Trying to get a date with Plugwise

Having Plugwise in my house since December 2008, playing around with Digi Series 2 XBee modules for some time, knowing both are Ember EM250 based; nice ingredients for some fooling around with those two. I’ve already been asked a few times if I could ‘see’ any Plugwise traffic or other signs of the Plugwise network. No, i did not. Cause that would be wrong, if those would interfere that easily. And to tell you the truth, i wasn’t really interested enough to spend much time on this.

But why not try it some time? It has been on the to-do list for some time, but never made it to the top-5. But when there was another question recently from someone for whom i gladly spend lots of time without any personal gain or interest, i decided to try some things to see if a first small step could be made. I put 1 of my spare XBee modules into a XBee adapter, loaded the firmware version 2864 (XB24-ZB End Device AT), set the preconfigured PAN id to 0 (which means the XBee will join any PAN it can find) and uploaded the new configuration.

Now there’s this small green LED on the adapter labeled as ‘ASC’, which tells you the associated state of the XBee. When it starts blinking rapidly, you know you’re going in the right direction … reading back the Operating PAN ID from the XBee showed me a value like D6F0000134567. Hey, where have i seen that value before? It looks like a Ember MAC address.. YES, it’s the MAC address of my Circle+ ! How odd… 🙂

OK, i know. This is just a very small step; i know the PAN ID of the Plugwise network now; duh. Next thing to figure out is the encryption key; it’s time to join forces on this project that is in the top-5 now and is there to stay!

Plugwise still sucks in some perspectives, but this is nice. And i have no idea if this will ever come to something useful. But that doesn’t matter, just as long as I’m having fun with what I’m doing 🙂

Plugwise registreert verbruik klanten

In de afgelopen weken vielen mij een aantal artikelen in de media in het oog, waarbij ik mij afvroeg in hoeverre de schrijvers van de betreffende artikelen op de hoogte waren van de praktijken die Plugwise erop nahoudt. Ik heb daarom  contact opgenomen met deze heren en mijn bevindingen toegelicht.  Een korte email was daarna voor dagblad Trouw voldoende aanleiding om hieraan aandacht te besteden. Vooral met Frank Beijen heb ik in de afgelopen week regelmatig contact gehad. Resultaat daarvan is het volgende artikel geworden:

Stroommeter slaat stiekem data op

Stroommeter slaat stiekem data op

Ook het Parool heeft onlangs een tweede artikel gewijd aan Plugwise toen het op de hoogte was van de keerzijde van het gebruik ervan:

Plugwise uploadt verbruik klanten

Plugwise uploadt verbruik klanten

Plugwise energie systeem verzamelt uw verbruikgegevens

Plugwise houdt zich bezig met ontwerpen, ontwikkelen en produceren van energie management systemen.

Plugwise heeft een plug ontwikkeld die tussen het stopcontact en de stekker van een elektrisch apparaat kan worden gezet. Die plug kan daardoor het energieverbruik van dat apparaat meten en stuurt deze meetgegevens draadloos door naar een PC. Software op die PC geeft de gebruiker inzicht in het energieverbruik en kosten van individuele apparaten of geaggregeerd. Prachtig!

Tot zover het mooie verhaal. Maar er zijn dingen gaande met dit energie management systeem van de eeuw, die maar weinig mensen kennen maar waarvan zij zich wel bewust moeten zijn alvorens men overgaat tot aankoop.

Onderzoek heeft uitgewezen dat alle verbruiksgegevens die door de Plugwise software wordt vergaard, ook over het Internet naar een centrale server wordt gestuurd. Tot op het meest gedetailleerde niveau! Deze server heet portal.plugwise.com… Op deze server wordt een database gevuld met gegevens over wanneer en hoe lang de verlichting brandt, wanneer de wasmachine in gebruik is en hoe vaak de vaatwasser wordt gebruikt en wat dit voor energie verbruik tot gevolg heeft.

Dat u als consument hieraan niet wilt meewerken omdat dit nooit duidelijk aan u kenbaar is gemaakt, is voor Plugwise geen onderwerp van discussie. En bent u in staat om bijvoorbeeld met een firewall dit ongewenst lekken van naar uw mening privacy-gevoelige informatie te voorkomen? Jammer, daarmee verspeelt u bepaalde rechten die plotseling alleen zijn voorbehouden aan consumenten die er geen bezwaar tegen hebben dat hun hele energie-huishouding daarmee al praktisch op straat ligt.

Is het normaal dat er zo wordt omgegaan met privacy van de consument? Zijn wij als consument dan nergens meer veilig voor? Moeten wij het maar accepteren dat onder onze neus heel ons hebben en houwen wordt weggesluisd naar wie-weet-waar? Is dit de nieuwe moraal van het bedrijfsleven, waarbij er handig wordt ingespeeld op het gegeven dat als gevolg van technologische ontwikkelingen tegenwoordig alles aan elkaar verbonden is?

Laat de consument goed geïnformeerd besluiten over aanschaf van het Plugwise systeem. Daarbij mag kennis over het wegsluizen van verbruiksgegevens niet ontbreken!

Plugwise makes a big mistake…

Plugwise is secretly uploading your data! I found out because my firewall was logging unusual Internet activity coming from the PC on which i had installed the Plugwise Source.

From the day i installed the Source software, that PC periodically contacted an IP address belonging to Plugwise. For what? During software activition and such i can understand that, but still after 7 days that PC was contacting plugwise.com? Time for some investigation.
So i installed Wireshark and let it collect all packets for some time. When i started analyzing those packets, i immediately saw what was happening. WTF is this?!?!? I still don’t get it, why do they do such a thing? do they think we’re stupid or what??? (and i still get angry, writing this)
I posted my findings to let other Plugwise users know what is happening so they could also take action and prevent usage data leaking out to Plugwise.

When a company has to choose between business profit and respecting customer privacy, what choice would be made?
Right, privacy loses. Again. I was very angry, when i found out that the Plugwise Source software periodically sends all the usage data it gathers, to a portal.plugwise.com server.
Really ALL the information that is collected by the Source software is sent to Plugwise; from all my Circles, for every hour, including switching schedules, groups, rooms, what type of devices are connected to the Circles etc. etc. Everything! This is absolutely unbelievable. But it’s true.

Plugwise is a very good system, it works perfect from the day i installed it. And i would like to expand it with at least 10 extra Circles, but my privacy is violated in a way that’s unacceptable.

I had a phonecall with a Plugwise representative some time ago. He talked about ‘everything according to the law’, ‘your usage data is safe and protected’, ‘our business model’.
Right, there we have it. Business model. Conclusion: our usage data is worth enough money for Plugwise to act as disrespectful as they do. And according to law? Who says so? Who checked that? Maybe it’s a good idea to have some real good experts look into that…

Plugwise will have to change their product, so users can opt-out and usage data is protected without having to use your own firewall.

I decided to give Plugwise some time to publicly explain what the goal of collecting all this usage data is and how they will deal with the complaints. No real answer has been given yet. The story continues…

Plugwise integrated!

As expected, the Plugwise goodies arrived last Wednesday, December 3rd 2008. 13 Circles in total and ofcourse a Plug and the Source software. I had already written some code, so after i installed the Source software and plugged in a few Circles, i could start testing the interface between the Source and my HA application. It all worked as i expected, cause after some last small code modifications the interface worked.

The Plugwise Source includes a small web server that can be used to get information out of the Plugwise system in XML format and you can use it to switch the Circles by calling HTML pages.

Power usage

This is how the XML looks like that contains power usage data:

<items type=”array”>
  <item>
  <moduleid>Module[‘000D6F0000xxxxxx’]</moduleid>
  <datetime>5-12-2008 20:15</datetime>
  <device>Freezer</device>
  <powerusage>55,38</powerusage>
  <powertotal>0,198</powertotal>
  <powerstate>on</powerstate>
  <id>1</id>
 </item>
 …
 …

Well that can’t be hard to handle 🙂 As you can see, at the time this XML was retrieved from the Source web server, the Freezer was using 55,38 Watt, had a total usage of 0,198 kWh and the Circle was switched ‘on’. The same evening i could start collecting data on power consumption of 13 devices individually.

Switching the Circles

All there is to switching a Circle is calling a HTML page with some parameters, like this:

http://192.168.10.11:8080/cc.html?applid=1&cmd=off

This would switch off the freezer. Not a very smart example (switching off a Freezer i mean), but it works very well, and the Circles are fast, very fast! They switch instantly, with no real noticable delay! Compared to X10/A10 this is huge improvement.
What can i say about reliability after using Plugwise for nearly a week now? It’s really very reliable; untill now, all the circles do exactly what they have to do, without any sign of erronious behaviour whatsoever.

And with the dissecting of the Plugwise protocol going on here, i’ll eventually lose the Source and its web server as intermediate to the Plug and interface with the Plug all by myself 🙂

Plugwise is coming

After hesitating for quite some time whether or not i should buy the Plugwise system, i finally decided to do so. And tomorrow the Plugwise order will be delivered 🙂

The Plugwise system is a good addition to my current power usage monitoring; currently i only have an overall picture, but no appliance-specific information about power consumption. The Plugwise system will give me just that…

The Plugwise system will enable you to monitor power usage of single appliances by the use of so-called ‘Circles’. The complete system is made up of 4 components:

The Circle – a plug that goes between the plug of an appliance and the power socket.

The Stick – a USB device which is plugged into a PC and communicates with the Circles wirelessly (ZigBee). The Stick can also send ommands to the Circles to turn appliances on or off.

The Circle+ – a Circle which coordinates the Circles in the network, but can also do the things a normal Circle can.

The Source – software
that is install on a PC to callect all power usage data, produce charts, log it to a database, make power schedules, etc.

Much more inforation about Plugwise can be found here