IoT should look less complicated than that…
During late 2008, early 2009 something odd and unexpected happened. Cisco reported that there were more devices connected to the internet than people, and while the concept of “Internet of Things” wasn’t entirely new any more, it only then became a reality which for the most part sneaked up on us, taking the average consumer by surprise first, only to become an integral part of our everyday lives in less than a decade.
It was only six or so years ago that we were doing the same as we used to since the invention of electricity — toggling switches like barbarians whenever we entered or left a room. Of course, some of us wanted to be fancy and opted to get a dimmer switch, and whenever we dimmed the lights, the amount of satisfaction produced by such a trivial action made us always feel a bit like magicians who finally perfected their skills of producing just the right amount of light at any time.
But how wrong we all were… Philips, a mere five years ago showed us exactly that. Now, of course, Philips was and is no pioneer in IoT technology, but they did manage to — albeit, with Apple’s help — become the cause of widespread interest in domestic IoT projects.
In its simplest form an IoT project is nothing more than the conscious decision of using internet and inter-connected connected devices in any given space — say a home — to solve a problem or upgrade a current solution. Calling it a project assumes there is planning, budgeting and implementation processes involved and there’s also a fairly clear goal to achieve. Generally speaking, the smallest IoT project tends to involve either smart-plugs, smart lights or both. These can of course then veer off into more enthusiast-level projects that involve connected heating, connected kitchen appliances, magic mirrors and the likes, which for brevity’s sake I am not going to cover in this article.
Planning an IoT project can quickly become a bigger nightmare than planning a wedding. Just like food, flowers, dresses and bowties have to work in unison, doing a project like this the right way is crucial. It will set the budget, and your expectations will be realistic. There are a few things to keep in mind at this stage:
Just looking at the sheer number of devices makes you scratch your head and reconsider your project or your budget. Of course you can always scale back, and focus on just one room at a time. IoT projects are getting increasingly cheaper, which is good news, however on the other hand as mentioned before, IoT projects are addictive and can get out of hand very easily.
The moment you get a taste of home automation and connected home-ware, things as simple as checking on your phone whether you’ve turned the lights off in the kitchen or not, or telling Alexa to make the lights dim green while you’re watching Outlander can make you think that not only have you honed the magic art of controlling light, but you are the Wizard of Oz himself. In no-time you’ll be mounting connected thermostats to your radiators, smart smoke detectors and talking — yes talking — to your kettle about the temperature you’d want your tea at. In just a matter of weeks your life could look exactly like the below meme. Often these devices on their own don’t cost much more than their “dumb” counterparts, but collectively can run up a pretty hefty bill at the till…
IoT can be addictive…
You see, it’s one thing to plan it all out, have the necessary budget to purchase it, and it’s a completely different story getting it all to work, and yes, you often need tools. Make sure you have some. All of these require you to deal with electricity. Safety precautions are paramount and so is having the right tool for the job. An electricity testing screwdriver, a hammer, maybe some screws and a drill. A ladder will come in handy as well, trust me. The bottom line is, you need to know your home, what your walls and ceilings are like. If you are unsure about any of this, consult the necessary professional don’t just hack things together. No smart home is going to be smart enough in the face of sheer ignorance. Safety first!
It is —by any account — a magical feeling to open your eyes up to lights that wake up with you in the morning, to have the kettle on by the time you get into the kitchen, have Alexa tell you the news while you’re brushing your teeth and generally give your home a living personality mirroring yours. But it’s important to do it right. IoT devices are not mere gadgets. With every device you are adding to the network, you are building an intelligence around your home, a brain for what used to be brainless and that’s a responsibility you cannot take lightly.
Attila Vago — writer of codes, blogs and things that live on the web. Programming polyglot, pragmatic doer, member of the “taking care of business” crowd, with a no nonsense attitude. An easily inspired inspirational individual with a strong predilection towards most things nerdy, good, carnivorous food, and Lego. Uses a Mac. Runs at 6 a.m.