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782 posts

Ultimate Geek
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Topic # 110049 2-Oct-2012 11:23 Send private message

As technology progresses I would expect, and hope, that there will be more and more ‘smart', connected  appliances available on the market.

Assuming WiFi connection for most of these I’ve been pondering how you would do the initial configuration (i.e. establishing the connection to the wireless AP) if these appliances are headless (no touchscreens or external keyboards/screens).  E.g. a smart bedside radio/alarm clock that looks not much different to the ones that have been around for thirty odd years, but with web or smartphone configuration to set things like radio stations, 7 or 365 day alarms (no more unwanted early mornings on the weekends because you forgot to turn it off), time from an ntp server and auto daylight savings adjustments,etc.

A couple of options I’ve thought of so far:
  1. Development of a new protocol to be supported by APs that allow entry of a unique code (not unlike a MAC address) which then goes and finds the appliance and sets up WPA and whatever else it needs to from there.
  2. Using flash media. The appliance manufacture provides a little app, possibly web based, that writes the config parameters to a USB drive or an SD card which then plugs into the appliance that subsequently downloads those config parameters and connects.  This has the advantage over option 1 in that it doesn’t need a new ‘standard’ protocol developed but adds cost to the appliance (it needs a card/USB slot and is more fiddly).
Any other thoughts on how this initial connection can be established?





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Voice Engineer @ Orcon
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  Reply # 694732 2-Oct-2012 11:30 Send private message

Isn't there a button on most wireless access points for this purpose already?  Not sure what the technology is called to look it up though.



782 posts

Ultimate Geek
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  Reply # 694735 2-Oct-2012 11:37 Send private message

ubergeeknz: Isn't there a button on most wireless access points for this purpose already?  Not sure what the technology is called to look it up though.


Mine is really old so it certainly doesn't have one.  Makes some sense if there is though, and it means someone else had thought of it long before me Smile.





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Master Geek
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  Reply # 694737 2-Oct-2012 11:38 Send private message

Its Called WPS you press the WPS button on the AP and on the Device and they work out the security settings between them. once this is done i would imagine that the "Smart" Device would have a basic web interface to be able to configure any further settings





782 posts

Ultimate Geek
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  Reply # 694746 2-Oct-2012 11:46 Send private message

ferg_nz: Its Called WPS you press the WPS button on the AP and on the Device and they work out the security settings between them. once this is done i would imagine that the "Smart" Device would have a basic web interface to be able to configure any further settings



Thanks for that.  WiFi Protected Setup. I learnt something today.  Topic closed I guess.





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  Reply # 695007 2-Oct-2012 17:15 Send private message

WPS is insecure and doesnt handle an install with multiple accesspoints very well at all.

Otherwise it will be like the printers etc where they powerup in adhoc mode and you connect to it and do a network scan and input the WPA key etc.




Richard rich.ms

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  Reply # 695086 2-Oct-2012 19:31 Send private message

richms: WPS is insecure and doesnt handle an install with multiple accesspoints very well at all.

Otherwise it will be like the printers etc where they powerup in adhoc mode and you connect to it and do a network scan and input the WPA key etc.


Was just about to say WPS is insecure. Should be disabled when installing an wireless AP that supports it. I would suggest most new 'smart' devices would probably have a web UI. Don't need much to support something like micro_httpd or similar web server.

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  Reply # 695093 2-Oct-2012 19:36 Send private message

Otherwise there is the way that the electric imp does it with a light sensor and holding it up to your smartphone to flash data into it with actual flashing.

Really, out of band initial configuration is something that the wifi consortium should have sorted out months/years ago, but as they still have not managed to get access point validation, hotspot signin, roaming between accesspoints, standardized WDS support or many other deficiancies in wifi sorted out I am not holding my breath. Bluetooth has pairing, wifi should have something similar where you can pair it to another device on the lan and then they exchange networking credientials or upload a cert to the device to make it work.




Richard rich.ms

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  Reply # 695207 2-Oct-2012 22:40 Send private message

Many appliances have minimal control and feedback requirements where 802.11 and http is overkill. The idea behind zigbee is really low power use while maintaining acceptable range for household use and fast wake up. Zigbee is an open standard but not at all free.

A few more items arrive every year but there are still tensions about the standards and exactly what they mean in practice - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ZigBee

Electric utility providers overall have not worked out how to extract value from smart appliance technology to make provision of HAN a worthwhile part of the meter install. Even when they get it installed the data and network are a walled garden therefore other potential market participants and hobbyists have little chance to build anything innovative with it so it goes nowhere.




Energy saving and monitoring devices available in NZ: www.energymonitor.org.nz

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