPnP IGD function enabled, you don’t have to meddle around with different settings to get an online game or Skype to work via the Internet.

DLNA collections listed as sources on the TV

DLNA content collections listed as sources on a Samsung Smart TV

It has also been facilitated with DLNA-capable media devices which use the UPnP AV MediaServer or MediaRenderer device control protocols. This is where you could use a smart TV or a Blu-Ray player to discover photos or vides kept on your computer or network-attached storage device or “push” music from a Windows computer, NAS or Android smartphone to a Wi-Fi-enabled wireless speaker. Here, it has become to that point where UPnP and DLNA have become so synonymous as an expectation for anything that uses the home network to provide or play / show multimedia content in a similar way that Dolby noise reduction was an expected feature for good-quality cassette players.

The foolproof way of setting up and using UPnP-capable network equipment has, for that matter, had me look for devices that support these specifications when I am involved in buying or specifying network equipment.

New Directions for UPnP

UPnP’s New Zones of Relevance

Previously, the Universal Plug And Play technology was confined to the home network which encompassed computers and related devices that existed in one’s home and connected to a router which served as the network’s Internet “edge”.

Thanks to trends like the highly-mobile devices like smartphones, tablets and laptops; the online services and cloud computing, and the increasing role of social media in our lives;  the UPnP technology and, to some extent, the home network has changed its zone of relevance. This encompasses the following zones of relevance:

  • Personal, which would encompass the devices we take with us or have on ourselves like smartphones, tablets, smartwatches and fitness bands
  • Home, which would encompass what we have at home such as computers, routers, NAS units, home AV, appliances and the like, even encompassing devices associated with comfort, energy management and security
  • Car, which encompasses the technology associated or integrated in our vehicles like infotainment systems or powertrain-management systems
  • Workplace / Business which encompasses the computing and communications technologies used in the office and would also encompass devices associated with comfort, energy management and security
  • Industry which would encompass systems that provide the backbone for the modern life.

It also encompasses the Internet Of Things where devices can be required to be sensors or actuators for other devices and services in a universal manner.

An example of this was to establish some Device Control Protocols like the Telephony DCPs with a view to look towards the many zones of relevance and increase the UPnP ecosystem’s relevance to more users.

Cloud and Remote Access now part of UPnP

One major change is to integrate cloud computing, remote access and online services in to the UPnP ecosystem. Previously, a UPnP ecosystem was encompassing just one network, typically your home network and required each endpoint to be on the same network.

Different zones of relevance

UPnP is now about online services and remote access

Now situations have risen such as the desire to gain access to your content held at your home from your friend’s home or a hotel, or exhibit pictures held on Facebook or Dropbox on our smart TVs at home. Similarly, even in the same home, not all devices are connected to the same home network such as portable devices drifting in to Wi-Fi “dark spots” where there is very little reception or devices that are connected to a “guest network” on our routers.

Now cloud and remote access were written on as an annex to the UPnP Device Architecture but support for this is a requirement for UPnP+ certification. This is to factor in the ability for a UPnP “realm” to transcend across multiple logical networks.

One of the key additions was to integrate XMPP in to UPnP as part of the Cloud initiative in order to provide a level open playing field for cloud-driven applications. This also will provide for secure transport of the necessary data. It is more centred around the concept of creating virtual rooms which UPnP devices and services are invited in to as needed with these rooms being part of different logical networks or IP subnets.

Making UPnP “safe for business”

Empire State Building picture courtesy of <a href="http://ny-pictures.com/nyc/photo/photographer/604482/araswami">araswami</a> and <a href="http://ny-pictures.com/nyc/photo/">New York Pictures</a

UPnP – to be safe for business

You may also wonder whether there are steps to make UPnP technologies “safe for business”? There are some steps that have taken place to assure this goal because the different zones of relevance like workplace / business and industry place a key emphasis on security.

One of these is the DeviceProtection DCP which allows the creation of a “network of trust” amongst UPnP Devices and Control Points. This will be mandatory as part of UPnP+ certification whereas it was simply an optional feature for UPnP networks. Other DCPs that will become mandatory for UPnP+ certification include the “management” DCPs: DeviceManagement, ConfigurationManagement and SoftwareManagement which look after how a device is set up and updated.

Of course, these are considered “retrofit” solutions which assure secure links and setups and any security concept is primarily about “buying time” from hackers.

As well, DLNA had integrated various content-protection measures in to the VIDIPATH specification which encompasses UPnP AV standards to assure secure content delivery for premium content like Hollywood films and big-league sports.

The Internet Of Things

Rethinking Device Control Protocols

Previously the UPnP Forum placed emphasis on the Device Control Protocol as being the way to describe a UPnP device and what it can do. This ended up with each of these protocols taking a long time to develop, whether at the initial stages or as they were being revised.

Examples of these were the UPnP Internet Gateway Device which described what a modem or router was about and this was shaped by telcos and network-equipment vendors; and the AV Device which described media storage, playback and control with this being shaped by most of the main consumer-electronics names.

As well as the long time it took to develop a Device Control Protocol, there was the risk of focusing these protocols on an application-specific vertical plane with functionality being duplicated amongst multiple protocols.

The new direction was enshrined in the “Internet Of Things Management And Control” DCP which is focused around the particular tasks a sensor or actuator device can do. This also enshrines language and data models that can be used to define applications. But it allows a sensor or actuator which does the same thing to be described the same way.

There were two examples we talked of: – a temperature sensor, and a lamp used as part a home automation or building automation setup. A temperature sensor measures temperature but it could be part of a room thermostat, a weather station or a fridge, but it does the same job by measuring and reporting the current temperature. A lamp is turned on and off or has its brightness increased or decreased but this could work as part of a “smart home” setup or as part of a building automation setup for an office building or an apartment block.

As well, the data models can be evolved for particular applications and there is a short turnaround time required to set a data model in stone. This could allow one to define an application-level device class based on a collection of sensors and the kind of measurements to be used.

Network Bridges

Another reality that UPnP would face is devices based on other standards. This encompasses sensor and similar devices that work on networks like Zigbee, Z-Wave and Bluetooth that don’t work on an IP/Ethernet-based structure or Ethernet-based technology that doesn’t implement IP as a way to liaise with devices at higher levels. In a lot of cases, these networks have come about due to an expectation that battery-operated sensor and similar devices are expected to run for six months or more on a single set of commodity “dry-cell” batteries like AA-size Duracells or CR2035 “button-size” batteries.

The UPnP Internet Of Things effort also includes Device Control Protocols to address Network Bridges so they can work in a UPnP or UPnP+ ecosystem. This should solve a very common problem with “smart-home” devices typically smart locks and central-heating controls, where Internet-connectivity bridges for these devices are supplied by the manufacturer and are designed to work only with that manufacturer’s devices.

Achieving vendor universality

The UPnP Forum has made big strides in achieving vendor universality but it still relied on the use of logo programs like DLNA or Designed For Windows or potential buyers pouring through specifications to achieve this goal when buying or specifying devices. But some competing ecosystems typically required one physical device such as a wireless speaker to have physical and logical support for each of them, thus the row of logos that adorn the top edge of a device.

But they would like to use concepts like Network Bridges to provide support across different logical ecosystems and have UPnP as a “glue” between the ecosystems.

Conclusion

By stripping the UPnP platform to functions that are on an elementary level, it means that the ecosystem can be evolved to newer requirements that work across any computing zone-of-relevance independent of where the data source or destination is.

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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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