Tech From Around The Web
Integration is important. Being able to easily add and configure devices other than our own is something SmartThings fully encourages. That’s why we like to keep our eyes open for emerging products, Kickstarter innovations, and all around cool stuff from around the web.
One of the most common goals of home automation is the ability to remotely control home lighting. Thankfully, a few products are making it possible. Two Kickstarter projects, LIFX and Spark, have proposed two different means of control. Spark’s method is to place their device between the bulb socket and the bulb. This device connects to your Wi-Fi b/g/n network and to their cloud system. With a dimmable bulb, the Spark system can be controlled manually or programmed to react to different web events. Example functionalities include turning your lights on with your alarm clock and flashing the lights when you receive a new email. Spark’s RESTful API will soon be openly available. LIFX is another Kickstarter lighting system, but different from Spark because users will just replace the lightbulb rather than installing an additional device. LIFX will use LED bulbs which will allow you to control on/off and the bulb’s color. The connection method is a master/slave mesh network that uses the IEEE 802.15.4 protocol. There is a master bulb that connects via Wi-Fi and all other bulbs connect to the main bulb. The Phillips Hue system uses the same basic idea. A user replaces their current bulbs with special wireless bulbs that connect to a base station using the 802.15.4 mesh networking protocol. The base station connects to the Internet using Ethernet. Hue uses the open ZigBee firmware similar to SmartThings, specifically the ZigBee Light Link profile. SmartThings uses the more generalized HA (Home Automation) protocol but we are hoping integration down the road is possible. Both Phillips and LIFX have SDKs planned for the near future. Indigogo may not be as well know as Kickstarter but it may be the next big thing in crowdfunding. Hopping on board that train is, iLumi – yet another LED lightbulb “solution”. Claiming their “patent-pending HyperLux LED technology” is brighter than others and bringing Bluetooth to the table are two of the ways iLumi is hoping to distinguish itself. It is a great looing bulb but like all of the aforementioned, still very pricey.
The folks at Supermechanical have developed a neat device called Twine. As they put it, “Twine is the simplest way to get the objects in your life texting, tweeting or emailing.” The goal of their approach is simplicity. The rubberized square device connects to your Wi-Fi network and has a very simple interface reminiscent of “If This Then That.” Starting at $99, the basic Twine can sense temperature and orientation. For a bit more money, you can add moisture and/or magnetic sensors with vibration detection (forthcoming). Twine also has a great open hardware/software solution with the option to use a breakout board and various methods of connecting with other services. In fact, Twine and Spark have worked together to turn the lights on in Minnesota when a door opens in Texas!
If you’re standing in the SmartThings maker lab, no matter where you look, you’ll see at least one Arduino open source microcontroller. Arduinos come in various shapes, sizes, and flavors, but one of their main benefits is the ability to use shields. Shields are devices you can plug into an Arduino to give it added functionalities, like a motor shield for a robot or an Ethernet shield for connecting to the Internet. Shields are made by multiple companies for a myriad of applications. Here at SmartThings, we use one to connect to our hub. One of the drawbacks of shields is that they mostly fit a certain size of Arduino. For many projects it wouldn’t matter, but what if you needed a smaller microcontroller that was inexpensive enough to leave in a project? That’s where Digispark comes in. Digispark has developed a very small and very inexpensive open source microcontroller that is Arduino-compatible, allowing you to use the Arduino programming platform at a smaller size and cost. The best part? They offer plenty of shields that work with their system, including motor shields, RGB LED shields, and infrared shields. They’re even planning a SmartThings shield!