I guess that many Internet surfers that land on this site, actually wonder what is it that I am working on all about. I realized that indeed, it may be a good thing to describe it as well, putting it in writing will probably make it more meaningful to myself too 🙂 So let me give it a shot.
I have been focusing on the Internet of Things, a strange term used to describe the desire to hook almost every thing to the Internet. That thing can be a cow, a toothbrush, a home HVAC system, your car or whatever object from your daily life that can contribute to the ultimate goal of making things run more efficiently or conveniently. Cisco estimates that by 2020 there will be 50 Billion things connected to the Internet. Isn’t that a good reason to work in this area?
There is quite a large number of application sectors where the IoT make its way, I am particularly interested in energy use efficiency, monitoring, home automation, climate control and why not a bit of security.
There is a large number of commercial products that already come with Internet connectivity, for example there are already a number of refridgerators, washing machines, vacuum cleaners.. I understand these are good for the mass user, but since none are open source, that means you end up with a number of platforms to use, maybe some will even charge fees for that.
On the other side there is always the option to do it yourself..if you can that is 🙂 Your alternative best option is to use the open hardware/software projects in this area that are massively gaining speed recently. I have been inspired and learning from projects like NaNode, Jeelabs, OpenEnergyMonotor.
So how do I imagine the IoT in my projects? I prefer interfacing things myself. For the purpose I need a mechanism to do this. Basically what seems most efficient is to have a number of small battery operated wireless nodes communicating to a static Internet connected gateway, that will pass the information to a server for further processing. That gateway can also poll other information collectors and redirect that information to nodes, when necessary. An example would be your gateway polling the weather service to see if it will rain today and if so, simply not start the lawn irrigation system. There is also a need for another type of node, such that is not battery operated and therefore can be always on, listening for instructions and executing them. A good example would be an energy monitor or the WinNode. Finally, there can be ‘virtual nodes’. These aren’t hardware, but software bots collecting or calculating data and feeding it to the gateway. I have created such bots to feed the estimated solar energy that will fall on my solar panels, and another one to feed weather data for my area. The gateway can be any Internet connected device that can talk to the remote nodes – a computer, a Raspberry Pi, a Nanode or micro IoT gateway even your Linux router. The options for a gateway are enourmous.
I can observe that the IoT in one entity can be grouped logically. For example all IoT gadgets in my house can make up an entity. I don’t know a better term for this, maybe it exists and if so, please make a comment and correct me. I will simply call that a “hive”. A hive is where the bees live. Bees have a Queen. The Queen puts the hive in order and communicates to the bees their tasks, while the bees bring information to the queen to help her make her decisions. Isn’t that similar to what happens in my home? I have a number of ‘bees’, this job is being done by my micro wireless node, the Funky. These micro nodes must be small, so they can be fitted in other things, for example see my IoT doorbell project. They must operate on single CR2032 battery for months and report back the information they were designed to. Typically these nodes would only send information, since they are designed to ‘sleep’ most of the time to preserve energy, and only wake from time to time or upon predefined event to make a transmission. Keeping relatively low cost for this kind of nodes is the key to have a multitude of them around the house, performing various tasks.
Does that make sense?