We are in the final stages of one of the most exciting projects I have ever worked on!
Genuine World’s First
We have developed an IoT solution for smart heaters on behalf of our customer; Rio. The solution consists of; mobile apps for Android and iOS, a web-based server component to manage user accounts and settings, an MQTT broker to deal with communications between the server and the heaters, Alexa Skills to control the heaters, actions for Google Assistant and integration with Apple's HomeKit so the heaters can be controlled with Siri. There is not another heater product on the market which does all this. Not one. We have built the first, and it's amazing. You can see the polished case study here
The following VLOG gives an overview of the functions and a live demo! Look mum, no hands!
These heaters will be available for purchase soon!
Full video transcript
So it's pretty exiting times here right now at Compsoft Creative, coz a project we have been working really hard on for over the last year is now coming to its conclusion and is really close to release.
It's an IoT project, which allows us to control these lovely looking heaters. So we got these from the client, they are the final product, ready to go to testing. We're just doing our last round of testing at our end and kinda of putting all the pieces together...
It's just great to see this whole thing come together because it's quite a complex project. And what I want to do in this video is briefly take you through, at a very high level, the things it does and demo it doing it because...
This is a first, this is genuinely a world first, there's not product on the market today which does what the Arc heater and the software does today. So to give you a quick overview, we've got electric heaters here, these are WiFi enabled they have a new logic board in so firmware written by our partner that we have partnered with, Newbury Electronics, they're the people that have done the work on the firmware side...
And then it's also made up of a server-side component, an MQTT broker, iOS and Android apps, and integration with HomeKit, Google Assistant and Alexa, using Alexa Skills. And I kinda quickly want to take you through the whole process. So, I've prepared this earlier, its a bit of a 'here's one a prepared earlier' scenario... I have already set these heaters up, I've added them to my own Rio account on the Rio server. I've also set them up using my HomeKit account, we've also gone ahead into Google and Amazon and grouped them together.
And now, they can all be controlled from all of those things, plus, to make it even more confusing, by the buttons on the heater. So if we kind of quickly look at the app first, we basically have iOS and Android apps which allow us to control the heaters.
Right now the heaters are running in a programme mode which is indicated by the little clock on the screen. These heaters have been grouped into a programme, and I can switch it into manual and I can set the temperature to 13.
And as you can see there all four heaters have updated live and I have a few cameras running, no editing here, this is live, I am letting it take as long as it takes and you can see how quick that took. I am going to drop the template down to 7 degrees, it's actually quite chilly in here, but because I have these plugged in all to the same circuit I don't want to blow the breaker, so I can't fire them up.
You can see how it's going, and basically what is happening here is the app is communicating with the server, the server is passing some topics into the MQTT broker, which is subsequently sending these commands down to the heaters which then, obviously, respond back. I am getting ambient temperature up and some nice little things that I can do in here is I can put parental lock on, so if I turn that on that basically locks all the heaters down so that kids can't play with the buttons.
Now that parental lock can be unset from the app, it can be unset from the heaters themselves using a special button press. I'm going to take that parental lock off. Other features you can do from the app, is turn the back light off so that the light goes off so you don't have the LED glaring at you all the time. So that's really cool.
These heaters are now in manual mode, I want to go ahead and switch them back into programme, so I am going to go ahead and do that and you'll see the screens update saying that the heaters have gone back into programme mode. And currently in a frost cycle which is basically a low temperature cycle. But that's not where it ended, right, controlling these with an app was, actually we've done stuff like that and we have been doing stuff like that for some years now.
What we wanted to do was allow it to be controlled from lots of places, and on the market today, Hive and Nest are sort of the two biggest players and they have only integrated Google and Alexa they have not integrated Apple's Home Kit.
So we can demonstrate Alexa and Google integration, so 'Alexa, set the temperature in the office degrees' ....... Gonna try that again 'Alexa, set the temperature in the office to 10 degrees' ....... And there you go. Those four heaters have now had their temperature set to 10. Now this command goes from our Alexa Skill to our server, it's already previously authenticated, and then to the MQTT broker which is then shipped down to the heaters themselves. I can also ask Alexa what the temperature is and she'll take an average of all the heaters.
'Alexa, what's the temperature in the office?'........ 'Alexa, what's the temperature in the office?'........ [ALEXA] 'The average temperature of office is 17 degrees'. Okay, it's taken a couple of times to get Alexa to speak there, that is not us, that's just the device being a bit rubbish...
'Okay Google, set the temperature to 17 degrees in the office'........ [Google] 'Alright, setting four thermostats to 17 degrees'. So there we have Google working really well. If you want my input I think Google is a much better natural voice recognition engine, it's really good.
And the other thing we were able to do is also control it via HomeKit, which is something which currently not available in the market for any heater that we are aware of.
'Hey Siri, set the temperature in the office to 15 degrees' ..... [SIRI] 'Communicating.... Okay, I set the temperature to 15 degrees' - Well thank you Siri. So that is Siri sending it, and interestingly Siri doesn't use our own... Apple doesn't use our own server and MQTT broker, they kind of do it on a more ad-hoc basis, which has created, which why people haven't done it, because it creates quite a complex scenario.
Because now these heaters are in manual mode, and we've got to make sure that that information is processed to the server so that all the UI, so the app's UI can reflect the offices is now in manual mode, it's at this temperature... and because you can interfere with heaters in any way, including setting them into programme mode and changing the temperature on the heater itself, we needed to make a way to keep that in sync.
That's been where a lot of the effort has been put in. So I am going to go ahead and cycle these back to programme mode from the app and there goes the command and they've all been put back into programme mode, running kind of beautify in sync.
If you want to see more details about some of the steps we have taken to get here there are some other blogs, but I was keen show and share this kind of exiting evolution on the blog to sort of see where we have got to and seeing this come together after all the headaches and the pain of working out how to make sure we manage all these moving parts so that it works as robustly as it does (Alexa's hearing excepted)... It's been a really, really interesting journey.
And, as I say, it's ground breaking, I don't think any company has done this yet... so if you have any requirements around IoT control, IIoT (which is industrial IoT) or you've got any questions about how this sort of technology, Alexa, Google, Siri can be implemented in your business, by all means, get in touch - we love what we're doing here. Thanks for watching!
If you want to learn more about how Compsoft Creative's awesome team can help you with your IoT project then please get in touch!