IoTCon in Munich: Impressions from Day 2

In my last post I shared my impressions from the first day of the Internet-of-Things conference in Munich. Here is the write-up of day 2 which covers a low-cost smart home, Docker for Internet-of-Things running on ARM (Raspberry Pi’s), introduction to Web Bluetooth and a comparison of Open Source IoT platforms.

Low Cost Smart Home

Niklas Grebe (AKA Thyphoon) has started and documented something I planed to do for a while but never got around to actually do it: he turned his flat in Hamburg into a very affordable smart home. It is important to mention that he is living in rented flat since he doesn’t want to make permanent changes to the apartment. The center piece of this Smart Home is an application he calls S.A.R.A.H (Self Actuated Residential Automatic Habitat) by the computer assistant in the Series Eureka

To control light bulbs Nik is using remote-controlled sockets which are communicating at 433Mhz. They are cheaply available in your next office store and normally come with a remote control. To communicate with the wall sockets he is using RF modules like these which are then connected to a Raspberry Pi and S.A.R.A.H.

Nike did another nice hack with the Bluetooth controlled bulbs from manufacturer Lixada. He used a cheap Bluetooth  sniffer to reverse engineer the communication between his phone and the bulbs and even published his library on Github:

These were just a few examples of his rented flat friendly low-cost smart home. If you are interested in the whole project have a look at these slides from an earlier presentation:

The Power of Docker on ARM systems

This talk was actually my personal highlight on day 2, just because the content of the talk might have the biggest impact what technologies I might use for some of my next projects. Dieter Reuter is member of Team Hypriot which took an important role on making Docker running on the ARM platform. You might say, why should I care about ARM? Well, your preferred IoT home server probably runs on ARM since it is a Raspberry Pi!

But team Hypriot didn’t just port Docker for the Raspberry Pi, they also are publishing an operating system HypriotOS which is optimized to serve as a Docker host. You can get your image of HypriotOS here: Hypriot also maintains a repository of ready-to-use images which make it even easier to get started with Docker on your Raspberry Pi.

So you might ask again: why is this cool? There are many small applications that can run on a Raspberry Pi in the context of IoT: Node-Red, OpenHAB, FlightAware for ADS-B collection, TheThingsNetwork gateway software. With Docker you get a tool to nicely keep all of them separated from each other which makes updates a lot easier and lets you update them just by changing a few versions in the respective Docker file. You could of course do all that by having many Raspberry Pi’s but that would be bad for your wallet, your ecological foot print and your overall karma account.

Anki Overdrive – The race track I always wanted

I never win anything and still I consider myself one of the luckiest human beings alive: having a great wife, a smart daughter, a job that I like, living in a rich country, being healthy. So it is totally OK that I never win anything in lotteries or a contests. The last time I actually won something was 30 years ago at a fair of the local business: I won a hair dryer! Yes! 30 years later I’m nearly bold, so what kind of price was that?!?

I never win anything – except at the second day of the IoT Con in Munich. The conference was almost over when I received a Tweet from the guys from com2m saying that I won the price and if I was still at the conference to collect the Anki Overdrive Starter Kit. Guess how long I waited to head over to their booth: not a second! So thanks again so much to the guys from com2m – my wife couldn’t have found a better gift for me.

I won the price from the booth of com2m: A Anki Overdrive Starter Kit

Maybe I will write a full review about the Overdrive once in the future. In the meantime just the basic facts: the Overdrive by US (robotics?) company Anki is at first sight just another racing track. At least here in Europe the predominant brand for this kind of toys is Carrera so we sometimes refer to this as a Carrera track. If you look closer the Anki Overdrive is a fair more sophisticated toy than the Carrera.

Unlike the plastic tracks used in a Carrera track the Anki comes with far more flexible tracks. Hidden from the human eye they have hidden codes which help the tiny cars to keep on track. The codes tell the car the current lane (1-4), the type of track element (curves, straights, crossing, start/finishing line), the direction and allow them to navigate very precisely. The track elements snap together with the help of magnets and some plastic guides.

The battery (LiPo) driven cars have two motors to control speed and direction just like a tank. There is an optical sensor under the car which looks from far a lot like the one used in your optical mouse. And the car are controlled by Bluetooth from your SmartPhone.

Bottom of an Anki Overdrive car with the optical sensor
My current Anki Overdrive Test Track


The IoTCon 2017 in Munich Germany was quite inspiring and I come with many new ideas and contacts. I personally would appreciate if the conference was more aimed at an international audience with mostly English presentations and also more international speakers. But I did profit enough from this conference to say that this really didn’t have so much impact.

Posted by Daniel Eichhorn

Daniel Eichhorn is a software engineer and an enthusiastic maker. He loves working on projects related to the Internet of Things, electronics, and embedded software. He owns two 3D printers: a Creality Ender 3 V2 and an Elegoo Mars 3. In 2018, he co-founded ThingPulse along with Marcel Stör. Together, they develop IoT hardware and distribute it to various locations around the world.

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