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nCube: A Highly Secure Smart Home System Wins a Kickstarter Funding

A UK-based software vendor collaborated with Altoros to develop an IoT system that automates workflows within a smart house.

Brief results:

  • With a working prototype, the customer was able to get an additional budget through the Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign.
  • The cross-platform product was then successfully delivered to house owners across Europe, Americas, and Australia.
  • Enjoying improved energy consumption, its users can cut expenses by tracking resources usage across 15 types of smart devices.

nCube on the Web:

Steele Solutions is a London-based developer of nCube Home—an IoT system that enables users to efficiently control their houses through a single cross-platform app. The solution automates a number of scenarios, such as tracking energy consumption, turning on/off household appliances, monitoring house security, etc. Unlike other alternatives on the market, the system stores all the sensitive data locally on a physical hub.

The customer wanted to deliver an IoT solution for a smart home, automating the following scenarios:

  • Optimize energy consumption (turn the lights and thermostats on/off)
  • Control central heating (align the temperature with the weather)
  • Manage household appliances remotely (raise the blinds, set up an audio system to wake a user up at specific time, etc.)
  • Control boiler receivers (e.g., heat up at preset time)
  • Monitor house security (send alerts in case of smoke/leak or unpredicted entry movements)
  • Having cooperated with several development teams from EU, but not satisfied with the results and the quality of code, the customer turned to Altoros to fix the issues and accelerate delivery.

Under the project, the team had to address the following challenges.

  • Dealing with sensitive data, the solution needed to be highly secure.
  • The offline mode had to be enabled so that the system does not fail without Internet connection or when nCube servers are unavailable.
  • On connecting a new device, the system needed to recognize what type of a device it is to trigger the appropriate behavior.

In addition to a local data storage hub (inside the nCube device), other efforts were introduced to ensure security. After nCube plugs into a user’s WiFi router, secure connection is then established to the VPN gateway. In this endeavor, the developers provided two-factor authentication: for the hub and home network (VPN). The unique passcodes are sent via SMS, authorizing each smartphone; permissions enable different access for parents and kids. With Raspberry Pi, the engineers made it possible to control household devices even offline. Altoros ensured the system properly recognizes the type of a device—sensors, switches, alarms, etc.—to assign appropriate actions. Now, the solution is differentiating between 15 categories of various devices and allows for combining them to react together. Support was enabled for WiFi, Bluetooth, and Z-Wave connections, making the system compatible with most smart home appliances. The team also delivered the functionality that simulates the presence effect when a user is out or on vacation—based on the recorded daily activities.

Partnering with Altoros, the customer was able to get additional Kickstarter funding at the prototyping phase. The product was later successfully distributed to house owners across Europe, Americas, and Australia. The company is planning to enable the system not only to differentiate between 15 types of devices connected, but recognize exactly what the device is—an audio system, a smoke detector, a kettle, etc. This cross-platform solution will also work with solar generators in the near future. The developers designed an API for other IoT vendors/partners to provide access to nCube’s cloud in AWS. Integrating with Amazon Alexa, the team is going to enable the application to identify a house owner’s voice and take a necessary action. The customer now wants to create a white-label product—targeted at energy, telecom, and real estate organizations—to generate additional revenue.

Technology Stack

Server Platform

Debian

Programming Language

Ruby, JavaScript

Technologies

Ruby on Rails, Grape, AngularJS, Ionic, OpenVPN, Raspberry Pi, Cordova

Database

PostgreSQL, MySQL

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