Thermostats: yet another example why open standards win with #IoT

Despite my passion for all things Apple and the incredible functionality that comes from Tim Cook’s passion for integrating all parts of the ecosystem seamlessly (and, as I’ve noted in prior disclaimers, my part-time work at the Apple Store ..), I don’t think there’s any doubt when it comes to the Internet of Things that open standards win out.

That’s because they meet the test of my favorite Essential Truth, “who else can use this data?”

It goes back to my Data Dynamite book and my work with Vivek Kundra when he was opening up data in the District of Columbia before becoming the US CIO: when you share data, you empower end users and can go beyond your own developers’ talents and interests, to harvest others’ interests and developments.

opower_sHere’s a great example. Opower’s OpenStat API enables the electric  industry’s only open thermostat management platform. It allows any smart thermostat provider to participate in existing Opower-managed utility thermostat programs. It combines energy usage, billing, parcel and weather data to engage customers, drive measurable energy efficiency, and deliver reliable demand response.  It already has 95 partner utilities, 50 million (really? that sounds high to me…) homes in 35 states sharing data.

By contrast, Nest (which of course was created by Apple alums) had to create a specific API to allow sharing its data. 

This API is Nest’s answer to the Learning Thermostat’s lack of Z-Wave or ZigBee wireless communication. Nest came under fire from the CEDIA crowd when the Learning Thermostat launched since it wouldn’t work within even $100k home automation systems. The thermostat wasn’t friendly with others. It wouldn’t talk to other home automation products using the legacy home automation protocols. This API could change everything.

The jury’s still out — and it will really be interesting to see how many other companies decide to integrate with Apple’s new Health and Home apps. On one hand, a proliferation of standards just retards more creative API mashups, a la IFTTT (my heros!!). On the other, seamless integration and ease-of-use, the Apple hallmarks, could go a long way to ingraining the IoT into consumers’ daily lives.

What do you think?

 

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Apple Watch: killer app for IoT and lynchpin for “smart aging”

Wow: glad I put up with all of the tech problems during the Apple product launch today: the Apple Watch was worth it! It really seems as if it will be the killer device/app for the Internet of Things consumer market, and I think it may also be the lynchpin for my vision of “smart aging,” which would link both wearable health devices and smart home devices.

The elegant, versatile displays (it remains to be seen how easy it will be for klutzes like me to use the Digital Crown and some of the other navigation tools) plus the previously announced Health and Home Apps that are part of iOS 8 could really be the glue that brings together Quantified Self and smart home devices, making “smart aging” possible.

Activity AppIt will take some time to learn all about the watch and to see what apps the “Watch Kit” spawns, but here are some immediate reactions:

  • sorry, but I think it could kill the Lechal haptic shoes before they get off the ground: why have to pay extra for shoes that will vibrate to tell you where to go when your watch can do the same thing with its “Taptic Engine”?
  • I think I’ll also ditch my Jawbone UP, as much as I love it, for the Apple Watch: the video on how the Activity and Workout apps will work makes it look incredibly simple to view your fitness data instantly, vs. having to open an app on your phone.
  • (Just dreaming here): if they can pull off that neat “Milanese Loop” band on one of the versions that clamps to itself, what about not just a heart beat monitor, but a band that converts into a blood-pressure cuff? Guess that wouldn’t be accurate on the wrist, anyway, huh?

Why It’s So Hard to Predict Internet of Things’ Full Impact: “Collective Blindness”

I’ve been trying to come up with a layman’s analogy to use in explaining to skeptical executives about how dramatic the Internet of Things’ impact will be on every aspect of business and our lives, and why, if anything, it will be even more dramatic than experts’ predictions so far (see Postscapes‘ roundup of the projections).

See whether you thing “Collective Blindness” does justice to the potential for change?

 

What if there was a universal malady known as Collective Blindness, whose symptoms were that we humans simply could not see much of what was in the world?

Even worse, because everyone suffered from the condition, we wouldn’t even be aware of it as a problem, so no one would research how to end it. Instead, for millennia we’d just come up with coping mechanisms to work around the problem.

Collective Blindness would be a stupendous obstacle to full realization of a whole range of human activities (but, of course, we couldn’t quantify the problem’s impact because we weren’t even aware that it existed).

Collective Blindness has been a reality, because vast areas of our daily reality have been unknowable in the past, to the extent that we have just accepted it as a condition of reality.

Consider how Collective Blindness has limited our business horizons.

We couldn’t tell when a key piece of machinery was going to fail because of metal fatigue.

We couldn’t tell how efficiently an entire assembly line was operating, or how to fully optimize its performance.

We couldn’t tell whether a delivery truck would be stuck in traffic.

We couldn’t tell exactly when we’d need a parts shipment from a supplier, nor would the supplier know exactly when to do a new production run to be read.

We couldn’t tell how customers actually used our products.

That’s all changing now. Collective Blindness is ending, …. and will be eradified by the Internet of Things.

What do you think? Useful analogy?

Internet of Things interview I did with Jordan Rich

Didn’t realize this had run several weeks ago, but here’s an introduction to the IoT (based on my SAP “Managing the Internet of Things” i-guide) that I did with Jordan Rich of WBZ Radio, who’s also my voice-over mentor.  The examples include the GE Durathon battery plant, “smart aging,” Shodan, the SAP prototype smart vending machine and Ivee. Enjoy!

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Sentri: example of how IoT is re-inventing tired home devices

I’ll admit it: I’ve been a design junkie since the first museum show on Shaker furniture that I saw while I was in grad school at Syracuse (come to think of it, that epiphany was really when I visited Denmark with my parents, and saw Shaker-inspired Scandinavian design by Georg Jensen et. al.). I just love things that are sleek and functional.

Sentri home security system

Now, following in the Nest’s footsteps, there’s a neat Kickstarter project, the Sentri home security system, that repeats the Nest’s double-whammy of reinventing a tired product to add IoT functionality, and make it beautiful to boot.

Sorry, ADT, but the only reason anyone would display your monitor prominently would be to scare the Bad Guys: they’re just pug-ugly. As
this picture shows, the Sentri is another work of art — and it is more versatile to boot. A built-in HD camera and sensors not only detect movement, but also temperature (a sudden spike could mean a fire), humidity and air quality.  Like the Nest, it will learn from your behavior.

I like their design principles — would that more products were based on them:

 

  • Simple elegance: The best technologies are the easiest to use. Sentri is ready to use right out of the box – simply plug it in, power on, and download the Sentri smartphone app. No assembly or installation required. Hang up your Sentri on the wall, or set it right on your shelf and let Sentri take care of the rest.
  • Intelligence within reach: Minimize the rate of false alerts and create a security system adapted specifically to you with Sentri’s built-in notification system that not only keeps you in the know, but also learns — and acts on — the alerts that matter most to you.One of the biggest challenges traditional home security systems face is that most alerts delivered are false alarms, leading to many households opting out of security systems, or simply not turning their systems on.  With Sentri, maximize your home’s security with timely and accurate alerts.
  • Empowering you: While safety at home is essential for everyone, we know that your home and what security means is as unique as you are. Take control of how your Sentri looks, feels, and behaves by customizing when and where you want to see certain information and alerts. From choosing the background for your Sentri to showing which sensors are displayed and which smart devices are connected, always stay in control of your home.

Sentri as smart home hub

OK, it doesn’t have wired-in-place switches on each window that could detect a break-in (score one for the incumbents), but on the other hand, you just plug the Sentri in and it’s ready to go. Perhaps most important, there are no monthly monitoring fees: who needs them when you get an instant alert on your smart phone if there’s a problem.  Also, there’s another bonus: it’s designed to be a smart home hub: the illustration shows it also controlling your HUE lights, WeMo sockets, and a Nest.

Before I get too rhapsodic, I’m reminded of the recent headline about a crowdfunding project that wasted millions and didn’t produce a usable project. However, overall, it seems to me that, out of the soup of crowdfunding dollars, IoT reinventions of conventional products, inspired design, and plunging sensor prices, we’re seeing a real revolution in product design and manufacturing that can pay multiple benefits to all concerned! Bravo!

 

 

If This, Then That (IFTTT): essential crowdsourcing component to speed IoT development

I’ve been meaning to write about IFTTT (If This, Then That, pronounced like “gift,” but minus the g) for a long time, because I see it as a crucial, if perhaps underappreciated, component to spread the IoT more rapidly and increase its versatility — by democratizing the IoT.

That’s because this cool site embraces one of my favorite IoT “Essential Truths.” We must start asking:

who else could use this data?

I first started asking this question in my book, Data Dynamite, which largely focused on a fundamental paradigm shift away from the old view of data, namely, that you could gain a competitive advantage if you had proprietary information that I didn’t have. It was a zero-sum game. Your win was my loss.  

No longer: now value is created for you if you share data with me and I come up with some other way to use that data that you hadn’t explored. Win-win!

As applied to the IoT, I’ve explored this shift primarily in the context of corporate initiatives, where it becomes possible, for the first time, to share data instantly among everyone who could benefit from that data: everyone within the company, but also your supply chain, your distribution network, and, sometimes, even your customers. 

samples of IFTTT recipes

Here’s where the benefit of sharing data with your customers on a real-time basis comes in: there are a lot more of them than there are of manufacturers, and I can guarantee you that they will come up with clever uses that your staff, no matter how brilliant, won’t. Exhibit A: during last year’s World Series, GigaOM’s Stacey Higginbotham, did an IFTTT “recipe” that turned her HUE lights red (too bad for her, the Sox scored more runs. Wait until next year…). What Philips researcher would have ever done that on company time?

By harnessing crowdsourcing of ideas, the IoT will progress much faster, because of the variety of interests and/or needs that individuals add to the soup!

So, how’s IFTTT work?

Here’s a brief outline (or go here for details):

  1. a “recipe” is made up of a “trigger” (i.e., if this happens, such as “I’m tagged in a photo on Facebook”) and an action (then that happens, such as “create a status message on Facebook.”).
  2. the building blocks for recipes are called channels — 116 as of now, and growing all the time — each of which his its own triggers and actions.  The channels include a wide range of apps and products, such as Nest thermostats or Facebook.

There is a wide variety of recipes on the IFTTT site (you can subscribe to have new ones involving a given channel that interests you sent to you as they are shared) or you can easily create your own — with no programming skill required. How cool is that?

Yes, IFTTT can be fun (“email your mother Foursquare checkins tagged #mom. Useful for brownie points“), but I’m convince that it’s also a critically important tool to speed deployment and impact of the IoT, by harnessing the power of crowdsourcing to complement the work of app developers and device manufacturers.

Now get going!

 

Detailing my “Smart Aging” through the IoT vision

The best-laid plans get canceled due to Summer vacation…

I was supposed to speak to seniors (and those who love or care for them!) today in my dear little burg, Medfield, MA, about my “Smart Aging” through the IoT vision. However, the talk has been postponed til September due to the small number of sign-ups. Oh well, I guess most revolutions start with a whimper, not a bang.

Because I believe so strongly in the idea, I’ve posted the talk (including presenter’s notes) to SlideShare.

Basically, it fleshes out what I’ve written in a number of recent posts, that I believe we can and must meld two aspects of the IoT, Quantified Self wearable devices that measure and record personal health and wellness data 24/7 and smart home devices such as the Nest thermostat and Ivee voice-activated base station, to create a new approach to aging. I defined smart aging as:

using senior-friendly home and health technology to cut your health and living costs,
improve your health and quality of life, and keep you in your own home as long as possible.

I predicted that it can “bring unprecedented health and happiness to our senior years — while saving us  money!”

While there have been efforts for a while to specifically use technology to improve aging, I predicted that

“Smart Aging will instead result from tweaking efforts underway as part of the Internet of Things to improve life for everyone, of all ages. As Joe Coughlin, director of MIT’s AgeLab, says, ‘Counterintuitively, making home automation mainstream and cool means that it’s likely to end up in the hands of older adults sooner than if home automation technologies were only designed specifically for older people.’”

(that’s why I suspect that wearables such as the Nike Fuel or prototype MC10 for jocks will be more important for seniors than anything specifically designed for them — and will face fewer obstacles to adoption).

I stressed that there are still important obstacles, not only the security and privacy ones that are essential for ANY IoT product or service, but also some that are specific to seniors, such as preserving their dignity and letting them control who will share access to their data.

I concluded that this approach will pay multiple benefits:

  • Improve your health & fitness
  • Cut your medical bills
  • Build your self-esteem
  • Cut your living costs
  • Let you stay at home, safely.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject.

The New IoT Math: 1 + 1 + 3 — Jawbone UP24 now controls Nest thermostat

A chance conversation about the IoT the other day turned me on to this elegant proof-of-concept that what I call “Smart Aging” to help seniors be healthier and avoid institutionalization is possible: my Jawbone UP bracelet could now control my Nest thermostat (if I had one: with three heating zones in my house, I’m gonna wait until the NEST price drops before I’ll buy them…).

That, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly what I’m talking about with my concept of “Smart Aging” for seniors, which would combine:

  • Quantified Self devices such as Jawbone UPs, Nike FuelBand, the congestive heart failure necklace,  or the Biostamp sensor (more about that one in a future post!) that will easily and unobtrusively monitor your bodily indicators and, if you choose, report them to your doctor, both to improve diagnoses, and to encourage you to adopt healthy practices such as a daily walk.
  • smart home devices such as the NEST or the voice-activated Ivee hub.

Even better, if device manufacturers get it about one of my Essential Truths about the IoT:  who else could use this data?, they will allow free access to their algorithms, and someone will realize that 1+1=3: the two devices are even more powerful when linked! In this case, the Jawbone UP is powerful, and so is the Nest, but something totally new is possible when they are linked:

“By connecting your UP24 with your Nest Thermostat, the temperature of your house will automatically adjust to a temperature you prefer – the moment you go to bed or wake up.

“Through UP Insights, we have shared the fact that an ideal sleeping environment is cooler, between 65 and 72 degrees. With the Nest integration, we no longer just tell you this fact. We make it a reality. Once your band enters Sleep Mode, your thermostat will kick down to your ideal temperature. And when you wake? You guessed it. Your thermostat will automatically adjust to a warmer temperature… all without leaving your bed.”

Nest-2_thermostatJawbone_UpHow cool (or hot, depending on the season…) is that?

I particularly like it for seniors because of one UP feature: instead of setting a precise wake-up alarm, you also have the option of creating a 30-minute window when it it should vibrate to wake you, with the exact time determined by what the UP determines is the ideal point in your natural sleep cycle.  Some working people on extremely tight morning schedules may not want to take advantage of that option, but for seniors, answering to no one but themselves, that would be an added benefit: get the best possible sleep, AND get up in a warm house (oh, and while you’re at it, why not link in some Phillips HUE lights and a coffee pot plugged in to a Belkin WeMo socket, so that you’ll also have fresh-brewed coffee and a bright kitchen?).  Sweet!

Do the math: one IoT-empowered device is nice, but link several more of them, and 1 + 1 = 3 — or more!

Apple’s HomeKit: will it hasten widespread smart home adoption?

Been too busy to comment until now on Apple’s HomeKit platform, announced last week at its WWDC event.

(PROMINENT DISCLAIMER! Having to send huge amounts of money to Loyola of Maryland for the next three years [I feel like I’m in the Weimar Republic and must carry tons of money to Baltimore in a wheelbarrow, LOL] to secure my youngest’s sheepskin has led to a part-time sales job at the Apple Store — which doesn’t give me any inside insights into their strategy. Rest assured that nothing that will ever appear in this blog about Apple will be gathered from anything other than public sources. I know only what you know, and the opinions expressed here are solely my own).

As the announcement aimed at developers said,

“HomeKit is a new framework for communicating with and controlling connected devices in a user’s home. Apps can enable users to discover devices in their home and configure them, or you can create actions to control those devices. Users can group actions together and trigger them using Siri.”

As I wrote when Google bought Nest last winter, the most immediate impact will probably be to boost public visibility and understanding of the IoT and smart homes.

Beyond that, the ability to leverage Siri’s growing versatility will probably be a major factor in promoting IoT ease-of-use (given my pre-occupation with use of smart-home technology to encourage “aging in place” among seniors, it will be very important in getting the tech-averse and those who have trouble typing on a smart phone to use HomeKit-compliant devices. And then there’s the companion Health Kit, also announced at WWDC, which I’ll review in my next post.).

As you might expect given Apple’s overall zeal for close hardware and software integration, the developer’s kit emphasizes protocols and standards compliance — which should in turn enhance overall security and privacy protections, benefiting all players:

“Home Kit provides seamless integration between accessories that support Apple’s Home Automation Protocol and iOS devices, allowing for new advances in home automation. By promoting a common protocol for home automation devices and making a public API available for configuring and communicating with those devices, Home Kit makes possible a marketplace where the app a user controls their home with doesn’t have to be created by the vendor who made their home automation accessories, and where home automation accessories from multiple vendors can all be integrated into a single coherent whole without those vendors having to coordinate directly with each other.

Home Kit allows third-party apps to perform three major functions:

  1. Discover accessories and add them to a persistent, cross-device home configuration database.
  2. Display, edit, and act upon the data in the home configuration database.
  3. Communicate with configured accessories and services to get them to perform actions, such as turning on the lights in the living room.

The home configuration database is not only available to third-party apps, it’s also available to Siri. This allows users to give commands like, ‘Siri, turn on the lights in the living room.’ If a user creates a home configuration with logical groupings of accessories, services, and commands, Siri can make it very easy to accomplish sophisticated operations with voice control.”

Most important, individual IoT apps and devices can come together into “scenes,” in which a variety of actions (such as starting appliances, turning up the heat, etc., when you wake). IMHO, this emphasis on inter-operability is critically important to public acceptance of the IoT.  As I’ve written before about my IoT “Essential Truths,” two critical things we need to do is to ask “who else could use this data?,” and to democratize innovation. As I understand the above description, it will be like the iPhone ecosystem, where Apple will review all apps and decide whether they can be sold on whatever “store” the company creates for the IoT, but developers will be encouraged to run wild with their imaginations to create both new hardware and to come up with innovative mashups of data from all the various devices that will help integrate them into a comprehensive ecosystem in which, for example, an action by one device may trigger a follow-on action by another device.

The framework, logically, uses a home metaphor to organize all the components into a hierarchy:

  • Homes (HMHome) are the top level container, and represent a structure that a user would generally consider to be a single home. Users might have multiple homes that are far apart, such as a primary home and a vacation home. Or they might have two homes that are close together, but that they consider different homes—for example, a main home and a guest cottage on the same property.
  • Rooms (HMRoom) are optional parts of homes, and represent individual rooms in the home. Rooms don’t have any physical characteristics—size, location, etc. They’re simply names that are meaningful to the user, such as ‘living room’ or ‘kitchen’. Meaningful room names enable commands like, ‘Siri, turn on the kitchen lights.’
  • Accessories (HMAccessory) are installed into homes and assigned to rooms. These are the actual physical home automation devices, such as a garage door opener. If the user doesn’t configure any rooms, Home Kit assigns accessories to a special default room for the home.
  • Services (HMService) are the actual services provided by an accessory. Accessories have both user-controllable services, like a light, and services that are for their own use, like a firmware update service. Home Kit is most concerned with user-controllable services.A single accessory may have more than one user-controllable service. For example, most garage door openers have a service for opening and closing the door, and another service for the light on the garage door opener.
  • Zones (HMZone) are optional groupings of rooms in a home. ‘Upstairs’ and ‘downstairs’ would be represented by zones. Zones are completely optional—rooms don’t need to be in a zone. By adding rooms to a zone, the user is able to give commands to Siri such as, ‘Siri, turn on all of the lights downstairs.'”

As Fast Company observed, the HomeKit’s greatest contribution to the smart home may be streamlining interaction between various apps and devices through Siri:

“By opening up Siri to control third-party peripherals, the smart home experience will become infinitely more seamless. Up until now, controlling a smart device has meant unlocking a mobile device, launching an app, and then making adjustments–a bit too much friction for lowering the volume of the TV or dimming the lights.”

Apple has already lined up a great assortment of partners: iDevices, iHome, Cree, Honeywell, Haier, Philips, Kwikset, Netatmo, and Withings. Hmm: no Nest?

Still to come, of course, is to find out what Apple itself will develop in terms of smart home hardware, such as the long-rumored iWatch (again, I know nothing about this beyond what we’ve all read in blogs, etc.).

No matter what shape the company’s IoT strategy takes, the fact that the world’s second-most profitable company, and leading retailer,  has made such a public commitment to the IoT and smart homes should dramatically speed public adoption, and, perhaps equally important, create public awareness. After all, remember how quickly and dramatically the iPhone transformed the cell phone paradigm — and our lives.

NEXT: Apple’s Health Kit.

 

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