Monday, 26 January 2015

re-booting the house for the Internet of Things

they lied to us
At least my tee-shirt still works.

They tell us all about the Internet of Things, but we still all need to read the small print.

Here at rashbre central we often utilise low serial number products, although this can sometimes create a few hiccups.

A recent case in point is the change to our internet connectivity. The man from Openreach connected up the new box and made sure that a single internet connection was working. Job done for him, and I'd already reconfigured everything else to plug back in.

It raised an interesting point about the way we're already using the Internet of Things.

As quick examples, the heating here is internet enabled, with separate ZigBee connections to the smoke detectors. Then there's the television. That has an internet connection for Sky+HD. Oh, and another one for the DVD player. And one for the Apple TV. Come to think of it the amplifier is connected to the internet. And the remote control uses a wifi hub. That's the same hub that controls the fireplace ignition.

I could go on about the lighting dimmers or the energy monitoring system (622kW right now).

The thing is, modern stuff is progressively adding Internet of Things components which are a hybrid of wifi and IEEE 802.15.4, but it's still somewhat unpredictable.

The manufacturers are tinkering to get the technology to work and do things like creating ad-hoc wifi networks (like from a smoke alarm) which is then used to configure the device. In 2015 it's okay if you know what you are doing, but I can see it becoming more impenetrable unless these systems are somehow standardised.

There are still many loose ends: They don't tell you that our BT Home Hub struggles to pass DHCP through a bridge after a certain loading. They don't tell you that multiple wifi nodes can confuse some of the Zigbee products. The antivirus and firewall software loves to play a cheeky part in blocking things unexpectedly. And some of the IoT devices don't behave quite as one would expect on a LAN for the purposes of keep-alive and renewal of IP leases.

The stuff in rashbre central works fine, but it's partly because of random knowledge of the weird bits. I suppose it can start a whole extra home industry when the repair man starts to get called out to fix things. It starts to get beyond just switching it off and on again.

I'm waiting to hear about the first 'reboot home' buttons. Like something out of a space movie, perhaps, but without the reference manual.

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