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Everything posted by Heath

  1. IoT and STEM Outreach

    Yes, Newcastle only at the moment. But now that we've run our first session the feedback has been very encouraging - we now have plans for expansion! Definitely supply and demand is a factor. Like all these trends the supply tends to overshoot the demand. But I think there's also a element of thin value. By which I mean the dominant marketing message is that coding = skill for the future and that code camps = coding competence. When you sell something predicated on those two shaky equivalences you only have a short period of time before people notice the emperor is wearing no clothes. So yes, experience with Scratch, using a screen to create rather than consume are very valuable. But I think you also need to get kids off computers and working with things and people. They're the human skills that will always be in demand, particularly in tech and engineering. I like your progression idea. I suppose the teachers would argue: sounds great, what are you going to give up to make room for it? I was on a webinar this morning with Jon Samuelson on this topic and it's amazing how often he aligned with these themes. For instance: Advice from game developers: don't worry about making things too hard. Kids disengage from school because it's too easy, not because it's too hard. The challenge is the attractive part. "Coding in isolation without connection to physical environment can be just game creation". He goes on to say boys will often go on for days into their own world creating games and learning nothing, while girls will get bored. "Structured play" is the best learning environment. A 21st century learner should strive to: create, empathise, persevere, communicate, envision, be patient, observe, explore, adapt, collaborate, etc. That is, human skills. For reference, the webinar url is: http://home.edweb.net/webinar/stem20171011/ and I've attached a couple of his slides. Those price points are interesting. We went with $159 for two days and $149 for five after school sessions, which seems pretty attractive. Main challenge is that we want to keep teacher:student ratio really high to provide great service so it's a balancing act.
  2. Telstra's NB IoT network launched

    Interesting. Because I have to remind myself every time, a quick reference for others: LTE Cat-1 10Mbps/5Mbps, full duplex, available Feb 2016 LTE Cat-M1 1Mbps/1Mbps, half duplex, available today? LTE Cat-NB 1 20kbps/60kbps, half duplex, who knows? All being LTE technologies, coverage should be similar to LTE, maybe even a bit better due to lower rates. FWIW, I'm participating in the Everything IoT HackLAB in a couple of weeks. Happens to be hosted at Muru-D in Sydney, and Telstra just announced they'll be bring provisioned Cat-1 dev kits.
  3. Newcastle IoT Pioneers

    October: The Australian Maker Movement and its IoT Impact Our October event is on, usual time, usual place: 6:30pm, Thursday, October 5th, 2017. Stag & Hunter Hotel, Mayfield. Upstairs function room - look for the staircase in the middle of the pub. The Maker Movement is worldwide phenomenon that has put the creative and technical tools, once reserved for professionals, into the hands of amateurs and enthusiasts. And the results have been spectacular - inventions, businesses, creations of every scale have sprouted from the hands of the self-motivated and the curious. The accessibility of tools and technology has in no small part, driven the rapid adoption of the Internet of Things. And a significant part of that accessibility is thanks to the incredible devotion of our very own Newcastle based electronics shop, Core Electronics. I'm delighted to welcome the founder and managing director at Core Electronics, Graham Mitchell, as guest presenter this month. Graham is a tireless contributor to the maker movement, and will share a little about his story and the Australian maker movement in general. As usual, outside the main event 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.
  4. IoT and STEM Outreach

    Heh, funny you should say that Tim. Cuts to the core of the motivation behind MiniSparx. The programming industry has been very successful in monopolising the mindshare of the tech/innovation industry. Definitely an important part, but I'm not convinced the world really needs that many people proficient in moving sprites in Scratch. You might get a rise out of my LinkedIn post: https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6307121692179333120 FWIW, we'll be using the littleBits STEAM kits.
  5. IoT and STEM Outreach

    That's terrific, thanks for sharing. I ran a community "What's a Smart City?" workshop a while back and put together a similar IoT style, sensor to dashboard kit for participants to experiment with. It was Grove/Arduino/Ubidots based, which proved to be a nice trade-off between simplicity and flexibility. But when I want to "get the point across" on the data collection/marshalling side of things, a Pi running NodeRED is my go to. There's a local mob here that do a STEM course called StarLAB. Currently in about 50 schools. Very similar approach to teaching Python in this case - there's a highly integrated sensor module and some of the first exercises are to get the sensor graphs appearing on a computer. The module can even be inserted in a custom rover body and of course, it's not long before students are driving it around wirelessly. I also have a STEM holiday program coming up called MiniSparx. It's targeted at younger Year 3 - Year 6 students, so I'm leaning towards more immediate gratification platforms like Sphero and Ozobot, but you've got me thinking about whether there's an IoT angle with merit too.
  6. 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.
  7. Zigbee vulnerabilities

    Great article. Funny - the security issues remain the same, but the implications get a whole lot more exciting!
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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!
  11. 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:
  12. 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.
  13. 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
  14. 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...
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 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!
  20. 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.
  21. 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.
  22. 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.
  23. 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.
  24. 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.
  25. 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!