Sunday, 23 September 2012

BBQ Guru CyberQ Wifi Review (Part 2)

Unit: CyberQ Wifi
Manufacturer: BBQ Guru

Whilst the first part of this review (Review Part 1) focused on the general operation of the CyberQ Wifi, this part of the review focuses on the Wifi capabilities and its usage. The second part of this review examines the communications protocol and to be fair is a bit geeky (you have been warned!).


The CyberQ Wifi supports two modes of connectivity:
Ad-Hoc - This is the default behaviour of the CyberQ. In this mode, you do not need a router, simple connect your device to the existing SSID (Defaults to - "My CyberQ Wifi" & WPA2 password of "1234abcdef"). Open your browser and connect to http://192.168.101.10. As an aside, both my Android tablet and Windows Phone 7.5 could not connect to the Ad-hoc network, but I had no problem with my laptop and an Android phone.

Infrastructure Mode - This requires an existing Wifi network and a little more effort. On my network, the device connected with no issue and picked up its IP address from my router, which I browsed to using a web browser.


1.) User Interface


When you connect to the device (through a web browser) and you are presented with the home page. This shows the  temperature of the cooker, the 3 probes and the fan output. In addition to this the main page allows the user to set the values and update the the head unit. This page refreshes ever 5 seconds (but this can be updated in the units settings)






2.) System Setup
This screen allows the user to modify the systems settings.




3.) Control Setup
Some of the key ways in which the unit operates is listed on this page. The ones that interested me the most were -

Cook Hold - Ie temperature to hold the cooker at once the meat has been cooked
Alarm Dev - This specifies the min/max range over or below the target temp in which to activate the high or low temperature alarms.
Ramp - This feature is linked to one of the 3 food probes and it allows the cooker to ramp down the as the target temperature of the meat is reached, ensuring its never overcooked.
Open Detect - This feature allows the unit to detect an open lid and slowly brings the temp back up. This takes 20-30mins to get the cooker back to temp. If this is not enabled, I have found that the unit can overshoot the temp and then really battles to come back to temp.
Cycle Time -The that the fan cycles for each time it blows, the default is 6 seconds






4.) Wifi Setup
This page allows you to configure the WIFI features of the unit, whilst useful, I dont see the point of this from a web browser as this needs to be operational before the user can connect to the device.




5.) Email Alerts
This feature is very cool, and allows a connected device (via Infrastructure mode and Internet Access) to send emails based on the cookers status. Whilst I didnt test this, its not going to be much use whilst competing, but if I wanted to setup my cooker and go out for the day, I would be confident that I would receive updates in a timely fashion.




6.) Protocol Investigation

One of the things I am investigating is the development of an application to communicate with the device. What follows is an interpretation of the communications protocol to and from the CyberQ head unit. The unit uses HTTP 1.1 for its communication (primarily GET requests). When connecting to the device initially, it loads the home page, the BBQ Guru logo, and the repeatedly receives a status.xml file which contains the cookers details every 5 seconds.




As can be seen in the screenshot below, the response clearly shows the status.xml using XML. The structure which is identified below.




The process in which the CyberQ Wifi receives updates is through a HTTP Post command. This includes the list of fields that can be updated in the standard key/value (COOK_SET=242&FOOD1_SET=369). This means anyone that can access the CyberQ Wifi has the ability to edit it with a simple HTTP form Post command




I was able to simulate a successful HTTP Post command, setting the Cooker Temp to 251F, this was reflected almost immediately by the unit, and was visible by the web browser update.




I used a tool called HTTP Fiddler to monitor the network traffic between the browser and the CyberQ head unit. After I did all the hard work I found that someone has already compiled a list of the key values that it accepts to make updates. They can be found here (for the interested readers), and a (nerdy) discussion on the BBQ Bretheren website. In short I think this product is an ideal candidate for more advanced applications and personally would love to see some logging tools to allow me to record a cook as it happens. 




Conclusion
In summary, the device is incredible easy to manage from a tablet, mobile phone or Wifi enable device. The response to updates occur almost instantly and there is very little delay. The website quickly reflects any changes in the cookers state. I found the Wifi strength to be of a similar capability to my home router, so it was useful for about 20-30meters. A more complete discussion of all the features of the unit can be found in the official help guide - Cyber Q Wifi documentation.

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