Gooee’s IoT Test Lab is a 14,000 square foot facility dedicated to testing and optimizing new technology. This extends from mesh networking, to lightning, stress testing, performance monitoring, and tons more.
Previously, the test lab had been limited to Gooee employees and their clients. However, I was recently invited to get a first look at the lab, and some new tech, for which Gooee will soon be releasing a whitepaper. I got a tour of the facility, including demos of the robots, switches, and their performance monitoring dashboards.
Simon Coombes, Gooee’s CTO, Talks Me Through The Tech.
“What we’re doing is developing a mesh network on Bluetooth. When you think of a typical network, it’s a star topology. For example, you can have a network switch with ethernet cables connecting to various devices. Generally WiFi acts on the same principle as well – nodes connected to one central coordinator or server.
A mesh network is different. Think of it this way: if I want to get a message across a crowd of people to someone on the other side of the room, I can go about it two ways. I can either shout and everyone can relay the message for me, or I can say “Hey, can you pass this message along?” and people will, one-by-one, be notified until the message reaches its target.
If an IoT gateway wants to tell that light in the back of the room to turn off, it might not have the range due to the constraints of the wireless network. So what it’ll do is ask one in the middle to then relay to that light. We did not invent that concept. Mesh networking has been around for quite a long time.
In principle, it’s been used primarily outdoors in low-bandwidth, low-message volume situations, but it has become more prevalent indoors now. There’s a protocol called Zigbee, which is used for smart devices like Philips Hue and WiFi is incorporating it as well; you see WiFi mesh networks now, as well, like Eero and Google Wifi. It’s basically harnessing multiple nodes to relay the information back to the coordinator.
We started this 3 years ago. There’s a standard that’s been ratified now by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (the standards council), which is called Bluetooth Mesh. It’s not your typical Bluetooth protocol. It’s designed to run on a Bluetooth chip and is based on the 802.15.4 standard. However, it does not share the application profiles typically available for Bluetooth LE (such as audio streaming, file transferring). Essentially, right now, it facilitates the transport of data over meshed networks of Bluetooth devices; the applications that run on it are still being defined, but in the meantime, we’ve written our own centric around device control and sensing.
As far as the history of this facility; when we started doing this, we knew early on we needed a serious place to test this. We couldn’t just test it across a few desks in an office, so we went to our main shareholder and chairman and explained that we could really use warehouse space. He said, “I have just the place.”
This is his facility. Within a week, I had the keys.”
There are 52 test cells measuring 9ft x 9ft x 9ft. Within each test cell, there are a minimum of 9 devices (lights). Each light has a Bluetooth module and logging hardware. Gooee’s engineers can effectively control anything they want and see what’s happening at the network and chip level during operation.
The typical use case for the test center is testing the mesh network’s performance. For major or minor releases though, they also do use the facility for end-to-end testing. They run a host of tests – the scale of the network (how many nodes can exist on it), the latency (when you send a message, how long does it take to reach it?), packet loss, and more. They also do sensor integration testing, and that’s where the robots come in. The lights are equipped with motion sensors, and when the robots roll under a light, it should trigger the motion detector into turning the light on.
All this is rolled neatly into one little package: an analytics dashboard showing the testing data. Simon showed me 2 monitors at the front of the center that display information gathered from these tests. The most interesting dashboard, to me, was the latency dashboard. It displayed all devices and the time it took the system to communicate to them. See the image below. This allows Gooee’s engineers to see which devices are taking longer to relay messages. From there, they can isolate, through the logs, which devices are taking too long. Very cool stuff.
I couldn’t get a demo of the lights (sadness) during my visit, but for a very good reason.
Gooee is currently taking a step back from lighting to work with a major semiconductor company to develop an industry benchmark whitepaper on the performance of the mesh network, including doing tests with varying degrees of features they’ve added in. One is an intelligent relaying algorithm, which is the method of how message packets are communicated across the network.
“We’re focusing on the delivery of messages to the devices and measuring how long it takes for that,” Simon explained. “So we’re abstracting away from lighting and looking at the underlying transport. That’s why the lights aren’t going off and on – we’re measuring the network and chip level.”
As for Intelligent Relaying…
“Back to my analogy earlier. Imagine if you’re in a room with 100 people, and there’s someone on the other side that you want to send a message to. If you shout, a bunch of people will hear you and then shout again and again. Eventually, the person on the other side gets the message. That’s called flooding: blasting the network in hopes that one device will get the instruction and do what it is told. The trouble is if you’re constantly shouting, the amount of traffic on the network can get rather significant.
With an intelligent relaying relaying network, there’s a lot more intelligence in the network itself. You know where your friend is, but you know where everyone else is, and you know how far you can shout. So you tell a message privately to a person over there, and they relay off. You end up with a very targeted route on the network, and it leaves the rest of the network open for other communication. There’s a lot more capability and scalability that way.
We’ve developed the algorithm to do that relaying. No one else is doing what we’re doing in terms of this methodology and we’ve actually patented the relaying algorithm.”
Video Demos at Gooee’s IoT Test Lab
Michael, one of Gooee’s engineers, demoed the switches and robots for me.
The cool thing about these switches is that they are batteryless, and also, powerless (developed by EnOcean). When the switch is pressed, the kinetic energy from the press is enough to ping a Bluetooth signal. Thus, the switch could be affixed anywhere. You can program the button to do many things when pressed: turn a light on, turn a light off, dim it down to 30%, etc. It doesn’t have to be on a light, either. It could be controlling an HVAC unit – anything. The technology being created is basically ‘when I press this button, x happens.’
More Photos of Gooee’s IoT Test Lab