Idratek Makes The IoT a Whole Lot Smarter

Idratek are an amazing home automation company built on decades of research. Their impressive system even powers the UK’s smartest home.

If you needed any proof of the maturity of their tech just check out the version number of their latest software release. Cortex V27 brings with it a comprehensive Web API based on RESTful principles. Both Server and Client objects are implemented, meaning that an IDRATEK system can be more easily accessed by 3rd party applications and that the IDRATEK system itself can make use of 3rd party services which provide such API interfaces.

The Idratek guys had some pretty forthright ideas when we published our piece on home automation control in the Cloud (check out the comments at the bottom), so it’s interesting to see the way they are integration with Cloud services (amongst other things).

One important feature of using Web APIs based on (albeit loosely) agreed interface structures is that this helps to remove the intercommunication barriers between different systems, at least at the developer level. It means that anyone can connect their particular application, whether it is on a tiny Arduino or Raspberry Pi or on a Cloud based platform into the IDRATEK ecosystem.

For the technically minded – the IDRATEK Web API server provides multiple user (connection) accounts secured by independent user names and passwords and with independent access rights on an object by object basis. The server also provides SSL capability for secure data communications. JSON, XML and IDRATEK’s own Synapse protocols are supported. The Web API client allows for the creation of multiple connections to 3rd party applications and provides some level of provision for the decoding and interconnectivity of data sets into existing Cortex object structures.

IDRATEK have long been known for their ‘proper’ home automation systems, rather than ones that merely add remote control capabilities to devices. That’s an oft overlooked differentiator of smart home setups, and one that clearly still irks IDRATEK…

Not a day goes by without us hearing about yet another internet connected gadget which ‘you can control with your smartphone’. It is as if people’s understanding of what HA means still hasn’t progressed much beyond what it might have been 20 years ago other than that the user interfaces and connectivity have been much improved. Well let me grumble (as I usually do) and remind you that HA is really about the ‘A’. No one will really find it convenient to have to pull out a smartphone in order to turn on their living room light when entering that room – no matter how cool it might initially seem. Similarly I imagine most people will tire pretty quickly of having to be constantly adjusting temperature settings and climate controls for their homes let alone if these are zoned to the room level.

So, for HA to become truly popular and useful it really needs to have the emphasis very much on the Automation part. Of course many vendors have woken up to this marketing point and will purport to offer all manner of intelligent automation solutions. And here comes my second grumble, Automation has to work well. Its no good having something which might make correct decisions 70% or even 90% of the time. It has to be closer to 99% or even better for some critical functions.

Idratek Cortex v27

IDRATEK’s point is that just because you can connect your gadgets to the Internet it doesn’t necessarily follow that they will give you a ‘smart’ Home Automation system. But with their tech handling the entire home system, they are free to introduce a wide range of big data derived features into its users homes.

The picture at the top provides just a tiny illustration from the big set of possibilities. It shows IDRATEK’s Cortex running on a Windows tablet and displaying a Cortex Notice Board object. This in turn is delivering real time data collected from two other remote IDRATEK systems. The 3 systems are actually interconnected using IDRATEK’s internet ‘bridge’ technology. One of the remote systems uses a Web API client to collect weather reports from the UK Met Office’s API enabled site, whilst at the same time collecting real time room occupancy information from the 3rd system which in turn is collecting this information from its physical sensors. This data is then delivered to the first system for presentation. All of this achieved mainly with mouse click configuration thanks to the Cortex integration structures. Quite a spaghetti of interconnectivity between different systems and just(?) a data display example, but of course full control of physical functions is equally possible via the Web API.

Check out all the IDRATEK hardware and software at www.idratek.com.

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1 Comment on "Idratek Makes The IoT a Whole Lot Smarter"

  1. Chris Hunter | August 25, 2015 at 3:22 pm |

    missed the piece on the Cloud – lots of interesting comments, too …

    based on our experience, we’d add a few more thoughts :

    reliability – needs to be very very good … eg: we have a motorised yard gate, it’s used several times almost every day – around 1500 times a year … it has it’s own controller (linked into the HA, to improve security & safety, convenience) but it occasionally forgets where it’s at – instead of moving, it flashes & stays still, and has to be re-calibrated (easy to do, just a minute or two, but not great if we’re going somewhere and/or it’s raining) … happens maybe six times a year … 6/1500 = less than 0.5% … in other words, reliability of 99.5% is nowhere near good enough ! Just an example …

    context-sensitivity – often forgotten, but very important – the HA should do things appropriately – eg: tell us things only when we can’t see for ourselves (eg: garden door opened, and we’re not nearby), tell us only when we can be expected to hear what it says (we’re near an intercom, speak louder if the nearby washing-machine is running), take into account the state of windows & doors when heating the house, adjust ventilation rates with numbers of people, don’t put on all the lights if someone is just passing through a room, give more warnings when risks are higher (eg: small children are about), deduce intelligently what’s going-on, using data from multiple sensors (sensor-fusion) to better identify where people are / what they’re doing / where they’re going …

    novelty soon wears off – for longevity, things have to really work, provide real benefits, reliably … today’s cars & aircraft are highly automated, very successfully (comfort, convenience, efficiency, safety, reliability) – houses could be, too, but the environment is less well constrained, less well defined …

    redundancy & fall-back strategies contribute big-time to reliability, safety, etc – but they have to be properly thought-through …

    neural nets / pattern recognition – powerful technique, but needs lots & lots of data, lots of sensors …

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