Hi, I’m Stuart! And I want to help you work around the frustrations of closed ecosystems in smart devices.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is revolutionising the way we control and monitor everything—our homes, cars, farms and factories. It would seem the possibilities are endless.
But are you frustrated with the vendor lock-in, proprietary protocols and lack of manufacturer’s support for their IoT products?
Have you been told it’s impossible?
Do you appreciate the satisfaction of doing it yourself, and understanding how it works?
If so, you’ve come to the right place. Let me share how I’ve managed to achieve what the experts have said can’t be done.
With free and open source systems, and a little elbow grease, not even the sky is the limit.
A Little History
A child stumbling across QBASIC.EXE
My journey with software programming began in 1996 after discovering Microsoft QBasic, included for free with the MSDOS 6.0 operating system I had on my pre-loved Amstrad. Even in this very limited programming environment, it quickly became apparent just how powerful computer code can be. But let’s face it, QBasic does have it’s limitations.
An introduction to Unix and Linux
It was in the first year of a software engineering degree where I was finally introduced to the Unix, and later the Linux programming environments, and what a contrast to QBasic! The openness of these environments—libraries, configuration files and all the protocols in between—mean the only factor limiting what can be done with a computer is one’s imagination.
Yet, while writing software for a career might pay the bills, it became increasingly apparent that such efforts would likely be poured into proprietary systems likely only to benefit the client. This was one of a few contributing factors that led to my abandonment of that degree after studying 3 years of 4.
Computer Repairs and Service
The next chapter—computer repairs and service—really showed promise as a fulfilling career. Solving the problems faced by individuals and small businesses—often on a tight budget—comes with a unique satisfaction not found where money is no object. In these situations, it’s not the extortionately priced solution recommended by the software or hardware vendor that solves the problem—it’s the batch file, amateurish freeware, duct tape and tin snips. And often not because of price, but from doing a better job on it’s own merits, especially when the problem was never envisaged by the manufacturer.
Yet these proprietary systems continue to make up the vast majority of purchases by consumers and businesses, and they’re not always open enough for the “tin snips” to work. The frustration from this, combined with other factors, led me into a completely different field, free from manufacturer lock-in—or at least so I thought.
Working as an Electrician
Putting away the keyboard for the pliers, my next adventure began as an apprentice electrician. This was at a time when consumer grade IoT devices suddenly became mainstream, and with experience in the I.T. industry, you can guess who’s job it was to make these things work. Thermostats, PV solar systems, EV charging stations, gate controllers, security cameras and even—you guessed it—light switches, are often connected to the Internet, and need to communicate with one another.
All too often, the client would require—or at least desire—a solution not supported by the proprietary system already their installation had already adopted, or needed to adopt thanks to a limited number of available options. So once again, to the rescue came the Raspberry Pi’s, bash scripts and even static HTML files, usually to bridge the incompatible protocols spoken by these IoT products.
I am now a fully qualified electrician registered in Victoria, Australia, with particular experience and preference for open protocols and systems that be used in electrical installations and IoT.
I have been described as an “out of the box” thinker who doesn’t believe in “no”.
This experience, interest and quality combines with a motivation to share anything I know that could help someone with their project or problem, regardless of their budget or goals.