Widgets Magazine

Things Without Internet

By: Patrick Murray
Have you heard of the Internet of Things? Thought so.
Some day, all devices will be able to communicate securely and intelligently with each other. Throw in a dash of artificial intelligence and they will even learn our preferences over time. As promising as it sounds, there are quite a few things that need to play out before we get there.
Until then, there are still plenty of useful things without a network connector. Communication with infrared, serial, contact closures and voltage sensors are found in plenty of consumer and professional products alike. So how do we get them on the network? The answer, of course, is to use a converter.
A good LAN converter will have a well documented and easy to understand communications protocol, some helpful software tools to get you started, and be reasonably priced. The hardware enclosure should also be considered. Will it be installed in an equipment rack? Mounted directly on another device? Or simply sit on a shelf? Finally, the device will need to be powered. An external power supply, PoE, or USB from a neighboring device are some typical options. We have had great success in this area with products from Global Caché. A quick internet search will also give you plenty of alternatives.
We Have Assumed Control
Once you get your network-less thing online, you’ll want to send some commands to it. For testing, you can fire up a terminal program like PuTTY, but for day to day control you’ll want a friendlier interface. Programming modules for all of the well known control manufacturers can be found online. But if you are willing to roll up your sleeves and do a bit of coding, control on a budget is within reach. This guy wrote some web server code to open his garage door with his phone. Setting up a web server with Arduino or Raspberry Pi are low power, budget friendly options for always-on, local control.
Goin’ Mobile
If you happen to know an app developer then you can skip the extra hardware and go mobile. Using an app to control devices directly over the network has a few interesting advantages:

  • It uses existing infrastructure (your phone or tablet and WiFi).
  • When using a docking station, you cannot tell the difference from a traditional control system.
  • End users can manage their own app deployments.
  • Mobile devices can be ordered online, making replacements easy to get.

LogoImageLet’s chat
Need some specific advice? The folks at AV GUI love discussing collaboration and control. Drop us a line and let us know how we can help.
Patrick Murray, Owner of Controlhaus System Design in Germany and creator of the AV GUI app, has worked with audiovisual, conferencing and building control systems in projects ranging from luxury yachts, smart homes, boardrooms and universities to secure installations. He has also had the pleasure of assisting several manufacturers develop programming modules and graphical user interfaces for their products.

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