Internet of Things Candle

There's a Kickstarter for an actual candle, with real fire, that you can control over the Internet.

What could possibly go wrong?

Posted on February 20, 2020 at 2:23 PM • 35 Comments

Comments

Wylie CoyoteFebruary 20, 2020 2:48 PM

Sounds like a cartoon plot, using it to light dynamite which has been relocated to one's backside.

Tony WuFebruary 20, 2020 3:28 PM

Soon there will be integration with various voice assistants for better and faster burning experience.

NixFebruary 20, 2020 4:21 PM

It announces itself as a "Smart, Connected Real-Flame Candle". There are many words I could use for this. "Smart" is not one of them.

Mark MahoonFebruary 20, 2020 4:53 PM

The real shocking thing is the pricing. Any additional candle refill will cost you 30 bucks. For the same price i can get 7-9 ecofriendly candles with 40h light.

And dont forget that, if I understand correctly, you produce a base with the thermowire as extra waste with every used candle.

Kevin McGrath February 20, 2020 6:38 PM

I would guess many fire departments throughout the world might ban these devices unless safely concerns can be addressed.

Michael KohneFebruary 20, 2020 7:11 PM

All that tech and it can't even turn itself off.

Also, is anyone taking bets on how ling before one of these is used to commit arson?

RachelFebruary 20, 2020 10:23 PM

Is this a joke? Or a honey pot? I don't know why this was even marketed or was approved. This sort of thing can end up attracting big fines for violating product safety legislation. It could end up bring more attention to the dangers of IoT and thus be beneficial for society

Martin BonnerFebruary 21, 2020 12:16 AM

Oh that's nothing. I have a wood pellet stove that I can light remotely. (I can turn it off remotely too.)

@Rachel: "I don't know why this was ... approved" - approved by whom? I don't see why this would need any sort of approval from anyone.

Peter A.February 21, 2020 2:21 AM

Well, and to snuff it you need to "hack" an USB-powered fan. Oh, wait, it will be a $300 option later on...

StephanFebruary 21, 2020 4:29 AM

I think everyone is missing the really valuable use case here, which is that if your power goes out, you lose all your electric lights, router goes down, etc., but your phone still has a battery so you can remotely turn on the candle light with the app.

Clive RobinsonFebruary 21, 2020 6:22 AM

@ Rachel,

It could end up bring more attention to the dangers of IoT and thus be beneficial for society

Just the thing to combine with improved "Extra Real"TM AI...

Picture the scene, A young upwardly mobile type who has had lets say a less than good day at work, gets home and trys to order a delivery of "comfort carbs". But the technology is well being the technology. Their blood now boiling that the technology and work colleagues are all the same, they scream out in frustration,

"Alexa go to h3ll"...

... And that your Honour was how the fire started...

... Remember boys and girls even your AI has feelings...

Pi RhoFebruary 21, 2020 9:10 AM

>> With a single tap on any smartphone, you can now light-up a real scented candle that will ignite magically.

Emphasis on "any".

jonFebruary 21, 2020 10:59 AM

Sounds like there needs to be a contest for the worst IOT device - both real and imaginary. Before reality can outstrip imagination.

Raining on your paradeFebruary 21, 2020 12:19 PM

All you nay-sayers are missing out. People have internet-connected door locks and garage doors all the time, but all their friends don't expect criminals to hack in and break into their houses constantly (perhaps because it's way easier for them to just throw a brick through the window?)...

And electronically-controlled fireplaces are actually quite common, and it's easy to hook up an ordinary switch to the internet as well. This way you can "set the mood" with another device, other than just the one hard-wired switch. Or as a group: dim the lights, set the music, and turn the fireplace on all at one time. And it's quite safe, it won't burn your house down or suffocate you, just waste some money on natural gas if you turn it on accidentally... This is because the fireplace is "installed" correctly, in a safe manner. Could it be used nefariously? of course! As anything can... That doesn't mean it should be banned, nor does it mean every gas fireplace homeowner wins a darwin award for connecting flame to electronic ignition, making everyone shudder at their stupidity of not doing it the old fashioned way of lighting a match or rubbing two sticks together...

All the above could be said of this candle. There are only two main differences that I can think of between the candle and the fireplace:

1) The fireplace can be turned on and off electronically, whereas the candle can only be turned on electronically. You're only half-way there to this being on the same level of convenience... It's not set it and forget it, and then use this other device (wall switch, tap on phone, etc) to operate it... On the other hand, the candle does indeed "go out" on its own after several hours, when all the wax is used up...

2) Gas fireplaces are large and installed by the home builder, not the end user generally. There are specific instructions that must be followed, such as hooking up the flue to vent it outside, to make it truly safe. They also come with extensive shielding in front (i.e. big glass), which prevents accidental ignition of other things with it. So it is a real flame, but it's not technically an "open" flame (it's quite enclosed)... You have to go to quite some work modifying it to burn your house down with it, which can hardly be called an accident... This candle on the other hand is small, easily hidden, and always "installed" by the end user, not a licensed contractor... Installation consists of removing the cover (which prevents ignition, note this is good for storage), and situating it in a place where it won't burn your house down (this basically means upright, and not with shreds of newspaper or your curtains dangling into it, etc). To be truly comparable, maybe they should have a bigger glass around the flame, and some sort of permanent vented top that prevents accidental dropping of things into the candle? At least it does have a glass around the sides though, so if it's situated properly it should be just as safe as that fireplace... I know that's a big "if" but still, we don't ban things just because they might be misused, or we'd ban everything. We just try to get things to the point where the dumbest people aren't killing themselves off by accident...

So, in summary, yes, some modifications might be needed to make this candle "as safe" as a gas fireplace... But no, I don't agree that it's fundamentally a flawed concept. Otherwise you should all be pro banning gas fireplaces as well.

Clive RobinsonFebruary 21, 2020 2:06 PM

@ Raining on your parade,

And electronically-controlled fireplaces are actually quite common

The problem with your argument is "fireplaces" are places designed for fire and as such they are subject to building and other safety codes. Candles are not places but actually blocks of fuel that can be placed anywhere someone choses irespective of if they are self igniting or not. I for instance have a hundred "tea light" candles in a metal box under my kitchen sink, others have them in kitchen draws etc along with birthday cake candles or dining table candelarbra candles for romantic dining in cardboard boxes along with them. This generaly does not matter a jot until there is some source of energy to get the fuel over it's "entropy hump" or "ignition point" (which is why mine are in a closed metal box). Then the fuel self oxidizes as long as their is oxygen, and sufficient thermal energy which for fuels generaly is a small fraction of the oxidization energy release. Keeping fuel and an ignition source together is generally considered a bad idea at the best of times. When you throw in fault ridden software, writen by some code cutting junkie controling the ignition source it's a recipie for didaster waiting to happen. Not maybe, not if, but when it happens because it's a "on in a million chance" that actually happens about one time in a hundred or less with modern consumer code.

Thus if as does exist, a movable gas fires with fuel like "propane heaters" or "camping stoves" you would certainly not want the later self igniting via the Internet or bluetooth under your stairs or in your backpack...

And before people say "that's ludicrous", there are alread camping wood stoves that have computers attached to them, some with bluetooth...

Admitadly at the moment they are for controling thermoelectric USB charging, but the newer ones do have "bluetooth capability" to inform your phone of various things like the temprature of the fire and how much energy has been delivered by USB. It realy would be a tiny tiny step to connect up such a system to a propane gas burning stove and as some of these come with "electronic ignition" you could easily see the extra wire and software mod being made, because "Marketing love features" any features no matter how daft, differentiate product and give sales droids "talking points".

Oh and you might have seen electronic battery powered "plasma matches" for the neo-survivalist / glamping tech crowd, which will quite easily ignite small slivers of even damp wood... Somebody will no doubt beyond what others more life-wise would consider "reason and sense" couple up such devices to bluetooth and write an app, just because they can...

Trust me on this, there are any number of marketing droids and geeks out there right now thinking about it, and they will find each other and "a product will be born" if it has not already...

But consider they design it as a "gas free pocket lighter" you can recharge of that thermoelectric generating wood stove with "rocket stove efficiency" such devices without bluetooth already exist, adding bluetooth not a problem...

Now consider as,an example that we humans are fuel in our own right... But we have an excess of water in us as well, which makes burning us a little difficult.

But... if a fire is started in the right way with a wick, we will burn untill ash. It used to be considered that it was "spontanious combustion" but now we know it was smoking in bed whilst "under the influence" or someone using an alcohol accelerant on a murder victim such as high proof spirits or perfume. The bedding thus provided the wicking for the melting body fats... Because the flame is small and extreamly localised just as it is with a candle, more than enough to "render the fat" into liquid for wicking, and the starting accelerant compleatly combusts and the carrying medium that wicks also compleatly combusts at the end but very little else around where the body was does...

So have a think about a bluetooth enabled plasm match pocket lighter in your back pant pocket when you get a little sleepy from that half bottle of spirits or other recreational substance... "fanny en flambé" might not be to your taste, but intoxicated buddies find the strangest of things hilarious.

Raining on your paradeFebruary 21, 2020 2:08 PM

Now, that being said, here are some additional problems I see with this particular product:

1) It appears to be closed source and without any sort of API. As I mentioned in my last post, one of the benefits to having things become electronically controlled, is that a knowledgeable person can then "integrate" them with other things... and make whole scenes where you can turn on lots of things from one device at the push of one button. So this product doesn't do the main reason I see for its existence.

2) It appears it doesn't just have a "button" on the front to ignite the flame... but requires an app. I'd rather have the button be the primary interface, and the app (or an api) be the "and also can do this"... A button is useful, because you don't have to get matches or a lighter. Lots of people don't carry those around with them everywhere anymore since they quit smoking decades ago... Also a button without an app should be cheaper to buy, the electronics become way way simpler.

3) Possibly the reason for the last issue: the timeline says "Patents are filed for the first real flame candle light by an app" which suggests that they couldn't patent any part of the mechanism itself... only once they packaged it all up and added "and do it with a computer [i.e. a phone]" then the patent office granted their patent... This is one of the biggest abuses of patents in recent years, in my opinion. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) agrees.

4) Since it is closed source, we can't be sure it's done well now can we? For example, it says, "can apply a password" which suggests this is optional? Is that a password just to access the app, or is the password encoded into the candle itself (so that anyone's app on anyone's phone requires the password)? What is the protocol and security between the app and the candle? We can't tell any of this, because it's closed! Is it Bluetooth? Is it WiFi? Is it cloud based? or local network? or some other sort of radio signal? What? Look, my biggest concern is that someone from the internet will figure out a way to turn on all candles around the world at once and that could be not only disastrous to the product, but potentially deadly since you have to figure a certain amount of users won't have them "installed" correctly, if they're not planning on using them at that moment (this was hinted at in my last post)... I need some assurances of control, before I can be happy with this, even on principle, and even ignoring the fact that "everything hooked up to the internet is probably hackable someday somehow, you just try to make it not a widespread problem in your lifetime"... And the only way I see that happening is with more information about how it works internally. Obscurity is not security.

5) Really? multiple people have been working on this for almost 5 years? I'll wait and see, I don't think that speaks to lots of experience with such manufacturing processes... Either that or it's just way over complicated than necessary (see issue 2) and that means there will likely be issues...

There are probably more...

Raining on your paradeFebruary 21, 2020 2:29 PM

@Clive

Speaking of "spontaneous combustion" ever had a nine volt battery in your pocket? With some coins? The normal reaction to such a mistake is to rip your smoking pants off as fast as you can, rather than burn to a crisp...

But we don't ban 9 volt batteries, nor coins, nor pockets... Nor do we consider any of those things individually to be stupid on principle... We just shake our heads at the addition of them all together, and try not to make the same mistake....

I do think that this device needs more of a cage around it to be as safe as a fireplace, so that it's not technically an "open" flame anymore, but more of an enclosed one at least (this is the same result as those building codes on gas fireplaces)... It does have a built-in enclosure, just it's too open when in use, in my opinion... especially when you add remotely-controlled self-igniting...

Clive RobinsonFebruary 21, 2020 7:08 PM

@ Bruce, ALL,

There's a Kickstarter

Which reminds me,

    Anyone remember "Jackpair"

That "any phone" audio encryption device. That quoted Bruce on it's home page back in 2014.

The one I warned would have problems with getting it to work with mobile phone codecs....

Did anyone give them any money back five and a half years ago and if they did... Did they get any product?

And if you did when?

W. Heath RobinsonFebruary 22, 2020 8:42 AM

@ R. G. L. Goldberg,

how far the tradition I started has come.

Tsk, tsk, you new worlders thinking every thing's a first[1] for you,


    In the UK, the term "Heath Robinson" entered the popular language during the 1914–1918 First World War as a description of any unnecessarily complex and implausible contrivance, much as "Rube Goldberg machines" came to be used in the United States from the 1920s onwards as a term for similar efforts.


[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._Heath_Robinson

RachelFebruary 22, 2020 10:51 PM


Well I am fairly sure, according to this website:
https://www.schneierfacts.com/

Mr Schneier is able to remotely control a candle over long distances, without the internet. So I won't be contributing to this kickstarter and will instead continue reading this blog in the hope of eventually acquiring similar abilities

Martin Bonner: I overlooked the fact of it being a kickstarter, but by 'approved', I meant the safety regulations required to ensure a product won't, for example, burst into flames when you plug it in. Even if this was the intended function..


Clive:
Must be very Christian A.I - many of us don't believe in a hot, flamin' hell :-) You've just provided a classic script for a xkcd comic!

Clive RobinsonFebruary 24, 2020 8:40 AM

@ Dave,

Someone could use this as a detonator for a bomb :P

They could, but enough bits of it would probably survive to be able to trace it back to the purchasor or the phone it was activated from.

Now a more thoughtful person would "give it as a gift" having got the details of how to remotely activate it.

They would later arange for it to be "stored" in the targets home along with suitable fuel such as curtains or other flamable household objects. Thus make the resulting fire look like an accident...

I can not remember who it was who originaly said the equivalent of "murder by accident is unsuspicious", but they did have a point.

DaveFebruary 24, 2020 3:23 PM

Ridiculous. To extinguish the candle you still need to go over to the candle and put some lid on; as if *whoosh* is too hard? No thanks. Can't hack a match from the net.

Anon E. MooseMarch 9, 2020 11:09 AM

I want one so I can hack it to start my fireplace insert. However the self-lighting candle idea is foolish for all of the reasons previously mentioned.

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Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.