Internet of Things and Home Security with Florian Merz from KIWI | 🎙️#33

Promotional graphic for 'DevOps Accents Episode 33' featuring a drawing of a smiling, bespectacled male figure and topics; 'Internet of Things and Home Security with Florian Merz from Kiwi'. Listen now button included. Promotional graphic for 'DevOps Accents Episode 33' featuring a drawing of a smiling, bespectacled male figure and topics; 'Internet of Things and Home Security with Florian Merz from Kiwi'. Listen now button included.

What are the definitions of the Internet of Things? How do you make a lock without a physical key? What are smart cities? How do you optimize your digital lock? Florian Merz, Head of Product and Engineering at KIWI, is here with us to discuss all of that and more.

  • What is the Internet of Things (IoT) and why is this term to broad to be actually useful?
  • How do digital locks work and how do older people cope with such technology?
  • How important is reliability in IoT for home security and how do you test for it?
  • Are cloud providers solutions useful in this industry?
  • What kinds of open source tools, stacks and protocols are there for people interested in IoT?
  • What will the future of IoT look like for the next 10-15 years?

You can listen to episode 33 of DevOps Accents on Spotify, or right now:

The term "Internet of Things" (IoT) has transcended its buzzword status to embody a fundamental component of modern technological innovation. This sprawling ecosystem of interconnected devices, ranging from the mundane to the complex, brings about a transformation in how we interact with the physical world. Yet, as Florian, a leading figure in digital access management, points out, the breadth of the IoT term often masks its specificity, diluting its practical utility in professional discussions. Despite this, the undeniable impact of IoT in streamlining operations and introducing advanced functionalities across diverse industries cannot be overstated. From optimizing resource allocation to enabling real-time data exchange, IoT stands as a testament to the convergence of digital and physical realms, promising unparalleled efficiency and connectivity.

I think the problem with the term “Internet of Things" is that it's extremely broad and very unspecific. So there are a lot of areas of the internet of things that are more interesting. So, for example, in our day-to-day work, we rarely use the term "internet of things" to talk about what we're doing because that's just not an interesting word or a useful word for us to use to make distinctions and to, you know, help clarify things. Yeah, if I talk to someone outside, this is one of the sentences I like to use, and people have like an image in mind that it's devices that are connected to the internet and do something. But, at the end of the day, it's way less of an important word when we actually work in this.
— Florian Merz

Revolutionizing Access with Digital Locks

The advent of digital locks serves as a prime example of IoT's transformative potential, particularly in the realm of home security and access management. These sophisticated devices meld convenience with security, offering user-friendly solutions that transcend generational gaps. Notably, their adoption among the elderly highlights IoT's capacity to provide inclusive technologies that cater to a wide range of physical abilities. For instance, the ease of use associated with key fobs and NFC-enabled devices simplifies the act of unlocking doors, a feature that is especially beneficial for individuals facing mobility or dexterity challenges. This accessibility underscores IoT's role in crafting environments that are not only secure but also more accommodating and user-centric.

It requires a relatively high amount of reliability and robustness. You can't just say, well, 90% is good enough for me. I'm going to open sometimes. It's like, yeah, you really need to open pretty much every single time.
— Florian Merz

The Intricacies of Testing in IoT

The realm of IoT testing, as Florian illuminates, involves a balance between digital precision and the tangible unpredictability of physical devices. Traditional software testing paradigms fall short when confronted with the IoT's unique demands—particularly, the necessity for load tests that simulate thousands of devices interacting with the system simultaneously. Given the impossibility of physically testing each device under every potential condition, Florian's team employs a blend of real-world experimentation and sophisticated simulation. For instance, they've crafted devices to mechanically approach locks, mimicking human interaction, to accurately gauge responsiveness and reliability. This innovative approach to testing underscores the necessity of simulating physical phenomena within a controlled environment, enabling the team to predict device behavior in diverse scenarios. This meticulous process highlights the complexity of ensuring reliability in IoT systems, where the digital and physical worlds converge.

It's hard for me even to imagine the marvels of ingenuity it takes to engineer such things to work consistently without failure. I don't know, it must require very thorough testing. Almost like rocket science. When you build a rocket, you have to predict all the scenarios where something could go wrong, and you just cannot send an engineer into orbit to fix that. You have to first rule out all those possibilities and think about how to make it work and provide recovery options in case there is a network outage somewhere in the city or in the apartment, and it fails. And more to that, you need to have all those scenarios prepared and thoroughly thought through.
— Leo Suschev

Navigating Cloud Solutions in IoT

Florian's insights into using cloud solutions for IoT applications reveal a complex landscape. While AWS's IoT Core and similar platforms offer scalability and integration ease, skepticism arises due to concerns over vendor lock-in and the discontinuation of services, highlighted by Google's history with its IoT service. Florian's company, initially developing their infrastructure independently, showcases a cautious approach toward cloud adoption. This strategy stems from a desire for control and the avoidance of reliance on third-party platforms, which might seem counterintuitive given the potential cost efficiencies of cloud services. However, a deliberate shift toward managed cloud services for specific infrastructure needs, such as databases, reflects a nuanced strategy. This move isn't about trend-following but optimizing operational efficiency and realizing cost savings, underscoring a pragmatic adoption of cloud services tailored to enhance their IoT solutions without sacrificing autonomy.

So it already shows that, yeah, actually we weren't doing it in a very good way simply for the money purpose. We're wasting money trying to do something ourselves, believing that we're actually saving money currently. Because, well, why do you do something yourself? You know, I think it's cheaper.
— Florian Merz

mkdev & Trimming KIWI’s Cloud Costs: Uncovering Savings in AWS KIWI Case Study

Envisioning the IoT Horizon: Trends and Cautionary Tales

As we peer into the future of IoT, Florian's insights offer a roadmap marked by both promising avenues and cautionary byways. The anticipation is for an expansive IoT universe, burgeoning with a plethora of connected devices enhancing daily operations across sectors. However, amidst this growth, a discerning filter is expected to sift through the myriad of applications, favoring those that genuinely deliver on their promises of efficiency and innovation over mere novelty.

Well, if I had to guess, I would say there's going to be more Internet of Things devices out there. There's a certain filtering that I'm expecting to happen; certain things are just not worth doing in IoT, and some of that is still in the hype phase. I think some of that will stop, as it's not worth it. Quite a lot of the time, there are big promises of reduced maintenance costs, and it's not really paying off because people forget how much work it is to keep all of those devices running. The trade-off will show where which use cases actually have the benefit you need and where it doesn't actually pay off.
— Florian Merz

Key to this future are steadfast technologies like MQTT for seamless device communication and the potential rise of low-power wide-area networks (LPWAN) to extend IoT's reach with greater efficiency. Yet, Florian casts a skeptical eye on the buzz surrounding blockchain within IoT. Despite its allure, blockchain's practicality and added value in IoT contexts remain questionable, suggesting that its widespread adoption may not materialize as some enthusiasts predict. This skepticism underscores a broader theme: the IoT landscape is poised for evolution, where tangible benefits and practical applications will likely overshadow the allure of cutting-edge but unproven technologies. This pragmatic view encourages a focus on refining and deploying technologies that reliably advance IoT's capabilities, ensuring its growth is both meaningful and sustainable.

Our guest, Florian Merz

Podcast editing: Mila Jones /

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