Category Archives: Smart Home

The smart router is ready for IoT play

The evolution of router has reached the IoT’s doorsteps, and it raises some interesting prospects for industrial and smart home markets.

The router used to be largely a dumb device. Not anymore in the Internet of Things arena where node intelligence is imperative to make a play of the sheer amount of data acquired from sensors, machines and other ‘things.’ The IoT router marks a new era of network intelligence — but what makes a router smart?


For starters, it employs embedded hardware platforms with DIY capabilities while balancing the performance and power consumption requirements. Next, an IoT router provides the operational status on an LCD screen while manipulating the data from different interfaces. In human machine interface (HMI) applications, for example, a smart router offers LCD and touch screen interfaces on expansion I/Os.

Take the case of the DAB-OWRT-53 smart router, which is developed by the Belgian design house DAB-Embedded. The sub-100 euro device — based on Atmel’s SAMA5D36 processor and OpenWRT router hardware platform — is mainly targeted at smart home and industrial IoT applications.

The smart router of DAB-Embedded

The IoT router supports popular wireless interfaces such as Wi-Fi, ZigBee and Z-Wave, as well as a diverse number of wired interfaces including Ethernet, USB, CAN 2.0A/B, KNX and RS-232. And all the data from these interfaces can be stored in either microSD card or NAND flash.

Anatomy of Smart Router

The Atmel | SMART SAMA5D36 is at the heart of the smart router design. First and foremost, it optimizes power consumption in the battery-operated router that features 3.7V lithium polymer battery support with charging capability over a microUSB connector. The router boasts eight hours of battery lifetime while being in full ON mode with Wi-Fi communications.

Second, the ARM Cortex-A5 processor shows a robust performance in the communications domain. For instance, the SAMA5D36 implements routing functionality to transfer data from one Ethernet port to another in a way that router designers don’t require an external hardware hub or switch. Moreover, Atmel’s MPU offers greater flexibility to run a lot of embedded software packages such as OpenZWave and LinuxMCE.

Third, the SAMA5D36-based IoT router offers users the ability to manipulate firewall settings, Disable PING, Telnet, SSH and UPnP features. Furthermore, the hardware security block in SAMA5D3 processor allows the use of CryptoDev Linux drivers to speed up the OpenSSL implementation. The Wi-Fi module — powered by Atmel’s WILC3000 single-chip solution — also supports the IEEE 802.11 WEP, WPA and WPA2 security mechanisms.

The smart router of DAB-Embedded employs Active-Semi’s ACT8945AQJ305-T power management IC, but the real surprise is Altera’s MAX 10 FPGA with an integrated analog-to-digital converter (ADC). That brings the additional flexibility for the main CPU: Atmel’s SAMA5D36.

The FPGA is connected to the 16-bit external bus interface (EBI) so that IoT developers can put any IP core in FPGA for communication with external sensors. All data is converted inside the FPGA to a specific format by using NIOS II’s soft CPU in FPGA. Next, the SAMA5D36 processor reads this data by employing DMA channel over the high-speed mezzanine card (HSMC) bus.

An FPGA has enough cells to start even two soft cores for data preprocessing. Case in point: A weather station with 8-channel external ADC managing light sensors, temperature sensors, pressure sensors and more. It’s connected to the FPGA together with PPS signal from GPS for correct time synchronization of each measurement.


OpenWRT Framework

The SAMA5D36 embedded processor enables DAB’s smart router design to customize free OpenWRT Linux firmware according to the specific IoT application needs. The OpenWRT framework facilitates an easy way to set up router-like devices equipped with communications interfaces such as dual-port Ethernet and Wi-Fi connection.

What’s more, by using the OpenWRT framework, an IoT developer can add now his or her own application (C/C++) to exchange data with a KNX or Z-Wave transceiver. OpenWRT even supports the Lua embedded interpreter.

Next, while DAB-Embedded has built its smart router using the embedded Linux with OpenWRT framework, Belgium’s design house also offers a board support package (BSP) based on the Windows Embedded Compact 2013 software. That’s for IoT developers who have invested in Windows applications and want to use them on the new hardware: the DAB-OWRT-53 smart router.

Later, the embedded design firm plans to release smart router hardware based on the Windows 10 IoT software and Atmel’s SAMA5D family of embedded processors. The Belgian developer of IoT products has vowed to release the second version of its router board based on Atmel’s SAMA5D4 embedded processor and WILC3000 chipset that comes integrated with power amplifier, LNA, switch and power management. Atmel’s WILC3000 single-chip solution boasts IEEE 802.11 b/g/n RF/baseband/MAC link controller and Bluetooth 4.0 connection.

Majeed Ahmad is the author of books Smartphone: Mobile Revolution at the Crossroads of Communications, Computing and Consumer Electronics and The Next Web of 50 Billion Devices: Mobile Internet’s Past, Present and Future.

Novi is a 4-in-1 DIY home security system

Say goodbye to contracts, monthly fees and false alarms.

Did you know that four burglaries occur every minute in the United States alone? That’s a startling one every 15 seconds. The good news is that most convicted burglars (90%) claim they want to avoid homes with alarm systems, saying that if they did encounter an alarm, they would abandon the attack. However, the bad news is that nearly two-thirds of homeowners fail to turn it on at all times. And, when it comes to security, many are often faced with expensive systems and pricey monitoring fees. Understandably so.


However, one Provo, Utah-based startup is looking to change that with their new IoT solution. Novi Security is a 4-in-1 DIY security system that’s making it increasingly easier for homeowners to install small detectors throughout their house that can notify them of any motion or smoke — all without the need of contracts and monthly costs!


The kit is comprised of a base station and sensors, and are equipped with an ATmega128 radio and an Atmel | SMART SAM4S processor. The battery-powered sensors are simply affixed to the ceiling and boast an HD camera, motion and smoke detectors, and siren. This allows the system to provide homeowners a peace of mind by sending a series of three photos right to their mobile device, while immediately emitting a siren if smoke or motion are recognized while away.


In the event that this occurs, the alarm will sound, the monitor will relay the images to the base station (plugged directly into a router), and the base station will transmit the photos over to an accompanying app. Once the alert is received on the smartphone, the user will then have the option to call for help, check in at home, arm/disarm, as well as request more pictures for greater clarity.

Droppler measures water consumption by listening to how much noise your faucet makes

Nascent Objects is a modular electronics platform that lets you piece together new devices like LEGO. 

The historic drought impacting much of the west coast has led government officials to impose several water restrictions in recent months. Cognizant of this, Nascent Objects has teamed with Shock Top and design firm Ammunition to develop a new, modular water conservation device dubbed Droppler.


Debuted at CES and now live on Indiegogo, the monitor employs advanced audio recognition technology to track water consumption in real-time. Housed inside its sleek, 3D-printed white shell (also referred to as a ‘Nascent Shape’) are a mini CPU, an LED strip and a microphone capable of detecting the sound of flowing water. And unlike most existing solutions on the market today, Droppler doesn’t need to be attached to the plumbing.


Instead, simply place it next to a sink, toilet, shower or whatever else, and a light display on the front will slowly decrease as the water runs, offering quick and easy visual feedback. Beyond that, Droppler uploads that data to its accompanying iOS or Android app, which allows users to set goals, view report cards and even receive insights to curb their H2O habits.


But that’s not all. Being modular in nature, users can effortlessly transform and customize their own gadget by breaking down Droppler’s electronics and plugging them into a different chassis. Just remove the processor from its existing Shape, recombine it with a separate camera or speaker module, and pack both bits into another shell to create either connected home security system (called CouCou) or a wireless music streamer (named Red).

By the end of 2016, Nascent Objects hopes to have six devices in total, all using the same few swappable components. And that’s only the start. Looking ahead, the team’s product roadmap encapsulates the vision of an unlimited, cost-efficient marketplace for the most imaginative consumer electronics, which includes everything from a palm-sized drone to a bike computer to an IFTTT hub.


Does this have you saying “H2O my gosh?” Then head over to its Indiegogo campaign, where the Nascent Objects crew is currently seeking $70,000. Delivery for the Droppler is expected to get underway in June 2016.

Eco lets you control any smart home device from a single app

What the universal remote did for audio and video equipment, Eco wants to do for home automation.

With aspirations of making tomorrow’s home not only smart but energy efficient, one Newport Beach-based startup has developed a new automation system designed with your family’s best interests in mind. Using its patent-pending technology and the Amazon Echo engine, Eco Automation believes its latest product line will finally offer you a seamless way to control all of your smart devices from a single app or through Jarvis-like voice commands.


Impressively, Eco’s energy efficient home automation system incorporates all of today’s most popular technologies into one small package, helping reduce power consumption and consolidating control in one place. Just like a universal remote for your audio and video equipment, Eco wants to be the all-in-one controller for all things home automation by making connecting to and managing any kind of gadgetry a breeze. Using its Eco Touch Display, users can simply scan the barcode of any device or sensor to quickly add them to the system in seconds.

The platform itself is comprised of several units. These include a Technology Bridge, an Eco Energy Meter, Eco Smart MultiSensor Switches,  Eco Smart MultiSensors and Eco Door/Window Sensors.

Eco’s universal bridge supports nine different protocols, such as Z-Wave, Zigbee, Thread, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, providing you the largest range of product combinations and automation possibilities. What’s more, an expansion slot inside makes the system essentially future-proof, giving you with ability to add a new protocol whenever necessary.

Eco is also incredibly easy to setup. Mount your wireless Smart MultiSensors throughout the house, link Eco to your network and download its accompanying app. With your smartphone, you can now tap for quick access to commands and automation scenes, create new rules or edit synced gadgets, among countless other things. You can even assign a digital key to any of your contacts and grant them temporary access to your home or office.


Next, the Eco Eco Energy Meter lets you closely monitor real-time power consumption and solar production down to the microsecond. These power reads, combined with the Eco Intelligent Energy Conservation Engine, help you identify areas that you could be saving more energy in your home.

Meanwhile, Eco Smart MultiSensor Switches allow you to toggle your lights and power outlets. Not only can it be changed from a multi-level dimmer to an on/off switch with the push of a button, it features built-in voice commands as well.

In order to give it the true Tony Stark effect, Eco employs Amazon’s voice engine. This enables you to talk directly to the system via the Eco Touch Remote, the Eco Smart Switch, or by just using an Amazon Echo’s speaker.

“Because of Eco’s cross platform abilities, the possibilities are almost unlimited and will only be subject to your minds imagination. Eco has all the basic’s right out of the box such as home security with streaming video capabilities that can be monitored for your safety 24/7, real-time energy usage, individual room or location lighting control, comfort with HVAC control and ease of access with door lock control,” its creators write.

Among the many things Eco can do are notify you when a guest approaches your front door by flashing a light, sending a message to your phone as a loved arrives home, offer a friendly reminder to take out trash as you head out, and even give off the impression of a lived-in home while away.

Sound like the home automation system for you? Head over to its Indiegogo campaign, where the team is currently seeking $100,000. Delivery is slated for April 2016.


ivee lets you control your smart home with your voice

ivee Voice will make you feel like Tony Stark in no time.

Voice recognition technology is in the house! While Amazon Echo, Google Now and Siri may’ve stolen the spotlight for voice-controlled IoT devices thus far, a new player is looking to enter the mix. The brainchild of one Bay Area startup, ivee Voice is a multi-room system that enables you to seamlessly connect all of the gadgetry and services throughout your smart home, and then command them using your words. Sounds like the ‘90s Disney flick Smart House, right?


Much like the others, ivee is a connected speaker-microphone combination that can help you boss around your in-home appliances,he lights, stream music, alert you of any traffic jams and even find answers to your inquiries on Wikipedia.

The hub, which kind of resembles an upside-down giant golf tee, is capable of processing voice requests up to 15 feet away. What’s more, commands can be customized “scenes” using an accompanying mobile app (iOS and Android). This means, you can configure phases like “bedtime” to close the blinds, dim the lights and emit some relaxing jazz music as you prepare to fall asleep. Conversely, you can set the term “party” to activate a series of multi-colored Hue lights, blast a few hip-hop tunes and unlock the front door for arriving guests. The possibilities are endless!


Not only can it tell you the weather and inform of your of your day’s agenda, ivee can play music via Spotify, summon an Uber ride, and alert fast-response emergency services for our elders. Plus, the startup says that its system is compatible with the likes of Hue, Nest, WeMo, Harmony, SmartThings and Wink, among several other of today’s most popular IoT platforms.

Standing at only five inches tall and weighing in at a pound, ivee will inconspicuously fit in — whether that’s on a nightstand, a coffee table or even somewhere near the entertainment center. The unit is built around a high-end ARM-based processor, uses Wi-Fi for communication and runs Linux. Aside from that, it is equipped with a light sensor, an LED ring, a 2.5W speaker and a pair of omnidirectional mics.

Using voice control is actually rather quick and easy. To get started, simply say “Okay ivee,” which will prompt its LEDs to illuminate in blue. From there, tell her what you need or ask your question. ivee will then process your request and voilà!


According to its creators, ivee was designed to be completely open source and flexible. And by 2016, the team hopes to launch an API that will let developers add and create their own voice applications. Interested in a Tony Stark home of your own? Head over to Ivee’s Indiegogo campaign, where the team is closing in on its $50,000 goal. Units are expected to begin shipping in April 2016.

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