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Three Things that Raspberry Pi Puts on the Net

Few innovations have caused such a stir among the makers in recent years as Raspberry Pi. Since it was launched a large number of projects have taken shape, including in the Internet of Things. All about M2M presents three of them.

 

While I was studying for my Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge, I also worked for the university as the Director of Studies, organizing undergraduate studies. Every year we got fewer people applying to study computer science, and every year the sorts of things incoming students knew how to do got less impressive.

 

That is how Eben Upton described his motivation to construct Raspberry Pi in a Wired interview.

In 2006 today’s Executive Director of the Raspberry Pi Foundation began to develop the single-board computer with his colleagues. Six years later they launched the first model on the market. More than five million have been sold so far. They can be connected in the normal way with a display and a keyboard and used as a computer, as a media center, or to realize ideas for the Internet of Things. All about M2M has taken a look around the scene and here presents several exciting projects:

The Smart Doorbell

Classic doorbells have a serious drawback. Residents must always be within hearing distance. If, say, they are in the garden or turn up the volume of their music, the visitor will have to wait. For people with impaired hearing or who are deaf the situation is even more difficult – and that is why Daniel Garden has connected his doorbell to his smartwatch. Here is how he outlines the project on Twitter:

Project doorbell complete. + @adafruit PiPlate + @cammakespace lasercutter + + PC speakers = :-D

 

If somebody rings the doorbell Raspberry Pi automatically sends a message to a terminal device. Garden used his Pebble smartwatch, which draws attention to itself by vibrating and emitting a message sound and indicates on the display that somebody has rung the doorbell. This is how it looks in practice.

If you now feel interested in connecting your doorbell by means of Raspberry Pi, take a look at the instructions on Garden’s blog.

The Magic Mirror

What most people see when they look in the mirror is their own mirror image, but the Dutch hobbyist Michael Teeuw sees more. His connected mirror shows the latest weather forecast, the day’s news headlines, and his upcoming dates.

To convert the mirror into a connected display Teeuw removed a flat screen from its frame and mounted it behind a “spy mirror,” a one-way mirror that lets light through in one direction only. Teeuw has published a detailed description of the design process in his blog. A slight challenge that he faced was to find a monitor that did not have its connections on the back. He needed one to keep the distance from the wall to a minimum.

Teeuw connected Raspberry Pi to the monitor by HDMI and a USB WiFi adapter provides the connection with the Internet. The single-board computer boots Raspbian automatically (Raspbian is a Linux-based operating system based on Debian Linux), and once it starts it automatically shows a browser in full-screen mode. The target website is stored on an Apache Web server that also runs under Raspberry Pi. The website retrieves the data requested via various APIs and arranges them in an attractively designed interface.

Internet of Toilets

It may sound made, but the digital revolution has even made its mark on the bathroom. Visit instructables.com, for example, for instructions on how to connect your toilet to the Internet. A user by the name of e024576, for instance, documents automatically on a Google Drive spreadsheet significant events such as flushing the toilet or changing the toilet roll. Why does he want to know all of that in such detail? Because it can be done, he explains on instructables.com.

To record the toilet flush the user repurposed the filling-level sensor of an aquarium. A photocell in the holder registers the changing of a toilet roll. The two sensors’ signals are relayed wirelessly to a Raspberry Pi that uses the Python API gspread to enter the event data in a Google Drive spreadsheet. On this basis, for example, the consumption of water and toilet paper is easily calculated. Interested? Then listen to this 31C3 lecture by Tobias Preuss.

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Camping Goes Online With Moving Hotspot

Deutsche Telekom together with Eura Mobil displayed Internet connectivity on the go at CMT 2015.

Vacationing in a caravan can be a fun family experience. Imagine soothing nature and a relaxing atmosphere, dinner under the stars, and breakfast in the sun. But sometimes it is also good to be connected to the outside world, like on rainy days, when leaving the camper is not an option and the kids can’t go and play outside. Deutsche Telekom’s mobile hotspot solution – Moving Hotspot – for in-vehicle use provides vacationers with a dependable Internet connection, anytime, anywhere, to make boring days inside a thing of the past. Moving Hotspot allows for activities such as uploading vacation pictures, sending greetings to loved ones at home, or staying up to date with the latest news.

At CMT, the world’s largest public trade fair for tourism and leisure, this offering was displayed together with Eura Mobil. Today, we would like to share some impressions from the fair, which took place in Stuttgart, Germany.

Moving-Hotspot-CMT-2 Moving-Hotspot-CMT-3 Moving-Hotspot-CMT-4 Moving-Hotspot-CMT-5 Moving-Hotspot-CMT-caravan-1

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Home Automation: “When you collaborate, it takes the world further forward”

When 12-year-olds experiment with switchable kreuzer_portraitpower sockets, most parents will probably break out into a cold sweat, but Kai Kreuzer’s parents weren’t scared. Today, Kreuzer is a developer evangelist at Deutsche Telekom. In this interview with ‘All about M2M’ the Connected Home expert talks about the development of home automation and the advantages of open source projects.

 

Mr. Kreuzer, you gained your initial experience with home automation when you were young. How did you go about it?

I was interested in computers from an early age. My first was a Commodore VC 20, followed by a C64. I burned my own EPROMs for it, plugged devices into the parallel port and fixed small contacts to the door of my room. When the door was opened, music was played automatically.

Where did you go from there?

I mounted my first touch screen on the living room wall in 2000. It consisted of a 15-inch monitor and an an industrial touch panel. The uses to which I put it included media control.

A few years later I and my family were looking for a house. My preference was for a newbuild because I wanted to install as many cables as possible. In an existing building the cabling would have been much more difficult. Before the construction work began I looked into what was available in the area of home automation. We then used the KNX system. Amongst other features it made all shutters, lighting and heating switchable. What we lacked was a good control device. In those days it was usually a monitor firmly attached to the wall. But the monitors available at the time were very expensive. Two thousand euros each was pretty well standard. Apple launched an optimal and relatively low-cost control device, the iPod Touch, in 2007. What I needed was the right control software for it.

And it had to be open source?

I didn’t want a commercial solution because I couldn’t be sure that support would be available for the system for the next 20 to 30 years. What was more, it was not yet clear which provider would go on to integrate features that I felt to be important. So open source was the best solution.

Are there other reasons why the Smart Home or the Internet of Things harmonize well with open source?

Many manufacturers simply lack the market clout and size to take on the top dogs – Google with Nest and Apple with HomeKit – and establish a proprietary system in the market. Many alliances have been set up to try and challenge the top dogs, but they often have a strong business-driven and therefore a political focus. AllSeen and OIC, for example, have positioned themselves as separate camps even though both of them are effectively pursuing the same objective. So an open source project that is managed by a neutral organization is a very sensible alternative.

You said that you needed the right control software in 2007. Did you find it?

Yes. In the home automation sector, for example, there was MisterHouse, a Perl-based project. It could already do quite a lot and even had a Web UI for the iPhone. I used it for the control software that ran on my iPod Touch. To begin with, I really liked MisterHouse and its functionalities, but after six months the problems came to light. The huge Perl scripts could not be kept clean in the long term because, for instance, there were no good developer tools for debugging it. There was also nobody to keep the project together. There were many different forks with different further functional developments, but they were not merged and brought together again.

I then tested another project with OpenRemote. There too I was strongly involved and led architectural discussions. But the project would have had to be rebuilt from scratch to implement the modular architecture I had in mind. So in 2010 I decided to launch an open source project of my own, openHAB.

And that was where you then implemented your modular architecture?

Yes. I relied from the outset on OSGi, or modularization for Java applications, because with OSGi you can create clean interfaces via which developers can simply expand the system. openHAB developers can largely circumvent problems such as overlapping classes or merging code.

Does that mean the developers involved work mainly on individual modules?

Exactly. By and large, most active developers have their own area – usually links to another system, or bindings, but there are graduations. There is a core of around ten to 20 people who take part almost daily on the mailing list and answer queries submitted by others. Then there are developers who wrote a part of the initial code but then no longer had enough spare time and no longer do very much. Others use the system and hit on a bug that they analyze and suggest fixes or even supply a bug fix themselves.

How are decisions made within the community? Does the group deliberate or do individuals tend to take matters forward?

Core decisions are now made at Eclipse SmartHome because we transferred the core framework of openHAB to the Eclipse Foundation last year. It is a non-profit organization with well-defined processes for holding discussions and making decisions. A fundamental aspect is that all discussions must be conducted in public. New ideas and proposals may not really be rejected unless there are good reasons for doing so, such as because they would interrupt downward compatibility.

You realized with your project that there was a demand for the right home automation software. Why did you not set up a company of your own?

I first wanted to solve my own problems rather than develop a product, and commercial solutions were already available. I personally benefited from the form of an open source project. It was clear at an early stage that the project would go on to become so large that I would not have had the time to implement everything myself. And I would also be able to make use of developments by other developers.

Furthermore, I had always felt that the concept of open source software was very attractive. When you collaborate, it takes the world further forward than if many proprietary mushrooms spring up that then each try to do their own thing.

In addition to your role in openHAB you are a project manager for the Eclipse SmartHome projects and take the QIVICON platform forward at Telekom. How are these projects related?

The Eclipse SmartHome project was launched last year on the basis of the openHAB core framework. As a neutral organization the Eclipse Foundation is a good place for establishing common interfaces for extensions, for example.

At QIVICON it was realized that openHAB has many active developers who contribute and develop good ideas. Now that QIVICON is also based on Eclipse SmartHome, QIVICON has gained access to this large developer community. Many extensions implemented for openHAB 2.0 can in future be ported to QIVICON at no great effort or expense, and QIVICON’s variety will increase considerably as a result. Conversely, the developer benefits from being able to cover with a single implementation all platforms that are based on Eclipse SmartHome.

Who are openHAB and QIVICON intended to reach?

openHAB is aimed at technically experienced users who, for example, can set up a Raspberry Pi of their own and install the operating system, Java and, finally, openHAB on it. QIVICON in contrast addresses the mass market, meaning people who buy an all-inclusive package and expect it to function by plug and play.

Is this liaison between an open source community and commercial enterprises a viable model?

Many companies are marketing a simple version as an open source variant and a more comprehensive one as a commercial variant. Others provide the open source software and earn money by, for example, providing commercial support. The Eclipse Foundation’s general objective is to enable companies to collaborate in open source projects to which all concerned can then add proprietary extensions for their own purposes. In addition to Eclipse-IDE, the best-known example, that works very well in automotive or aviation industry projects. So Eclipse SmartHome is continuing to write a success story.

In connection with Heartbleed there has been much public discussion about the security of open source projects. How is openHAB dealing with it?

In much the same way as other well managed projects do. We have mandatory code reviews. In other words, every contribution is reviewed and commented on by another member of the team. That relates not only to possible vulnerabilities but also to abiding by syntax and architectural standards. Nevertheless, software can still contain bugs that can serve as a potential loophole or back door. That can never be ruled out entirely.

In the final analysis, however, that is a general software problem and is not limited to open source. Bugs like Heartbleed are just as feasible in closed, commercial solutions. It is just that vulnerabilities are harder to identify, if at all, in the latter – not to mention intentional back doors. So open source’s transparency is a definite added value where security is concerned.

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Connected Devices – From Product to Service

Connected devices enable new business and sales models, be they consumables on a subscription basis or remote inspections. Thanks to cloud-based IoT platforms SMBs are now also able to provide service-oriented offerings of this kind.

In an increasingly digitized world the product as an economic good seems to be losing ground enormously. Instead of buying cars, more and more people opt for car sharing. The place of CD and DVD collections is taken by streaming portals like Spotify and Netflix that provide access to huge media libraries for a monthly fee. The situation is much the same in everyday business operations. Instead of enlarging their own data centers, companies book resources, software, and entire infrastructures as a service from the cloud. OPEX-based payment and provision models are becoming increasingly established for production machinery too.

The advantages of these offerings are self-evident. They enable the user to respond flexibly to requirements as they arise. Car sharers book a compact for their commute and a van for the big shop. Users of streaming services adjust the playlist to how they feel and their preferences at any given time. Companies increase or decrease IT resources from the cloud in line with their current requirements. The Internet of Things has given service-oriented offerings even more of a boost. Why is that so and what opportunities does it offer providers?

Swift implementation on an IoT platform

Objects equipped with sensors, IT components, and communications technology offer more than their conventional predecessors. Updates provide them with new functions. IT-supported decisions based on sensor data make them able to react. That is a key aspect for manufacturers and providers. Connection enables them to stay in contact with devices, to read their status (subject to the user’s approval) and to react to certain conditions. It is the crucial link for new service offerings that range from predictive maintenance to an automatic alert in critical situations.

Until recently only large enterprises were able to connect their products and create new service offerings. Today that is something small and midrange businesses can also do. One reason is the continuous fall in prices of sensors and modules that are now no longer only affordable if manufactured in large numbers. Furthermore, cloud-based IoT platforms like Telekom’s Device Cloud that can be used to set up new services swiftly and inexpensively are now in the market. In earlier M2M projects a six-digit amount had to be invested before the first devices could be connected. Today’s platforms start at EUR 25.00 and are ready for use right away.

Subscription models as an opportunity

Which business models will make the running? Nobody can tell, but the greatest potential is currently seen as that of models based on a subscription service. Fuel and heating oil distributors can tell from sensors attached to their customers’ tanks how full they are. That enables them to reduce their running costs and avoid unnecessary deliveries while ensuring that the tanks are never empty. The same principle can be applied wherever consumables are in use. Detergent can be supplied to a car wash on demand – or beans for a coffee machine or blades for a razor.

In addition to consumables the condition of parts that are subject to wear and tear can be checked continuously. A bicycle, for example, could report when its brake blocks need replacing. There are new opportunities here for maintenance and repair services and for the accessories market. Why companies should be looking into other service-based business models was explained by Accenture’s Prith Banerjee in a recent interview with All about M2M:

If you don’t do it, your competitors may do it instead and get ahead of you. Today you make your business by selling products. Instead of buying a product, customers want to buy the value of the product. By developing products as a service offering, companies can fulfill customer wishes much better.

 

We are currently seeing how certain companies impact on traditional business models. Take Uber for example. The car rider service is impacting on the traditional business of taxi drivers. Or look at Airbnb. It is revolutionizing the hotel industry. Industrial companies see themselves faced by a similar development. Once they integrate connectivity into their products, they can collect information that opens new possibilities to create services on top of that data.

 

While various industries are currently experimenting with connected devices and the services that might be generated as a result of their connectivity, technology might in the future make its mark on the portfolio as an indispensable component. Pressure is growing because new competitors are in the starting blocks in a number of product areas – including competitors from Silicon Valley. Take Nest, for example. A few years ago no thermostat manufacturer will ever have anticipated being confronted today with a technically superior competing product from a search engine provider.

 

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Looking Back on the Year: More Things on the Internet

Looking Back on the Year 2014Digital connectivity has made further headway in the business world this year and there are initial signs that end consumers are about to boost demand for connected solutions. Yet the Internet of Things is still very much in the early stages of its development. That is why All about M2M is presenting what was important in 2014 and what will be important next year.

For the M2M and IoT industry the year began with a thunderbolt when the Internet company Google snapped up Smart Home manufacturer Nest Labs for US$ 3.2 bn. That gave the Connected Home, a trend that began to emerge in 2013, a definite boost. In the course of the year manufacturers unveiled both connected domestic appliances such as smoke alarms and coffeemakers and wearables like fitness bracelets or smartwatches. So far, however, consumers have been reluctant to buy connected products. According to an Acquity Group study, only four percent of more than 2,000 consumers interviewed in the United States own a Smart Home device. By 2019, however, their numbers are forecast to increase to 69 percent. So next year should see both a wider range of offerings and an upturn in demand. We presented further findings of this study in October under the heading “Consumers Discover the Internet of Things.”

Evolution, not revolution

Digital connectivity has made further headway in industry too. The most important lesson learnt this year is that what we are experiencing is not a revolution but evolutionary digitization of industrial processes. That is already changing maintenance of plant and machinery fundamentally. The control unit alerts the maintenance personnel automatically by e-mail or text, for example, if a previously specified threshold is breached. Field service can then be sent out without delay to rectify the error.

In our interview with Prith Banerjee, Managing Director of Global Technology R&D at Accenture, it became clear, however, that the simplification of workflows of this kind is only the first step. He said:

The greater opportunity is the topline growth due to new equipment and digital services that will be unleashed by the IIoT. Companies can boost their revenues significantly when they transform their products into product-service hybrids.

 

In the years ahead, complex machine learning algorithms will usher in a higher degree of autonomy. Industrial M2M applications from Europe are making a global impact on the Internet of Things, not least by means of initiatives such as the German federal government’s Industrie 4.0 future project.

Platforms and standards as enablers

To manage growing numbers and amounts of devices, data, and users in line with demand, companies rely on cloud-based platforms. These platforms not only assist with administration but also and at the same time provide a construction kit for the Internet of Things. Common standards could make connectivity even simpler. Cumulocity CTO Stefan Vaillant had this to say on the subject in an interview with All about M2M:

We wish to see a plug-and-play standard for the Internet of Things. Users could then connect any device with every platform. Sadly, no such single standard exists at present. But even several standards would be of assistance to the market.

 

Initial trends like OMA DM Lightweight in device management and OPC UA in industrial automation may be apparent, but it remains to be see whether and when they will prevail. That is why we will continue to keep an eye on developments in this area in the year ahead.

The Internet of Things and people

Connectivity raises further exciting issues. Our guest author Sascha Wolter looked into how we will interact with all the connected machines in the future:

The challenge is to find new forms of interaction that not only fit to a one-on-one relationship between human and machine. They need to be suitable for 1:n scenarios in which the user moves around amid a large number of devices.

 

Amazon recently took a first step in the direction of the Smart Home by presenting its voice control system ECHO, but installing a connected device with a total of seven microphones in your own home raises issues of data protection and data security. How can the data be transmitted securely? Where is the data to be stored? What measures protedct it from unauthorized access? Which personal data can be evaluated in which circumstances? Answers to these questions in the years ahead will be a decisive factor in ensuring acceptance of M2M/IoT solutions.

Here be dragons

Among seafarers it used to be customary to illustrate dangerous or unknown areas on charts with dragons and sea monsters. Sometimes they simply wrote “Here be dragons.” In M2M and IoT we have discovered many new things this year, but quite a number of dragons and sea monsters still lie ahead. That is why we aim to continue our voyage of discovery in the digitally connected world next year. I hereby invite you to join us once more in 2015 lade and wish you a good start in the New Year.

 

 

 

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