Saturday, 28 February 2015

Embedded World

Embedded World is Europe's foremost conference and exhibition for people interested in embedded systems and runs for 3 days in Nuremberg, Germany. It prides itself on being a serious, technical event with high calibre speakers who are respected authorities in their field. So why I was there and why I was possibly the only person presenting two sessions, I really have no idea!

But I was there and I did speak. Twice.

Obligatory photo of me presenting

I also had a good wander around the enormous (but not quite CEBIT sized) exhibition. Some was interesting and for me, some considerably less so. We all have our thing I guess.

My first session "Creating the Edge Tier of IoT with Bluetooth Smart" sought to clearly position Bluetooth Low Energy (AKA Bluetooth Smart) with respect to IoT architectures and patterns and then proceeded to explore the practicalities of developing both device firmware, using an Arduino based system as the example, and smartphone applications, using Android.

My second was arguably more interesting and consisted of a 30 minute and reasonably technical guided tour of the newest capabilities and features of Bluetooth Low Energy as well as a close look at things that will be released imminently. I also talked briefly about the standardisation of Mesh networks on Bluetooth Low Energy about which the Bluetooth SIG issued a press release a few days ago, a very exciting development which will have a substantial impact in sectors such as the Smart Home, the commercial building sector and the industrial internet of things.

I got asked a good question at the end of my second session and I'd like to make sure my answer is clear as I suspect it was not. The question concerned the fact that at version 4.2 of the Bluetooth core specification, resolution of private resolvable addresses has moved from the host to the controller. Since the controller is hardware, this implies correctly that only new devices will be able to support this particular feature. What is does *not* mean however is that only devices with new hardware can be 4.2 compliant. None of the new features of 4.2 are mandatory and so only if a manufacturer opts to implement the new privacy architecture will this mean they need a 4.2 compliant controller. And it has no impact on devices compliant with 4.0 or 4.1 either. Advertising packets are advertising packets and a 4.0/4.1 device can still process advertising packets emitted by a 4.2 device, containing a private resolvable address instead of the old style not resolvable reconnection address type. In short, 4.2 is backwards compatible with earlier 4.x versions.

PDF versions of the slides from both my sessions are available for download:

Session 1 - Creating the Edge Tier of IoT with Bluetooth Smart

Session 2 - What's New in Bluetooth Smart?

And.... if you really want to, you can watch a video of my second session as well. Enjoy.

25th Feb 2015 - Embedded World - What's New in Bluetooth Smart?

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Women Who Code

Women Who Code is a non-profit organisation, dedicated to helping women excel in technology careers. Their headquarters is in San Francisco but they have operations in 15 countries around the world, including in the UK. I was fortunate to meet the Women Who Code London leader, Gen Ashley (Twitter: @coderinheels) at Droidcon in London last year. We got talking and the result was an opportunity for me to speak at one of the group's regular meetups.

I spoke at last night's meetup and talked about the rise of Bluetooth Smart, it's background as a key, low power wireless technology that was designed for the Internet of Things (IoT) and moved on to show the attendees what's involved in creating Bluetooth Smart devices and how to develop corresponding applications for Android smart phones. Much of this was based around a resource for developers called the Bluetooth Smart Starter Kit. You can download it from the Bluetooth SIG developer web site and then go through its various projects to learn to develop Bluetooth Smart devices using an Arduino platform or Bluetooth Smart applications for iOS, Android, Windows Phone or BlackBerry 10.

Explaining the Bluetooth Smart Starter Kit

One of the key topics covered before getting into the coding concerned recent and imminent new capabilities of Bluetooth Smart which allow devices to interact with the internet i.e. internet or IP connected devices in a variety of ways.

I also did a demo of a smart lighting product and described how it worked in terms of its client / server architecture, its use of Bluetooth Smart and the role of its embedded firmware.

There was a quiz at the end which posed three questions based upon the content of the session and the lighting demo in particular. I was delighted to be able to give away three prizes; a Redbear Labs Bluetooth Smart shield, a Broadcom WICED Sense and a Texas Instruments SensorTag. I'm sure they've gone to good homes and will be well looked after :-)

Quiz Time

I don't think I've every had so many good questions at the end of a talk. These gave me the opportunity to talk about beacons, about security in general and about how Bluetooth addresses privacy issues and can stop you from being tracked via your device's advertising by varying the MAC address it uses in advertising packets.

The event was hosted by Badoo and their very own Kelly (Twitter: @KtKellyTran) was a great help with the AV set up and generally making me feel welcome :-)

There was lots of nice food and I had a good chat with various people at the end. I think I might even have inadvertently let slip my plan to build a robot army out of Lego Mindstorms (Bluetooth controlled of course) but that's a whole other story. There were all sorts of somewhat more sensible ideas from other more sane people and at least one person was teetering on the brink of deciding to go and set up a start-up!

A great evening. Thanks to Women Who Code and Gen for inviting me to speak.

My presentation can be downloaded here.