Building the Internet of “Thing” at FTF2014

It’s official: all the hype around IoT is starting to get a bit annoying. Not because there’s anything wrong with building Internet-connected devices, but because so many people are trying to jump on the bandwagon with the same old “Future: brought to you by Megacorp #07″-mindset. Recycled visions of estranged professionals, with their homes, offices, business meetings and hotel rooms, all powered by the latest “one IoT platform to rule them all” – are back on. Even though the mythical “Smart” refrigerator didn’t changed the world back in 2001, I guess that there’s no harm in trying it again. After all, we have seen this working out great in software, with redos of dot-com era ideas turning into massive successes a decade later.

5545721397452204787 That’s all fine, and we wish everyone the best of luck, but the future we’re the biggest fans of is a hackable, community-built, open-hardware one. So when the guys from FTF2014 called us to host a two-day “lab” in which engineers would play around and try to come up with an interesting IoT product, we were more than happy to jump in and try to do it our way. We got roughly two dozen engineers to drop lectures and training classes and hang out with us in the lab. We got Freescale to hand out a whole bunch of FRDM-K64F boards and a couple of mbed.org guys to join us on-site and help out with the dev tools. Two days later, we had our winner – “Don’t Not Enter” by David Isbister and Ernie Aguilar. They did an amazing job, both in hacking up a great product (elaborate internet-connected cat flap door), but more importantly, in fixing a whole bunch of issues in the hardware/firmware/tools stack that we had on our hands. 9743731397452324062 However, a true disruptive technology that came out of the whole event was our second-prize winner – Eli Hughes, and his project called: The Internet of “Thing”. You’ve guessed it – it’s the (Internet-connected) Thing from The Adams Family! In this ultimate display of subversive playful cleverness, Eli did more than just creating an interesting project. He called out a large audience of otherwise buttoned-up “professional” engineers to start thinking beyond RFID and obvious Smart devices and try to bring back a little bit of that wacky hacker spirit back into their work. IMG_1128 Eli’s project is pretty interesting on the implementation side too. He did some clever surgery on Fantasma Toys Hand Runner to boost the power and created a circuit that interfaces Thing’s built-in IR remote to the WiFi. He also built a cool command line interface and a touchscreen app, which communicate with the Thing via TCP server running on K64 board with RX-XV module. This setup allows for endless hours of fun, either by controlling the Thing via touch interface, or more importantly – by scripting its movement using the DSL shell. For more details, check out his project entry at hackaday.io. 2866351397452681014 Hopefully, this project will serve as a great reminder for all of us that the future is not going to be just a “photorealistic version of Second Life” and if we’re to build projects that define it, we will have to try harder and come up with some truly creative and original ideas. And make sure we’re having fun along the way.

Comments

  1. Polaczek says:

    The “interlude” low frequency sound / hackaday logo is extremely annoying.

    Otherwise, interesting to see what people are doing

  2. Chris says:

    IOT == BIGGEST SECURITY RISK EVER! Big Brother Come Spy On Me and Control My Stuff! Invent New Ways to SPAM me! The best security is to NOT hook your stuff to a network or any other communcations device.

    • robthebrew says:

      Chris, surely you are not suggesting that the NSA will take over your internet connected “Thing”? Sure, they can spook you out by moving it about. If they are really audacious, I guess they could touch you inappropriately. But seriously, pretty much all spying depends on sensors. That “Thing” had none. Still,best to be safe, I’m off to the kitchen to ask my larder for some aluminium foil.

      • fartface says:

        “If they are really audacious, I guess they could touch you inappropriately.”

        you win the internet for today…

      • denis says:

        for some reason this made me think of old windows back doors like sub7 where it was always good fun to flip someones monitor upside down, eject there CD drive. oh to be a childish kid again. the NSA would have had (did have?) a field day with that one. lol

    • targetdrone says:

      Risk? Unless you live in Syria, getting in your car is likely the biggest safety risk in your life. Touching a hand railing or a door handle is a health risk. Shopping is a theft risk. Walking is a mugging risk. Do these risks mean we don’t do something that otherwise benefits us? No.

      Sure, the ‘things’ are going to be hacked, and no doubt Heartbleed 2.0 means our light switches and refrigerators will someday betray us from within, but does that mean we should give up the benefits we can gain from improving them today? Hell no. I want my house to be smart. I want my lights to shut off sometime after the sun rises, and my sprinklers to save water if it’s going to rain today. I want my water heater and my heat pump to figure out how to save my money. And I want invisible slaves to wait on my every need.

      There’s not a valid reason to panic. If hackers make your fridge send spam and spoil your milk, you’re out maybe $20.00. If you’re worried about bigger losses, buy an insurance policy.

      • John U says:

        Why does any of that require everything to be on the internet?

        What is so hard about switching a light switch on or off on your way into or out of a room? Or letting a PIR sensor do it for you.

        Sensing light, heat, humidity, rain, time & time-zone, movement, usage, etc. etc. without resorting to TEH INTARNETS is quite easy, and currently it’s easier and cheaper too (and is likely to remain so given the overhead added by an IP stack, never mind security).

        We have been able to connect things to the outside world & remotely control them since shortly after the invention of the telephone, and believe me most of the useful things promised by the IOT have already been tried over telegraph, telephone, private wire, telex, fax, modem, radio, pager, DSL, GSM, 3G…

        I have not seen a single IOT device that adds any real value to the thing. Hell, given that you can strap a GSM/3G phone module to almost anything for maybe $20 on the sale price, it would suggest no-one is willing to pay even $20 extra for the convenience of being able to turn their dog on or off over the internet or whatever.

        If consumers really gave a shit we’d already have it, whatever it was, and the inventor would be snorting coke off hookers on the bonnet of their gold rolls-royce on the back of their super-yacht on their champagne lake as we speak.

        • dc says:

          Ok.. on the one hand, I hear you. The dog / cat door is weird.

          That said, I have a micasaverde box and a bunch of z-wave controlled things. It’s really cool, if on my way home from work, to turn on the air compressor, lights, and heater in my shop, so it’s ready when I get home.

          It’s really cool to get a notification on my smartphone when my mailbox door is opened.

          It’s really cool to get a picture of whoever or whatever is on my porch (ups delivery?) because it tripped up my motion system.

          It’s really cool to check to see if my house is locked at the bus stop.

          It’s cool that the house checks itself going into a secure state and tells me if something is wrong.

          Maybe the internet of things is dumb, but it’s the power of If This Then That which makes the Internet of things neat.

        • Eirinn says:

          I love my Phillips Hue lights, they’re bloody excellent! :)

  3. k-ww says:

    Now if he had hooked up multiple “hands”, that would have truely have been an internet of “Things”

  4. Luke Keyes says:

    Wow, you guys were able to wrangle the Freescale FRDM board? I give you a round of applause. Maybe I should pull it out of it’s resting place for the past few months underneath the MSP430 and the 3 Arduinos + Raspberry Pi that sit on top of that. Having to wrangle CodeWarrior (and it’s huge install footprint) just turned me off of the whole thing. Guess I’m just spoiled by how easy Arduino made tinkering with a microcontroller.

  5. Darren says:

    People have been doing internet connected devices for years. Just more buzzwords and hype.

  6. Taylorian says:

    IoT…meh. Lots of Hype and lots of bad or useless ideas. I like electronics and I like connectivity, but there are some things which simply do not need or benefit from it. The main problem is that people don’t seem to assess the usefulness versus the cost/complexity of the project. All these wanna be engineers need to learn the golden rule….just because you can do a thing doesn’t mean you should.

  7. ds18s20 says:

    There is nothing new about IoT; just more buzzwords. As someone already pointed out people have been doing this for a long time; pre-Internet long time; HAMs have used DTMF ICs for 50 years to control things; listen to an Atari generated voice commands and cool stuff like that. Somehow the “anthropoid” make-money-quick “start-up kings” think IoT is the last easy way to make a killing

    • technolomaniac says:

      Poppycock! Not so fast! Comms is one thing, IoT is something completely different. This is a common misconception but one that people need to overcome! IoT is way more than a comm’s back end. We’re talking about the aggregate of data from huge numbers of sources. This is not the same as simply connecting something — even connecting to the internet. IoT is something much more.

      Likewise, it isn’t enough to simply give something a mobile interface. The fact that it’s connected to your iPhone also isn’t IoT. That’s a different user interface, sure, but it ain’t IoT. No different than plugging a keyboard into your toaster.

      IoT requires comms as a prereq, sure, but this is just the entrance exam. You need to get the device data from multiple devices aggregated and online and build your layers of intelligence on top the aggregate of data. That said, IoT is a data science and SW problem. HW has had much of this solved for a looooooong time. Not all, but a lot of it. Some interesting switching and routing problems, interesting SW-interfacing-to-HW problems, and some design-time challenges.

  8. Main problem is that the movie version of thing is ridiculous. See the photo from the TV show and it is obvious Thing is a much bigger thing that lives in the walls of the house, or another dimension. The hand running around? Ridiculous! Things with metabolic extensions into other dimensions? Sublime!

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