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Bench Talk for Design Engineers

Bench Talk


Bench Talk for Design Engineers | The Official Blog of Mouser Electronics

Domotic Wars Arden Henderson


GE 250-M answers the door. Curious floor vac rolls up.

Houses are getting smarter. Intelligent houses are called "domotics," a name created in 1984 by journalist Bruno Latour. Lots of smart interconnected things are now rapidly appearing in houses, and interconnected on the internet, the so-called Internet of Things. IPv6 will finally become routine as IPv4 runs out of IP addresses. (What? Your ISP doesn't provide IPv6 yet? Check out Hurricane Electric's IPv6 tunnelbroker site; reference below.)

Unprotected data traffic between all these things can be exploited

Such smart devices then can be told to do unexpectedly stupid things.

Stuff can be spoofed. Havoc. Chaos. Mayhem. Fires. Insurance fine print surprises. Robotic cats and dogs living together [Murray].

Security, then, is a big deal. Some devices will have poor security

That is, weak encryption, crappy certificates from oft-p'wned CAs (certificate authorities), other common mistakes hidden by the illusion of fabulous sec-marketing yet inevitably resulting in MITM (Man in the Middle). Some will have no security a'tall. In the great rush to make homes smarter, early smart yet exploitable things will make their ways into houses. There'll be recalls and downloaded patches to fix code.

There will be tearful apologizing CEOs on television in front of congressional committees. There will be trouble.

Now, let's jump ahead ten or fifteen years and take a peek..


Police Log



Automated call from 1400 Sleepy Lane. On way through subdivision, brake hard to avoid hatch of a frontloader washing machine blowing out the side of a house, shooting across street in front of us. Recognize brand. They never did use encryption for that model. Still thousands out there after the recall five years ago. Backup unit will investigate. Continuing to domotic.



Squad car's add-on infiltration detector goes off. Some kids probably trying to hack car as we cruise through subdivision. Joke's on them.

Ever since PD pulled thirty-year-old Crown Vics out of retirement, finding them where they could, restoring them, that "Hack A Cop Car" thing has fizzled big time.



Pull up. House completely lit. These days, everyone just leaves LEDs on. Ironic, in the age of intelligent houses. Humans fail to enter schedules for the smart lights. Maybe still clunky programming interfaces. Probably just laziness.



No humans at home. GE 250-M house butler answers door bell, peering around door. Newer model. Behind it, curious floor vac unit rolls up.

House super clean. Immediately notice blast of cold air from inside.

Chat with 250. Of course, it remembers us. We've been here before.

Asked 250 if owners were again away on separate vacations and at their war by proxy.



Sargent in area, pulls up. She knows this domotic. We all do. 250 repeats to the Sargent what it already told us. Upstairs, hot as hell.

Downstairs, deep freeze. The couple are battling from separate locations overseas via the domotic's environment control system.

There's an app for that.



Sargent steps back and looks at roof. Comments in her wry way that a small fire has broke out on the left side. We step back, look up.

That's new. Get on horn to FD in case domotic's alarm system is compromised.



FD here fast. From a rescue in subdivision. Seems some teenager was mad at parents for keeping her from a party and she locked them in the garage by overriding the domotic's security system. She changed the garage's gesture pad to only recognize a well-known single-digit gesture and they didn't guess it.



Fire out. PD tech crew here to disable environment system. Send texts to the vacationing "happy" couple to work out things without taking it out on their domotic. Sargent off to backup PDE7 across town. Domotic's sound system drive-by hacked. Speaker cones flying out windows. Kids these days.



Tech crew decides to shut down all domotic systems since coffee pot and refrigerator reprogrammed to believe they were each other. Hadn't seen that before. Wagon here for the bots and whatnot. The 250 visibly upset; new models have expression capability. We'll make it home back at the precinct. Time for coffee.



Footnote: Riding back, partner shakes head in an annoyed way. Boston Dynamics PD-4400s are a surly lot, very little humor code. Whole event was very skynet-ish to it, to use its words. Too bad 4400s can't drink coffee. The 250 is famous for a good brew.









[7] (Hurricane Electric)






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Arden Henderson spent at least part of his life toolsmithing in dark, steam-powered workshops of software tool forges long gone, drenched in blood, sweat, and code under the glare of cathode ray tubes, striving for the perfect line of self-modifying software and the holy grail of all things codecraft: The perfectly rendered pixel. These days, when not working on his 1964 Flux Blend time machine (which he inadvertently wrecked before it was built after a particularly deep recursive loop), Mr. Henderson works in part-time castle elf and groundskeeper jobs, chatting with singularities spawned from code gone mad in vast labyrinths of vacuum tubes, patch cords, and electro-mechanical relays. Mr. Henderson earned a B.S.C.S. late in life at Texas A&M. Over the hundreds of years gone by before then and after, he has worked in various realms ranging from petrochemical wonderlands spread across the flat Gulf Coast saltgrass plains, as far as the eye can see, to silicon bastions deep in the heart of Central Texas.

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