Matthew Gast

Matthew Gast is the director of software product management at Aerohive Networks. He has been active within the Wi-Fi community and has served as a leader on several industry standards committees, including as chair of the current revision of the 802.11 standard. He has written extensively about Wi-Fi, including three books for O'Reilly. In his spare time, Matthew is typically near an airport flying gliders.

Wearable computing and automation

The Jawbone UP shows the promise available in all kinds of wearable sensors.

In a recent conversation, I described my phone as “everything that Compaq marketing promised the iPAQ was going to be.” It was the first device I really carried around and used as an extension of my normal computing activities. Of course, everything I did on the iPAQ can be done much more easily on a smartphone these days, so my iPAQ sits in a closet, hoping that one day I might notice and run Linux on it.

In the decade and a half since the iPAQ hit the market, battery capacity has improved and power consumption has gone down for many types of computing devices. In the Wi-Fi arena, we’ve turned phones into sensors to track motion throughout public spaces, and, in essence, “outsourced” the sensor to individual customers.

Phones, however, are relatively large devices, and the I/O capabilities of the phone aren’t needed in most sensor operations. A smartphone today can measure motion and acceleration, and even position through GPS. However, in many cases, display isn’t needed on the sensor itself, and the data to be collected might need another type of sensor. Many inexpensive sensors are available today to measure temperature, humidity, or even air quality. By moving the I/O from the sensor itself onto a centralized device, the battery power can be devoted almost entirely to collecting data. Read more…

Comment

Obstacles to future proofing home automation

If home automation is going to grow, we need a standard set of protocols that is used by everybody.

When contemplating a home-automation project — as with many other technology decisions — the right place to start is ensuring you’re purchasing something that is future proof.

As a veteran of the networking industry, future proofing is a technology decision that has some well-understood rules. Computer networking benefits from open standards that drive interoperability, and our customers in turn benefit from fierce competition as well as the knowledge that an open, generally interoperable standard reduces their risk. Even if you buy an Ethernet switch from a vendor that stops supporting it (or worse, goes out of business), a switch can provide years of useful service because it, by definition, works with many devices that come after it.

Home automation depends heavily on tying together sensors, controllers, and an application framework.  Unfortunately, the lesson of having common standards to drive that networking has yet to become apparent in the products available on the market.  There are several network technologies that are used in home automation today, but none is fully suitable for creating a market.  One of the reasons why there is extensive hobbyist work done by programmers writing and modifying code on the Arduino and Raspberry Pi platforms is that the market for shrink-wrapped automation devices has been unable to grow without a technology framework that allows good ideas to be developed and “plug into” an existing system.

Home automation standards can be divided into two groups: technologies that provide a transport (call it layers 1-4 of the OSI model) and higher-layer protocols that support applications.  In this post, I’ll compare the various home automation standards and explain why there is not yet a clear winner. Read more…

Comments: 8

If This/Then That (IFTTT) and the Belkin WeMo

How I used an Internet service to automate home lighting without installing any software.

Like most good technologists, I am lazy.  In practice, this sometimes means that I will work quite hard with a computer to automate a task that, for all intents and purposes, just isn’t that hard.  In fits and starts for the past 10 years, I have been automating my house in various ways.  It makes my life easier when I am at home, though it does mean that friends who watch my house when I’m gone need to be briefed on how to use it.  If you are expecting to come into my house and use light switches and the TV as you do every place else, well, that’s why you need a personalized orientation to the house.

In this post, I’ll talk briefly about one of the most basic automation tasks I’ve carried out, which is about how the lights in my house are controlled.

The humble light switch was invented in the late 19th century, with the “modern” toggle switch following in the early 20th century.  The toggle switch has not changed in about 100 years because it does exactly what is needed and is well understood.  The only disadvantage to the toggle switch is that you have to touch it to operate it, and that means getting off the couch. Read more…

Comment: 1