Internet of Things

Posted: January 25, 2013 in Hacking and playing
Tags: ,
The old questions about the viability of a major ISP getting involved in “home automation” has raised its quasi-regular head again this year. As with most of these types of enquiries it means that we get to get in some new toys, play with them, show the business what is happening and then let them go off and make their decisions.

 

However this year I’ve managed to gatecrash the research and using the term-du-jour of Internet of Things, get hold of some of the cooler new toys – or at least put the order in to get some once they’re shipped! I’m not going to go into details about each one here, but I will post more info once I get hold of these things….

 

First up is Ninja Blocks – an Aussie company based in Melbourne. Their second iteration 433MHz IoT box and sensors package is the cheapest of the bundles I’ve ordered, but is also the once closest to shipping. This is basically a central hub that connects out to the cloud with a variety of sensors that it can interact with that can be placed around the house. Sensors work in the 433Mhz radio band, so while they should be easy to obtain, there’s no guarantee that the Ninja Hub will be able to talk to them.Unlike the other devices I’ve requested, this is both Open Source Software AND Open Hardware… so if I feel the urge, I can go and build my own. The main hub even has a purple ‘Hack Me’ label on the side that you use to open the device up.

 

Next is SmartThings – again, the same premise as Ninja Blocks – a hub and sensor kit that can be set up to perform monitoring and react to specified scenarios. Unlike Ninja Blocks SmartThings uses both ZigBee and Z-Wave standards, potentially allowing off the shelf third party devices to be added to the sensor set. However, even within these defined standards, we’ve found wide variations in the past, so it’s still not a guarantee of compatibility.

 

Next is Ubi. Ubi is described as a ubiquitous computer that you ‘just plugin and talk to’. It is effectively a voice controlled internet gateway that can interact with other devices. Part of the early marketing indicated that this device could be used in conjunction with SmartThings to allow voice control of the SmartThings network.

 

Finally there is Almond+. I saw this briefly at CES (annoying Doc Brown impersonator!) but the stand was busy, so I didn’t get to really chat with them about the device. Building on their successful Almond home router, they have extended its capabilities by adding both a ZigBee and Z-Wave chipsets, as well as upgrading the wireless capabilities to 802.11 ac. The device is being funded via Kickstarter and was well on it’s way to hitting target when I last looked.
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