Belkin’s popular line of WeMo smart home products was recently brought into the HomeKit fold with the release of the new Smart Bridge, a simple device that lets you control your existing WeMo devices via the Home app and Siri. AppleInsider – Frontpage News
Application programming interfaces, or APIs, have become the currency of the digital era. They are the link between devices, web sites, and services and as such, can have an outsized effect on your user experience. As a case in point, consider my frustration with Google Home and its inability to play the music I want well.
A friend at Google who looked into this for me said that my lackluster experience was likely due to a poor integration of the Spotify API with the Google Home. So after hearing APIs be blamed for frustrations in my personal life while also hearing people in various industrial or commercial settings talk about their challenges working with APIs, I decided to figure out what the heck is happening in this weird world of application programming interfaces.
First up, APIs tend to get all the blame, even if the problem is somewhere else in a device or in the back-end cloud. Blaming an API is the ultimate in shooting the messenger, except when it isn’t. Because sometimes APIs are the problem. Back when APIs became popular in the web world, roughly 20 years ago, developers used them to share information between web sites. That expanded to include computing elements, such as those offered by Amazon Web Services. And now, they are expanding again — to connect devices to web sites and to computing services.
But while the web world has had years to work out the kinks when it comes to developing APIs, the hardware folks are relatively new to this. Kin Lane, a consultant who goes by the title API Evangelist, says the folks developing APIs for devices tend to break some of the API best practices because they aren’t thinking about how others — especially non-hardware experts — might use them.
One of the most common API usability crimes hardware folks commit is using jargon or inexplicable acronyms to describe the access they give and functions they offer. If you’re making an API to connect to a light bulb, for example, labeling parts of the API with a cryptic color value may not be as handy as labeling it blue or yellow-white light. Consider as well how it will be used, and for how long. An API has the potential to become infrastructure, which means others’ services or businesses may rely on it. If that’s the case, you should communicate with them when you change something, ideally before you change it. And you shouldn’t change it every few days, because it’s likely the developer in charge of handling your API is also in charge of many others.
Another API design sin is putting too much complexity into it. Prakash Khot, CTO at AthenaHealth, says that keeping things to a minimum and designing for modularity helps keep an API stable and usable. He also recommends that you consider error messages and feedback as part of the overall API design.
Too often when a request fails, the API designer hasn’t created a way to communicate what went wrong. This is frustrating for the end user and the company trying to work with the API. Also, in the case of an error message, Khot recommends thinking about the user’s privacy. For example, if a credit card number isn’t shared properly, don’t ship the number back and forth as part of the error.
Outside of basic design considerations, any business that wants to build an API (and really, that’s going to be every business in the IoT economy) should consider two other aspects. The first is politics and the second is business goals. When companies play politics is where end users might see the most frustration. An example would when Google decides to promote its own music service over that of Spotify on its Home device by using a subpar integration. It might also show up in cases where a competitor’s device can’t even access an API, or has rate limits that mean it’s going to perform more slowly or time out often. I anticipate this kind of API warfare between Nest and Amazon in the near future if they don’t patch up their spat.
When it comes to business goals, consideration can start with the information that you provide as part of your API, but might also be as direct as charging for access to an API or even paying others to use it. API calls do cost companies money since they have to provide servers to support information requests and developers to keep them up and running. However, they can also perform an invaluable scouting function for a company. For example, a company like Philips can see what cool things developers are doing with its lights if it looks at API data. It may then decide to buy a particular startup or hire a particular type of engineer.
Though I’ve dug deeper into the world of APIs, I still haven’t figured out why some of my individual devices behave so strangely. But I feel like I have discovered where the future of business contracts — and disputes — will be held in the new era of the internet of things. I can’t wait to learn more.
Apple has been identified as a major supporter of the non-profit Magical Bridge Foundation, providing $ 250,000 in sponsorship for the ‘Innovation Zone’ of an accessible playground due to be constructed later this year in Fair Oak Park located in Sunnyvale, California. AppleInsider – Frontpage News
The lifecycle of early stage startups is a feedback loop between two states: developing a product and raising funding. The better the product, the better the chances at funding. The more flush with cash the startup, the more room for product improvement there is. Startups don’t have it easy, though. Even if the product is solid, netting investment is an uphill battle. Fundraising is a process of convincing people with money to make an emotional decision based on objective metrics. An opaque undertaking to begin with, and often a guessing game as to which investors will be receptive to your…
A week ago we checked out Sylvania’s $ 60 HomeKit light strip that works without a bridge and costs less than Philips Hue. Sylvania is a known name in lighting, but there’s an even cheaper option available if you’re willing to stray from major brands.
Hong Kong-based VOCOlinc offers a $ 40 smart LED light strip that works with Apple HomeKit, so how does it compare?
Philips has issued new firmware for its HomeKit-compatible Hue lighting system, updating the Bridge to include support for Zigbee 3.0, allowing it to work with a wider array of connected lights, lamps, and similar devices produced by other companies. AppleInsider – Frontpage News
Announced last May, Belkin finally delivered its WeMo Bridge eight months later. This $ 39.99 device does one thing and one thing only: It brings Apple HomeKit support to WeMo switches and plugs. I bought the Bridge as soon as it was available, and it works as advertised.
Since it doesn’t do much, the WeMo Bridge is fairly small. It’s roughly a two-inch square that’s about a half-inch tall. In fact, it reminds me of shrunken down Apple TV although it’s white, not black. There’s a small LED on the top but that’s only used for setup purposes and isn’t illuminated after that. You don’t have to worry about seeing that light in the middle of the night like you do for some other smart home products.
On the back are two ports: one is an Ethernet jack and the other is a micro-USB. Yes, you have to physically connect the WeMo Bridge to your network’s router or switch (if you have one) with the included Ethernet cable. The micro-USB port is used to power the WeMo Bridge.
These two ports are part of the reason that I’m personally not a fan of bridge devices. I’d rather use a wireless connection instead of needing an empty network port on my router for a device like this. In fact, my router only has one Ethernet port, so in my case, I either need to buy a switch or have another device give up that precious jack. I’m not inclined to do the latter because I like having a hardwired connection from my router to my television set top box (the Nvidia Shield TV) for maximum throughput to stream 4K content. But that’s just me: You may have a network switch to use or one more empty Ethernet jack on your router.
Once connected to a network and powered up, the WeMo Bridge is easy to set up. You simply go into the WeMo app and choose to add a new device, picking the Bridge from the various options.
Doing so will open the Home app on your iOS device and from there, you scan the unique HomeKit code on the bottom of the WeMo Bridge. Choose a room for your Bridge and that’s essentially it. The Home app will now show your Bridge as well as any other WeMo devices you already have. The whole process took me all of three minutes.
After I ran through the setup, I immediately asked Siri on my iPhone to turn on my Bedroom light, which runs on an old WeMo Insight Switch. The light turned on immediately, without any lag. That’s one very positive observation I have about HomeKit devices: They react nearly instantaneously.
But it’s disappointing — to me, anyway — that Apple didn’t nail down its HomeKit requirements relatively quickly. It’s that very reason that single-purpose devices like the WeMo Bridge even exist. When Apple announced HomeKit in 2014, it decided to include a hardware requirement that all HomeKit device partners needed to use. From my discussion with some of those partners, that requirement changed along the way, causing device makers to adjust their products on the fly. And last year, Apple announced it wouldn’t require a certified chip in all of its HomeKit products so that companies could use software for the security requirement.
All of that added up to uncertainty for companies like Belkin and others who often iterate their products once a year. From Belkin’s perspective, I think it was wise to just wait HomeKit out and keep adding new smart switches and outlets to its product line. The company knew that a single bridge could add HomeKit in the future, hence reason the WeMo Bridge was made.
If you have a bunch of WeMo products (not WeMo bulbs though, as those aren’t supported by the Bridge) as well as other HomeKit devices in your iOS household and you rely solely on Siri for your smart home, the WeMo Bridge is a great addition. It’s easy to set up, works well for its one single purpose and isn’t too expensive. Just be sure you have an extra outlet near your router, switch or access point, along with an open Ethernet port.
Of course, if you already control your WeMo devices through another hub that supports scenes and Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa voice control, WeMo’s Bridge isn’t necessary. It all depends on if you want to give Siri the smarts to control your existing WeMo plugs and switches.
Looking for a fast and easy way to control your Wemo smart accessories using HomeKit and the Home app? Belkin has the answer with its new Smart Bridge, which now features compatibility with Apple’s smart home platform. AppleInsider – Frontpage News
In a contributed article for Internet of Business, Donna Prlich, chief product officer for Pentaho software at Hitachi Vantara, argues that manufacturing companies must mix IT and OT data to achieve new levels of insight and efficiency.
Until recently, many manufacturers may have wondered whether the post-industrial world would leave any reason (or deliver sufficient profit) for them to exist. Today, technology changes ushered in by the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) are breathing new life and opportunity into the sector.
However, the extent to which manufacturers will benefit from IIoT will depend on the maturity of their implementations – and to gain the most valuable and most profitable insights, these implementations will have to tap into data from many different sources and blend it in ways that deliver real insight.
In particular, that means bringing together data from two different types of system that have historically been siloed from each other: Information technology (IT) systems, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) and supply chain management (SCM) software; and operational technology (OT) systems, that are charged with the task of monitoring and/or controlling physical equipment in a manufacturing environment.
There are good reasons for why IT and OT systems have traditionally been kept separate. Manufacturing and industrial facilities use OT systems mainly to ensure availability. Set up as ‘closed-looped’ systems, their data is disconnected from enterprise IT systems.
Industrial environments, where a small change can trigger a domino effect, adopt systematic, methodical approaches to maintenance.
IT systems, on the other hand, which undergo regular maintenance and upgrades, can afford occasional downtime. After all, they aren’t engineered to handle high-voltage systems or the control rods of a nuclear plant.
Nevertheless, the convergence of IT and OT systems and data is already starting to happen. OT is evolving to work with proven IT technologies, such as security software. By the same token, IT systems are scaling to handle the huge data volumes generated by factory OT systems.
Edge computing – the trend that see data processing and analytics move closer to the machines that generate that data – plays an important role here, as do real-time streaming technologies such as Apache Spark and Apache Kafka, which are enabling companies that adopt IIoT to react more quickly to changes.
The STIWA Grouphas a long history in product and high-performance manufacturing automation. Its machines are highly automated, requiring little human intervention to run. The company also provides data about its machines to customers using them and builds the software they need to analyse it – and is using analytics software from Pentaho to automatically process signals and data as a basis for its own product, AMS Analysis-CI.
The processed data includes machine, production and quality data collected by another STIWA product, AMS ZPoint-CI. In other words, this is an example of OT data being explored via a typical IT approach.
This helps the STIWA Group handle tracking for safety-critical products and gain control of complex assembly and manufacturing processes.
The most common mistake people make when implementing any new technology is solving problems in isolation. This is especially problematic with IIOT, where success depends on big-picture thinking.
Take, for example, a steel factory that wants to improve efficiency by tackling a specific issue that occurs daily: a technician typically looks at the slice of OT data directly relevant to that failure. This could by, say, 20 variables from a supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system.
If, however, the OT data was blended with data produced by environmental control and factory planning systems, that technician might not only solve that specific failure but also be able to prevent future ones from happening. This integration also reveals relationships between components that help to significantly improve overall equipment effectiveness (OEE).
In this case, bridging the divide may have involved a leap of faith, but it’s one that has allowed the company to arrive at valuable new insights.
Bridge Constructor Portal merges the best parts of Bridge Constructor and Portal, tasking the player with fun building challenges with a surprising sci-fi twist. The difficulty can ramp up pretty quickly, but there are a few helpful tips you can use to help you overcome any obstacle with a little creativity. Here are a few helfpul hints to help you forge your own path in Bridge Constructor Portal.