automation Archive


Folks, this is a guest post from Kerwin Lumpkins who is working on a cool project he put on Kickstarter (there’s a video there too), check it out!! He has built a prototype and would like to have it funded to produce more of these. As we’re always happy to share cool projects made by others as well, here you go :)

The Ard-Vark is a basic electronics box that has wifi built in to allow easy remote control through a mobile app, and has the following features:

  • Arduino compatible (can use the Arduino IDE as is, based on Leonardo platform)
  • USB connection to PC for serial or re-programming
  • Mobile app available for download (iPhone/iPad/iPod/Android)
  • Built in wifi for wireless remote control (Roving Networks RN-171)
  • 4 servo motor headers
  • 2 small DC motor headers
  • Built in light sensor
  • Built in temperature sensor
  • 3 analog sensor inputs with ground and 5V power supplied
  • 3 digital I/O headers with ground and 5V power supplied
  • LED
  • Speaker
  • Can be powered by 9V battery or 9V AC adapter plug
  • Mounted in a durable plastic case, cutouts for headers, silkscreen labeling of ports

Read more…


It’s very exciting for us to see all the noise (& reposts) or the ARM Cortex-M0+ processor (aka. the “flycatcher”) that was unveiled yesterday. Branded as the world’s most energy-efficient microprocessor it is optimized to deliver high performance (with a 32 bits architecture!) for a very low power consumption, which makes it the ideal chip for intelligent sensors and smart control systems in a broad range of applications. In other words, the ideal chip to power the Web of Things.

Read more…


I know we covered them not so long ago, but our friends from Koubachi finally released their first product a few days back, it’s live finally and available! They have even already covered on Techcrunch and Gizmondo! Great job guys!

For 148$, give your plant a voice and get one of these:

The design of that WiFi dongle is pretty gorgeous and sleek (I wouldn’t dare saying Apple-y!)
Wondering if they already have an API and we hack these and do something totally unexpected with it? Hmmm. What would you use these toys for, any ideas?

As Google recently announced their plans to move in the home automation world with Android at home (and we are still wondering why they waited so long to do it), I thought I would share my view on that. I do believe there are many opportunities ahead for the “home operating system” domain. The combination of cheap, yet powerful networked digital appliances in the house (NAS, networked media players, WiFi routers, etc) along with an extensible application framework, and a market place for buying new applications (or installing drivers, etc) – will be a killer combo for home automation to take off, especially for building management systems (I’m not yet convinced the market is ready for consumer home automation – unless you’re millionaire and want to show off by turning off lights by clapping hands). But I do believe the Web of Things in this vision can be a solid innovation enabler by making it easy to integrate all kinds of devices and develop new home automation mashlets (mashup & applets – does this even exist? or should we call these phy-ma-les = PHYsical MAshup appLEtS? no? ok…. fine…). Read more…

After the last draft released in december, the COAP folks just released a few days ago a more refined version of the COAP draft, with additional thoughts on coap-http mapping, RESTful verbs for constrained environments, and pub/sub notifications, and more.


This document specifies the Constrained Application Protocol (CoAP), a specialized RESTful transfer protocol for use with constrained networks and nodes for machine-to-machine applications such as smart energy and building automation. These constrained nodes often have 8-bit microcontrollers with small amounts of ROM and RAM, while networks such as 6LoWPAN often have high packet error rates and a typical throughput of 10s of kbit/s. CoAP provides the REST Method/ Response interaction model between application end-points, supports built-in resource discovery, and includes key web concepts such as URIs and content-types. CoAP easily translates to HTTP for integration with the web while meeting specialized requirements such as multicast support, very low overhead and simplicity for constrained environments.

Definitely worth looking at it and try to reuse as much as possible from there in your designs. I’ll be analyzing it soon and give my thoughts on it later.

J.P. Vasseur from Cisco (IETF ROLL co-chair, IPSO tab chair) and Adam Dunkels have written a book on IP-based sensor networks called Interconnecting Smart Objects with IP – The Next Internet. The book covers IP-based sensor networks from the link layer and up, and covers network architecture (IPv6, transport, web services, …), technology (RPL routing, 6lowpan IPv6 802.15.4 adaptation, hardware, software, uIP,…), and applications (smart grid, industrial automation, home automation, smart cities, …).


The foreword is written by Vint Cerf. The book will be available in June 2010, but is already available for preorder from amazon. This is great news and very likely a solid reference for future research direction for the Web of Things, and more generally to extending the internet to smart devices (& written by – could I say – the inventor of IP-enabled sensor nets). In my wish list (& my birthday is soon, so you know what to offer me).

I’ve presented yesterday in Los Angeles a talk on the gateways I’ve been talking about for months. Okay, actually I didn’t physically present it for logistical reasons, as I’m totally in Europe. But the paper is supposed to be out in the proceedings, so I thought I should share it with you.

For now still not much code to play with :(

Read the abstract:

Wireless Sensor Networks provide unprecedented possibilities for monitoring and interacting with the real-world. Unfortunately, the lack of open and simple standards for ad-hoc collaboration between heterogeneous embedded devices makes it difficult to build large-scale deployments; every particular application requires complex integration work, and therefore technical expertise, effort and time. Inspired by the success of Web 2.0 mashups, we propose a similar lightweight approach for interacting with networked devices. In particular, we describe a gateway architecture that enables to access sensor nodes through a RESTful interface. With this approach, interacting with a sensor node becomes as easy as typing a URI in a Web browser. By reusing the architectural principles of the modern Web, we show how one can built a loosely coupled infrastructure for the Web of Things that scales well and extends the current Web to the real world.

Maybe that makes you want to know more about it. We’ll hopefully present more in details the prototypes one can build on top of this gateway in the next few months, so keep watching. And very likely release some code when it reaches a more solid form.

Download it here!!!!

Here is the BibTeX:

Address = {Marina del Rey, CA, USA},
Author = {Vlad Trifa and Samuel Wieland and Dominique Guinard and Thomas Michael Bohnert},
Booktitle = {Proceedings of the 2nd International Workshop on Sensor Network Engineering (IWSNE’09)},
Month = {June},
Title = {Design and Implementation of a Gateway for Web-based Interaction and Management of Embedded Devices},
Year = {2009}}

As mentioned in some previous post, I attended a couple of weeks ago homecamp in London. The event was awesome and I had good times discussing with the folks over there. I loved the un-conference form as it allows people to show up, set up a demo (like I did ), do a talk (like I did). On the other hand, as it is very chaotic we don’t really know what’s going on and when. I wished to have had the opportunity to discuss more in detail with the people in a more relaxed way, though. Thanks for the organizers for the effort they put to make it happen!

Joe Baguley has shown the beta setup of Green Energy Options, where you can connect to your home through the Internet, turn on/off devices (his house is here). He jokingly said he can switch off the TV of the kids remotely, and know when his wife is home (ahemm, what happens if you put vibration sensors on the bed instead of energy meters???). It has a cute Web interface (like many others), and you can remotely monitor your house.

Paul Tanner proposed a community approach for shareable data, benchmark vs. demographic, refactoring behavior and hardware. He used pachube for storage and presentation of the data and asked how to get more loads of smart meter for gas and water. There are huge opportunities, if one could build a device that you can just plug and play, then people would buy it. If you need to pay for an installer, then maybe not. Another barrier to adoption do not only concern the devices directly – many companies have been doing that for years – but the way data is exported and reused. Indeed, I’ve seen so many More and more trends also about gas and water monitoring (gardening for example, where you adapt watering to humidity). In Singapore, electricity bills can fluctuate by 25% (source: informal talk with one guy), but when people are “hurt” economically by the costs of energy, then they’ll change their minds about it.

I also enjoyed the presentation of Flukso. They are building an energy monitoring using a hacked fonera which is actually a wifi access point with openWRT onboard, and an arduino that is connected to an energy sensing board they designed.

Two folks from AMEE did a cool presentation, where they showed they new gadgets and API functions (for example data format conversion, etc). From what I see they’re going right in the same direction as pachube as they want to allow not only to share energy data but others as well, so it will soon be hard to tell the difference with pachube. Their API is RESTful, which seems interesting to check more out in the future.

ONZO showed their beta prototypes, 2 energy monitoring units. The boring one is a simple LCD display that you can clip on a fridge and shows energy consumption, doesn’t seem more than just that, so it looked boring (okay, a cutely designed little box, sure). The cool one is a clipper that uses induction to recharge the batteries in it, and transmit data over wireless. Hmm, I’ve heard that energy optimizers have that already, gotta check that out too.

Pachube rocked the world as always, and it was lovely to chat with Usman about the pachube apps (one of them being the pachube explorer build by Rick Bulotta from Burning Sky software, one of our previous bosses at SAP). They will soon release a php library that allows people to interact with pachube with a few lines of code, and I totally share their vision on that. Seems like I never have enough time to chat with Usman.

I had the chance to have a nice but short chat with Nigel Crawley (one of our fans) who is into building ambient devices. He showed a demo of his OSC-enabled cute nano-ambient-orb. I was impressed by how cool the touchOSC iPhone application actually is, and I realized that I could use that right away with our prototypes, given that our gateway software has direct support for OSC. On our side, I did a quickie talk (totally à l’arrache, as we say in French), and showed a demo of some of the things we work on. We demonstrated the gateway software we’ve been building for months with my students, integrated a RFID reader and an arduino that emulates a plogg gateway software Dom used to talk about. Soon will be blogging about the famous gateway.

In the end I definitely enjoyed the event, and I was amazed by seeing so many people interested into spending their nights working on open source projects around energy and water conservation, and the motivation was often not only “peace-and-love-save-the-planet”, but actually economic. It’s amazing to see the incentives behind this topic, and really looking forward the next years, and see what people will build in this area (hint: as you have guessed, we’ll soon be in that field as well ;). Okay, sorry for the delay, and as you see lots of things to check out for me (hence the delays in posting :).