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Defining All of the Things

It’s nice to have friends to talk AI about. But like spec’ing out how your custom home “butler” works? Man.

:pencil: by Jacky Alciné Jacky Alciné :book: an tinkering post :bookmark: home automation , wintermute :clock7: written :eyeglasses: about 2 minutes, 510 words :link: Comments - 2 Mention(s) - Permalink

Whilst chatting in this new Slack room @bossjones set up for home automation and robotics, I thought about how interactions with more laymen devices could go down from a programmatic standpoint. It’s kind of amazing how similar to having a service orientated architecture that all of this is. Depending on how it’s designed, each service could represent one or many instances of a class of devices, be it a light bulb, a IR transceiver or ever your phone. I think that I might be mildly biased in this thinking since that’s a lot of what I was touching on at my last fulltime role1. It’s exciting nonetheless to be able to think of every day objects as a suite of objects that have properties and methods (when reduced to the closest and crudest forms of objects). For example, this is what I think what the definition of a sink could have:

object Sink : public {
  float fillPercentage();
  float waterPressure();
  float waterTemperature();
  void setWaterTemperature(float);
  void turnWaterOff();
  void turnWaterOn();
  void setWaterPressure(float);
  void drainWater();

This would be enough to freak someone out who’d be using the sink at home, is abstract enough2 to work for both kitchen and bathroom sinks and could be the basis for controlling tubs as well. Why the hell would someone want to automate their tubs? Only Kanye knows. The thing about this is that most of this information2 is stored in public ontologies about what objects can and can’t do and what their functions are. An ontology is a computer’s way of classifying what X is, can be, can do, would be and so forth. Most of this is done through heavy layers of relationships and of course it’s written in the world’s most popular markup language. For example, this page refers to the ontology of a camera. A lot of the reference points in it points back to the W3C’s implementation of either a scalar value or the structural form of God knows what. It’s still something I haven’t gotten my mind around. But it’s a fascinating topic.

The end goal that I personally have is to define actions for objects, be it a microwave, fridge or a television set and have them actionable over a particular RPC of sorts. That sounds a bit scary since now you’d have to be concerned about DDoS attacks from your fellow tech friends who want their $5 back or your microwave automatically resetting itself to 00:01 despite your best efforts to prevent it. It’d lead to forcing signed requests, if not heavily encrypted using HTTP/2 and GPG over the wire.

  1. At the time of writing, that’d be at Shutterstock

  2. At least, I think it is. (I’ll be referring here a lot).  2