CheerLights: my lights are linked to everyone else’s

If you have been following my projects for the last 12 years, you probably figured out that I must have a master plan. And this plan involves connecting things to the Internet that may or may not turn against us in the future. Way back in 2001, my partners and I released FuzzBox – this technology allowed for artificial intelligence to be distributed to devices via the Web. Our thoughts were if the decision making could be made on the Internet the devices themselves could focus on their task vs. trying to be a super device on their own. This was way early on and the ideas were premature, but it started a series of events and failures that led to even more projects involving devices linked together over the web. I guess this is now called, “The Internet of Things”.

Something that has emerged over the years is social networking. I have been fascinated by the idea of collective intelligence. It’s fun to follow a football game on Twitter or on Facebook’s live stream. You get to see the take other’s have on the same event that you are experiencing. If the Steelers score, you can feel it reverberate through social networks. These networks only work if there is lots of participation by many people. I have heard that people have predicted STD outbreaks from Twitter status updates, food poisoning sources, and even where earthquakes have taken place. This is fascinating to me.

The results are two-fold: you can learn from this data and that we are all connected. Enter in, CheerLights – CheerLights is my combination of distributed devices with social networking. This project that involves connecting multicolored lights to other people’s lights and allow Twitter keywords control them all. If someone tweets, “@cheerlights let’s go green” – every light connected to the project would change to green. To me this is a physical representation of a social network trending topic. It’s a way to share a moment in that moment. Just like with social networking, CheerLights requires scale to be very interesting.  If you check out CheerLights.com, you will see how to build a set of lights that are linked together with other people’s lights via Twitter. I have examples using things from ioBridge, Arduino, and Digi. Please let me know if you decide to build something and connect it to CheerLights.

We are all connected. That’s my purpose for building all of this technology. Nothing else matters.

Internet of Things DCWEEK Workshop during DCWEEK

DCWEEK invited me to host a dedicated workshop for the Internet of Things. We had a session learning about what IoT is all about, some basics of electronics, and then a hands on section. In a matter of minutes, we had things online. A group sent a tweet from a button and others moved a motor from a web page. It was great to see a roomful of adults happy to tinker with some new technology. What a great experience!


Internet of Things Talk at Carnegie Mellon University

Last weekend was the Pittsburgh Perl Workshop hosted by Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. I gave a talk on the Internet of Things and building apps using the Perl programming language as the connective tissue between devices and web applications. I covered the basics on how you interface devices to the real-world. I also hosted a Hardware Hackathon and got to discuss hardware, connecting things, and Perl. I introduced everyone to my remixed theory of innovation. Just get out there and copy a well documented project, learn by transforming some part of the project, and combine it with other ideas. This is the only way innovation has ever happened… Thanks for the awesome time at PPW!

PPW2011 IoT Talk by Hans

Here are my slides from the 2011 Pittsburgh Perl Workshop:

Top 100 “Internet of Things” Thinkers

We all love lists and some lists are really cool to be on. Postcapes selected me as one of the Top 100 Thinkers in the emerging field of the “Internet of Things”. They based their decision on many criteria, but I think the one item that sets me apart is my charisma (CHA of 16 is nothing to sneeze at). I am on the list at #88! It’s honor to be included with so many of the people who I have been following during my career.

Top IoT Influencer

From Postcapes,

As a Software Developer at ioBridge and active speaker, and developer (including having over 800 people following his toaster on Twitter) in the Internet of Things space Hans Scharler is someone to watch as he sits on the interesting intersection of DIY’ers and corporate products.

Follow Hans and his latest on Twitter @scharler.

Keynote Speech at Web of Things 2011

I had the distinct  privilege to be invited to give a keynote speech at the Web of Things Workshop 2011 at Pervasive 2011 in San Francisco on June 12, 2011.

The perspective of my presentation will be from my vantage point of being involved day-to-day working on Internet of Things projects with ioBridge and how we turned projects into products for consumers and manufacturers. Our perspective is that we see the Internet of Things being built from the ground up versus the top down. This means that there is so much innovation that will bubble up from small companies that will revolutionize the industries above them. I am honored to be part of the Web of Things Workshop.

Updates:

The Web of Things conference turned out great. I got a chance to meet the researchers and developers in other areas related to the Internet of Things and the cross over into wireless, social networking, and web technologies.

Here are the slides from my keynote presentation at the Web of Things Workshop:

ThingSpeak: Building My Own Twitter (for Things)

Over the past several months I have been working on software to allow “things” to form social networks and send status updates via the Internet. At first glance this may sound very impractical. Hopefully, in a few years this will make more sense as better applications come out. Remember how ridiculous my toaster sounded three years ago? I gave that thing a voice and since has been on TV and more people are interested in it than my Twitnot not saying ter status updates. More proof? At CES 2011 there were at least 10 appliances that could send Twitter status updates. I am not saying that I created them, but I am that they didn’t know about My  Toaster and it’s 600+ followers on Twitter. With this project, I wanted to take it a few steps further and build something from the ground up that’s focused on collecting enormous amounts of data from everyday objects, allowing devices to interact with each other, and building applications to present some meaning. The ThingSpeak project is finally ready to go and open to anyone that wants to start building applications.

My Problem

One problem with the Internet of Things is the concept of “the killer app” – the app that defines a new industry. The internet connected refrigerator is our poster child. Recently, Ryan Rusnak connected a mini fridge to the iPhone via ioBridge, added a motor controlled beer selector, and strapped on an air cannon to fire beers to his couch from 25 feet away – now that’s a killer app. So, my problem was trying to find an application that highlights key features of ThingSpeak and why it’s different.

My App

What I come up with is the idea of “my_house”. “my_house” is a collection of “rooms” that all hold computers, appliances, and sensors aka things. I recently installed some light sensors in “my_room” that push light levels to the ThingSpeak API. I did this to remind me when to turn my lights on so I don’t work in the dark when I get plugged in. And an interesting side benefit was that now I can detect whether or not someone is in the room based on the light level. I will admit this could have been done other ways, but sometimes you solve problems with what you have lying around. “my_house” already keeps track of my location using Google Latitude to control my thermostat.

Eureka moment…

Now I can tell when my mom goes into my room when I am out on the town, most likely Sheetz!!!

Below is a screenshot of the demo app and how I aggregate the data collected by my light sensors. Here are a few things I want to point out:

  • “my_house” is sending the status updates via a collection of networked sensors
  • The status updates were generated by the light sensor device itself
  • The timestamps were recorded by the ThingSpeak API
  • If you click the chart icon you get what the actual light level was
  • The app works in real-time and you can check it out here

"Twitter of Things" ThingSpeak Demo App

The Technical Details

The light sensor uses a Netduino Plus that connects to my home network over Ethernet. This device uses Microsoft .NET Micro Framework and I wrote an application that interfaces with the ThingSpeak API. I also wrote a tutorial over at the ThingSpeak community site on how to use the Netduino Plus for those that want to get started with it fast.

The front-end application is written using only HTML, CSS, and jQuery. I have the fully documented source code attached and you can also see the app live in your web browser.

Light Sensor Netduino Plus

Project Files:

Web of Things Talk at Ignite Pittsburgh

I will be giving a talk at the first annual Ignite Pittsburgh a part of the O’Reilly Ignite Global week. Ignite is series of 5 minute talks on any topic – 20 slides at 15 seconds each. I will be giving a talk about the “Web of Things” aka “Internet of Things”. This is the future of connected devices and a new era of self-serving applications. This topic is near and dear to me as I have been connecting things together for a long time. It’s also the focus of ioBridge and some of the projects I work on. We used to kid about ioBridge being one step closer to SkyNet…it may actually be true given enough time, iterations, and scale. Who knows how many times civilizations have been to this point before?

My talk is about the things that surround us – iPads, Toasters, Fridges, and Cars – and pose some questions – what if they were connected? What are the issues that we must consider? How can we can we disconnect in a connected world? After the talk I will post the slides and if they record it, I may or may not post the video.

Web of Things Ignite Talk

Ignite Pittsburgh

Brillobox
7pm
Febuary 10, 2011

Abstract and Credits

Update:

Ignite Pittsburgh

Automatic Thermostat Control Based on Location and Weather

The Pittsburgh Perl Workshop will be held at the Carnegie Mellon University on October 9-10, 2010. The PPW is a gathering of Perl programmers from around the world (and near Pittsburgh) to learn more and discuss the future of Perl.

At this year’s PPW, I will be giving a talk called, “Connecting the Internet of Things with Perl“ (visit pghpw.org for schedule info). I will also explain how to create an Internet of Things application using off-the-shelf Perl modules and web control technology by ioBridge.

As you may or may not know, Perl is a really powerful programming language that enables everything from fast prototyping of web applications to large-scale software platforms. What makes the language unique is the library of modules available to you. If you get a great new idea for a web app, you can get started quickly and find modules that others have written. In some cases, it’s literally copy-and-paste.

A big movement for the past few years is this concept of The Internet of Things. More things will be on the Internet than people in the next few years, so my talk is to highlight why Perl is still relevant after 20 years and needs to be apart of this emerging technology. Internet of Things applications involve connecting sensors and controllers to the web. Perl is perfect for parsing lots of data, pushing data into databases, and connecting services together, known as “mashups”.

My Internet of Things project, written in Perl, allows your current location and home weather conditions to control your home heating and cooling system.

Location Aware Home Automation using Google Latitude API and ioBridge API

I call it,  ”Location Aware Home Automation”. You don’t have to do anything to control your HVAC/Thermostat, it all happens based on where you are. If you are home, the thermostat regulates the inside temperature as normal. When you leave, systems turn off or enter power saving modes. When you get near your home, the heating/cooling system kicks back on so you have a comfortable temperature by the time you get back home. In order to pull off all of this passive and automatic functionality, I have mashed up several APIs from Google Latitude, WeatherBug, and ioBridge.

Using the API for Google Latitude, I track the location of my Android mobile phone. When I get near my home, I check the weather using Google Weather API, WeatherBug API, and my home temperature (via ioBridge) to see if I need to to use the air conditioner, the heater, or neither. If I do need to control the HVAC, I send the control commands using the ioBridge API that routes the commands to the IO-204 controller that’s hooked up to my thermostat.

This application is really just a beginning. Right after I got everything working, I started having a flood of ideas. I can see some real power here.

The ‘How To’ Portion of the Show

Google Latitude

You have to enable Google Latitude on your mobile phone and get your Badge ID. This ID represents your position in the world, your latitude and longitude. Visit the Google Latitude API site for more information.

Install the latest Geo::Google::Latitude Perl module from CPAN.org – this module completely abstracts the access to the Google Latitude API for you. All you have to do us pass your ID and the module returns the date, time, last known latitude and longitude (the values are in decimal degrees).

use Geo::Google::Latitude;
my $gl=Geo::Google::Latitude->new;
my $id="7832225593622256926";
my $badge=$gl->get($id);
my ($lat2, $lon2) = $badge->point->latlon;

Calculating how far you are away  from home

You have to figure out how far you are from home, you do this by doing some math. Oh wait, there’s a Perl module for that. Install Geo::Distance and all you have to do is tell it what latitude and longitude to compare and it spits out the distance.

use Geo::Distance;
my $geo = new Geo::Distance;
### Home Location
my $lon1 = "-79.76408";
my $lat1 = "39.980342";
### Calculated Distance
my $distance = $geo->distance( 'mile', $lon1, $lat1 =>; $lon2, $lat2 ); # Use 'meter' to calculate distance in meters

Getting the Weather

You can use a number of weather APIs to get weather data for your home location. All you need to know is where you live. The easiest to implement is Google Weather (Weather::Google), but the WeatherBug API has a lot more information you can use for other Internet of Things things you may do.

 use Weather::Google;
my $gw = new Weather::Google(15401); # Zipcode
my $current_outside = $gw->current->{temp_f}; #Use temp_c for Celsius

Connect to ioBridge

All you have to do to connect with ioBridge is to send command via the ioBridge Widget API. First you create the control widgets for your heating and cooling system. For mine, I can use relays. Others may need serial strings, which you can send as well. Once you have the widgets created, locate there widget ID’s and send them to the API.

use LWP::Simple;
my $Air_Conditioner_widgetID = "Gb2Q1FUKPmzZ"; ### Replace with your widget ID's
my $Heater_widgetID = "9c3WEGHKemnzJ";
my $Inside_Temp_widgetID = "D32SDghy98iOu";
my $ioBridgeAPI = "";
$ioBridgeAPI = "http://www.iobridge.com/widgets/static/id=" . $Inside_Temp_widgetID . "&value=1&format=text";
my $current_inside = get($ioBridgeAPI);
### Test if the heater or the air condition should be turned on
if ($current_outside >= 78 && $current_inside >= 72) {
$ioBridgeAPI = "http://www.iobridge.com/widgets/static/id=" . $Air_Conditioner_widgetID . "&value=1&format=text";
get($ioBridgeAPI);
}
elsif ($current_outside $ioBridgeAPI = "http://www.iobridge.com/widgets/static/id=" . $Heater_widgetID . "&value=1&format=text";
get("$ioBridgeAPI");
}

Putting it all together

Once you have the entire built all you have to do is call the app periodically using CRON Linux or Task Scheduler on Windows. Here is a TXT file of the Perl application with all of the parts tied together, probably will be easier to read and understand.

The hardware side uses the ioBridge IO-204 connected to the control lines of a thermostat or an HVAC control box. The lines switch at 12 volts, so I use relays trigger them. Other thermostats that I researched use serial lines which the IO-204 can tap into using RS-232.

It may seem like a lot of work, but just think about what is happening. Feeds from Google Latitude and WeatherBug are being processed and passed to your home network via the Internet. All of this is happening without your direct interaction – your things are working for you. I hope that you can see that is a start of some pretty amazing applications of technologies that will advance over time. A lot has changed in the past year, I can’t image what comes next.

If you get around to building a project like this, please drop me a line. I love this stuff.

Toaster + Twitter = Internet of Things

Really?

You might be hearing this new buzz-phrase, “Internet of Things” quite a bit lately. You might be wondering what it’s all about. Let me try to explain.

A “thing” could be a lot of things, but it’s not people (and definitely not places). That leaves everything else. Now according to the Internet, there are 6,767,805,208 people on Earth and of those 6,767,805,208 people 1,802,330,457 have used the Internet. That’s (only) 26%. So, that means one out of four people do not know what Numa Numa is all about. This also means there are a lot more things than people. A thing could be a camera, mobile device, sensors, your air conditioner, a river, and even a toaster.

The trick to the “Internet of Things” or the “Web of Things” will be providing connectivity to all of those things. Once we do, we will be able to gain access to a lot of information. The next challenge will be making that data useful in our everyday lives. We are just at the start of this, that’s why we are just starting to hear about it (with some help with IBM commercials).

I have been fascinated by this concept since I first joined the Internet, back where GeoCities and L’Hotel Chat were the hip spots. For me the interest started off by controlling things over the web. Then, I started wondering what are my things doing. What temperature is it at my house? What’s going on with my freezer? Is it time to refill my humidor? How much power is my computer using?

Over a year and half ago, I placed my toaster on Twitter (@mytoaster). Since then, my toaster starting using other social networks and discovered online dating all by itself. That is a weird thought, “What if things get smarter and smarter?” Things will eventually be able to socialize with other things. My (sentient) toaster might even find another compatible toaster using eHarmony.

I am not saying that this is the best example of the Internet of Things, but what I am saying is that it’s a start. I believe in a future of connected things so strongly that I joined a start up company that enabled my toaster way back when I was more interesting than my things.

For a good primer on the Internet of Things, check the recent article on Silicon.com called, “Cheat Sheet: The internet of things”. My toaster even gets a tongue-in-cheek reference. Actually there are lots of great sites that are covering the Internet of Things and making things happen in this emerging industry – Singularity HubReadWriteWeb, Wired.com to name a few.

My guess is that you will hear more and more about The Internet of Things until it hits Smart Grid proportions, then you will hear about the next big thing – the smart internet of things grid perhaps.