University project

(Maarten A) #1

hello, i’m an engineering student that’s looking for a project for my university. i was planning on making my own zigbee based system but i hope that i can build on this project to get started. My team will consist of 5 or 6 skilled electronic and programming engeneers and a team of professors. I’m surcing for good idea’s for my project, ways of financing and a platform. my basic idea’s are:

  • indoor locating
  • led lighting
  • software that is able to asses behaviour and react on it (based on indoor location)
  • easy to install indoor electric network
  • lots of sensors to communicate

the project has to be complicated enough but it should be able to be done in 6 months


Maarten A

(Maarten A) #2

is everything open source? what is the actual goal of smartThings?

( co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #3

The actual goal of SmartThings?

Insane profits for its founders and funders, of course.

Physical Graph Corporation is a for-profit entity. No … SmartThings is not Open Source – just “Published API” (big difference). It also integrates open (Zigbee) and proprietary (Z-Wave) popular standards, and more to come.

For a similar, but fully Open Source enterprise (I believe), consider

Discussion welcome.


(Maarten A) #4

thank you very much, it’s hard to find a way to the right software and hardware, zo thanks for poiting it out. i believe smartThings is doing a great job advertising ‘open source’, i realy had an impression of them being open source for some parts of there products.

( co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #5

I’m happy to help, and interested in your project. I am researching multiple enterprises currently.

I am curious, however, what specific references or advertisings say that SmartThings is ‘open source’…?

There are many variations on “openness”, so I would like to know what you have believe is the case, and why…


(Maarten A) #6

i’m really glad to have a straight answer, there was a lot of focus on an open platform and open development of the product. Also the integration of arduino made the real goals somewhat unclear. In my believe open source is the way to really make a difference. I’m a firm ‘believer’ in the blue economy, a green business model that creates multiple cash flows. There are a lot of ‘green’ idea’s but I decided to make a difference. At this point I’m orienting and searching for the best options to make the change. Ninja Blocks is more what I’m looking for, at a first glance they don’t use zigbee, but, even if they didn’t, I’m an engineer I can make it work ;). The thanks is for the honest answer.

( co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #7

My pleasure… I will see you on the NinjaBlocks forums!

Meanwhile, from SmartThings API documentation…

Certain information about devices (and all of the other objects) will not be available through the API in the interest of privacy and security. Nuff said.

Well… “Nuff said” is precisely the point where SmartThings ceases to be “open”.

(Maarten A) #8

to bad, a big disadvantage of ninja blocks, no zigbee, i don’t understand why they don’t use it, price? It is an open protocol and technologie that makes development a lot more easy. See you around! Time to go to bed, 0:56 Belguim time :wink:

( co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #9

Zigbee (and Z-Wave) endpoints (Things… switches, monitors, etc.) are more expensive than the 933Mhz radio based devices supported (and resold) by NinjaBlocks.

XBee/Zigbee radio modules should be easy to add to the Arduino-side of the NinjaBlock (I presume). Heck, even the Zigbee based ThingModule could be used; though I’m not sure which is preferable.

In bulk, supplies of bare or header-based XBee modules should be quite inexpensive.

Yet the internet-of-things space is evolving quickly, and it is possible that Zigbee will not be the dominant protocol.
Low power IP and Bluetooth are evolving, etc., etc…

Hence projects like Spark Core which are IP based:

Or Sapphire (meant to be expandable with “any” radio???), failed project on Kickstarter:

And Motes Sensors (based on Bluetooth) currently on IndieGoGo:

(Maarten A) #10

a chip cost around 10 euro for microprocessor and the whole connection layer (antenna and protocols). this is more expensive than <1ghz tech but also much more stable and flexible. It can transfer massages through multiple nodes, is more secure, faster,… In time these chips will become less expensive. also techs like indoor location are possible and the advantages for low power applications are great.

( co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #11

So what’s your opinion of the Motes enterprise ( )?

They are using low power Bluetooth 4.0, which makes me hesistate to buy into their fundraising campaign, as these will not immediately integrate with SmartThings (need yet another hub to map the Bluetooth data to IP, IP-Cloud, or ZigBee / Z-Wave…).

It’s not so much the integration issue, as my concerns with the range of Bluetooth 4.0 vs. a mesh network. If I put a bunch of garden monitoring Motes outside, will Bluetooth reach my “motes hub” far inside the house? Probably not…

Yet if they were ZigBee, there are lots of ways to extend the mesh range…



(Maarten A) #12

It’s a great idea, however the implication has a flow.
First of all, which 4 wireless options do you have:
< 1Ghz solutions, cheap, medium range low tech solution, not too much data
Wifi expensive, power consumption is very high, high tech (difficult) medium range, lots of data
Bluetooth cheap, medium power, medium range, lots of data, ‘medium’ tech
Zigbee cheap, extreme low power, limited data, large range (1km with node to node traffic, don’t overkill) stable, encrypted, high tech solution.
My conclusion is easy, RF, great but crude, Bluetooth, great for it’s purpose, medium data traffic, idem wifi, wifi has to be able to send lot’s of data, steaming,… al these solutions are great for the problem for which they were designed. Zigbee was ‘invented’ because none of the techs above where sufficient to fill the needs, zigbee has no weak point when used in home automation because it was mend for it. I dear to say, when there is a flow in the way zigbee works, it will get fixed because the 200 companies working together on it are focused on the home automation marked, while for wifi and Bluetooth the focus is somewhere else on sending lot’s of data. Zigbee will become cheaper and true, when modifying other protocols you can achieve something like zigbee, but why go to that kind of trouble? Power consumption will always be higher. In my opinion, that is a crucial flow, you use a protocol for something other than it’s goal. Other suggestions are welcome.

(Maarten A) #13

the time of this post is 21:01, i live 7 hours in the future :slight_smile:

( co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #14

But what is your opinion on these two questions:

Note: I just provide my own example simple Pro/Con that come to mind.

  1. Is BlueTooth 4.0 Low Energy a good or bad choice for “Sensor - Things”; as chosen by the Motes project. (

e.g., Pro: Direct connectivity with iPhone/Android, etc., that have BlueTooth as a standard RF and PAN (personal area network).
e.g., Con: No mesh networking. No direct connectivity with popular home automation RF standards (Zigbee, Z-Wave).

  1. What is the best way to interoperate?

(a) Direct RF to RF bridging (i.e., device emulation): Make a BlueTooth device look like a Zigbee device (possible bi-directional).
(aa) If RF to RF, then which protocols are most urgent to bridge?


(b) RF to IP bridging (i.e., intelligent hub for each RF network type; possibly multiple hubs needed due to proprietary data protocols); using API calls (REST, etc.).
(bb) If RF to IP, should the interactivity occur locally (intelligent hub to intelligent hub) or Cloud-to-Cloud (per SmartThing’s preference). Of course, a hybrid approach is possible (e.g., the Motes Hub can talk directly to the SmartThings Cloud without involvement of a Motes Cloud…).


(Maarten A) #15

( co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #16

Very informative reference document comparing Bluetooth Low Energy (PAN) and Zigbee… thanks!

Based on that reading, I think Motes clearly should be using a whole house LAN type technology (Zigbee) not BLE.

I would love to know others opinions on this and if the designers of Motes agree, in general, with the Reading and yet have reasons to use BLE.

My second question in above post still unanswered: Should there be direct bridging of PANs to LANs? or Is Cloud-to-Cloud an acceptable strategy (per SmartThings’s philosophy…).

(Maarten A) #17

In my opinion this is the best way to build a network:
Your nodes need the following properties:

  • Cheap
  • Flexible
  • Stable
  • Low power
  • ‘low’ computer power
  • Small
  • Easy to integrate
  • Long range
    My control point should have the following property
  • Small
  • Cheap
  • Large range
  • Stable
  • ‘medium’ computing power
  • Connection to network
    My reasons: my nodes should be easy to design and integrate. If you make them ‘smart’ than in 3 year my old ones will be ‘stupid’. Idem for my central node. The smarter I make it the more time will effect it. My intelligence should be able to grow easily in time. It is that intelligence that makes the connection with the end user. In this way it’s easy to upgrade it and to make it easy to make a user friendly interface and update it. Online service and the internet is the best way to do this. In that way I can, as developer change the working of the whole product is just a second. It wouldn’t involve hardware update or even phone updates.

( co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #18

Well, if we assume that “bridging” is or can become a relatively complex function, then this is therefore “intelligence” and should run online; ergo, you approve and prefer Cloud-to-Cloud for integration… right?

But the Cloud has significant risks (latency, bandwidth cost, reliability, security, subscription costs (even if not passed on to the consumer), viability and stability of the service providing enterprises (i.e., who owns both the runtime environments, code, and APIs). In other words: significant lack of control by the consumer!!!

Aren’t these risks severe enough to make local storage and runtime environments of intelligence worthwhile?

Of course, this case is easily generalized to ALL SaaS products (all Cloud based software…). Ms Office vs. Google Apps…

(Maarten A) #19

Very good questions, i like them :wink:
Let’s split them up:
First is bridging difficult?
Well, a bridge take info from 1 protocol and send it like it’s supposed to in another format, how had is this? Zigbee uses 125 byte long massages, Ethernet is able to handle much more, so zigbee to Ethernet? Easy! Just take the message and send it along. Ethernet to zigbee? Easy, as long as you make your massages short enough, but, why would you even try to send long massages? In this case you have to make a smart online controller that forms the massages for you. This is straight forward to do. Bridging between Bluetooth can be a bit harder but I don’t know it’s working and I don’t touch it at the moment.
The cloud question, well, the cloud is just online storage and calculating power. I myself have web developing experience and know some languages (php, java, jquery) so I feel comfortable to say this:
Latency: Ethernet is fast, from the point of getting the request to receiving the final data takes about 0.01 second of less. Want prove? Go to google and type the letter a. right at that moment a will be send to google, will be processed and will send you a list of possibilities. It doesn’t take long, why are sites slower? Well, pictures and bad coding. Everything is recalculated and resent, the whole site, not just the part that’s needed. (for more, read about ajax)
Bandwidth cost: like I told before, we are talking about a maximum size package of 125 bytes. This is more than enough information to read out the most expensive sensor or control the most expensive 8 stage dimmer. Not enough for audio or video, but we don’t use it for that. I have my own side, any idea what I get for 10 dollar / month? 100gb of traffic, that means, well infinite request from your site. So bandwidth is no problem at all. Also the net becomes faster and ‘bigger’.
Reliability: the Ethernet is the only machine in the world that’s on for 30 years nonstop. It’s impossible to stop it, even for the president of the united states. The up time of a normal webserver is about 99% or more. There is a huge team working to do just that and make it all secure. A very good home server has an up time of about 95 %. When it stops, you’re in trouble, online everything is more save and another server can take over.
Security: easy the web is as secure as you want it to be. Paypal is online and only online secures, trust me, it is secure. When I program a site, it will cost you thousands of dollars before you can even hope to decrypt one password. An interesting fact, do you know what the most insecure part is of a secure system? The human part. On the internet you don’t have a human part, even my as super user can decrypt your passport that I myself encrypted. There is a lot of focus on online security. While your offline security will become outdated, I can just change 1 number and my security will become 100 times stronger. So, trust my it can be secure for not that much money.
Subscription cost: 100 gb, 10 kb for each user, 0.000….001 $ for each user. I earn more by advertising, is nothing when comparing it to a picture. 1 picture will use more bandwidth than the whole system for a month.
Don’t forget that the owner has only benefits on providing a more stable site, in that way he will have more users and earn more. I will always try to make my site as good as it gets. Google apps and so are good examples. Dropbox is more secure than whatever storage you can use. Updates are faster and calculation power can grow in just a second when needed.
My conclusion, online is the way to go.

(Maarten A) #20

One site point: pc’s are dead, why? Very simple, 99% of the time you use 1% of the calculation power of a pc. If you spend 1000$ on online calculation power (server) you will get 100 times more power than when using it on a local pc. The reason is that they can sell you ‘100’ calculation power and sell that same power to 99 other people. True, there will be a time you use it all for a brief moment but, generally not. They always have some on reserve. This is a reality and makes server companies rich, very rich.
Second thing you need is a good connection. Ethernet, this is growing and evolving every day and the way’s to work with it are evolving in light speed. This al makes that, in my estimations in about 10 years there will be ‘no’ pc’s left, only low power ‘interfaces’ like tablets to interface the internet. The calculation power will be online. Only heavy duty graphic applications will stay offline due to bandwidth. To prove this, look at the evolution of the desktop intel processors, the calculation power used to grow 50% every time for 30 years, for 3 years now it has gone to 7%. Why? They focused on energy use (laptop marked) and the calculations per W are rising more and more. Also the focus on windows is changing in the same way.
So, my conclusion, when the world is growing online and froze offline because the hardware was good enough, why would I be so stupid to do it all offline and ignore this? The potential is online. Sorry for this long answer but there is no short version that covers it.