This year, is the year of getting to know Android better for me, and also dig deeper into several Internet of Everything (IoE) technologies such as MQTT. I came across an excellent post by Dale Lane from IBM and his blog post on building an Android MQTT client application. It was extremely helpful and led to a Android project that uploaded to Github.
We are well past the customary Happy New Year greetings timeframe into 2014, and on the heels of the first big acquisition in the IoT/IoE space, I wanted to recap key announcements and initiatives from 2013 that have set the stage for 2014:
Formation of Dedicated Divisions
One trend in 2013 was for major companies to re-organize themselves to create groups or divisions within for Internet of Everything – chief among them were Cisco Systems and Intel. They joined IBM, I think, was the pioneer to organize itself around the Smarter Planet initiative. It is not clear to me if the group is formed around Wind River which it had acquired or Wind River has been moved to this new group. GE made several announcements and is heavily investing in their initiative that they have tagged as Industrial Internet.
Bosch followed at CES 2014 with its announcement forming Bosch Connected Devices & Solutions.
Alliances & Standards
The second observable trend was groups forming as a part of Standards Development Organizations (SDOs) and Open Source Initiatives. Two major announcements were the formation of a Smarthome alliance by ABB, Bosch, Cisco and LG and Qualcomm releasing its AllJoyn framework to the Open Source Community and forming the AllSeen alliance.
Money Flow: Crowd-funding, Exits & Investments
Corporate investors ranked high in investments made in the IoT/IoE space in 2013.
In summary, the three trends above will increase the momentum making 2014 a watershed year in IoT/IoE.
Last year I embarked on a journey to explore the Internet of Things or as Cisco calls it “Internet of Everything” (IoE). I like the notion of IoE not because it is coined by my day job employer but because it is about everything. Smartthings, the much talked about IoT startup, talks up the “Physical Graph” because thanks to the Social Networking era the term “Graph” puts you in vogue. [But really graph? do we want to be relegated to a 2D world of graph?]
I have installed, experimented, hacked and studied many IoT offerings, here is the current list:
All the above and more are enabling discrete systems to get connected – the first step towards the IoE. As these systems proliferate and standardize in terms of presence and interoperability the need for a fabric that ties all of them together will emerge. I believe Tim O’Reilly describes this notion very well – Software above a Single Device.
I am excited to play a role in tying together the Internet of Everything.
I had an opportunity to teardown the Nest 2 Thermostat – it is even more beautiful inside then the outside. It packs an amazing amount of technology, here is a list of major components I found as a part of the teardown:
1. System On a Chip (SOC): The Nest 2 is powered by the Texas Instruments AM3703CUS SOC. It belongs to the Sitara family of MPUs. You can read about it here.
2. One major change I discovered was that the Nest 2 has moved away from the Texas Instruments Zigbee chip the 2530 and is using the Ember (Silicon Labs now) EM357 for its yet to be shown of Zigbee functionality. You can find about the EM357 here.
3. There is a chip from Skyworks – the Sky65384 that I could not locate on their website.
4. The WiFi implementation is a module from Murata – the logo is definitely Murata – and when you do a Google Search for “murata sl s235″ – the first hit is the SL modules on the Murata page, and it mentions that the SL modules are based on the TI WL1270 Chip. It would be interesting to know if it uses the newer version of the 1270 – the 1271 – which would have a Bluetooth radio integrated as well.
Twine is probably the geekiest of all the Internet of Things projects from Kickstarter – 8 of which I covered here. Twine is not for the ordinary folk. And it is expensive – with the full sensor kit [kit at the Twine + the Breakout Board, Magnetic Switch, and the Moisture Sensor] – it is for $199.95.
The looks are also geeky. And to get started you need a PC or Mac and has a WiFi Interface. I had ordered my Twine in December 2012, and finally started playing around with it this week – actually my first try was in January [then either it quit working on me or the batteries died, I never quite figured out what happened].
You need a device or a computer with a browser to setup the Twine, and whatever you use is compatible with 802.11b WiFi. Setup can be confusing even though Twine on has simple enough instructions. The orientation of Twine is important – when setting up you have to place it with its back [where the instructions are written] facing up and then go to TwineSetup.com.
The first time when I tried it in January it worked for me easily enough. When I set it up yesterday all over again – I could not get the web page to show me the Wireless network to connect to [this is the screen with no wireless networks listed in the pull-down]. So I had to set it up using the other screens that they have for configuring the Twine. In the last step you need to create an account with the Twine website.
Once it is setup, all the information from your Twine can be accessed on to your web dashboard at twine.supermechanical.com.
While the Twine is interesting I find it bulky – the size of Twine is bigger because it uses WiFi as its connection and it needs two AAA-sized batteries. The upside of using WiFi is the controller to talk to the Web is not separate from the sensor. Twine is a controller and sensors all in one. The integrated sensing capabilities of the Twine are limited to Temperature, Orientation and Vibration. Vibration has been added recently since when I tried it in January it was missing. Enabling Vibration sensing to show on the Web Dashboard requires that you first setup a rule.
One more change Twine has made is to configure how often the Twine updates the status to the Web – the slower updates consume less power and can run on batteries longer.
Twine can be powered by a USB connection but that makes it impractical to be used in some situations. Twine has a rubber jacket that slides to insert the batteries. I found the insertion of batteries or removal to be a major pain – the rubber jacket is not easy to slide. I wish that Twine had a better industrial design.
The website lists many suggested use cases – the challenge is that for each of these you would need a Twine – do the math at 125 a pop – the 18 use cases listed [and screen captured and stored on my Flickr account] would cost you almost $2250!
This is the reason I find Twine to be an impractical IoT platform.
I would mu
ch rather prefer using the Wireless Sensor tags that I covered in my earlier post. Mounting the Wireless Sensor tags on the door to sense door opening using motion is so much practical compared to mounting the Twine. [Take a look at this picture of the Twine and the Wireless Sensor Tags side by side.]
What I have tried out, and I like:
Because the Twine connects directly to the Internet, the updates reflected on the Web dashboard are fairly fast. I was impressed (after enabling the Vibration sensing through the Rules) at how fast the dashboard on the website showed the vibration measurement after I just tapped my finger on top of the Twine.
My home has become an experiment for Internet of Things, and one of my favorite tests is to put the controller or sensor inside my refrigerator and do temperature-sensing testing and also range testing. The Twine worked pretty well. The ambient temperature sensor on the Twine took about 30 minutes after placing it inside the refrigerator to adjust or show the temperature [of the
I also loved the packaging – it was nice, and the unboxing experience was fantastic.
The To-Do List:
I still have to try out the three sensors that I received. The sensors can be connected to the Twine via a connector and special cable provided. Of course – you can only have one connector at a time.
The power of Twine comes from being able to setup notifications that are delivered via email or text messages – that is next thing to be tried as well.
My initial analysis – I would be opposed to using Twine for automating my home or connecting it to the Internet – the cost is high, the form-factor is bigger, and it also lacks smartphone or tablet apps. I will continue to review further and try to use it for different scenarios – maybe I will change my mind about it.
I finally got around to installing my Nest Thermostat over the weekend. It is about 24 hours since I have started using it so I cannot speak to how well it learns and automates the air-conditioning at my home.
The setup process of the Nest – was a breeze. From unboxing to having it on my call up & running was less than half an hour. It is obvious that a ton of thought, effort and development has been put into the ease of install. There are three things that stood out as a part of the install process:
- Inclusion of screwdriver as a part of the package – very nice to hold, and custom.
- A built-in bubble level to ensure a horizontal or straight install
- And a base plate that fit perfectly to cover up the mess left after the removal of the old thermostat.
The thermostat feels like a large hockey puck. And the outside of the Nest is actually like a dial – you can rotate it for navigating through menus in setup or for entering information during WiFi setup or to dial up/down the target temperature.
I had tried installing a Trane and a Radio CT30 thermostat but unfortunately did not have a C wire. The Nest has an interesting design that can be installed without the need for a C wire.
Nest Thermostat on Flickr: