Mozilla updates its Project Things open source IoT gateway

Mozilla has issued an update to its Project Things open source decentralised IoT gateway first announced back in July.

The main part of Project Things is the Linux-based ‘Things Gateway’ software which enables a Raspberry Pi to be set up as a home automation gateway. In the latest version (0.3) of the software — a new rules engine, improved voice support, and a tutorial has been added to help newbies get started.

Other major new features include:

  • Microphone support for issuing voice commands

  • Rules engine for setting ‘If this, then that’ logic for device interaction

  • Floor-plan view to lay out devices on a map of the home

  • Additional device type support, such as smart plugs, dimmable and colored lights, multi-level switches and sensors, and “virtual” devices

  • New add-on system for supporting protocols and devices

  • New system for safely authorizing third-party applications (using OAuth)

The floor-plan view is particularly interesting to allow users to see a layout of their devices around their home on a virtual map.

Today’s additions make it possible for a consumer to build their own smart hub with only basic knowledge instead of having to pay for expensive, pre-built hubs from major manufacturers.

While the Things Gateway is designed to be used with the Pi 3, other models are compatible. The stack can even run on pretty much any Linux-based desktop, laptop, or hacker board.

You can find out more about Project Things and how to get started here.

What are your thoughts on the latest Project Things update? Let us know in the comments.

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Chirp and EDF Energy team up on power station connectivity project

Chirp and EDF Energy team up on power station connectivity project

Tech start-up Chirp and utility EDF Energy have been awarded a £100,000 Innovate UK grant to explore data-over-sound in radio-frequency restricted environments.

Data-over-sound start-up Chirp is partnering with utility company EDF Energy on a project that aims to bring connectivity to areas of power stations that have typically been ‘dead zones’ in industrial IoT terms. 

The project will take place at EDF’s Heysham 1 nuclear power station in Lancashire, UK and has been awarded £100,000 by public-sector innovation agency, Innovate UK. Together, the two companies will use Chirp’s technology, which takes data and encodes it into unique audio streams to provide connectivity in radio-frequency restricted environments.

“WiFi and mobile communications are common in most workplaces, but not on our stations,” explained Dave Stanley, a project manager in EDF Energy’s Innovation Delivery Team. “So having a way of getting regular and reliable data from remote instruments in radio-restricted areas will be useful for our engineers.”

Read more: Start-up of the month: Chirp – turning data into sound to reach network ‘notspots’

Chirping away

Any device with a speaker can transmit a ‘chirp’ and most devices with a microphone can decode it. In the Chirp/EDF project, signals from remote and inaccessible checkpoints on the power station will be transmitted to computer networks as ‘chirps’, enabling workers to monitor instruments from offices and relieving them of the burden of frequent in-person inspections.

This is the second phase of a two-part engagement between Chirp and EDF Energy. The first phase saw the two explore the possibilities of using data-over-sound in nuclear power plants, starting in November 2016 and continuing over the first half of 2017. From this work, a successful proof of concept was delivered to take readings from a gauge.

“The first phase of our engagement with EDF Energy was a resounding success. We were set a serious challenge, to use data-over-sound in a very difficult environment and it passed with flying colours,” said Dr Dan Jones, chief science officer at Chirp.

Phase two, meanwhile, began at the Heysham 1 power plant in October 2017.


Coming soon: Our Internet of Energy event will be taking place in Berlin, Germany on 6 & 7 March 2018. Attendees will hear how companies in this sector are harnessing the power of IoT to transform distributed energy resources. 

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Ericsson Implements the Autonomous Driving Project in Sweden

In the past, we had seen self-driving shuttle buses started sharing the road with pedestrians, cyclists and other vehicles in Stockholm. The shuttle buses define the future of urban transport. Ericsson has implemented an autonomous driving project with the aid of local partners such as Nobina, SJ, Stockholm City, Klövern, KTH and Urban ICT Arena. The project aims to test the driverless buses on public roads under real traffic conditions.

The testing is done keeping in mind varying weather conditions, remote take-over and human response. Ericsson has provided the Connected Urban Transport (CUT) solution that will do the monitoring of the self-driving buses. The testing of the buses connectivity to a 5G network will be carried out in the second half of the 6-month trial run.

Drive Sweden is said to be a strategic innovation program launched by the Swedish government. The program involves partners from all sectors of society. Issues such as the challenges and opportunities of road safety, adaptation of infrastructure and transport-related legislation will be addressed.

To know more, click here.

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Hitachi’s Utility 3.0 will provide pace to the Smart City Project

Hitachi group of companies have brought up new innovations for realizing Utility 3.0 with the help of Lumada IoT platform that will be introduced at DistribuTECH 2018. Utility 3.0 aims at forming a smart society by advancing decarbonization, decentralization and digitalization. Utility 1.0 was referred to the period of emergence of electricity industry which supported the economic growth. Currently, Utility 2.0 is in running where the electricity system is reforming the power generation and the competition in the retail sector. Realizing the Utility 3.0 will help present the concept of Society 5.0, which focuses on the solution to social problems with the economic development by the system, fusing together the virtual and the physical space.

With the help of “Realizing Utility 3.0”, Hitachi has rolled out innovations such as the distributed energy facilities and power distribution equipment known as Grid Edge. This device operates at locations close to the consumers to realize Utility 3.0 with the help of Lumada, Hitachi’s IoT Platform. Lumada integrates the cultivated Operational Technology (OT) in the power and energy fields to date and the advanced Information Technology (IT) which is represented by data analytics. Hitachi Group has teamed up with customers and partners in the energy sector worldwide. Also, the company is aiming to expand its presence in the global energy solution market.

A solution which had been previously implemented in Poland, stabilizes systems, controls the output of wind energy and battery energy storage systems by making use of advanced Japanese technologies. Hitachi’s smart grid business in the US aims at introducing alternative sources of energy and promote energy saving. Also, in Slovenia, the introduction of next-generation power grid and smart community business has helped in bringing cloud-based integrated distribution management system for the electricity distribution companies.

Hitachi has introduced Stadtwerke, a small-scale communal business entity responsible for energy and infrastructure services in Germany. It has also carried out the demonstration of Japan’s large-scale battery energy storage system. It has also incorporated the Predictive Diagnosis Solution in order to facilitate the productivity improvement with the help of renewable energy output. As a result, wind energy has been promoted in North America and India and issues like securing facility maintenance and safe operation are being addressed.

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100,000 IoT sensors line canal in China’s ambitious water diversion project

China’s South-to-North Water Diversion Project employs 100,000 IoT sensors

A colossal water diversion project in China has installed a myriad of IoT sensors to help monitor the essential canal infrastructure.

The ambitious engineering scheme will see three canals, each over 1,000km long, divert 44.8 billion cubic metres of water annually from rivers in southern China and supply it to the arid north, including the cities of Beijing and Tianjin. Each canal route will support the rapid population growth and economic development of the northern provinces.

The project was expected to cost in the region of $ 62 billion when started in 2002, but with $ 79 billion spent by 2014 it has fast become one of the most expensive engineering projects in the world.

The middle canal runs from Danjiangkou Reservoir on the Han River all the way to Beijing, some 1,257km, supplying the city with 70 percent of its water.

With construction on this route completed in 2014, attention turned to how to monitor such a large and valuable infrastructural system – particularly in those sections where the canal uses tunnels to circumvent rivers and other obstructions, making human inspection difficult.

Read more: AT&T launches structure monitoring product for smart city bridges

Streams of data

The answer was to develop an internet of things (IoT) network, consisting of 100,000 sensors, along the waterway. Over the last year it has been scanning the canal for structural weaknesses, testing water quality and flow rates and watching for intruders (both animal and human). Planning for the system started in 2012, when technicians travelled the route to determine its monitoring needs.

The region’s vulnerability to earthquakes makes it particularly at risk of structural damage. Manually monitoring the canal, particularly its two tunnels, would be extremely difficult, making it a perfect candidate for an IoT solution.

While no industrial buildings are allowed within the route’s watershed, it’s vital to ensure that the water remains unpolluted. Sensors below the waterline can detect pollutants and toxins. All-in-all 130 different kinds of connected sensor were used to oversee the canal.

The IoT network’s technical lead Yang Yang, Director of the CAS Key Lab of Wireless Sensor Network and Communication at the Shanghai Institute of Microsystem and Information Technology (SIMIT), told IEEE Spectrum that lessons learned from the system will be applied to similarly large infrastructure projects, include the South-to-North Water Diversion Project’s two other routes.

“This system benefits more than 50 million people daily, not mentioning the people along the project,” said Yang. He also revealed that the technology could be put to use on skyscrapers, to monitor the integrity of their glass facades.

Yangtze river

The scheme will see 44.8 billion cubic metres of water diverted from the Yangtze River’s tributaries

Read more: Analysis: Connected streetlights illuminate path to smart cities

The challenges of rural IoT

With the canal producing such a wealth of data the team faced the challenge of relaying this information, particularly in remote areas without fibre-optic internet or reliable cellular connections. Yang’s team created a system called Smart Gateway that would receive data from nearby sensors and transmit it to a cloud server via whatever cellular, wired, Wi-Fi or Zigbee connection was available at that time.

“The Smart Gateway can learn the availability of the connection to the cloud. After a successful transmission, it will follow that network next time. Otherwise, it will try another one,” Zhang, told IEEE Spectrum.

The destination servers then feed into a web platform that allows the management team to see up-to-date information and respond immediately.

Read more: Blockchain Food Safety Alliance launched to tackle supply chain issues

Water under the bridge?

The scheme certainly hasn’t been without its controversies though. A utilitarian approach has seen hundreds of thousands of residents resettled to make way for the project. In Hubei and Henan provinces, almost 350,000 people were relocated to make way for the middle route. Many residents have complained that their new homes are poorly built and suffered the loss of their livelihoods.

US diplomatic cables released via WikiLeaks also criticised the project as misconceived, arguing that China’s water shortage should be solved by modernising and diversifying its water-intensive agriculture, rather than expensive engineering projects. China hasn’t been ignoring these needs though. Research into the likes of drip irrigation and less water intensive crops is ongoing.

The reality is that China will likely need a combination of both these approaches to protect and allocate its most precious resource. IoT will no doubt play a huge part in providing its population with food and water in the decades and centuries to come.

While China’s rise has, until now, been down to its snowballing primary industries and resource rich land, it is having to increasingly look to technology and policy reform to continue that growth in a more sustainable and responsible way – not least because the government wants to ensure those IoT sensors go on detecting drinkable water in its canals.

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