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Posts Tagged ‘Twine

Exploring the Internet of (Every)Thing

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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:

Philips Hue (and my review here & here)

Smartthings

Twine (my review here)

Node

Wireless Sensor Tags (my review here)

Iris

Belkin WeMo

Nest (Teardown/Review of here and here)

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.

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Written by Ashu Joshi

June 1, 2013 at 5:20 pm

Trying the much-hyped Twine

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Image

 

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].

Setup:

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.

Initial Thought

s:

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.

Use Cases:

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

 refrigerator].

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.

Bottomline:

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.

 

Twine on Flickr

Written by Ashu Joshi

March 9, 2013 at 4:33 pm

8 Internet Of Things & Sensor Projects on Kickstarter

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Kickstarter has been a boon for projects related to Internet of Things and Sensors, here are 8 of them. 5 have been funded and some of these are close to shipping the product. 2 failed to raise the required funds and the 8th one is off to a great start…

1. Twine

Tagline: 1. Listen to your world, talk to the Internet 2. Objects That Connect Us

Launched: November 22, 2011
Funding Ended: January 3, 2012
3,966 Backers
$556,542 pledged of $35,000 goal
Product Availability: Anytime now?

Product Description, Technology and Pricing:

Twine is a durable 2.5″ square provides WiFi, internal and external sensors, and two AAA batteries that last for months. It will sell for $99 through their site. The temperature, vibration, and orientation sensors are built into Twine. The primary interface to communicate with Twine is WiFi – and a Web App is provided. Additional sensors – Magnetic, Moisture and a Breakout Board for interfacing your own analog inputs can be bought separately to the Twine.

2. Knut

Company: Amperic
Tagline: Stay Connected

Launched: May 12, 2012
Funding Ended: July 5, 2012
408 Backers
$55,421 pledged of $25,000 goal
Product Availability: Not clear, not from the Kickstarter page or the Amperic Website

Product Description, Technology and Pricing:

Knut is also a WiFi connected sensor hub. The Knut access is WiFi based hence you can access the data captured or action from a PC or a Smartphone. Knut/Amperic talk about bringing in IOS and Android apps. The last update (Update #11) on the Kickstarter talks about their move to 11g as the WiFi protocol and the status of their IOS Apps. Knut has only a temperature sensor and battery sensor built into. Additional sensors Amperic/Knut planned are humidity, vibration, door, water proof temperature, and water presence. These sensors connect to the Knut using a 3-port hub.

Backers at $80 or $95 level are going to get one Knut Sensor hub, and each additional sensor is $25. It is not clear how to buy these – since there is no ordering feature available on the Amperic site.

3. Ninja Blocks

Company: Ninja Blocks

Tagline: 1. Hack your world 2. Connect your world with Web 3. Lego(r)  for Life
Launched: January 27, 2012
Funding Ended: March 10, 2012
578 Backers
$102,935 pledged of $24,000 goal

Product Availability: Anyday now? Website indicates that they are sold out.

Product Description, Technology and Pricing:

Ninja Blocks wants to bridge the physical and virtual world, it wants to create an IFTTT (if this then that) to connect physical actions to virtual worlds. Each NInja Block comes with an LED (RGB), a Temperature Sensor and Accelerometer. Inputs and sensors can be added or connected to a Ninja Block using 4 Expansion Ports and USB. The difference in approach is that they want to have their cloud (Ninja Cloud) to setup sensors (Ninja Blocks) to cause a trigger actions to generate virtual world actions. The example on their site is a Motion Detector generates a Tweet with a picture. It would support integration with popular services such as Dropbox, Twitter, Facebook, Google Docs etc.

Recent updates – it appears that Ninja Blocks would also be leveraging 433MHz radios for interfacing.

3. NODE

Company: George Yu, Variable Tech

Tagline: a modular, handheld powerhouse of sensors
Launched: February 19, 2012
Funding Ended: March 23, 2012
373 Backers
$76,341 pledged of $50,000 goal

Product Availability: As of today – shipping in 2 weeks or so.

Product Description, Technology and Pricing:

NODE is cylindrical tube with Bluetooth LE 4.0 as its primary interface, and Smartphones/Tablets as the platform for accessing. NODE is compatible with Arduino, has built in Accelerometer, Magnetometer, Gyroscope. Additional sensors can be connected by removing the end of the NODE KORE – similar to screwing on a cap.

It is a very different approach compared to the other Internet of Things projects. And Bluetooth LE 4.0 is an interesting approach given that starting from iPhone4 and iPad3 – Apple is going to basically flood the market with BT LE. Not to mention that IOS/XCode will make the APIs more accessible for BT LE vs. their earlier level of access.
Pricing is bit expensive compared to others, but they seem to be more attractive – the NODE KORE is priced at $149.

5. Bitponics

Company: Bitponics

Tagline: Your Personal Gardening AssistantKickstarter Site: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1498890810/bitponics-your-shortcut-to-a-green-thumb

Launched: May 12, 2012
Funding Ended: June 11, 2012
261 Backers
$23,662 pledged of $20,000 goal

Product Availability: As of today no updates on the Website of Bitponics on availability. Update #10 on the Kickstarter site is only available to the backers. So no clue on what is going on 🙂

Product Description, Technology and Pricing:

Bitponics is a sensor-based automated gardening assistant – a help for folks without the green thumb! System consists of the Bitponics “device” and their website. Website will carry an annual membership fee. The device itself may be around $250? I had a tough time trying to understand what the pledges will get.

6. Wovyn

Company: Wovyn

Tagline: Weaving your Internet of Things
Launched: May 10, 2012
Funding Ended: June 24, 2012
109 Backers
$18,618 pledged of $100,000 goal

Funding Failed

7. DaisyWorks

Company: DaisyWorks

Tagline: Internet Your Thing
Launched: May 6, 2012
Funding Ended: June 20, 2012
88 Backers
$14,108 pledged of $50,000 goal

Funding Failed

8. SmartThings

Company: SmartThings

Tagline: Make your World Smarter
Launched: August 23, 2012
Funding ENDS: September 22, 2012 [24 Days to Go]

As of August 28th 2012, 9:45PM Eastern:

2,393 Backers

$428,206 pledged of $250,000 goal

Availability: Funding Open

Product Description, Technology and Pricing:

This is the latest kid on the block, and apparently drawing a steady stream of praise from the top tech blogs. It has passed its goal so it will get funded. Their approach is to build a pro-sumer Home Automation, Monitoring and Energy Management system. It consists of a SmartThings hub to which the sensors are connected wirelessly – Zigbee and ZWave are mentioned. Not sure if it has any proprietary 433MHz or 900/15MHz Radios on them. No WiFi, Ethernet to connect to the Router. NOW that would make it very interesting because if you are forced to place this near to your home gateway you may have challenges with the radio reach on this thing.

Backers have a price of $99 to $174 – get the Hub and three Things (Things being sensors?) included. There will be a monthly fee when it launches, since backers are being waived from the monthly fee.

Written by Ashu Joshi

August 28, 2012 at 9:18 pm