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Open Garden connects IoT devices on the fly

Open Garden connects IoT devices on the fly

The biggest challenge in building an Internet of Things is delivering network connectivity for every connected device.

Open Garden, which made its name with software providing peer-to-peer Internet connection sharing over Wi-Fi, offered a partial solution last week when it announced a service that connects IoT devices over Bluetooth LE (Low Energy), also known as Bluetooth Smart.

Here’s how it works: once the manufacturer of an IoT device purchases a digital access key from Open Garden, the devices will automatically detect smartphones and tablets that are running Open Garden Network within a range of up to 200 feet and more. 

The data will then be passed to the next appropriately enabled smartphone or tablet until it ultimately reaches its destination.  No pairing is required, and users of devices that are conveying the data are not even aware of the transmissions.

“The amount of data that is sent is very little,” said Micha Benoliel, CEO of Open Garden.  “And there is no privacy information on the network. It’s just chain of numbers.”

Bluetooth LE offers several advantages over server-based networks

First, in addition to Windows 8, OS X and Linux, Bluetooth LE is already support by most mobile operating systems, including Android, BlackBerry, iOS and Windows Phone.  Also, Bluetooth LE, which operates in the same 2.4 GHz frequency as standard Bluetooth, uses a fraction of the power of standard Bluetooth, an especially important consideration on the sensor end of the system.  

The first device that will use the Open Garden Network is TrackR, a coin-sized device that can be attached to items, such as wallets or luggage.  If the item gets lost or stolen, users can call up the TrackR application for iPhone or Android to locate it.

“When you deal with IoT devices, the number of people installing the application is always a fraction of the number of devices,” said Benoliel.  “In the case of TrackR, they have 250,000 or 300,000 tracker devices but they have only 100,000 people who have the application installed on their smartphone.  So now TrackR, by purchasing access codes to Open Garden, can have access to all the Open Garden software users they need to be able to relay the information.”

A critical consideration in such a system, of course, is security.  According to Benoliel, Open Garden users aren’t at risk.  “It’s an overlay network,” he said.  “That means there is no access to the local machines.”

The application’s data is potentially open to interception, as it would be on any other network.  If the data is sensitive, users will want to be assured that it is encrypted.  “Encryption is handled by the app developers,” said Benoliel.  “We are just really creating a channel to the Internet.”

Posted by Patrick Marshall on Sep 16, 2014 at 12:21 PM


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