With IoT ranging across a variety of use cases, I wanted to share one initiative which will benefit smart home users. Most homes have at least one or two sunk pumps installed in their homes (typically in the basement). Those sunk pumps help to prevent flooding of homes and those devices are work horses. They constantly pump water away from the homes.
Failing sunk pumps can lead to floods, especially if those failures are not detected. There are solutions out there today, ranging from water leak detectors in the basement or in close proximity of a sunk pump, to detectors applied on the sunk pump itself reporting too high water levels. Those solutions are reactive and when a failure occurs, the flood is already in progress which limits the options from the home owners assuming they are at home when it happens. Some of those solutions have 3G/4G SMS text messaging capabilities but again it only reports that water levels are already rising.
First proactive solutions are being developed at the moment, which are attached to sunk pumps. Those devices can detect a failure between 2 to 6 hours before the pump fails which is much more beneficial compared to informing the home owner that there is a flood in the basement happening. In addition to the ongoing development those companies are already in contact with the insurance companies discussing discounts for home owner policies if those devices get installed.
The existing solutions today are proprietary and offer their own cloud or messaging solutions to inform the home owners about the imminent ongoing flood. Some of those vendors charge monthly monitoring fees, others simply allow the usage of a SIM card from a cell phone provider company to send text messages out.
None of those existing solutions are integrated today with any home automation system. I have seen a couple of DIY hacks to enable integration via SIP gateways. Other people apply and deploy a Z-wave water leak sensor, which again only reports a flood after the sunk has already failed.
The communication protocol shouldn’t matter as long as the goal can be achieved to report proactively if a sunk pump is about to fail. Companies who are working on those solutions are inquiring what protocols should be used ranging from MQTT, Z-wave, Zigbee, WiFi, etc.
The key point should be that those solutions can be installed as their own ecosytem without any home automation system in place but also offer the option of adding a communication add-on to enable integration into existing home automation solutions. Another aspect which should be considered here are the landlords and their rentals. They might or might not have a home automation solution deployed at their rental locations but they most certainly would like to get notified if a sunk pump fails to avoid costly repairs of their properties.
I am excited about the proactive approach and once the first solutions hit the market, I will deploy 2 of those at my home and hopefully be able to get a discount from my home owner’s insurance.
Internet of Things World 2016 was the 3rd annual event hosted at the Convention Center in Santa Clara CA. With over 10.000 attendees and over 200 exhibitors you were able to attend a total of 15 dedicated tracks around IoT ranging from manufacturing to smart cities, connected cars, the smart home, healthcare, energy & agriculture, supply chain & logistics plus much more. This is the first of a two part report focusing on “The Smart Home” track from this event.
This report will cover new upcoming technologies, expert opinions shared at panels from various industry experts and interesting startups to look out for in the coming near future.
A new study on year 2015 analyzed the usage of smart devices and the results are pretty interesting. The most “used” smart devices of year 2015 was the “smart garage door”. The smart garage door opener concepts implemented are ranging from adding Z-wave relays and tilt sensors to their existing home automation hub, to adding “connected” garage door openers which connect to existing home automation hubs, to independent systems with simple apps on customers’ phones, to the latest trend which is Alexa (Amazon Echo) connected garage door openers.
The second most used device in year 2015 was the smart door lock. The trend for those devices is going towards ease of installation. People are shying away from having to take apart the whole door lock mechanism and replace all the guts of a door lock, to install a brand new smart door lock. The customers are leaning towards removing two screws and adding on a new smart door lock leaving the existing locking mechanism in place.
Interestingly enough, the Bluetooth managed door locks did not get the expected market adoption and instead WiFi or Z-wave door locks dominated the market. It was great to hear that “Alexa connected” was not a trend as Amazon’s Echo does voice recognition and not voice authentication which are two completely different things.
Two discussions evolved in regards to voice control of smart homes. The first one was the difference between voice recognition which is a device understanding what you are saying and executing the command versus voice authentication, where the device doesn’t care what you say but instead the devices recognizes that you are really you and not somebody else.
The second discussion about voice control was around cloud based vs offline voice recognition. On this subject the opinions were shared across the audience, that nobody wants to loose voice control over their smart home just because their internet provider has gone offline. The voice control service should always be available with the house being online or offline.
Amazon Echo aka Alexa only functions in online mode of the house. Samsung showcasing their new Artik technology at this event, had their Artik 10 device powered by Sensory as a demo. This device works in offline mode of the house and executes voice commands just like Alexa. The Artik 10 just started selling on DigiKey and is already sold out and now on back-order. Details on Artik can be found under http://www.artik.io
At $150 for the Artik 10 the price is more than double the price of a Raspberry PI 3 Ultra Kit. Supported OS versions are Fedora, Snappy Ubuntu Core and Samsungs Tizen. More importantly Artik 10 supports Z-wave, ZigBee and Brillo with Bluetooth Mesh and Weaves coming this year. Adding those protocols to Raspberry PI 3 will certainly increase the price significantly. The expectation of people is that comparisons will be made but one major advantage of Raspberry PI over Artik 10 is their developers network. Artik will launch their Apps platform for developers within 3 months from today and people are already lining up to join that initiative. Artik will charge a developer fee just like Apple does to join their Apps platform.
As a live demonstration the Samsung Artik team showed a robot being voice controlled by their sensory voice control chip running on the Artik IoT framework. They also showcased a security system which included a home automation controller hub, motion sensor, etc all being controlled by Artik.
The same issue applied here in terms of voice recognition versus voice authentication. With that said the industry is aware of that problem and a variety of companies are already talking about on how to address that issue. One company joined a panel discussion on smart homes and addressed this exact problem with their software by focusing on voice authentication.
Talking to that company called Knurld was very interesting as many voice authentication solutions require a certain length of words or phrases being spoken before a person can be positively identified. The most common length for this procedure is about 10 to 15 seconds. However, in the smart home world the average length of any command set is about 3 to 4 seconds max which is what Knurld is targeting. Another aspect is voice training of the software to enable any voice authentication which can be quite lengthy where Knurld requires 30 seconds of training. Details on Knurld can be found under http://www.knurld.io
Companies like Google, Amazon and other voice recognition focused companies will tackle this sooner than later as customers’ demands drive innovation. A discussion with an Amazon Echo developer went into the right direction and hopefully find its way to their product enhancement list.
The discussion was around voice authentication and authorization. The concept of Role Based Access Control (RBAC) is very well known in the IT (not IoT) world but not so much in the voice control world… yet. The use case around this became obvious where the home owner defines certain roles and maps household members to those roles.
As an example the husband and wife have superuser rights while the kids are only allowed to use certain devices mapped to their roles. Guests at home are only allowed e.g. to control lights and nothing else. This is where the future should be going combining voice recognition with voice authentication and then voice authorization.
More to come in part 2 of this IoT World report. Stay tuned.