Here at Sense, we’re hungry for the best data we can get about your devices. We’re constantly on the lookout for additional data sets that can help make Sense’s device detection smarter, faster and more reliable. As part of this, we’re developing features that can let our power users participate in training our machine learning algorithms.
In March of 2017, we released version 1.7 of the Sense app in which we introduced a powerful new data collection tool called Network Device Identification (NDI). Since then, NDI has enabled us to release integrations with Philips Hue and Amazon’s Alexa, and it’s a critical link to many more integrations we have coming soon!
How do I enable NDI?
Inside the Sense App for iOS/Android, navigate to Settings > My Home> Data Sources and select Network Identification to enable. Please note that we have not yet implemented functionality for enabling NDI from the web app.
How does NDI work?
It’s likely that there’s an assortment of devices inside your home sharing the same network as the Sense hardware, and many of these devices broadcast their status periodically. These broadcast messages are used by a variety of devices to let other devices on the network know about their state. Things like a printer, Xbox, Chromecast, Sonos speaker, or other devices that tend to pair or connect with other network devices. Sense passively listens to these devices as they broadcast. The Sense monitor will also occasionally send out a ping on its own to prompt any devices on the network that might not be actively broadcasting their status.
Enabling NDI lets your Sense hardware record these occasional status updates to help our data science team correlate them to changes in other power and current information captured by the Sense hardware. With this new data set, our data scientists can create a more robust device identification library and provide faster, more accurate device detection to the entire Sense community.
Alongside this work, Sense’s data science team remains 100% focused on improving device detection based on the energy signal data that the Sense hardware monitors today. Think of NDI as an additional data set that will help us understand the energy signal data; the Robin to your energy’s Batman.
Will NDI immediately speed up the detection of my devices?
It may! We have already released NDI based models for some connected televisions and other devices, just be sure Sense is connected to the same local network, and NDI is enabled. Depending on what make/model television you have, you may not see results right away. However, this information will help connect the dots between dozens of other important clues that Sense is looking at to detect devices. The more users who enable this feature, the more data we’ll have to work with, and the faster NDI powered device detection will become!
How will NDI be used to enhance Sense?
Consider a device like a game console. It has a few different power states that the Sense monitor might notice: on, off and standby. If it is also connected to your network, each of these states may also have an associated status that it broadcasts across the network. For each different type of game console (Xbox, Playstation, Wii, Nvidia Shield, etc.) there may be a connection between these network signals, current draw, and power consumption that can help increase the accuracy and speed of device detection.
Why isn’t this enabled automatically?
Your privacy is critically important to us, so we wanted to make sure that this feature is only enabled if users ”opt in”. Any of the broadcast messages Sense picks up in your local network will be used only for device detection. Sense is not able to inspect any content since it only listens for broadcast messages (sent via SSDP/UPnP, Zeroconf, and ARP). No other traffic on your network is captured or inspected.
How can I help?
Download the latest version of the Sense App and Enable NDI right away! This is an exciting new feature that helps to train Sense’s device detection, but we’re depending on all of you to help us build out a robust data set from this information.
You can also help by continuing to send us your thoughts. Your feedback helps us identify new features, prioritize our product roadmap, and alerts us to issues with our device detection algorithms. Please keep it coming, either via the feedback icon in your app, or by sending your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I want to know more!
Well thanks for asking! Here are some more great questions that have come in from our users.
Q: Can Sense see devices connected directly to my router, or only Wi-Fi?
A: It can! NDI will listen to the broadcasts from any devices attached to the same subnet as your Sense monitor. Just be sure it’s on the same network as the connected devices you’re hoping to detect!
Q: What different “modes” is Sense able to see?
A: That really depends on what the devices on the network are broadcasting. Some are pretty explicit about announcing when they turn on or off (Xbox is nice about this, thanks Microsoft!) Other devices, like a Sonos speaker, might differentiate between being “on” and being “on and playing music”, which can help us recognize when the amplifier is actually active versus when it’s just hanging out in standby mode. We think this could really help our data scientists break down those “Always On” bubbles.
Q: Does NDI add a bunch of traffic to my network?
A: Nope! Sense is mostly just listening to traffic that’s already on your network. The occasional packets Sense sends out are very small (we’re talking bytes…) so this traffic is minuscule compared to your other network traffic and will not adversely affect your network in any way. You can view the traffic on your network with a tool like Wireshark.
Q: Are you scanning for iPv6 devices or just iPv4?
A: Just iPv4 at the moment. Maybe in the future!