At IoT World last week, I happened to meet up with Berlin-based startup pi.pe, which was showing off its new software for remote control of connected devices. The demo was impressive. CEO Simon Hossell was at the show with an app running on his phone that generated a QR code. When I scanned the QR code with my phone it took me to a web page that let me access both a baby camera and a remote-controlled drone.
Clicking on the camera allowed me to control the panning and zooming so I could see the apartment in Berlin where both the drone and camera were located. If I clicked on the drone I could control it, although it was plugged in so it didn’t go far. I watched through the eyes of the camera and drone on my smartphone while a wide-angle view of the scene played out on the television in the demo booth.
The overall experience was remarkable due to the simplicity by which Hossell gave me control of these devices as well as the relatively low latency between my commands and the actions they took. Such a setup may not be fast enough for surgery, but it worked for controlling connected devices. I would have liked to see how it handled something like lights, where higher latency would have been more noticeable.
But what was really exciting was that the software on Hossell’s phone gave him the option of revoking my control at the end of my session or at another time of his choosing. In other words, I could have continued to access the camera and drone for the next 24 hours, a week, or even a month if he had let me.
Hossell plans to wrap the pi.pe software into various connected products for consumers; he sees it as a way for homeowners to grant their guests access to devices without forcing them to download an app. Instead, they would just scan the QR code and be able to control locks, lights, or whatever else the homeowner wants to give them access to.
The pi.pe software uses WebRTC as its underlying connection technology, which enables remote control of a device over any network connection. Hossell says the software requires a Linux OS with 64 MB RAM, 30 MB of Flash, and a screen that is 64×64 pixels. If there’s no screen of that size available for the display the device needs Bluetooth LE to transmit the images to the screen of a phone.
Hossell says the company has run the Pipe SDK on Windows and Mac OS machines, but some functions were lost. He recommends a Raspberry Pi. In the demo, the Pi acted as a hub for me to access the other devices in the room.
I like this as a consumer-oriented technology, but I see a ton of promise for it as an enterprise option. Traffic between the two devices is encrypted and the way the technology works doesn’t leave open ports. Those features in combination with the ability to revoke access seems like it would be great for the enterprise. Imagine having a guest come into your office or a contract worker who needs access to a conference room and printers. Offering that person access through a QR code so she doesn’t have to download office-specific apps, and being able to revoke that access after a day, seems perfect.