In this review, I’d like to talk about the “missing link” that is really missing to create your own complete ecosystem that doesn’t depend on cloud services or the internet, while still allowing for reliable data storage and synchronization between devices.
What do we know about wireless protocols?
Bluetooth and Wi Fi are the duo of wireless technologies that underpin the world of modern devices. Let’s dive into the fascinating world of these technologies by looking at their benefits and features.
It’s not just a name, but an entire series of protocols for wireless communication between devices. Bluetooth’s main mission is cost-effectiveness. Imagine microscopic devices like a wristwatch, keychain or wireless headphones – for them, every milliamp hour of battery life counts. That’s where Bluetooth comes in, transmitting data in a way that minimizes battery consumption. However, because of its focus on economy, it is limited in the types and speeds of data transfer, especially compared to Wi Fi.
As we dive into the world of wireless connectivity, we come across Wi Fi, a powerful and versatile tool in wireless communication. Wi Fi is not just a word, it is a series of protocols designed to connect devices quickly and efficiently. And its mission is versatility: whether it’s a smartphone, tablet, laptop or even a refrigerator, Wi Fi is ready to provide high-speed connectivity. While energy savings still matter, for Wi Fi, speed, short ping and the amount of data transferred are paramount.
LTE (mobile internet)
Imagine a world where you are always connected. That’s where LTE comes in. Based on a range of protocols, its primary mission is to provide coverage. Even in dense urban environments, LTE makes sure that every device stays connected. After all, when it comes to mobile communications, signal stability and availability is everything!
That’s all great, but…
All three technologies – Bluetooth, Wi Fi and LTE – operate on the principle of host-client communication. This principle assumes that there is a central device (host) to which other devices (clients) can connect.
The way devices are connected via the host-client principle can sometimes create obstacles for some products and the Sony DSC QX100 is a prime example. Let’s get into the details with this example.
Sony DSC QX100
Few people have even seen this device, it’s a camera lens. It has no screen, only a power button, a great sensor, processor on board and connects to your smartphone over the air via Wi Fi. Sony released a few of these lenses as an experiment (which failed), at an inflated price, but the price wasn’t the point.
The lens was attached to a smartphone via a special clip and turned the smartphone into a real camera. Now, when the iPhone has a magnetic back, you can attach this lens in one movement without any devices, directly on the magnets without fasteners.
However, the process of connecting to a smartphone via Wi Fi, discouraged all desire to take photos:
– Take out the lens and the phone.
– Launch Sony’s specialized app manually (although NFC could have simplified the process).
– Create a Wi Fi hotspot and connect the lens to it.
Agreed, for a snapshot, such a process looks overly complicated. But that’s not the point at all, the connection process itself with Wi Fi, was slow and a bit glitchy. If the lens would connect to the phone at the touch of a button, or be constantly connected to the smartphone it would be a wonderful tandem.
Another example of technology that sometimes you have to mess around with. You probably want to quickly transfer important video to your phone when you get home. However, instead, you have to decide whether to use a slow and complicated Wi Fi connection, or whether to remove the SD card and insert it into your computer, and so on. Whichever way the process goes, it proves to be inconvenient and difficult.
Again, it would be ideal if our devices could “understand” our needs immediately and instantly connect to each other or even be linked. And I’m talking about a simple way of connecting devices, something like a wireless local area network that always exists between them.
What does this have to do with local area networks?
In the past, when using wired internet, all devices were connected to one local network. Now Wi Fi has taken their place, but it provides a rather “cheesy” equivalent.
I would like that all my devices were just always in one local network, and if suddenly the network is divided – for example, the phone, watch and laptop I took with me on a trip, it would create a separate local network linking these devices.
Let’s formulate more precisely, as it really would be convenient for me
1. To have my devices always connected to the same local network.
2. So that different local networks can be united into one global network.
3. That local networks can self-organize.
4. So that a device connected to the Internet can distribute the Internet to all other devices in the local network.
It is possible, of course, to realize this using mobile routers. But, first of all, you need to make sure that they were charged, and secondly, it is a separate SIM card for each mobile router. In general, this is the same not convenient way to solve the problem, as in the examples above.
Well, it’s not for nothing that it’s done this way, and there’s no point in redesigning it, everyone’s already used to it
Well, that’s exactly why we have such a scheme of connecting devices to devices that we have. We have to connect different devices to each other via wifi every time. Distribute the Internet for your laptop through it, etc.
In general, of course, there are ways to connect devices directly to each other without any main host, and even in automatic mode. This concept of self-organizing networks is called mesh networking, which is a way of connecting devices into local networks.
Oh, mesh again, what a load of crap
I would like to add that Bluetooth already has one of the mesh implementations, but it will not solve the problems mentioned above. This technology is optimized for smart home devices, and its bandwidth does not allow for the necessary amount of data transfer.
WiFi also provides mesh networking capabilities. However, this is essentially a “hack” of the standard WiFi protocol, with significant limitations on data transfer rates.
Now in iPhone 15 there is support for Thread protocol, it is a protocol created by Apple, Google, Samsung and other companies to unite all smart devices under one protocol. It is made very cool, it immediately has an IP layer, as a radio protocol it is quite long-range and very energy-efficient, but alas does not fit the role of the “lost link”, again because of the limitations on the data rate.
Well, that’s it, so eat what you’re given
But as always in search of a solution I remembered about UWB (Ultra Wideband), this is another radio protocol that is also found in some smartphones, it has very interesting properties.
Initially, the main task of UWB is indoor navigation. The UWB chip sends data a million times per second, allowing you to determine the location with millimeter accuracy. Plus, this protocol is capable of transmitting data over long distances, quickly and efficiently, while saving battery life.
Unlike Bluetooth and Wi Fi technologies, which operate in specific frequency bands, UWB operates over a wide range of frequencies. This greatly increases the amount of data transmitted per emission beat.
In fact, it’s exactly the missing link among protocols that simply has to replace BT and WiFi combined.
Well, if it’s so cool, where is it?
Yes it is an interesting question, now in iPhones for example UWB chip is used for many things, but not to create a connection between devices in local networks. UWB is not used in this area yet as the technology is relatively new.
I have found some debug boards containing a UWB chip, but the software part for UWB is much worse. For example, I have not found any mesh implementation and even less local network emulation based on UWB.
There is a cool but slow Thread, there is UWB fast but has no implementations. It would be cool to transfer Thread implementations directly to UWB, but for obvious reasons it will not be possible to do it so easily.
If we cross Thread and UWB we could get all the points I wrote about above, it would be the most convenient way to connect all your devices, economical, fast, reliable and securitized.
I took out the Sony DSC QX100 lens, attached it to my phone, pressed the power button on the lens and the camera app automatically opened.
Filmed something on the DVR, and the phone already has access to all the videos.
I left the house taking a laptop and a phone, and the internet on the laptop is already available from the phone.
Okay, UWB with mesh would be nice, but what does that have to do with ecosystems?
Building your own ecosystem requires a good way to synchronize data between all your devices. I settled on syncthing as such a solution.
The concept is that each device has its own structure of folders it needs.
For example laptop has folders “projects”, “photos”, “documents”, camera only folder “photos”, phone “photos”, “documents” and home file storage also “projects”, “photos”, “documents”.
Thus you get a self hosted system in which:
1. Data is duplicated on multiple devices to protect against loss.
2. safely synchronized between each other in real time and without third-party servers.
3. And most importantly, the data is always available without the internet.
Additionally, you can backup data to any cloud via Duplicity
If all devices will see each other always, distributing roles and using only UWB, we will get the real future, convenient, simple and reliable.
By the way, if you know how to make for example a module for RPI with UWB and q mesh firmware, with ethernet or usb emulation, write me, I will be interested to discuss and maybe even launch the implementation of such a module/board.