Sunday, April 27, 2014

Smart Home Sweet Home with Gigaset Elements?

Last week I had a chance to try the Smart Home solution from Gigaset Elements. I read some articles about this product which said how easy to install this product for dummy users. Those articles woke my interest and I began to google products for Smart Home solutions.

In this article (German language) you will find a nice overview about some products for Smart Home, which can be bought in Germany. The Nest product from Google is still not available in Germany. Although it seems that RWE will offer Nest products in Germany in couple of months.

The installation of Gigaset Elements was really easy. The problem I encountered was to add the siren sensor. I had to push hard the button on the siren sensor at the same time with the button on the base, so that they can communicate with each other. After about one hour I managed to install everything properly.

Points to mention
Generally the idea is very nice. Gigaset Elements try to push KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid) principle. However I found some points that Gigaset Elements needs to optimize. Here are the points:
  • Reliability: The cloud was already down for two times and for almost one day each. See this facebook discussion and Gigaset Elements blog. Again, two times and within this time you are just offline! A no go situation for a cloud solution.
  • Security: Gigaset Elements web access only offers username and password to login, no Two-step Verification. It is not necessary that Gigaset Elements has to offer two-step verification with SMS (Short Messages), it would be just enough to offer this authentication method with app like Google Authenticator. It is pretty easy to integrate Google Authenticator in your own web apps. In this article you can find a lot of webapps which already support Google Authenticator.
  • Openness: Gigaset Elements should offer Open APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) for all users. Just take an example of Google+ APIs. In Gigaset Elements context they should offer both types of APIs: Inside-Out and Outside-In Integration Services and Extensions. It would be pretty useful to be able to extend the capabilities of Gigaset Elements. Something like "turn on the holiday mode in 30 minutes" or "holiday mode ends on 03rd. of Februar 2014 at 4pm". This all will be possible if there is Open APIs access to their services.
  • Freedom of Choice: Cloud and at the same time Stand-alone solution should be easily possible. At the end the web servicesweb app and mobile apps (Android and iOS) are just normal applications. I assume that Gigaset Elements uses following application architecture (see Gigaset Elements System Architecture below). There is no problem to offer all the webservices as stand-alone product. Gigaset Elements should also Open Source all of the apps (webservice, web, Android, iOS), so that a bigger community can make all the apps better. At the same time all the users can have their own choice to host their own apps and services by themselves or use the cloud installation from Gigaset Elements. Not everyone would host their own apps and services!
Gigaset Elemensts System Architecture

Facts, APIs
Looking into the webapp of Gigaset Elements you will find that it uses actual architecture with RESTful webservice and use JavaScript (AngularJS) for the front end. Following APIs calls (service calls) from the JavaScript to the RESTful services can be seen:

It is very good way that Gigaset Elements uses OpenID and OAuth to identify the user and access to the APIs. This also means that they could easily open their APIs to public because the infrastructure is already available.

Interesting is to see the access from the base into their web services. After plugging in the network cable from my laptop to my switch and use Man in the Middle software for Windows called Cain and Abel with Wireshark you can see following calls, just after you make a move in the front of your motion sensor:

Wireshark Analysis from base to router

Smart Home Sweet Home?
This is just the beginning of Smart Home solutions. Gigaset Elements with its sensors is a great KISS idea. The more sensors (video cam, smoke detector, water sensor, programmable power outlet, programmable thermostat, etc.) will be available on the market of smart home solutions the more users will be attracted to try such solutions in their houses. Can you imagine what you can do with a Gigaset Elements HD video cam which will be available in summer 2014?

One important thing for all those Smart Home vendors, also Gigaset Elements, the one which offers "Open System" will always win! So Gigaset Elements, please hear my voice and open your system, make your applications Open Source. The chance to sell millions of your sensors world wide will be better afterwards!