Talking to your electrical devices

Talking to your electrical devices

ROMA-THERE is an app that allows you to “talk” to all your electronic and electrical home devices such as fridges, kettles, heaters and so on using internet.

In fact, it keeps you posted on what’s going on in your home all day long.
People have attempted this before but they were using old, complicated and expensive Third Industrial Revolution technology (3IR).
“We are applying a smart, hi-tech, low-cost and simple Fourth Industrial Revolution Technology (4IR) to do it,” says Molemo Monyane, a former student of the National University of Lesotho (NUL), who is the brains behind the app.

During the Third Industrial Revolution, people were only concerned about communicating with other people.
“That revolution gave us a cell-phone and a smartphone,” Monyane said.
“In the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we are attempting to communicate with things, not just people, through the internet,” he says.
With his app, you can check home to see how your iron is doing (if the nanny has started ironing your clothes).

This branch of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is called “Internet of Things (IoT).”
Simply put, it is about connecting all your home electronic devices to the internet.

Listen to how Monyane introduces his sophisticated app.
“They say home is where the heart is. They say there is nothing like home. The problem is we spend most of our time away from home. With my app, you keep in touch with your home, away from home.”
First you have an app on your mobile phone.

You put your names and passwords in the app so you can log in.
This information is stored both in your app and in the server at home.
“That is because we use what we call distributed databases,” Monyane says.
In the past, the information you put in the app would be stored only in the server at home.

If that home server stopped working, you lost that information.
Now the same information is also stored in “a mini-server in your phone which we created along with the app,” he says.
Then you log into your app and you start adding all electronic devices in your home to the app, a TV, home lights, a water pump, a geyser, you name it.

With this app, you can link up to 20 different home devices.
He attributes the ability to take so many devices to “the use of hi-tech Fourth Industrial Revolution technology” which we will later explain.
Now it’s time to see if the nanny is indeed doing the ironing of your clothes as she promised.
You don’t call her.

You select the iron on your app and something interesting happens.
First, a signal is sent from your app to a computer server in your home.
This is not your normal server.
It is called Raspberry-Pi.

In fact, it is a mini-computer in its own right.
What makes it different?
“It is both a server and a micro-controller in one place,” he says.
In the past, you couldn’t put a server and a micro-controller in one place.
Also, once you had created a micro-controller, it remained fixed.
Now you can programme it to behave differently from the one you started with—that is you can improve it by simply writing a new programme.

This is a new field of computing called Software Defined Network (SDN).
So once the signal from your phone reaches the home server, it makes an inquiry, “is the iron working or not?”
That is, is it on or off?
How will the server know?
Whereas you have an app on this end, remember you have an iron on the other end.

Now this iron is connected to a micro-controller.
If you were using the Third Industrial Revolution technology, you would have to build a micro-controller for every one of all the 20 home appliances you have in the house.
That was complicated and expensive!

“This time you just connect to one software-defined micro-controller…just one.”
That is because you can now control your software-defined micro-controller to behave as if it is 20 micro-controllers!
So the iron is connected to the micro-controller which in turn communicates to the server telling it if the iron is on or off.

The server is then able to give a reply to the incoming signal from your app, “yes, the iron is on, the nanny is indeed ironing.”
That message is sent back to your app.
All these happen in a split second.

Also, during the Third Industrial Revolution, every device connected to the internet would have to have what is called an Internet Protocol address (IP address).
That means all the 20 devices in your home would each have to have an IP address to be connected to the internet.

“We just give that address to a single micro-controller and connect the 20 devices to the controller.”
But how does your app differentiate between an iron and a TV?
“Each device is given what is called a Unique Identifier. When I send a request through the app, the Unique Identifier is the one that makes a server to know what the inquiry is all about, an iron or a TV.”

Own Correspondent

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