What is it actually like to live in a house filled with IoT devices?

9 Feb 2018

A smart home hub. Image: goodluz/Shutterstock

This week in IoT, a house filled with consumer IoT devices turns quickly into a nightmare, while South Korea’s subways now have better Wi-Fi than most of the world.

If there’s anything the massive tech trade show CES has taught us over the past few years, it is that the biggest tech companies want us all to have internet of things (IoT) devices in our homes constantly pumping out information and data that can be used either for their own products, or to sell on to third-parties.

There is also the obvious aim of making the lives of users easier by having their coffee machine brew a cup when it sees the user is awake.

But while a lot of people might have an Amazon Echo, or a Roomba vacuum cleaner, what would it be like if someone filled their house to the brim with these gadgets?

This idea inspired Gizmodo reporters Kashmir Hill and Surya Mattu to test it in action, with Hill acting as the guinea pig and Mattu as the researcher observing the results.

In the piece, Hill lists a number of issues that quickly become apparent, most notably that she and her partner became creeped out by cameras recording their every move and frustrated by coffee makers that refused to listen to instructions.

On the more worrying end of the scale, Mattu’s observations showed a near-continuous stream of data being sent from these machines to their creators, even when no one was at home.

“I thought the house would take care of me but instead everything in it now had the power to ask me to do things,” Hill said. “I’m going to warn you against a smart home because living in it is annoying as hell.”

South Korea brings ultra-high speed Wi-Fi to subway trains

South Korea is famous for many things, but one of the things that makes it envied across the world is its status as the country with the fastest average internet speed.

The country is doubling down on this from a smart city perspective with the announcement that Seoul’s subway system is to get access to public Wi-Fi speeds of 1.2Gbps.

According to South Korea’s Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI), the pilot project will begin later this year and will transmit data using millimetre waves with a frequency over 20GHz, enabling data transmission 100-times faster than existing networks.

“The mobile hotspot network technology can provide high-speed Wi-Fi services even in a fast-running subway train, just like home Wi-Fi,” said Hyun Kyu Chung, the president of ETRI’s 5G Giga Service Research Laboratory. “Our technology will provide the world’s first commercial service using millimetre waves as a moving wireless backhaul for subways.”

The ETRI is currently collaborating with other institutes to develop an enhanced network to bring speeds up to as high as 10Gbps and plans to demonstrate various 5G services on buses at the Pyeongchang Olympic Winter Games now underway.

China lays ground rules for autonomous cars

In the autonomous car development arms race between the US and China, the latter is playing catch-up when it comes to laying down the necessary regulation to get these vehicles on the road.

But now, according to the South China Morning Post, China’s government confirmed it is drawing up technology standards and industry guidelines. Transport minister Li Xiaopeng said: “We are building test fields and working on guidelines for open-road tests.”

Meanwhile, dozens of start-ups in the country push on with launching their own autonomous cars as soon as possible.

China has already made steps to gain an edge over the US, with the announcement two months ago that Beijing will be the first city in the country to allow autonomous cars to drive on its roads.

Mozilla launches open gateway for IoT devices

Rather than following the model of individual tech giants creating their own standards that aren’t compatible with one another, Mozilla decided to create its own open-source gateway.

In its blog, the organisation said that this launch makes it easy for anyone with a Raspberry Pi to build their own gateway that comes with an experimental feature that facilitates voice-based commands.

The gateway follows on from the not-for-profit’s launch of Project Things, a platform to build a decentralised IoT focused on security, privacy and interoperability.

“We believe the future of connected devices should be more like the open web,” Mozilla said. “The future should be decentralised and should put the power and control into the hands of the people who use those devices. This is why we are committed to defining open standards and frameworks.”

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Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic