As some my closest friends know, I’ve been on hiatus ever since I have started this DIY home automation project and if I’m not tinkering at my bench. I’m trolling the internet for the up and coming. One of my favorite stops is Kickstarter it’s the best way to see what other Tinkerers, and startups are doing.
One of my top favorites right now is Xped.com from Australia these guys have developed a simple way to use your NFC on your phone to connect then control devices in your home. NFC is more than just for tap and pay. It’s a very useful way to get synced up to devices and phones securely.
A few key points of this set up is that the central hub will recognize as many phones and tablet as you allow it to, So it’s not a one man(device) show. Once a command is sent from phone-A a live update is sent to the other devices, for example a light is turned on by Device A it will update on all devices that switch is turned on. Communication is not limited to your home network but also from outside your home. The best part is once the app is running you can plug in a device then just tap and connect, done. Things like the ADRC Shield tap and connect also but need sketches uploaded to it, but if you’re getting an Arduino shield you should already know that.
Xped has many items that will make your day to day very easy to use but I chose these two to mention since one is practically plug and play and the other is DIY based.
Ultra Plug – is what I think the best way to get started with simple home automation from your phone or tablet. It’s so convenient and easy to set up once the app is in place. A key feature is that the moment the plug is in. It will start data logging electrical usage.
ADRC Shield is DIY gold especially for those who want to use key less entry, control robots, via Arduino. This is far ahead of other Arduino shields that try and do the same function.
In between developing and organizing the day to day with his project I had the opportunity to ask John Schultz, CEO of Xped a few questions.
Alacran: Why a Smart home? What would be the purpose of the “average Joe” having a smart home?
John S.: A true smart home is more than home automation. The latter is simply remote controlling devices. That’s what most people are building. For us a true smart home is one that takes care of itself through a set of parameters and guidelines that the home owner sets. For example, I have a limit of $500 per quarter in my electricity budget. The hub of the home will regulate non-essential appliances (Aircon, heating, brightness of lights, etc.) to best achieve this target. Of course non-essential devices like the fridge would not be turned off and of course you can override any action manually. All I am saying is that with a smart home full of sensors and smart appliances you can achieve certain objectives. Just like today a car has hundreds of sensors to manage you engine to run efficiently and the brakes to self-dry in wet conditions, you don’t even know this is all happening…so it’s not so unbelievable that your home will go that way too. Xped has the foundation technology that will make this possible. We just need to continue development and partnering with other developers.
Alacran: So this might be saving me money in the long run. What if I want a more “all in one” not only using NFC or Wi-Fi, I have a TV and Receiver that are IR will this be able to work together?
John S.: We have lots of “legacy” devices, like those old infrared remote controlled devices…TV, surround sound, roller blinds, etc. Some will be around for a while yet, so our system brings these devices into the smart home with gateway or bridging products. Our infrared blaster will allow you to control any IR device with your smartphone and the smart plug will allow you to plug in a heater or light and not only turn it on and off but also know how much power it is consuming in real time and also historically how much it has cost you to run. In the future these devices, from electric blanket to TV to sprinkler controller will have this tech built in.
Alacran: Now I’m an off the grid type of guy, I don’t like having my info out there and I became more so after going through a big hurricanes. What if I want to keep all my data and usage “in house” or what if after a major storm my internet connection goes down but still have power?
John S.: Now something everyone else seems to have overlooked. What will happen when the Internet goes down or you do not have Internet? Our devices are smart enough to work out of the box. That is, they will operate even if there is no Internet. So you can have an unconnected smart home that still operates smartly. Of course there are other wonderful services that become available when you are connected. I’m just say it is not necessary. This is great for those that are security paranoid or worried about hackers. Just operate off line. PS, our system has device level security authentication so is probably one of the most secure IoT platforms. But is a psychological thing knowing your home will continue to work off line. Anyway, what manufacturer wants to build a product that only works properly when connected! Ours offers that to them.
Alacran: There is a lot of competition out there how far are you willing to go and how do you feel about the market you’re in?
John S.: There are many IoT players in this market, so in a sense there is lots of competition. But ALL of them have solutions based on today’s technology… profile driven products. A profile is a spec for how a device works and both the controller (IR remote for your TV for example) and the device (the TV) need to have prior knowledge of this to operate. Make sense really, the TV remote needs to be programmed with the TV control codes at the time of manufacture. No rocket science here. But here is the fundamental shift that our technology brings. The controller (phone or tablet or PC running DeB the Device Browser) needs no prior knowledge of a device to control it. Tap it to the device and the device describes itself to the controller. In effect the device teaches the controller how it works. So now the controller knows everything about that device needed to control and monitor it. This is Xped’s tech and is called Auto Discovery Remote Control (ADRC) and allows for Deb to interact with devices not even invented yet! Just like the web browser you have on your 1 year old PC will be able to view web pages built today and tomorrow.
Alacran: How will you be marketing your items, will there be pre-made kits?
John S.: 1. From an ADRC chip that allows developers to integrate directly into their own mass produced designs, 2. Developer modules and tools so you can control things yourself and tinker. The Arduino shield is the first of these tools.
Alacran: How do you feel about the masses and accepting this type of technology?
John S.: The internal combustion engine didn’t replace horses overnight, but in time it sure did. I don’t know what it is about the AU & NZ some of the best wireless tech has been coming from there and for really good prices.