IKEA Trådfri: my favorite IoT paradigm
I’ve been wanting to experiment with home automation and domestic IoT appliances for quite some time now, but one factor kept holding me off: security.
Up to now I’ve only seen gateway and devices that wanted to permanently be connected to their own cloud ecosystem - even IP cameras tried UPnP’ing their way to the internet by default! I’m looking at you, Foscam. At least make the feature optional and disabled at first. I didn’t like the idea of having a connection constantly open from my network to something/somewhere I don’t know just to be able to turn on and off a couple of lightbulbs (that often use proprietary protocols, too) at all - so I eventually lost interest and moved on, labelling the whole thing as a fade.
I have nothing against keeping connections up, even if they can clearly inject data inside my network, but I have to know the device/protocol inside and out to let those connections be: I had (and have, though it’s currently disconnected) a Nabaztag in my home. The bunny wanted to be connected to the internet at all times or it’ll start raging by flashing orange and green lights in your face for an indefinite amount of time (owners of it can surely relate). No problem though, as I ran it on an open source and community-maintained server that I knew fairly well and trusted enough given the device’s capabilities. The same thing does not relate to devices like Samsung’s SmartThings Hub or Philips’ Hue Bridge.
The IKEA Trådfri ecosystem, however, is different:
It is offline first: it does not rely on any cloud system to work, the only exception being firmware updates (that seem to be improvable, but fairly secure).
It works with open protocols: the gateway is based on the CoAP and dTLS stack, and communication beween hardware devices happens via ZigBee. This means that if you already have a ZigBee-compatible gateway you might be able to control IKEA’s smart appliances - but don’t take my word on that, as I suspect that you still need the official gateway to set up the bulbs and remotes for the first time.
Support among self-hosted home automation solutions such as Home Assistant and OpenHAB is still limited for the Trådfri series, but it is being developed quickly.
So far I’m very pleased that a system with these specs has entered the market, and hopefully many others will follow and the open standards trend will continue. The Trådfri ecosystem definitely takes a place among my favorite IoT gadgets, right after iTead Studio’s Sonoff series (hey, the price/value ratio of a $6 MQTT-enabled AC switch is quite hard to beat!).