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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.

It was very easy to configure. I also used the RemoteLinc to turn lights off and on.

Philips Hue personal wireless lighting starter pack ($200)

Using an app, you can control different color "scenes" as well as light intensity, with support for geofencing (creating different "zones" within the house) and time-based control. For each action, Revolv lets you set the color and brightness for individual Hue lamps or groups of them.

Philips Hue requires its own bridge — a small, round device about the size of a hockey puck that connects directly to your wireless router using an Ethernet cable. After that, to initially connect it wirelessly to your smart bulbs you push a button on the bridge. Then you download and run the Hue app to view and control the bulbs.

My starter package included three Philips A19 LED light bulbs. I accidentally dropped one while taking it out of the package — an expensive fumble. A second bulb did not respond properly to some commands and appeared to be defective. The third bulb worked fine. Revolv sent a second set, which also worked fine.

 Insteon LampLinc dimmer ($50)

Originally, Revolv supplied me with a WeMo Insight Switch; however, it failed to connect to the Wi-Fi routers in both locations. After some back and forth with Revolv tech support, we replaced it with an Insteon LampLinc. This dimmer outlet and app installed and worked without incident. Revolv supported on/off and light intensity for this device.

 Yale YRD220 Touchscreen Deadbolt ($200)

The test lock came on a stand so that I didn't have to actually install it in my front door. The rather beefy-looking unit was automatically recognized by Revolv and required following a series of steps, including entering the lock code, to set it up. Using Revolv, I was able use the deadbolt to trigger different sets of actions when the door unlocked (lights on, radio on) and locked (pause radio, all lights but one off).

Some warnings

One thing to think about is that the Revolv app does not offer any security controls, so if anybody steals your phone and it doesn't have any kind of device-level protection (such as a PIN code), your devices (possibly including the lock on your door) are vulnerable.

Another consideration: The requirement on the part of Sonos, Philips and some other smart devices for a dedicated hard-wired bridge adds to the e-clutter in the home. My cable modem is located in my office and during testing I filled up the remaining Ethernet ports on my router. My office desktop suddenly needed to accommodate not just a cable modem and Wi-Fi router, but the two bridges required by the Phillips Hue and Sonos systems in addition to a Vonage V-Portal voice over IP hub for my work phone and the Ooma VoIP unit that supports my home phone system.


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