Jump to content


  • Content count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

  • Days Won


Everything posted by Heath

  1. What does it take to be an IoT engineer?

    Love it. All the idle cash in the world is desperate to not miss out on the next Airbnb, and has done a sensational job of monopolising the narrative of business success. Rocket speed growth, a trail of destruction, laptops in cafeterias, and more talking than doing. Let the trends be trends. There's no replacement for authenticity.
  2. Zigbee vulnerabilities

    Great article. Funny - the security issues remain the same, but the implications get a whole lot more exciting!
  3. Industrial IoT at Scale: What’s Really Needed

    Some good points made there. Probably won't surprise any engineers to find that not all screwdrivers fit all screws. But yes, in the hype-driven business decision making world we live in, there are many examples of trying to use a screwdriver to hammer a nail. I'd go as far as to say the challenge is not to "figure out ways around these problems", because that assumes the fallacy that, for example, "edge" computing is a novel invention from the cloud era. In reality, processing has always been done at the edge, and cloud computing paradigms simply mean we need a term to describe the adoption of legacy paradigms. I'd prefer to frame the challenge as doing our due diligence on the applicability of new tools. If cloud does not provide net benefit, then the solution is not to adopt it. In reality, there are likely to be aspects that can benefit from new technology, and so the challenge is to astutely adopt aspects of new technology that provide net benefit. I get a little tired of the one-size fits all hype, that then hyper-hypes accommodations that are simply existing techniques wrapped up in new lingo. You see this a lot, for example, in web development frameworks. Every few years all the problems are re-solved, only to reveal a different set of issues that had already been solved.
  4. Introducing Bluetooth Mesh Networking

    I'd liked Stacey Higginbotham's take: https://staceyoniot.com/bluetooth-mesh-is-here-and-boy-is-it-complicated/ Why the Bluetooth SIG insist on being everything to everyone is beyond me. Rather than being ideal to many (Bluetooth Classic) they often end up being not very good to all (BLE) and confuse the landscape in the process.
  5. Fascinating. Quite an achievement. This is certainly a promising way to get started building a blockchain based application. Time will tell how effective it is in practice - currently the user base is heavily dominated by those with a vested interest in giving it the thumbs up! I'm encouraged by their approach to scalability and confidentiality. These are well known problems in the blockchain that underpins Bitcoin and to some extent Ethereum. Sounds like they've taken a few pages out of the Monero playbook, which I personally think is likely to be the cryptocurrency of choice for discerning traders! IOTA seems to have similar goals, though has a different approach to the challenges. To me Fabric feels a bit more professional/cohesive/supported but the proof will be in the pudding. In either case, the applicability to IoT is, like most things hanging off the IoT bandwagon, tangential at best. Like any distributed ledger technology, anything that requires a trustworthy exchange of value could potentially benefit. The bog-standard application is financial transactions, but it's not hard to think of more IoT related applications: trading electricity micro generation and consumption; data consumption by device; pay-by-the-listen music; insurance adjustments based on location/activity/etc. But it's those pesky implementation details that will really bring to life just what problems this solution solves. I'd love to have a (paid!) project to put this stuff to work on, but alas, I await for vicarious outcomes!
  6. LoRa Vs NB-IoT

    Did my post get deleted or did I forget to hit the submit button? Teksmobile, Hussain Fakhruddin and Romit Kumar are very prolific on LinkedIn on this topic, and I don't think they're doing the industry a favour. Their articles are misleading, confusing and full of errors. This is another example. I'm sick of charlatans confusing the public and making the job of the practitioners even harder. Dealing with a confused public that doesn't know who to trust makes it hard to make progress. Thus, I was motivated to reply. Here it is:
  7. Newcastle IoT Pioneers

    July: IoT Startups - Stories from the Frontline with Stuart Waite Our July event is on, usual time, usual place: 6:30pm, Thursday, July 6th, 2017. Stag & Hunter Hotel, Mayfield. Upstairs function room - look for the staircase in the middle of the pub. I'm delighted to welcome Stuart Waite as our guest presenter. Stuart is the CEO of Timpani - a specialist IoT Consultancy. He's an investor, mentor and advisor to a number of IoT startups as well as being a board member of the IoTAA and running their startup workstream. Stuart is highly influential in and supportive of the Australian IoT scene, in particular in helping get startups to market. Stuart will regale us with a few stories from the frontlines of IoT startups, and encourages plenty of discussion. It's a night not to be missed for anyone interested in making their own way in the Internet of Things! As usual, outside the presentation there will be a news recap, plus plenty of opportunity to talk business and tech with like-minded folk from the local area. Feel free to bring up a drink from the bar downstairs or even order a meal from the restaurant, plus there'll be free finger food after the talks. All are welcome, but please RSVP so we can get the catering right.
  8. pfSense running on an old laptop is a popular way of securing NAT networks. If you want to run it on a RPi, don't bother trying to DIY, just use something like this: https://www.netgate.com/products/sg-1000.html
  9. I'm interested to see the responses to this. I know the IoTAA is busy assembling a "maturity index" which has as one of its aims the compilation of organisations that have achieved some business sustainability via IoT products. It would be a great source of the stats you seek but I think it's still a work in progress. There's about 180 of us in the "startups" worksteam (WS6) so there's plenty vying for some traction. There's a scattering of good news stories getting about but I'm not aware of a list yet...
  10. AI drives rise of super sensors

    I don't know where people keep getting that notion. I suspect it is fuelled by works of science fiction. Machine learning does not keep getting better with more training. It reaches a point where it starts to either specialise (ie. it has learned the training set so well that it can no longer generalise) or the accuracy hits an asymptote (ie. there is no better hyperplane that divides the input vector), at which point it is over trained. Getting machine learning right is about ensuring you implement the right stopping conditions. And the machine learning referenced by Jeff Clune in the article I rerferenced is the state of the art - they've been trained as best as the best ML practitioners can manage, and they're easily fooled. ML can also never be "more accurate than humans" - accuracy requires supervised learning and supervised learning requires humans to provide the classifications for the ML to learn from. So humans must set the bar for accuracy which the ML attempts to meet. The whole profession will get better certainly, but in the 30 or so years that ML has been under serious development, we've gone from being able to recognise objects in images to being able to do it faster (and market it better!). There's some fundamental challenges. ML is and always has been, an excellent tool. There's no evidence so far that it will lead to some kind of general intelligence with no bounds. Yeah, loved that one too! But that was the opposite of a super sensor right? They're suggesting that instead of having one wrist worn sensor to rule them all, you litter specialised sensors about the place to build up a image based on lots of different inputs.
  11. AI drives rise of super sensors

    I really did get inspired when read the two original stories. But as usual in this field, I think imagination is getting well ahead of reality. The "as it gets better" argument really doesn't hold much water when you're talking about a system that provides diminishing returns. I love the potential of image recognition. But it's just one coarse view on the world. It's foiled by shadows, darkness, occlusion, contrast, reflections and so on. AI-based image recognition learns patterns that can often be so at odds with the way we understand vision to be useful, that it fails in specularly bizarre and unpredictable ways (eg. https://www.wired.com/2015/01/simple-pictures-state-art-ai-still-cant-recognize/ amongst others). And I really got carried away thinking about the implications of the super-sensor. But again, it's a coarse view on the world. In both cases they are amazing examples of what can be done with less. The potential for parlour tricks is endless, and there's even lots of practical applications. But I don't buy the evolutionary conclusion - both approaches are coarser abstractions of the sensed variables. Coarser abstractions give you a wider view (you can detect more things), but they can never add information. Information is lost in every abstraction that cannot be recovered. There will always be cases where a direct sense method is the only way to achieve specificity, accuracy or noise-immunity. Technically I can hear every conversation I'll ever need to hear without leaving my office - I just need to amplify the vibrations of my desk. In practice I'm better off picking up the phone.
  12. One cubic mm IoT device

    But can it run Crysis? Seriously, these are fascinating. The mind just boggles at the implications. There'll be some niches where the size is a gamechanger (inside the body, "smart dust", etc.), but for many practical purposes the size might be a hindrance. The power requirements though - potentially indefinite battery life in indoor lighting - raises some interesting prospects.
  13. Minutes 7-Apr-17

    16-May-17 is good for me if I can be of assistance. Will be a big month for IoT in Newcastle with a highly anticipated IoT Pioneers Meetup early May and the inaugural Hunter Innovation Festival IoT Workshop late May.
  14. Pirelli's smart tires - what's next?

    Good points. The power, as it so often does, comes from combining data sources. Tyre pressure with fuel consumption by route - what is optimal? Tyre temperature with pressure, ambient temperature, vehicle speed and driver identity - who's smoking the tyres? Shock events, location on vehicle and vehicle position, aggregated over many vehicles - pothole detector! But Jason's point is a good one - sometimes you just need to start instrumenting and discover the insights later. I'll give you a recent example - the instrumented pneumatic tube vehicle counters we developed for our Smart Parking system report on various parameters that aren't critical to the core product. One started to fail recently in a way we hadn't seen before. Turns out one of the tubes had lost its springiness. But thanks to our collected data, we now have a unique data signature that alerts us to a pending "springiness" failure! We can even see the clear progression from healthy to point of failure, and combined with traffic counts and ambient temperature records, we can predict time to failure. That's really quite powerful, yet we never imagined it when we were designing it. Last thought... how do they measure vertical load from within the tyre? Maybe it's based on internal tyre height at the bottom of the tyre vs at the top to get a measure of deformation, combined with the tyre pressure to get total load on the rubber? I can't see that being particularly accurate!
  15. That's it - it almost doesn't matter how mature one's technology or technical capability is if it is not well aligned with purchasing expectations. On the density matter, I had in mind a way to measure the sophistication of installations - there's plenty of connected things already, but the great promise of the IoT is that it can be done at significant scale do to technology advancement. So if your garage door talks to your car, that's M2M, but if light switch in the house is remotely monitored, then that's further along the IoT path. Coarse, I know.
  16. There was some discussion about defining maturity at the last meeting of IoTAA Work Stream 6 (Startups). While this example wasn't mentioned, there was a general acknowledgement that it's a difficult task. I'm pleased there also tends to be a general understanding that there is a chicken-and-egg challenge in that the IoT market is quite immature, so proudly claiming one's own maturity is misleading at best. I think you're getting at the same thing - until customers are informed enough to write confident purchase orders, any one claiming a level of maturity is just waving their peacock feathers. With so much still subject to debate, perhaps a framework with more quantifiable aspects might be attractive: dollars saved via the IoT; regions covered by LPWANs; density of things; hours of uptime; number of IoT startups; percentage of active participants in an IoT association. But you might be on to something - while there might be a heap of technical capability ready to come online, the IoT can't be considered mature unless people are actually paying for Smart Parking installations, or autonomous farming equipment, or Smart meters or whatever.
  17. Newcastle IoT Pioneers

    March: Sigfox with Thinxtra Our second meetup for 2017 is on, usual time, usual place: 6:30pm, Thursday, March 2nd, 2017. Stag & Hunter Hotel, Mayfield. Upstairs function room - look for the staircase in the middle of the pub. We're fortunate to welcome Guy Langlois from Thinxtra, to Newcastle for the evening. Thinxtra are the national operators for the Sigfox low-power wireless area network (LPWAN). They've been rolling out coverage at a tremendous pace across New Zealand, Australia and most recently, Hong Kong. Guy will be bringing some exciting news for Newcastle as well as some hot give-aways for the maker-minded. It'll be a two-part presentation: opportunity of LPWAN for IoT & case studies very hands-on presentation on how to use Sigfox devkit As usual, outside the presentations there will be a news recap, plus plenty of opportunity to talk business and tech with like-minded folk from the local area. Feel free to bring up a drink from the bar downstairs or even order a meal from the restaurant, plus there'll be free finger food after the talks! All are welcome, but please RSVP so we can get the catering right.
  18. Newcastle IoT Pioneers

    February: The IoT-enabled Automotive Future Newcastle IoT Pioneers is back! The festive break has been good to us, with lots of exciting developments to announce. The first event of 2017 is on Thursday, February 2nd, 2017, usual time, usual place (6:30pm, upstairs function room at the Stag & Hunter Hotel in Mayfield - look for the staircase in the middle of the pub). We managed last year to touch on just about all the major IoT verticals, except the fascinating world of smart vehicles. I'm very pleased to announce that the group's own resident automotive electronics expert, Norman Ballard of Hummingbird Electronics, has agreed to fill us in this month on some happenings in that space. As usual, outside the presentations there will be a news recap, plus plenty of opportunity to talk business and tech with like-minded folk from the local area. I'm looking forward to meeting a lot of fresh faces from all walks of life this year, so keep inviting your friends and colleagues. Feel free to bring up a drink from the bar downstairs or even order a meal from the restaurant, plus there'll be free finger food after the talks! All are welcome, but please RSVP so we can get the catering right.
  19. IoT Embedded Controllers

    The spectrum from a PLC to Raspberry Pi is vast. And a PIC is a microcontroller which is another thing altogether. Typically if your application suits a PLC, it does so for reasons of industrial compatibility, operator familiarity and existing software frameworks. If your application is not heavily reliant on those things, then it could be a contender for the likes of a Raspberry Pi or a PIC based solution. If you're looking at >1000 units/year, and you have the budget for custom development, then look to a PIC (or one of many, many, other microcontrollers of which Geoff lists a few - talk to an elec engineer). If you're looking at a handful of units for a short term pilot or similar, then look to the Raspberry Pi. But don't be too quick to write off the PLCs. Have you looked at the CLICK range? It would be hard to get similar functionality from a non-PLC solution for much cheaper: https://www.automationdirect.com/adc/Overview/Catalog/Programmable_Controllers/CLICK_Series_PLCs_(Stackable_Micro_Brick) Non-PLC solutions are attractive if you have specific requirements and the volumes to justify the development. Non-PLC, embedded solutions are my bread and butter, but even I would caution against thinking that the nifty, nimble, low-power and buzzword compliant world of embedded electronics is a drop in replacement for a PLC.
  20. What does it take to be an IoT engineer?

    At one point I swore myself off any engineering project that involved (1) wireless comms, (2) self-sufficient battery power or (3) sleeping microcontrollers. Some how I chose to launch a business right in the triple point that is IoT sensors. After losing a day today dealing with a maddening signal strength issue that popped up out of nowhere, I remember why I made that declaration!
  21. What does it take to be an IoT engineer?

    This is a terrific story. I hope you're planning to publish wider (perhaps somewhere on LinkedIn?). The story stands on its own two feet, but I'm especially drawn having marvelled at the Plexus/Green Brain system when trying to find an opening for my startup business. We went 80% the way towards developing a remote compost pile temperature monitor with many aspects in common with Plexus, but ultimately the project didn't go ahead. The path we have taken, that of Smart Parking, went live on Friday and your story rings home. We set out with a very simple goal - count cars as they enter and leave a car park facility to determine the total occupancy level. What we ended up with starts with a pneumatic system with road anchors, rubber tension properties and a tuned pressure threshold. It passes through an analog electrical interface to a sleeping PIC microcontroller with very tight operating limits for maximum battery life. Then it's into the RF world of LoRaWAN with carefully mapped RSSI patterns as well as robust packet redundancy and reconstruction. The data starts as bytes from an ADC and gets wrapped into JSON for processing and distribution in the NodeJS environment, Node-RED. It splits and goes via MQTT to an IoT cloud backend where it is further processed in Go to produce the raw data for consumption via a couple of different HTML webapps. The other channel converts to CSV and goes via TCP to logstash to populate the NoSQL database1 Elasticsearch for searching and graphing with Kibana. Sometimes I stop and wonder if anyone realises what world we've managed to build for ourselves. Perhaps it's inevitable - the customer wants simple and powerful, so behind the scenes an army of engineers from all disciplines build their world ever more powerful and compatible. Before you know it, every little "app" requires the coordination of the latest and greatest from mechanical, industrial, embedded, electrical, telecomms, software and UX engineers. And that's before you even manage to define a product that matches a market, or has great distribution, sales and support. 1. Yes, calling Elasticsearch a NoSQL database is a gross simplification. So be it.
  22. McKinsey on Data Analytics

    It's almost self-fulling. From my interactions with the world of big data of the last year I've noticed a willingness to sacrifice quality for quantity. It's almost as if instead of thinking about the value of the data at the record level, the approach now is to gloss over details like accuracy, relevance and valid representation. Just turn the firehose on and let the big machines with their magical AI sort it out. So now anyone trying to extract meaning from little data finds that there's nothing of value because the data is crap. Eventually you might get enough crap pilling up so that one pile of crap is a bit bigger than another pile of crap and eureka - the big data machine has found something! I like to temper my enthusiasm for this amazing big data device with the cautions of Cathy O'Neil:
  23. What does it take to be an IoT engineer?

    So very true. But your willingness to share makes a huge difference. Many times we have developed a product to meet the expectations set by OEM marketing, using the information provided by the datasheets, with hard won expertise from decades of training, only to discover that we're the guinea pigs finding that the practical limitations fall short of the potential. As much as I love to jump on board the next great thing and develop on the latest technology, I've learnt to stay wary of anything that doesn't have a "community" around it. The power of the community is extraordinary, and it explains (in a self-fulfilling kind of way) the success of the Arduino over the STM32 Discovery, the Raspberry Pi over the VoCore, Linux over BSD. It's natural to dismiss these projects as "hobbyist" (and I do, sometimes) but the fact is it is just too time consuming and risky to discover the limitations on your lonesome, no matter how clever and professional you are. You either become the pioneer, investing months and significant dollars to find you've designed your way into a dead-end and the competition is about to leap-frog you, or you navigate the community forums and figure out the capabilities and gotchas from the collective power of the "hobbyists". Fortunately by the time I began my ZigBee journey, the community had caught up, and I was able to do my research and set my expectations without much investment. On the LPWAN front, of great interest to many IoT practitioners, I've had a foot in both camps. I started by waiting and watching for the community to form, to learn from the scouts at the coalface, suffering the early blows. But I've also discovered that given the focus on European and US markets, and the fact that the Australian market actually has unique technical challenges, that there's value in taking some lead in developing that community. I recently learnt I'm only one of 4 people in Australia with a functioning, Australian regulation compliant, LoRaWAN network made up of components from more than one vendor. Those painful steps into the unknown command a valuable, if fleeting, position in the marketplace.
  24. The Newcastle IoT Pioneers meets again this Thursday, the 1st December. Highly recommended for anyone in this forum that's in the Newcastle/Central Coast/Hunter Valley regions. All the event details are here: https://www.meetup.com/Newcastle-IoT-Pioneers/events/234665531/ Just hit "RSVP" if you'd like to come. Newcastle City Council will take the stage this month to talk about their plans to nurture the IoT community, and to draw on the collective efforts of the local area. Cheers, Heath
  25. What does it take to be an IoT engineer?

    That's the kicker for me - I worked for a long time on applications for mesh networks, and it was this gotcha that killed it. ZigBee (and the 6LoWPAN family) promised so much and battery-powered (periodic sleeping) mesh repeaters is actually part of the ZigBee spec. Turns out no manufacturer supports it because the practicalities of synchronising sleeping nodes in a reliable way to perform mesh networking without compromising energy consumption is just not feasible. For now, mesh is relegated to academic projects. If each node contributing to the mesh has to be powered/always on anyway, then you may as well go with a more traditional star network. Which is one reason I find LPWANs so exciting - finally there is a low power, low complexity, wireless comms solution for relatively dumb and sleepy nodes. While we wait for national rollouts, we're installing our own LoRaWAN networks to get the job done. I literally just commissioned one last week, so while it is seriously bleeding edge, with all the inherent cuts and bruises, it's into the realm of here and now.