11 months ago

Mozilla Project Things: IoT on Raspberry Pi

Firefox maker Mozilla has launched a new, open standard for IoT and smart homes called Project Things. Mozilla announced that Project Things “makes it easy for anyone with a Raspberry Pi to build their own Things Gateway [to control any kind of smart device] directly from the web.”

Mozilla Project Things

We asked Ben Francis, Mozilla software engineer, for more detail. “The Things Gateway is designed to bridge existing smart home protocols and devices to the ‘Web of Things’ using ‘adapters’,” he says, to add extra wireless protocols to the Raspberry Pi.

Ben confirms, “The latest version has built-in adapters for the Zigbee and Z-Wave protocols [as well as] adaptor add-ons for devices from brands like Philips and TP-Link… we’re calling on the community to help us build a whole directory of add-ons.”

Many smart home devices use Zigbee or Z-Wave to minimise power draw. However, as few smartphones have Zigbee or Z-Wave hardware, smart home apps have to relay information via a physical hub unit. These hubs tend to be proprietary, closed ‘black boxes’ – even worse, you might need one for your lights, another for your heating system, and yet another for your multi-room speakers.

Ben says that Project Things aims to “standardise web technologies as a common layer”, thus consolidating the need for hubs into one open-source, customisable and upgradable, Pi-powered unit.

Project Things: IoT Beyond the black box

Any smart device should be compatible with a Things Gateway, as Ben clarifies: “Our goal is not to create a proprietary Mozilla IoT platform, but rather help to build a World Wide Web of things, much like the World Wide Web of pages you can browse with Firefox.”

Ben expounds that by “using the Web Thing Description format and Web Thing API  we’re contributing towards standardising through the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).”

Interestingly, given Mozilla’s web-based background, Ben confirms that “the rules engine built into the Things Gateway runs locally on the home network”. Further, “Mozilla provides a secure tunnelling service to make it safe and easy to access the gateway over the internet.”

Ben adds that “working towards royalty free IoT standards, with multiple competing implementations, should help to drive down the certification and licensing costs, [both for hardware devices and] the software needed to connect them together.”

The Project Things GitHub page is live on GitHub and you can start making your Things Gateway at iot.mozilla.org. Mozilla recommends a Raspberry Pi 3, and a few USB dongles to add support for Zigbee and Z-Wave.