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Bluetooth LE has solved the 50% problem, cracking open the IoT

The O'Reilly Radar Podcast: Alasdair Allan on BLE, data from the Pluto flyby, and the future of "personal space programs."

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In this week’s O’Reilly Radar Podcast, O’Reilly’s Mac Slocum chats with Alasdair Allan, an astrophysicist and director at Babilim Light Industries. In their wide-ranging conversation, Allan talks about the data coming out of the New Horizons Pluto flyby, the future of “personal space programs,” and why Bluetooth LE (BLE) is cracking open the Internet of Things.

Here are a few highlights from their conversation:

The only thing Bluetooth LE shares with traditional Bluetooth is the name.

Bluetooth LE, now that Google Android also supports it, has solved the 50% problem. … Now that all of the smartphones in the world have Bluetooth LE, or at least the more modern ones, there is a very easy way to produce low-power devices — wearables, embedded sensors, all of that sort of stuff — that anyone can access with a smart phone.

The Internet of Things is neither about the Internet, nor really the things. I much prefer the academic term “ubiquitous computing,” but no one really seems to want to use that, which is somewhat unfortunate.

You don’t have to worry about power, and that can be a real lever to open up the wearables market in the same way the BLE was a lever to open the IoT market.

There are hardly any impact craters on the surface of Pluto, so that means that the surface itself is active. … Also, there’s these huge mountain ranges, three-and-a-half-thousand meters tall — and they’re pointy. There is no way the mountains on Pluto should be pointy.

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How real-time analytics integrates with our connected world

The O'Reilly Podcast: Scott Jarr on how real-time analytics applications can unlock value and automate decision-making.

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In this special-edition O’Reilly Podcast, O’Reilly’s Ben Lorica and VoltDB’s co-founder Scott Jarr discuss how VoltDB’s hybrid transaction, analytic system allows for real-time analytics and personalization of data across various industries.

Scaling transaction processing without losing the relational database

MIT’s Mike Stonebraker (VoltDB’s co-founder) wanted to scale traditional OLTP (online transaction processing) without losing performance. The project evolved and eventually commercialized as VoltDB around the time NoSQL systems introduced a paradigm shift to non-relational databases. Jarr describes how Stonebraker’s approach didn’t assume a relational database was a core issue:

To give you an old story, but it’s a good story, they took a traditional style OLTP database and they ran it in memory. What they found was that it was doing less than 10% of its effective workload in processing transactions. The rest was dealing with overhead in various forms. He said, ‘Without getting rid of any of the things that we know [are] involved in the database world — consistency, SQL, ACID transactions, relational structures, high-level query languages — let’s keep all that, but let’s see if we can make this thing go faster.’

When those [NoSQL] systems were coming out, and they were coming out very strong, it was around the same time we were coming out with VoltDB. People were asking questions, ‘Well you’re consistent and they’re not.’ Or, ‘You’re relational and they’re not.’ I think that really lost the true meaning of what the differences were … [let’s] not get mired in the details … let’s look at the workloads that people are trying to accomplish.

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How trains are becoming data driven

Railways are at the intersection of Internet and industry.

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Trains and public transport are, for many of us, a vital part of our daily lives. Large cities are particularly dependent on an efficient public transport system, and if disruption occurs, it usually affects many passengers while spreading across the transport network. But our requirements as passengers are growing and maturing. Safety is paramount, but we also care about timeliness, comfort, Internet access, and other amenities. With strong competition for regional and long-distance trains, providing an attractive service has become critical for many rail operators today.

The railway industry is an old industry. For the last 150 years, this industry was built around mechanical systems maintained throughout a lifetime of 30 years, mostly through reactive or preventive maintenance. But this is not enough anymore to deliver the type of service we all want and expect to experience.

Deriving insight from the data of trains

Over the last few years, the rail industry has been transforming itself, embracing IT, digitalization, big data, and the related changes in business models. This change is driven both by the railway operating companies demanding higher vehicle and infrastructure availability, and, increasingly, wanting to transition their operational risk to suppliers. In parallel, the thought leaders among maintenance providers have embraced the technology opportunities to radically improve their offerings and help their customers deliver better value. Read more…

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Avoid design pitfalls in the IoT: Keep the focus on people

The O'Reilly Radar Podcast: Robert Brunner on IoT pitfalls, Ammunition, and the movement toward automation.

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For this week’s Radar Podcast, I had the opportunity to sit down with Robert Brunner, founder of the Ammunition design studio. Brunner talked about how design can help mitigate IoT pitfalls, what drove him to found Ammunition, and why he’s fascinated with design’s role in the movement toward automation.

Here are a few of the highlights from our chat:

One of the biggest pitfalls I’m seeing in how companies are approaching the Internet of Things, especially in the consumer market, is, literally, not paying attention to people — how people understand products and how they interact with them and what they mean to them.

It was this broader experience and understanding of what [a product] is and what it does in people’s lives, and what it means to them — that’s experienced not just through the thing, but how they learn about it, how they buy it, what happens when they open up the box, what happens when they use the product, what happens when the product breaks; all these things add up to how you feel about it and, ultimately, how you relate to a company. That was the foundation of [Ammunition].

Ultimately, I define design as the purposeful creation of things.

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Our world is full of bad UX, and it’s costing us dearly

We need to provide people with proper access, interaction, and use of technology so that it serves their needs.

Download a free copy of “The New Design Fundamentals,” a curated collection of chapters from the O’Reilly Design library. Editor’s note: this post is an excerpt from “Tragic Design,” by Jonathan Shariat, which is included in the collection.

I love people.

I love technology and I love design, and I love the power they have to help people.

That is why when I learned they had cost a young girl her life, it hurt me deeply and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for weeks.

My wife, a nursing student, was sharing with her teacher how passionate I am about technology in health care. Her teacher rebutted, saying she thought we needed less technology in health care and shared a story that caused her to feel so strongly that way.

This is the story that inspired me to write this book and I would like to share it with you.

Jenny, as we will call her to protect the patient’s identity, was a young girl who was diagnosed with cancer. She was in and out of the hospital for a number of years and was finally discharged. A while later she relapsed and returned to be given a very strong chemo treating medicine. This medicine is so strong and so toxic that it requires pre-hydration and post-hydration for three days with I.V. fluid.

However, after the medicine was administered, the nurses who were attending to the charting software, entering in everything required of them and making the appropriate orders, missed a very critical piece of information: Jenny was supposed to be given three days of I.V. hydration post treatment. The experienced nurses made this critical error because they were too distracted trying to figure out the software they were using.

When the morning nurse came in the next day, they saw that Jenny had died of toxicity and dehydration. All because these very seasoned nurses were preoccupied trying to figure out this interface (figure 1-1). Read more…

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Moving toward a zero UI to orchestrate the IoT

The O'Reilly Radar Podcast: Andy Goodman on intangible interfaces, and Cory Doctorow on the DMCA.

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Subscribe to the O’Reilly Radar Podcast to track the technologies and people that will shape our world in the years to come.

In this week’s Radar Podcast episode, O’Reilly’s Mac Slocum chats with Andy Goodman, group director of Fjord’s Design Strategy. Goodman talks about the shift away from screen-based interfaces to intangible interfaces, what he calls “zero UI.” He also addresses the evolutionary path of embeddables, noting that “we already have machines inside us.”

Here are a few of the highlights:

Sensing technologies are allowing us to distribute our computers around our bodies and around our environments, moving away from monolithic experiences, a single device, to an orchestration of devices all working together with us at the center.

Our visual sense is the most important to us, so taking that away [with zero UI] actually leaves us, in some ways, a bit more vulnerable to things going wrong — we can’t see what is an error state in a haptic experience…it’s possible that we’re setting ourselves a lot of design challenges that we don’t know we have to solve yet.

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