A new (or maybe not so new after all) term to describe the connection between any kind of control gadget in the house, car, boat or wherever it makes sense or not to connect things, gather data and control functions. An early attempt to connect at least a few components in the house are Home Automation Systems. Opening and closing shutters and curtains, switching and dimming lights, lifting or dropping screens or projectors, controlling the air on, controlling humidifiers, heating thermostats etc. Well home automation still has to go a long way because many components still don’t have a voice, namely Wi-Fi connection with a standardised protocol. Various protocols have been invented for specific applications, e.g. streaming video to a TV and audio from central servers, or light control for stage and entertainment use. The level of integration however is still kind of limited. I guess many people don’t see a point in integrating all possible gadgets.
We have fridges which know when you are out of milk and can order it, but that is a gimmick unless one has a decent shopbot comparing prices optimising orders from different vendors and making a price statistic to lower the overall cost. But we are miles away from that, not technically, but from a marketing point of view. Lack of apis to get prices, uncompleted stock figures and other obstacles make a complete automation very difficult if not impossible, well at least for now. Retail organisation still rely on the fact that many of us don’t bother to make detailed price comparison, buy when they need and not going to 5 shops to save $10. An automated system could do that without us spending time. In the era of apps we have a foundation but we are still lacking integration and standardisation of high level communication to achieve such goals. Would I like it? Yes, it would save a lot of time and it could create a lot more competition. We can buy the same item from Aliexpress in China at $5 including shipping, which costs $42 from a retailer in Australia. Most people don’t even know that Aliexpress exists and still pay exorbitant prices in retail stores.
Now the question remains – why and Internet of Things in a caravan? Because I can? That is what most would think. True to some degree but only after one has the basic functionality anyway. How often did my wife say to me that she forgot to turn off the hair strainer in the bath room? Ok, we have a marble top so it is unlikely to cause a problem but still, there is some potential danger.
Coming home to a hot or freezing home is not a pleasure. So why not having something intelligent at home knowing when you come home and creating a decent environment before you open the door. Making sure water lines do not freeze in subzero temperatures, smoke detectors and motion detectors directly linked to a security organisation are valuable features in a house and also in a caravan. Well, we would probably not call the police or fire brigade directly but sending a GSM message to a mobile phone or an SMS over satellite internet to a third party (if no GSM available) is a good thing when one free camps. Even better is to press one “AWAY” button before leaving and everything is switched off, the alarm is armed, cameras are on standby, temperature sensors monitor max and min temperatures in cavities and living areas, batteries are monitored and a perimeter around the van is covered with motion sensors to react on intrusions.
Coming home would mean that the BLE reader in the door detects a paired mobile phone and automatically switches everything to the status it was before, except the hair strainer :)..
I could go on and talk about more automation but that takes time away from my development and I will cover some of it later anyway.
One part of the development was deciding which components to use to implement the servers and clients in the network to gather and process the data. Several appliances have no specific remote control interface and I will have to see what I can make out of it. There are literally hundreds of possibilities to pick hardware and software to create such automation systems and it is not a trivial task to pick the components and integrate them into a functioning network, especially when one does not want to spend endless time evaluating components. One has to rely a little bit on specs and sometimes that can be a problem.
I describe the components I have selected in another chapter.