On more than one occasion, I've unwittingly left the garage door open overnight. My previous garage door opener was a LiftMaster with MyQ, so I could check the door status before going to bed and close it remotely, if necessary. My current garage door opener, however, doesn't support Internet control, so I had to set it up myself. Fortunately, enabling Internet control for my garage door opener was straightforward using a Raspberry Pi, Twilio, and Amazon Web Services (AWS).
Magnetic contact sensors attach to the garage door opener rail and detect both an open and close position.
A relay attaches to the Raspberry Pi for control and toggles the "pushbutton" connection on the garage door opener.
Integration between sensors, relay control, and AWS infrastructure is handled by Raspberry Pi.
Raspberry Pi monitors magnetic contact sensors and triggers relay for garage open/close toggle. IoT is updated at sensor detection (open/close/unknown).
Device shadow is read for current IoT state information. We do not poll the actual device for status information directly.
MQTT (MQ Telemetry Transport) is used to communicate with AWS IoT. Low overhead, reliable protocol.
AWS API Gateway is Twilio SMS endpoint for control signaling and status detection.
How It Works
To close the garage door, we simply text close to our SMS number. Twilio (SMS gateway) accepts the message and passes it along to AWS API Gateway, which rewrites the incoming request to place the parameters in a JSON payload for delivery to an AWS Lambda function. Lambda checks that the sender is authorized, enqueues a message on SQS (for status follow up) and posts a message to the IoT control topic, which the Raspberry Pi subscribes to (via MQTT) and the Raspberry Pi momentarily triggers the relay to cause the garage door to close.
Once the garage door closes, the magnetic contact sensor detects the new position and publishes a message to update the IoT Device Shadow then executes another Lambda function, which reads SQS and sends SMS status messages to the requestor.
Why Tesla’s new solar roof tiles and home battery are such a big deal
"On October 28, Tesla unveiled its new solar roof tiles. Few of us in attendance, if any, realized the solar roofing tiles were actual functional solar panels until Elon Musk said so. Sure, it’s a neat trick, but what’s the big deal?"
Why does it matter that Tesla is making a fashion statement when the point is green power and a future where we aren’t so dependent on fossil fuels?
I’ve heard from some people suggesting that this is nothing new, because of other similar previous projects, including Dow Chemical’s canned solar shingle project, for example. Others are wary of Tesla’s ability to sway consumers with a solar solution that sounds like it’ll still be quite expensive in terms of up-front (or, with payment plans, deferred but net) installation costs. Still others aren’t clear on Tesla’s goals with this product, or how it fits into the company’s overall strategy relative to its electric vehicles.
It’s easy to dismiss the aesthetic import of how Tesla’s tiles look, but it’s actually important, and a real consideration for homeowners looking to build new homes or revamp their existing ones. The appearance of the tiles, which come in four distinct flavors (Textured Glass, Slate Glass, Tuscan Glass and Smooth Glass) is going to be a core consideration for prospective buyers, especially those at the top end of the addressable market with the disposable income available to do everything they can to ensure their home looks as good as it possibly can.
As with other kinds of technologies that are looking to make the leap from outlier oddity to mainstream mainstay, solar has a hurdle to leap in terms of customer perception. Existing solar designs, and even so-called attempts to make them more consistent with traditional offerings like the above-mentioned Dow Chemical project, leave a lot to be desired in terms of creating something that can be broadly described as good-looking.
It’s like the VR headset — Oculus and Google can make claims about their use of fabric making their headsets more approachable, but both are still just options somewhere along the curve of things with niche appeal. Neither is very likely to strike a truly broad audience of users as acceptable, and neither are solar panels that don’t succeed in completely disguising themselves as such.
Tesla has been referred to as the Apple of the automotive world by more than a few analysts and members of the media, and if there’s one thing Apple does well, it’s capitalize on the so-called “halo effect.” This is the phenomenon whereby customers of one of its lines of business are likely to become customers of some of the others; iPhone buyers tend to often go on to own a Mac, for instance.
For Tesla, this represents an opportunity to jump-start its home solar business (which it’ll take on in earnest provided its planned acquisition of SolarCity goes through) through the knock-on effects of its brisk Tesla EV sales, including the tremendous pre-order interest for the Model 3. It’s strange to think of halo effects with big-ticket items, including vehicles and home energy systems, but Tesla’s fan base shares a lot of characteristics with Apple’s, and because they’re already purchasing at the level of an entire automobile, the frame of reference for what constitutes a valid halo purchase is actually appropriate.
Tesla, like Apple, scores well with customer satisfaction and brand commitment, and that’s something that no one trying to sell a solar home energy system at scale can match. As strange as it sounds, “buying a roof because you like your car” might be the new “buying a computer because you like your phone.”
Benefits beyond basic solar
Tesla’s solar tiles claim to be able to power a standard home, and provide spare power via the new Powerwall 2 battery in case of inclement weather or other outages. Musk says that the overall cost will still be less than installing a regular old roof and paying the electric company for power from conventional sources. But Musk’s claims about the new benefits of the new solutions don’t end there.
Tesla’s tiles will actually be more resilient than traditional roofing materials, including terra-cotta, clay and slate tiles. That’s because of the toughness of the glass used in their construction, according to Musk, who demonstrated the results of heavy impact from above, using a kettlebell as you can see in the video below.
This should make them theoretically more resistant to potential damage from elements like hail, or even debris like fallen tree branches. In fact, Musk also said at the event that the roofs should far outlast the standard 20-year life cycle common for roofing materials used today — by as much as two or even three times. Fewer roof tile replacements means more value, provided that’s not already factored into his estimates of the up-front cost. There’s also the possibility that the new tiles could become more efficient than existing solar panel options. Though in their current form, Musk says they achieve 98 percent of the efficiency of regular panels. He said that the company is working with 3M on coatings that could help light enter the panel and then refract within, letting it capture even more of the potential energy it carries to translate that into consumable power.
A new kind of ecosystem
tesla-home-verticalThe announcement of Tesla’s solar tiles does not guarantee a sweeping solar power revolution; far from it, since Tesla says it won’t start installing the product in any consumer homes until next year, and a lot can happen between now and then. But Musk also said with full confidence that he ultimately expects the Powerwall to outsell Tesla cars, and easily so.
Solar roofing, Powerwall and Tesla cars taken together represent a new kind of ecosystem in consumer tech, one that carries a promise of self-sufficiency in addition to ecological benefits. Tesla has already tipped its hand with respect to how it intends to make vehicle ownership a revenue generator for its drivers, rather than a cost center. You can see how it might eventually do the same for solar power using solar tile roofs combined with Powerwalls installed in series, giving homeowners surplus power generation and storage with a few different potential options for monetizing the excess (including, say, acting as a supercharger station for other Teslas, or selling back to the grid).
It’s tempting to look at Tesla’s unveiling last week and think that it’s more of an incremental development in the home solar industry. But it’s more likely a step toward a future where individuals have more direct control over power generation, leading to a big difference in how we think about renewable energy.
Continuous Innovation is a mindset change for organizations that have software products. It is a shift to a shared understanding that:
We never have perfect knowledge today about what our customers will want tomorrow. Companies that accept this and make it a part of their operating principles can gain and maintain a significant competitive advantage over those that maintain a fixed mindset and way of operating. In fact, disruptive innovations are one thing that should be keeping business leaders awake at night in today’s environment.
In the book Mindset, Carol Dweck eloquently describes what underlies human success and where it comes from. Her work has already impacted an uncountable number of lives in education, health care and parenting and I believe that we are just beginning to scratch the surface of the impact that her work will have for generations to come. One example, that I am passionate about, is the software product development space. We can run direct parallels between Carol Dweck’s work on human mindsets and on how we develop software products. This article demonstrates that parallel and puts the theory into practical use for this purpose.
In essence, to build software products that find success in their respective markets, we must build them in a way that guarantees them a flexible and unexpected future. Systems and teams that employ a flexible mindset will be more successful than those that are hamstrung by traditional fixed project mindsets.
The following infographic demonstrates the Continuous Innovation Mindset and it’s approach to failure and learning:
The following principles represent key underlying cultural components that need to be instilled in your product development teams to empower the Continuous Innovation Mindset:
User Obsessed. Our highest priority is always on what our end users experience. We need to be obsessed with eliminating pain, reducing effort, handling disruptive situations and making their lives better in the context of our products. We need to be obsessed over each and every click, every swipe and every pixel that our customer sees and how it impacts their experience with our software. It’s these small details that make connect people with the tools we provide and create joyful, memorable experiences for them. We don’t just want to create tools that people love, we want to create tools that people can’t live without.
Architecturally Excellent. Never compromise on what lies under the hood. technical debt will kill a software product down the road, so watch it carefully. Pay constant attention to your best practices and tools with a focus on technical excellence. Structurally excellent products will improve your long term agility in amazing ways. Experimental. Continuous Learning and Micro-Innovations are a necessary part of a products future. Failing Forward is expected, normal and necessary. Strategic Effort (The difference between Trying and learning) is really important. Our teams need to always be learning. We must always be open to adjusting the product vision. It is simply never perfect. Reflect and retrospect frequently, adjust and repeat. Treat everything we do as an experiment that is meant to be learned from. Tning great means that we need to build a discipline around forming, measuring and creating great experiments. We value the scientist in all of us.
Evolving. Markets change, better tools are built, competitors do unpredictable things and we might stumble across new ideas in the most unexpected places. The ability to change and turn on a dime is the ability to be anti-fragile and being anti-fragile may be the single most powerful competitive advantage in today’s market.
Aligned. Our product vision needs to be well defined and powerful. It should include our mission statement and communicate it clearly to our stakeholders. Our product vision should be a source of inspiration and pride for the teams that are producing them. When your teams are aligned around a product vision that they created together, the momentum is palpable. When there is misalignment, chaos ensues and people become apathetic to their roles in the products success. Don’t let that happen to your product. Stay in front of the vision and make sure everyone remains aligned. If you find misalignment, be prepared to adjust the vision or work on motivation.
Motivated. Great products are built by motivated people. Give them a great culture of ongoing learning and development and trust them to build a great product around the vision that you create with them. If you have people that are not inspired by the vision, figure out how to inspire them or find something else for them to work on. When they are motivated, trust them and get out of their way.
Always Shipping. What is not in the hands of your users is virtually worthless. Get it done and get it to market. As Seth Godin so eloquently says: “Ship it.” Insist that everything you release be worthy of your brand, but do it in the smallest increments possible. Be relentless in reducing what is minimally releasable at all times. The shorter the release cycles, the better. Master the art of choosing what not to do.
Measured. What we don’t measure, we can’t improve. Functional software, in the hands of your users should be the quintessential measure of progress. Adoption and appropriate usage should be number two. Products that don’t get used are a waste. Any measure of how much time or energy you are saving your users should be number three.
Never Finished. A software product that is a brand asset, is not a “project” with a start and an end. If it is, it will be irrelevant the moment you “finish.” A software product’s future is only as good as the quality of it’s backlog, the intention of it’s producers and perception of it’s users. Never, ever, think that you are finished.
Cash is already pretty much dead in China as the country lives the future with mobile pay
*Mainland Chinese stores and services are increasingly centered around mobile pay apps like WeChat Pay and Alipay.
*Chinese mobile payment volume more than doubled to $5 trillion in 2016, according to Analysys data cited by Hillhouse Capital.
*Mobile pay is growing so rapidly in mainland China that as a foreigner, I sometimes found it difficult to complete basic transactions without it.
*The dominance of mobile transactions lends itself to greater data collection by the Chinese government.
Evelyn Cheng | @chengevelyn
A dessert store worker scans a mobile QR payment code in Beijing, China, while the blue sign below promotes the store’s use of Alipay.
Lack of red tape and a less developed financial system have apparently allowed mainland China to leapfrog the developed world into embracing mobile payments.
Mobile payment volume in the country more than doubled to $5 trillion in 2016, according to Analysys data cited by Hillhouse Capital in a May report. In the first quarter of this year, Alipay had 54 percent of that mobile payments market, and WeChat Pay accounted for 40 percent, the study said.
The Chinese mobile pay habit is also affecting other countries. More than 6 million Chinese traveled abroad during the "Golden Week" national holiday in early October, according to state-backed media outlet Xinhua. That puts pressure on popular tourist destinations like Japan and Hong Kong to add mobile pay services.
Just over the border in Hong Kong, I heard a few mainland Chinese customers asking a store clerk to scan their phones' QR codes while Cantonese-speaking locals paid in cash. In April, Nikkei reported that the number of stores accepting Alipay in Japan will double to 45,000 this year, according to the regional head of Ant Financial Services.
Customers can buy traditional Chinese calligraphy brushes at this Xi’an, China, store using QR payment codes. From left to right: WeChat Pay, Alipay and the QR code for the store’s WeChat account.
The growth of mobile pay in China comes off a solid base of smartphone users. The ubiquitous WeChat messaging app from Chinese technology giant Tencent reached 963 million monthly active users in the second quarter. In professional settings, adding each other on WeChat sometimes replaced business card exchanges.
Alipay, which is owned by Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial Services, has 520 million users, according to its international website.
The app is linked to online money market fund Yu'e bao, encouraging users to invest and spend with Alipay. Attractive interest rates of nearly 4 percent or more have turned it into the largest money market fund in the world, with 1.43 trillion yuan ($217 billion) as of the end of June, according to state media reports citing Yu'e bao's manager, Tianhong Asset Management.
Hong Kong-based research investment company CLSA expects Chinese electronic payments volume to quadruple to 300 trillion yuan by 2021. During that time, online wealth management products' assets under management should triple to 6.7 trillion yuan and online loans could also triple to 3.5 trillion, said Elinor Leung, head of Asia Telecom and Internet Research at CLSA.
"High mobile internet and ecommerce penetration, and an underdeveloped traditional financial market will drive growth," Leung said in a Sept. 5 report.
Mobile pay is growing so rapidly in mainland China that as a foreigner I sometimes found it difficult to complete basic transactions without it.
After scanning the QR code on the table at this restaurant in Beijing, China, customers enter the payment amount in the app.
When I tried to pay at a Beijing McDonald's on a late night, the only payment options were China's Union Pay credit card system, Apple Pay or WeChat Pay and Alipay. As an American visitor without a Chinese bank account, I wasn't able to find a way to use those systems and the store clerk wouldn't take my cash.
"Cash is accepted in all McDonald's restaurants across China. After our investigation, we believe this is an isolated case that happened during night shift change, and thus, all cash counters were temporarily closed," a McDonald's China Customer Care Center told me in an email.
Taxis were also nearly impossible to hail in Beijing due to the rise of Didi, a ride-hailing app that bought Uber's China operations in a deal worth $35 billion last summer. Because Didi was linked through WeChat, I couldn't use it without a Chinese bank account.
When I finally did get a taxi, the driver gave me a fake 50 yuan bill in change. Several stores also claimed three of my 100 yuan bills from a New York money exchange were counterfeit. If I could participate in the cashless society, I would not have lost about $50.
The bike unlocks after the customer scans its QR code through a bike-sharing app.
The growth of mobile pay in China has supported another business: bike sharing.
Led by a few start-ups, the number of bikes stacked along the side of the street or sometimes scattered even alongside highways in China has exploded. The number of monthly active users doubled from February to more than 20 million in March, according to TrustData cited by Hillhouse Capital.
Two of the largest Chinese-based start-ups, Ofo and Mobike, say they have a combined more than 13 million bikes around the world and have each raised at least $1 billion.
Incidentally, Mobike entered the U.S. on Sept. 20 by deploying bikes in Washington, D.C., while Ofo made its first foray into the country by launching in Seattle in August.
A bicycle from bike-sharing startup ofo in the Muslim Quarter of Xi’an, China.
The dominance of mobile pay also means companies like Ant Financial and Tencent have access to hordes of personal data. That data can then be shared with the Chinese government, which prioritizes control. Some parts of China have been testing a personal credit score system linked to mobile pay data.
But unless privacy issues have immediate negative consequences, convenience may trump all. A smartphone is increasingly the only thing someone in China needs to carry when going out.
Isn't this already happening in Kenya as well with Safaricom's M-Pesa?
Anyway, my fear is that should payment gateways like wepay come to Nigeria, the likes of Flutterwave and Paystack might be sent out of business
In a way, yes. Though I think Paystack and Flutterwave are different coz they still have to go through the traditonal/convential financial institutions/banks to process transactions (I've integrated paystack on a website before, and you can't use it without a bank account/mastercard/Visa), which has enabled them to scale to an extent coz they are leveraging on the banks' customers. While M-Pesa is more telecom based and operates outside of the conventional banking system (similar to the way Paga also operates) -- they have agents/partners through whom you can load your account via your phone, send money, and receive money as well, though you can move money to/from your bank account into them as well. I think the WePay model is more similar to the M-Pesa and Paga ones.