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Testing the Internet of Things: Can smart devices be united into an integrated whole?

Robert L. Mitchell | Sept. 18, 2014
I have had a smart thermostat and Wi-Fi security cameras in my home for about a year. While using these (and researching my article The Internet of Things at home: Why we should pay attention), I started to wonder if the task of managing smart devices could quickly get out of hand.

In my case, the Dropcam video security cameras and Honeywell thermostat already installed in my home aren't compatible with the Revolv hub.

In fact, the situation with Honeywell, which sells home thermostats that use three different protocols, illustrates just how fragmented the current market is. I have a Wi-Fi model, but Honeywell also offers models that use its proprietary Redlink technology, which requires a dedicated hardware gateway, and one model that uses Z-wave. Revolv doesn't support Redlink but does support the Honeywell Z-wave Enabled Programmable Thermostat and says it recently added support for the manufacturer's Wi-Fi thermostats. However, my unit, purchased about a year ago, isn't compatible. While Revolv was able to discover it and display the current temperature and set point, I could not control it via the Revolv hub.

Getting started with Revolv

The Revolv hub is a plastic, teardrop-shaped device, about five inches in diameter, with a red base and opaque cover that looks somewhat like a piece of high-tech Tupperware. The unit connects wirelessly to your Wi-Fi router, which means you can place it anywhere in the home, regardless of the location of the router. It has a range of up to 65 feet.

You initialize it using the free Revolv app, available for Android and iOS mobile devices (no Web-based interface is available). You can then invite an unlimited number of people with additional smart phones to download the Revolv app and share access to your Revolv system. Each user can also add or remove items from an inventory of devices and edit or create new pre-programmed actions.

The setup process involves entering your router's ID and passcode into the app and then placing your phone screen-down on top of the hub so that the app can transmit your credentials to a light sensor on the hub by way of a pattern of flashing light — a Morse code-like process Revolv calls "Flashlink."

When the yellow status light on the top of the unit turns white you're ready to go. In my case it didn't sync right away — after two attempts, however, the unit was ready.

Revolv has kept the user interface fairly simple, both in content and design. The main dashboard screen includes status information and a summary list of objects and actions, which appear as icons. An object is a device that Revolv can control. An action is a script you create that tells discovered objects in your inventory how to respond to an event, such as when you arrive home or turn the key in your front door's smart lock.

From the dashboard you can drop down into the Inventory screen, which has two tabs: One for devices and one for actions. From the former you can search for, discover and inventory devices; from the latter you create an inventory of actions. Once you've added an action or device you can have it appear on the dashboard by pressing a star above the icon.

 

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