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Cellphones Technology

Smartphones: Life's Remote Control 121

An anonymous reader writes "This year's Consumer Electronics Show has shown off more interconnected devices than I would know what to do with. Not only are existing devices I use getting modern, Internet-connected interfaces (cars, ovens, and security systems, for example), but companies are now putting out addons for smartphones that replace existing ones (blood pressure and glucose monitors, for instance. An article at the NY Times points out that the smartphone is quickly becoming life's remote control — a portal through with you'll soon be able to control far more of your electric devices than you might expect (or care to). 'For several years, technology companies have promised the dream of the connected home, the connected body and the connected car. Those connections have proved illusory. But in the last year app-powered accessories have provided the mechanism to actually make the connections. That is partly because smartphones have become the device people never put down. But it is also because wireless sensors have become smaller, cheaper and ubiquitous.'"
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Smartphones: Life's Remote Control

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Subject says it all

    • The link is still broken so here are some semi-random thoughts on what kind of remote control I was looking for a few days ago. I want a reasonably accurate temperature sensor, not +- 1 or even 2 degrees C. I want +-0.1 degrees with a update frequency of about once a minute. Wireless with a 50-100m range to a base-station that can then log the data. I don't want some kind of "cloud service" where the base-station uploads my data to the maker's server. I don't want a closed proprietary interface. I want the

      • Until you described it, I didn't realize that I want one of those too.

        How big was sensor part of the ones you built in the lab with the battery that last a year? Bigger or smaller than, say, a cell phone?

        Hell yeah, I'd buy one of those right now.

        • About the size of an RFID. The temperature sensor was an off the shelf MEMS in an IC package, there was the main PIC as a processor and some other odds and ends to link it to the bus. We weren't using Ziggbee, but that is a single package now so I'm thinking the whole thing could be a lot smaller than a cell phone. The battery was just a watch battery (don't know what they are called, the little circular ones). The power draw from the processor, sensor and bus was practically zero. Essentially it is a quest

      • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
        I bought a multi-point weather clock that did that. The only issue was that it didn't interface with anything else. I used it to measure the humidity in the crawls space to air it out if it got too mold-friendly and for fun to keep an eye out on the outdoor conditions from my nightstand. But yes, it would have been nice to have the temp and humidity accessible on the computer, and logged for future use as well. The one I had isn't available anymore, but this link is for a similar one from the same compa
      • Why does this not exist?

        Just Google zigbee temperature sensor.

      • This is exactly what I wanted for my home: to measure temperature/light/humidity with 4-5 various sensors placed around the house that transmit data wirelessly to a base station which is capable of logging / exporting / graphing the data in fairly standard ways, without the proprietary junk.

        I was considering this controller [embeddeddatasystems.com] with some sensors, but at $150 each, it's a tad expensive. I could probably build it myself from some raspberry pi derivative, however I'd rather not reinvent everything from scratch.

        I w

  • ... by that guy who just wouldn't shut up or is just obnoxiously loud, I'll just leave this [wired.com] here.
  • so in other words (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Osgeld ( 1900440 ) on Saturday January 12, 2013 @09:18PM (#42571399)

    when I replace my phone in a couple years, I have to replace a bunch of other shit that magically wont work anymore

    great plan, if you are not a consumer

    • Re:so in other words (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdot.hackish@org> on Saturday January 12, 2013 @09:21PM (#42571411)

      And even if you don't, software incompatibilities may lead to the same result. It's starting to appear in digital cameras now. For example, the Sony NEX-5R and NEX-6 cameras add an ability to be remote-controlled by a smartphone: you can get a remote view through the viewfinder and trigger the shutter remotely. Kind of cool idea in principle. But the Android app doesn't work on the newest version of Android, and Sony hasn't given an indication of when they plan to release an update.

      • They'll release an update. It'll work with the newest camera and not yours. That's what you should expect when buying Sony.
        • That's what you should expect from all hardware manufacturers...
          Nowadays only Apple seems to provide long term software upgrades for its hardware (at least iPhones)

      • by Anonymous Coward
        The way to solve this is to not have Sony supply the app at all. Instead, Android (and iOS, and whatever MS calls theirs now) should specify how the remotely-controllable device, e.g. camera, should declare its functions, controllable parameters, sensors, etc. and a protocol for controlling the device. Then any device conforming to the protocol can be controlled with a generic control app, either supplied with the OS or 3rd party.

        But that's probably too much cooperation between too many huge corporations.
      • Not a new issue.
        10 years ago I bought a Philips HiFi system that could be used alone, but also connected to a PC for audio output and for input (a few keys of the remote control). This 100% proprietary system ever had only drivers and a player for Windows XP.
        Never worked on Linux, and installing the drivers on Vista required a big hack and often require to reboot the PC before usage...

      • by Sloppy ( 14984 )

        The reason this bullshit happens is that people are saying "the app" instead of "the open protocol." If Sony says "our camera let's you view and control wi--" interrupt and finish with "--with 'CamVNCp 1.0?'" and if they say anything other than YES then yawn and start walking toward next manufacturer.

        If a 'feature' does not involved a documented (and preferably legal-to-implement) protocol then it does not exist. You can save thousands of dollars per year (and more importantly avoid annoyance/heartbreak) o

        • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

          The reason this bullshit happens is that people are saying "the app" instead of "the open protocol." If Sony says "our camera let's you view and control wi--" interrupt and finish with "--with 'CamVNCp 1.0?'" and if they say anything other than YES then yawn and start walking toward next manufacturer.

          If a 'feature' does not involved a documented (and preferably legal-to-implement) protocol then it does not exist. You can save thousands of dollars per year (and more importantly avoid annoyance/heartbreak) on

    • "great plan, if you are not a consumer"

      Not only that, but a lot of these things are silly ideas or worse. Sure, some might be good but others are not.

      Do you REALLY want to give Mary Jo the ability to control her oven from some remote place? Who will pay to put out all the fires? And why the hell anybody would want their refrigerator connected to the Internet is beyond me, but if I recall correctly, Bill Gates suggested it about 15 years ago. Why???

      I don't need my thermostat controlled by a smartphone. It does just fine on its own, thanks v

      • by Osgeld ( 1900440 )

        cause, if you remember to set up your wifi, make an account, pay a monthly fee, and program it every time you go to the store I will tell you that your milk is going to go bad!

        +1 internets

      • Re:so in other words (Score:5, Interesting)

        by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @01:20AM (#42572501)

        let me correct you just a bit; you don't need WAN reachability (inbound, probably even outbound) from embedded networked systems.

        but inside your home LAN? its not too bad to have remote control over things. ob disc: I design and build audio things that have networked back-ends and allow ip-based clients to manage them.

        I have always emphasized that firewalling and security SHOULD be part of all embedded systems that are network-reachable. with cheap things like the rasp-pi, you could glue on an ip-stack with security and have that front-end your embedded system. no reason not to, anymore.

        if you do at least reasonable security, having remote control over physical things is cool and useful. but never 'just throw things on the network' without knowing how to secure them, internally and externally.

        • "you don't need WAN reachability (inbound, probably even outbound) from embedded networked systems."

          You aren't correcting me, because I didn't claim you did need it. Please read again: I stated "... a lot of these things are silly". I didn't say all of them were, and I didn't elaborate.

          But just so you are aware: I have seen proposals online to do things like remote control your oven and the like from work, or wherever you happen to be outside the home. And it's a bad idea.

      • While you might not, it can be useful for other people I'm out of the house all day so I have zero interest in heating it then but it would be handy to be able to call up the central heating and get it to turn on and off so the house is warm when i get home.

        Your typical android phone has 2 i/o ports the usb otg port and the headphone jack. There is also wifi , bluetooth and telephony 3g ect. Thats a powerful collection of i/o

        heres a little toy which works via the headphone jack

        http://www.thin [thinkgeek.com]

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

        I'd love my fridge to be able to track what is in it (barcodes or RFID), and then create a list of stuff I need to re-buy automatically and store it on Google Docs. Then when I am out shopping I can access that list on my phone, or just use it to shop online.

        As an added bonus the fridge could save me some money by making greater use of off-peak electricity, or even talk directly to the power company and negotiate the best times to kick. Before someone says it obviously there would be a maximum temperature l

        • "As an added bonus the fridge could save me some money by making greater use of off-peak electricity, or even talk directly to the power company and negotiate the best times to kick."

          That's all great, but that much is not really related to remote control. It would be better to automate it. Building an accessible list of contents may be great, but something like that has to be done before remote control of the refrigerator is useful at all.

          My point was that for years now, people have been dreaming up silly ideas for things to put on the internet. Some of them might not be silly in the future, after other advances, but they are still silly now.

          As for the thermostat: a $30 programmab

  • by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Saturday January 12, 2013 @09:37PM (#42571489)
    Sounds good until you replace your phone, which if you are like a lot of people is every 2 years at minimum because phones change. On the other hand, let's see what all the devices I've got that use remotes:

    1) A VCR that was purchased about 23 years ago
    2) A DVD player bought in 2001
    3) A PS3 bought in 2008 used for Blu-Ray (yeah, I know I can play DVDs on it, but the PS3 frequently goes between the upstairs and downstairs TV)
    4) A TV bought back in 2005
    5) A cable box that I think I got in 2008-ish
    6) An old stereo that is about 20 years old

    Assuming that tomorrow I upgrade all those things to something that I can use my Smartphone with, and assuming I keep my devices (aside from my phone) for as long as I have, how long before my phone won't have an application to communicate with them? Already we have problems with specialty applications such as remotes not working with the newest version of Android, mix that with hardware changes and you've got something that will only work for a few years before a key feature becomes obsolete. And given that there's few reasons to upgrade generic appliances unlike something like a phone, you've got an expensive featureset that won't be able to be used for most of the device's lifespan.
    • by pepty ( 1976012 )
      I think you've just convinced the people who make all of those things (the ones that are still made, that is) to switch to smartphone remotes. Their costs go down if they don't have to include a remote, and your having to buy again when they don't upgrade the remote app for future smartphone OS releases is right out of the planned obsolescence playbook. Win-win - for them.
      • by davester666 ( 731373 ) on Saturday January 12, 2013 @10:36PM (#42571807) Journal

        1. touchscreen remotes SUCK if you use them more than every once in a while. Primarily because you have to switch focus between looking at the touchscreen and the device you are controlling
        2. how much control of your home do you want to give to 'random person who finds/steals your phone'

        • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
          How much use is it if I change my locks and WiFi keys the day after a burglary? They'll log in at their home and auto-discover nothing useful (unless they stole my devices when they robbed my house). Random person stealing my phone, assuming it was unlocked, can't "remotely" control any of my devices. won't work my device from wherever they try to get on.
      • Oh shit. So instead of multiple physical remotes, we can now look forward to multiple virtual remotes? *puke*

    • by crow ( 16139 )

      This is an argument for open protocols. As long as the protocols are open, there's hope of a good solution long after the vendor has gone out of business, and the brand has been licensed to three other companies (e.g., RCA).

      Of course, you're still dependent on having hardware that will do the communications protocol, but Bluetooth and WiFi will be around for a long time with backwards compatibility (much like USB).

      Still, I would love to have an IR transmitter on my phone so that I could use it as a remote

    • by nateb ( 59324 )
      Disable automatic updates. You will not progress into the future without your consent!
    • Sounds good until you replace your phone, which if you are like a lot of people is every 2 years at minimum because phones change.

      such people should be ASHAMED OF THEMSELVES.

      keeping electronics *only* two years is a sin. you think landfills need our help to fill up? they're not filling fast enough so we should throw *more* away?

      I fully hate that attitude.

      if you are throwing a good phone (not dead, not broken) away after 2 years, you should reevaluate what you really are and why you have this compulsion.


    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

      TCP/IP and ethernet/wifi isn't going anywhere soon, so really the only problem is compatibility between versions of Android. That's something Google really should fix.

      Of course iOS and WP8 uses will be SOL.

  • I don't know of a solution to put wifi control into an appliance for less than about fifty bucks, even as a DIYer. Maybe you could do it with a pogoplug for around thirty, but if you want decent range make that thirty-five. (they have a little GPIO, you can run a relay and read the status of one or two circuits easily and cheaply enough...) But with new parts it'll cost substantially more. None of my stereo stuff supports anything other than IR or some wacky proprietary stuff none of which works together, a

    • http://dx.com/p/mini-usb-2-4ghz-150mbps-802-11b-g-n-wifi-wireless-network-card-adapter-black-120933?Utm_rid=20144190 [dx.com]

      If there is USB support this should work for around $6. Probably crap range though

      • If there is USB support this should work for around $6. Probably crap range though

        They have a unit with an external antenna which would be more suitable for $10. But that only covers the USB dongle. Now you also need something capable of talking to it. The cheapest thing I know of which can do it justice is a Raspberry Pi.

    • I would not add wifi to every device.

      the design I like is an embedded system connected over serial to a real IP host system that does firewalling, access control, etc.

      if you are local, you can use serial TTL. if you are a little remote (but same house) you can link with zigbee modems. they are like wire-emulators but using rf half-links between each, like a bridge. you send serial-TTL in and you the the same out, error-corrected and even encrypted if you want. with a bunch of those, you can remotely con

  • So far, Microsoft's response to everything is to try to make Win32 run on it. This has been demonstrated to present a number of problems not the least of which is the inability to run on lower-powered electronics and is still vulnerable to the same old exploits regardless of which processor it runs on.

    I have been repeating the same old prediction -- that the computer in your pocket will become the computer you use everywhere, that depending on where you are, it will have different interfaces, inputs and ou

    • the computer in your pocket will become the computer you use everywhere, that depending on where you are, it will have different interfaces, inputs and outputs. CES is apparently showing it all to be true... at least so far. But Microsoft doesn't appear to be responding in any meaningful way.
      No, Microsoft is going the other way. You will have computers everywhere and regardless of where the computer is or how big or small or for what purpose, it will have the SAME interfaces, inputs and outputs, not matte
  • Just give me a phone I can open ports on and run a lisp image and X. As long as devices speak open protocols I can speak to any device.

    Or at least something that can run an X server that can send multitouch back to a client

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I believe my Palm IIIx had most of the functionally required. Now we have fancy smartphones that can't even change the channel on a TV.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Yeah, well I still jerk off manually.

  • How easy it will be to commandeer another's life by hacking their master controller (i.e., smart phone). Centralization of control invites attack.
  • Forget Security (Score:4, Interesting)

    by eyegone ( 644831 ) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @12:40AM (#42572325)

    Remember that none of this stuff will work if you have even the faintest hint of security on your home network.

    Don't even think about putting your spiffy new never-patched, Internet accessing, firewall-less "smart" devices on a separate subnet from your WiFi if you want to actually use these features.

  • by drolli ( 522659 ) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @12:47AM (#42572347) Journal

    a) Heating: Best done on schedule, and automaticlaly controlled. The savings from adjusting to your fluctuation of getting home are miniscule

    b) Light? No need to remotly control it.

    c) Kitchen devices: The only thing i could imagine would be turnign on the coffee machine before you wake up - and that is not remote control. All other things require manual intervention.

    I mean I could imagine that filling the bathtub may be an applicaiton.

  • The part I have never never quite gotten is why its so rare to fine IR transmitters in modern devices. This would ensure near total compatibility with all home AV gear. I know space is at a premium in these things but surely such a handy and simple thing would be worth it for the value add. The add ons i have seen are expensive or clunky, and thebbedt ones seem to be IOS based.
    • Some of the Samsung tablets have that - e.g. I have a Note 10.1 which comes with an IR transmitter. I think the newer Galaxy Tabs also have them.
  • So I realize that the internet, bluetooth, and 2G signals are ways of getting devices to interact with each other, but is there any centralized off-the-shelf solution for conglomerating feeds and getting things to talk with each other, or does everything require customized approaches for receiving and working with the data in any way?
  • Like most other technology, a connected home is a good convenience within strict limits. I feel veering towards both extremes of universal connectivity and knee-jerk rejection born from fear are both not good. Each person must think things through and decide what they desire for themselves and market forces shouldn't dictate things. There's also a certain joy in doing things manually and not sitting uselessly like a lump of flesh surrounded by a sea of robots, feeling useless. Life is there in small tasks t
  • by Xugumad ( 39311 ) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @05:12AM (#42573169)

    I don't even know where to start with how bad an idea this is. Going to try, though:

    There's nothing stopping you from doing this already (for example using http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X10_(industry_standard) [wikipedia.org] ) - the fact that many people don't is primarily because it's expensive and the result isn't actually that useful. Heating controls are already sufficiently advanced to know that I want to have the house at a certain temperature when I'm likely to be around it, and I don't really want to micro-manage my heating. I can see use to having lighting turn on just before I get home, but that's about it; there's no way in hell I want to be digging through menus on my smartphone just to turn the light on/off.

    Appliances tend to require manual intervention anyway; a toaster requires bread, a cooker requires food, the coffee maker coffee... I might as well set them up while I'm there.

    TV/DVD player - okay, we're getting somewhere at least. However, you are going to be physically present when you want to use these devices, and they're easily controlled by well designed, purpose-specific devices of an appropriate device (remote controls). I can actually control my TV from my tablet; I believe I did this twice, once to discover I could, and a second time to show someone else.

  • So I can use it to control my heart beat, blood pressure, etc.?
    Or someone else's?

  • So you're always safe and secure. Sprint's data network is a Fisher-Price fake network that works in maybe 3 cities in America so you're always assured of complete security.

  • The real issue here is Money. Simple.

    Vendors out there can produce a product without the expensive user-interfacing bits. A couple hundred dollar item is available for them to leverage their sale of inexpensive software. Add on the fact that consumers are in the mood to spend money quickly on smartphone-related items and bang, money maker!

    Never mind how crappy these products turn out. I mean, take a look at a Radio Control car monitoring system, where a phone is used to display and interface. LIkely the pho

Things equal to nothing else are equal to each other.