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Posts Tagged ‘Zigbee

IoT Stories (Week Ending May 31st 2014)

Pew Research Center recently released a report titled The Internet of Things Will Thrive By 2025. This was, obviously, picked up by many news and blog sites. Washington Post’s Mohana Ravindranath wrote about it in a post titled “Some see possible drawbacks in ‘Internet of Things’”, and provides a good summary.  The post has one typo – it claims 1,900 people responded, whereas actually of the 12,000 people canvassed 1,606 responded. He has summarized inputs fromVint Cerf, Andrew Bridges, John Senall and Miguel Alcaine. Mohana has captured good set of quotes from one of the authors of the report – Lee Rainie, director of Pew’s Internet & American Life Project. Wired has good summary of the report as well.

Scot Stelter over at RFID Journal mentions the report but points out the lack of coverage in that report with respect to RFID, his post (RFID Stakeholders Need to Prepare for the Internet of Things) has good insight into how RFID will be important, and professionals in the RFID field need to be prepared for IoT.

Alain Louchez over at InformationWeek takes another Pew Research report and explains how the manufacturing in the US can benefit with the aging workforce and IoT.

Last week was the week before Apple’s WWDC – and lot of speculation on how Apple is going to play in Home Automation and IoT started out by Financial Times in Apple seeks to work Jobs magic on the internet of  things (paywall). GIgaOm’s Stacey Higginbotham explains it well in Here’s how Apple’s smart home program will work.  EETimes in “Apple’s IoT ‘Good Housekeeping’ Label: MFi “ gets into a little bit more detail and indicate that it involves around the MFi program (just as Stacey’s post) but indicate that it would support ZigBee protocol as well. Roger Kay at Forbes jumped in with “Will Apple Play Nice On The Internet Of Things?“. Roger makes the case that Apple won’t be in a position to dominate unlike the Smartphone or Tablet segment. While I agree with that analysis, Apple may continue to influence and benefit because Smartphones & Tablets will be an integral part of most IoT solutions.

The Economist gets into the over-hype around IoT – a very nice and thought provoking article titled The internet of nothings. It covers the chart put together by ZDNet on showing the surge in Google search aassociated with IoT, how the acquisition of Nest marks a tipping point. Two interesting observations:

#1. The post points out the real challenge is connecting the Cloud and the Node (Sensor or Actuator):

Devising sensors and algorithms to handle the front- and back-ends of the IoT are the easy part. Unfortunately, few developers are tackling the really difficult bit in the middle—the myriad infrastructural gaps that lie between the sensors in things at the edge of the internet, and the data collection and analysis performed by servers in the cloud at the centre.

#2. It questions the numbers being published (on number of connected devices) especially claims being made by Cisco:

…while Cisco Systems, a network-equipment firm in California, expects there to be no fewer than 50 billion. Cisco is so enamoured of the IoT that it has installed a “connections counter” on its website. On May 26th, the number of “things” connected to the internet was over 12.4 billion and counting.

The vast majority of the billions of things connected to the internet on Cisco’s website, for instance, are not the toasters, refrigerators, thermostats, smoke detectors, pace-makers and insulin pumps that the IoT’s true believers enthuse about. Almost exclusively, they are existing smartphones, tablets, computers and routers, plus a surprising number of industrial components used to beam performance statistics back to corporate headquarters.

Talking about Google, Business Insider is covering its rumor to buy DropCam (originally reported by The Information). It is probably pure speculation but if it bears fruit – Google could be really powerful in combining Dropcam, Nest, and Android (and YouTube/GoogleTV/Chromecast in the living room) and bringing order to Home Automation & Monitoring.  Dropcam cameras have motion detection, Nest has a proximity sensor and between the two they could make for a solid, self-managed security system as well.

This week’s links also has a story with a cliche headline “With ‘Internet of Things,’ your fridge will know when milk is low“. This resulted in an interesting exchange on Twitter which you can read here. The blog post title is misleading because the focus is more on security. It has been distributed over many different websites – for example you can find it here and here.

Intel, Qualcomm and Freescale are three semiconductor companies that tend to show up in IoT Articles. This week I came across a post by Lee Schafer that starts off going over the Texas Instruments Launchpad:

On the Texas Instruments eStore it takes only $19.99 to jump into “the Internet of things” by purchasing a Connected LaunchPad unit to bring an everyday device onto the Internet. Better be patient, however, because they are sold out.

Finally a post on Wired is definitely worth reading – ‘Beautiful mistakes’ will form groundwork for the internet of things. The essence of the post:

Similarly, it will take user-generated products and hacked physical connections for brands to make sense of the internet of things. It will be ugly, soldered-together networked devices (not the gamified toothbrush) that will light the way for them. Beautiful mistakes and unexpected outcomes that will form their strategies.

 

Written by Ashu Joshi

June 2, 2014 at 12:41 pm

Philips Hue: Setup and Teardown

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I setup my Philips Hue controller and bulbs yesterday. In summary – it is a fantastic product, very easy to install and it is a pleasure to experience this lighting system. Only downside, IMO, very expensive…. a Starter Pack of three bulbs and the Hue Controller will cost you $199.95!

Packaging:

I loved the packaging. It is very well designed. The front flap of the package has a cardboard wheel inside with the side of the flap exposing it – you can scroll/rotate the wheel to see the colors of the bulb changing – makes for a nice illustration. The same wheel inside shows the three steps of setup. You can watch it in action on the videos I have uploaded on Flickr.

There are four things included in the package:

1. Three Connected Bulbs – when you pick them – they are heavy. I did not weigh them but they are not light. You can feel the weight – I am assuming it is controller inside the bulb and the fact that it has multi-colored lighting makes it heavier. The weight of the bulb made it nice to hold – and strangely it comforted me with respect to the cost of the bulb (not that I am too comfortable but it made me understand that this is not a regular bulb – the bulb alone costs $60).

2. A Hue Controller – this is small circular light weight controller with three LEDs on the top and a large button used for Pairing function. On the side is an Ethernet port to connect to the home network and port to insert the power supply. Three LEDs to show the status of Power, Ethernet Connection and Internet Connection. [Note: Philips refers to this device as the “bridge”]

3. Power Cord – Nice white adaptor with long enough cable

4. Ethernet Cable – Once more white cable and long enough

[My remark above on long enough is relative – what I mean is that the length was sufficient unlike some products where to save pennies the length is too short]

Setup:

Before I get into the setup process – the Philips Hue connected bulbs are controlled using Zigbee. However in order to use a Smartphone or a Tablet to control the Hue bulbs (and smartphones do not have Zigbee) – you need the Hue Controller which connects to your home network and then in turn “controls” the connected bulbs using its Zigbee controller [sounds confusing, isn’t it – think of it as a Bridge between two different interfaces or protocols].

The setup was very easy. And at no point do you need a PC or a Mac to setup – everything can be done using a Smartphone or a Tablet. It was also easy because they have removed the complexity of getting the controller on the Home Network by sticking to using Ethernet. First screw in the bulbs into lamps, turn them on. And all the bulbs turn on just like normal bulbs do. Once all the bulbs are in and powered on – plug in the Hue Controller into an Ethernet port connected to your home router/gateway, apply power. The controller boots in less than 20 seconds. Now install the app from the AppStore on your IOS device [the MeetHue website is not explicit but I think they support Android as well]… when you fire up the app [and your phone needs to be on the same home network as the controller] – the app will instruct you to press the round button on the controller. As soon as you press  the button the app discovers the Hue Controller (bridge as they call it) and you are all set. In my case it automatically discovered all the three bulbs, and they showed up in the app. I could from the App settings “rename” them to distinguish. To make things easier – as you start editing the process by selecting “one of the bulbs” in the app – the corresponding physical bulbs starts blinking to show you which once you have selected. Handy feature ….

The app comes with multiple scenes that create a certain lighting ambience when you select the scene – you can read more about that on the MeetHue website. There is an option in the app to add more Controllers (i.e. Bridges) or more bulbs. Of course I have not tried them yet…

Adding a new app, that is if you wanted another phone or tablet to be used for controlling – all you have to do is to download the app, fire it up, make sure you are on the home network (WiFi), and then when the app prompts press the button on the Hue Controller and it is paired [this works very similar to the Sonos app as well]. If you had edited the names of the bulbs (for example I called one of them “FormalDiningLamp”) – that’s what will show up – the settings are stored in the Controller.

To be able to control them remotely – that is – when you are not at home (i.e. not connected to the Home Network) – you need to have an account with MeetHue.com. These steps were all from within the app – from settings select “Login into portal” – this will open up the browser on your smartphone or tablet – take you to the account creation page on MeetHue.com. This page is well designed for smartphones or tablets. A few well guided steps and you are all set. The web page prompts to confirm if this “smartphone” or “tablet” can be paired, and once you say yes – now you can control the Hue lights from anywhere with the app.

Experience:

The lights look beautiful – it was fun watching the different combinations (or scenes) pre-programmed into the app. If it were not for the $60 per bulb – I could have seriously considered getting more bulbs….

Latency:

When your smartphone is connected to the Home Network over WiFi and you use it to control the lights – the lag or the latency from the time you select an action (for example you select a scene) to the time the bulbs change or turn on/off – is barely perceptible. The lag/latency goes up to the order of 8 to 12 seconds if you are doing this remotely – that is you are not at home (not connected to the home network). I simulated this by simply turning off my WiFi and forcing the control through the Internet. First of all it took about 8 or 10 seconds for the app itself to “connect”. Once connected – for the bulbs to change to a new scene or turn on/off also took in the order of 5 to 8 seconds. Point to be noted though – if you are away from home and you want to turn the lamps on or off for reasons such as security – the time lag is not important – because you are physically not there!

Teardown & Design:

I have images of the Hue Controller (Bridge) teardown on Flickr as well. There were two screws. Opening it up was a bit tricky because of the internal snap-in mechanism (image here).

The two main components are:

ST Microelectronics STM32F217VE Microcontroller

Texas Instruments CC2530 Zigbee Controller

There is also a RF range extender – CC2590 – coupled to the CC2530. The STM MCU has an integrated Ethernet controller – the design has very few components – the cost of this starter pack is NOT in the Hue Controller but in the bulbs.

Range & Interference:

As a follow on I need to do some range and interference testing – the Controller and the Bulbs are not really far apart – they are in adjoining rooms…  I need to move either the bulbs around or the controller to see what happens to the functioning of the system. But this is for a follow on post…

Summary:

If money is not an object, and you have spare Ethernet ports available on your router or home network – I would highly recommend the Philips Hue…

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Images of Unboxing & Teardown on Flickr

Written by Ashu Joshi

January 21, 2013 at 7:57 pm

Fitbit adopts Bluetooth 4.0

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A while back I had blogged about Fitbit moving to an open standard for connecting to the PCs/Macs and Smartphones. Guess what they have launched the Zip and it has support for Bluetooth 4.0 and moving forward direct connectivity (i.e. without needing a PC/Mac) to the smartphones and tablets supporting the BT 4.0 standard.

Written by Ashu Joshi

September 17, 2012 at 5:39 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

The Future of Fitbit Ultra

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In the past few months I have been using Fitbit as an example for eHealth & Fitness services and also as an example of how connectivity, and consumer web services are changing the landscape. I finally ended up buying my own last week. I am definitely tracking my “steps” with the Fitbit Ultra and the other thing that I am doing is to monitor if I am sleeping well. But my motivation was to understand the intersection of technology with eHealth & Fitness. And I am big believer in the notion/concept of “Connected Life” and Internet of Things, and the Fitbit Ultra is an exemplary device.

So far the Ultra does what it claims and it’s amazing that the device uses an accelerometer to detect movement BUT it is the magic of software (in this case I believe it is good old C-based firmware) that turns data into knowledge. Take a look at the clip of job ad from Fitbit website:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And as a startup they have made a wise choice – of using an low power SOC like the MSP430 from TI – start with a technology that gives incredibly long battery life. I have gone a few days without having to charge my Ultra and it holds up very well. This can only be accomplished by ultra-low power processor coupled with the accelerometer to keep it powered! I also suspect, very strongly, that the MSP430 SKU being used actually is one with an RF Link built into it. The Fitbit Ultra needs the wireless link to sync with the PC and upload the data to the Fitbit site.

The challenge, I believe, is that the wireless technology from TI won’t be built into Tablets or PCs or Smartphones – and hence for bypassing the need for a PC or Mac sync with a dongle is important and it needs to be there future. And the same ad above makes it clear – Fitbit is looking into Bluetooth (and I would guess it would the LE Low Energy version to sustain battery life) and/or Zigbee (which also consumes very little power). The sooner they liberate themselves from the PC, the more innovative the Ultra will get… I would suspect & argue that with the sophisticated processing being done on the accelerometer data from the Ultra – there would be no shortage of beneficial use cases of such an incredible device.

Written by Ashu Joshi

April 8, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Programmable Thermostats

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Yes, Nest is going to revolutionize, and jazz up the world of thermostats. But if you want something more legacy looking, and a bit more affordable and connected look at the Radio Thermostat Company of America (RTCOA) which has been around for 30 years. RTCOA offers three versions of “connected” thermostats: WiFi, Zigbee and ZWave. And to manage their designs/SKUs they have adopted USNAP. I believe leveraging USNAP was a fantastic idea – without introducing new models – the same model can accommodate support for multiple connectivity standards.

I have tried both the WiFi and Zigbee versions of the CT-30 model of their thermostat. The WiFi version appears to be powered by Marvell WiFi Controllers and RTCOA has made the APIs and discovery protocol available to developers. The discovery protocol uses Simple Service Discovery Protocol (SSDP). RTCOA makes apps available for IOS and Android.

Written by Ashu Joshi

March 26, 2012 at 12:50 pm

Posted in Internet of Things

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