Monday, November 18, 2013

Things that go bump in the night

My daughter's best friend's family (let's call them the Smiths) recently moved to the other side of the country (unfortunately selfishly bringing their daughter). My daughter is saddened by this.

To some extent, I see my role as trying to minimize large-scale sadness increases for my children (also my wife I guess though that definitely wasn't in our vows so that's mostly bonus the way I see it).

Consequently, I'm looking for any mechanisms that might help my daughter with the change.

Might technology help?

The girls are already using explicit connectivity technology, some iOS app called Bump & numerous 2-hour FaceTime sessions in which mine and the Smith's households' respective dogs are forced to appear on camera in humiliating costumes.

Explicit mechanisms are definitely important for keeping remote friends feeling connected, but so also can be implicit or passive mechanisms - such as the Good Night Lamp.

According to Forbes
The Good Night Lamp is a simple set of lamps – one big, one or more little. When the big one is turned on, the little ones turn on. When the big one is turned off, its junior partners also turn off. More junior lamps can be added to the network, but that, at heart, is the whole offer. There is nothing to tinker with or customize – it is a simple point of presence, sent over the Internet.
This would be perfect for the girls. But unfortunately there are no Good Night Lamp kits available for purchase - they're sold out after their initial run.

Coincidentally, I have a Smartthings kit of various things - can I not use Smartthings to duplicate the GNL use case?

Use Case
When my daughter performs some explicit action, turn on/off bedside lamp of her friend in Vancouver. And vice versa. 

My Smartthings kit includes 
  • Hub
  • Multi
  • Presence
  • Outlet
  • Motion

Temporarily putting aside the two household aspect, I could use a Hub, Multi and Outlet to satisfy the use case within my own house - using IFTTT to tie it all together.

When the Multi switch is closed (the two halves placed together), the Outlet is turned on, and so any light plugged into turned on as well. And vice versa.

To deal with two different households, I could purchase another Smartthings Hub, Multi, and Outlet - ship them to the Smiths and then duplicate the above rules, although inter-household and not intra.

This would work, but at the cost of me bearing the full financial burden (and the Smith girl is missing a friend too right?) of effectively purchasing two Smartthings kits and distributing the various pieces over the country. 

Preferable (to me if not the newly trendy, sodden and real estate-indebted Smiths) would be a model where it is the Smiths that purchase the second Smartthings kit - and yet we are still able to apply the above logic, albeit based on explicit authorization rules (the Smiths can control my outlet, and I can control their outlet) rather than implicit logic (all the things belong to me).

For Smartthings to support this would require
  1. an invitation mechanism whereby I can request the Smiths to assign me permissions over their household things
  2. an authorization UX whereby I can assign the Smiths permissions to control my household things
  3. an authorization framework by which the permissions of a given 'turn on Outlet' request from a household to the Smartthings cloud platform can be checked.
OAuth,OpenID Connect & UMA (User Managed Access) are identity & authorization standards that were designed to meet these sorts of requirements. 

Of course, this sort of 'identity interoperability' across two smart households begs the question - shouldn't this work across different Home Automation platforms? What if the Smiths were to purchase WigWag and not Smarthings? This sort of cross-platform interoperability neeedn't even imply a WigWag hub controlling a Smartthings Outlet - the interoperability could happen between the two respective clouds using HTTP & APIs.

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