Top Tips: How to Hack the Internet of Things Like a Pro

Top 5 devices that you can hack like a pro

Ross Mason is founder and vice president of product strategy at MuleSoft, the most widely used integration platform for connecting any application, data source, API or device, whether in the cloud or on-premises. He founded MuleSoft in 2006 on the idea that connecting applications should be easy, building on the open source Mule project he created three years earlier.

Ross shares his top tips on hacking the Internet of Things like a pro.


By Cisco’s recent estimate, in 2020 there will be 50 billion devices connected to the Internet of Things. For me, the most exciting thing about that is that there will be 50 billion more opportunities to hack the IoT! On weekdays, I spend my time joining the dots of connectivity with my company, MuleSoft. There’s a lot of talk about the Internet of Things and, don’t get me wrong, I’m excited – but I don’t believe we’re as connected as we could be. MuleSoft is my way of waging war on pedestrian connectivity. At the moment we have more ‘Just a Bunch of Things’ than an ‘Internet of Things’, and I’ve made it my business to get us from JBOT to IoT. On weekends, I can generally be found hacking my home devices. It’s easy to do, honestly, here are my top 5 devices that you can hack like a pro:

Philips Hue
These connected lights bulbs have an HTTP API that is really easy to use and allows you to control single and groups of lights. You can control the luminosity, the frequency and correlation of illumination, and the hue of course. Your kids will be convinced you’re a magician.

Google Glass
Yes, it’s the device that is paradoxically cool, but not cool. It has a REST API that gives you access to post items to the Glass timeline and subscribe to location and updates from it. The REST API is pretty limited, but luckily Glass runs Android and has a GDK for writing apps for the device itself, which greatly extends the possibilities. Careful when bragging about this hack though, nobody likes a Glasshole.

Raspberry Pi
This $35 Linux box is perfect as the hub to connect to other things. You can get modules to track location and attach a camera or any USB device. Most IoT sensors will connect to a hub to get to the internet, and Raspberry Pi is great hackable hub device. Here is me putting an API on it.

Sphero Ball
My kids love this one. It’s a ball you can control wirelessly – send it where you like and change its colour at will. Sphero is a little harder to hack since it only has a bluetooth API (and if you’ve tried coding bluetooth using Java on OSX 10.9 you’ll know that mix of OS, VM and protocol stack doesn’t work well right now). But there is an SDK that works well with Node to give you full control over the ball with simple commands.

Smart Things
This one is a collection of sensors and devices that can be used to program other things. You can control lights, motion sensors, power sockets, etc. Interestingly, Smart Things created their own DSL (based on Groovy) but you can only access it with their own web-based IDE. The good news is that you can create web hooks to send device events to other applications, like Mule.

There’s almost no limit on what you can achieve with some code and connected tech. Happy hacking!