"Internet of Things" entries

The Internet of Things is really about software

Our new report, "What is the Internet of Things," traces the IoT's transformations and impact.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is everywhere right now. It appeared on the cover of the Harvard Business Review in November, and observers saw it in practically every demo at CES.

One of the reasons that it’s ubiquitous is that it bears on practically everything. A few years ago, many companies might plausibly have argued that they weren’t affected by developments in software. If you dealt in physical goods, it was hard to see how software that existed strictly in the virtual realm might touch your business.

The Internet of Things changes that; the kinds of software intelligence that have already revolutionized industries like finance and advertising are about to revolutionize all the other industries.

Mike Loukides and I have traced out our idea of the Internet of Things and its impacts in a report, “What is the Internet of Things,” that’s available for free here.

As much as we all love the romance and gratification of hardware, the Internet of Things is really about software; the hardware just links the Internet to the rest of the world. If you think of the IoT as a newly developing area in software, it’s easy to draw out some characteristics of it that are analogous to things we’ve seen in web software over the last decade or so. Read more…

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Four short links: 14 January 2015

Four short links: 14 January 2015

IoT and Govt, Exactly Once, Random Database Subset, and UX Checking

  1. Internet of Things: Blackett Review — the British Government’s review of Internet of Things opportunities around government. Government and others can use expert commissioning to encourage participants in demonstrator programmes to develop standards that facilitate interoperable and secure systems. Government as a large purchaser of IoT systems is going to have a big impact if it buys wisely. (via Matt Webb)
  2. Exactly Once Semantics with Kafka — designing for failure means it’s easier to ensure that things get done than it is to ensure that things get done exactly once.
  3. rdbms-subsetter — open source tool to generate a random sample of rows from a relational database that preserves referential integrity – so long as constraints are defined, all parent rows will exist for child rows. (via 18F)
  4. UXcheck — a browser extension to help you do a quick UX check against Nielsen’s 10 principles.
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Fixing what’s wrong with hardware start-ups

Five pointers to increase the odds of engineering a great hardware start-up.

It is an amazing time to be a hardware entrepreneur: Companies like Arduino and ElectricImp are abstracting away tedious device and back-end development; Shapeways (disclaimer: my firm Lux Capital is an investor) and Advanced Circuits are turning around beautiful prototypes in days; while AngelList and IndieGogo are democratizing access to sophisticated investors, which in turn facilitate access to money, partners, and amazing talent.

In their rush to introduce the next Jawbone, Beats, Nest, FuelBand, GoPro, and Dropcam, many fledgling hardware start-ups — and their investors — seem to be simply rolling the dice. Rather than truly understanding the dynamics of their prospective markets, they are producing marketing videos that could otherwise pass for Super Bowl ads. Rather than understanding their competitive landscape, they are producing designs and out-of-box experiences that would make Steve Jobs proud. Many aspire to achieve Oculus’ visibility, and the acquisition offer that ensued. This puts incumbent consumer electronics companies in an enviable position: free market research and product experiments with an option to acquire any breakaway company. Although there is always an element of luck in every start-up, here are a few pointers to increase the odds of success. Read more…

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Products are now platforms

With remote connectivity and remote updates, companies are able to iterate and add value to products customers already own.

Editor’s note: this is an excerpt from our recent report, When Hardware Meets Software, by Mike Barlow. The report looks into the new hardware movement, telling its story through the people who are building it. For more stories on the evolving relationship between software and hardware, download the free report.

The Internet of Things doesn’t presage a return to the world of smoke-belching factories and floors covered with sawdust. But it does signify that change is afoot for any business or activity related to the information technology or communications industries.

“Not everyone will become a hardware designer,” says Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab. But many students, software engineers, and entrepreneurs will see the advantages of learning how to work with hardware. “It’s never too late to learn this stuff,” says Ito, “if you decide that you want to do it.”

At minimum, software engineers should learn as much about design and manufacturing as possible. “Buy an Arduino and start building. Everything you need to learn is on the web,” urges Jordan Husney, an avid hardware hacker who serves as strategy director at Undercurrent, an organizational transformation firm and digital think tank in lower Manhattan.

In the same way that software people will have to reconfigure their modes of thinking, hardware people will need to learn new technical skills and new ways of looking at problems, says Husney. “They will have to become more comfortable with uncertainty occurring later and later in the process,” he says. “Hardware engineers will keep things in the realm of bits (as opposed to committing them to atoms) by sharing designs using digital collaboration and simulation tools virtually, while testing multiple physical prototypes. I think we’re going to see the supply chain start to shift around these concepts.” Read more…

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The Internet of Things has four big data problems

The IoT and big data are two sides of the same coin; building one without considering the other is a recipe for doom.

Christopher_Thompson_junkyard_1_Flickr

The Internet of Things (IoT) has a data problem. Well, four data problems. Walking the halls of CES in Las Vegas last week, it’s abundantly clear that the IoT is hot. Everyone is claiming to be the world’s smartest something. But that sprawl of devices, lacking context, with fragmented user groups, is a huge challenge for the burgeoning industry.

What the IoT needs is data. Big data and the IoT are two sides of the same coin. The IoT collects data from myriad sensors; that data is classified, organized, and used to make automated decisions; and the IoT, in turn, acts on it. It’s precisely this ever-accelerating feedback loop that makes the coin as a whole so compelling.

Nowhere are the IoT’s data problems more obvious than with that darling of the connected tomorrow known as the wearable. Read more…

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Design for disruption

A look at the need for design thinking in the IoT, advanced robotics, 3D printing, and synthetic biology.

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from our recent book Designing for Emerging Technologies, a collection of works by several authors, curated and edited by Jon Follett. This excerpt is included in our curated collection of chapters from the O’Reilly Design library. Download a free copy of the Experience Design ebook here.

Let’s look briefly at the disruptive potential of each of these emerging technologies: the IoT, advanced robotics, 3D printing, and synthetic biology — and the need for design thinking in their formations.

The IoT, connected environment, and wearable technology

Experience_Design_Cover_Radar

Download a free copy of the Experience Design ebook here.

The IoT is a popular shorthand that describes the many objects that are outfitted with sensors and communicating machine-to-machine. These objects make up our brave, new connected world. The types and numbers of these devices are growing by the day, to a possible 50 billion objects by 2020, according to the Cisco report, The Internet of Things: How the Next Evolution of the Internet Is Changing Everything (PDF).

Inexpensive sensors providing waves of data can help us gain new insight into the places in which we live, work, and play, as well as the capabilities to influence our surroundings — passively and actively — and have our surroundings influence us. We can imagine the possibilities of a hyper-connected world in which hospitals, factories, roads, airways, offices, retail stores, and public buildings are tied together by a web of data.

In a similar fashion, when we wear these sensors on our bodies, they can become our tools for self-monitoring. Combine this capability with information delivery via Bluetooth or other communication methods and display it via flexible screens, and we have the cornerstones of a wearable technology revolution that is the natural partner and possible inheritor of our current smartphone obsession. If we consider that the systems, software, and even the objects themselves will require design input on multiple levels, we can begin to see the tremendous opportunity resident in the IoT and wearables. Read more…

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Four short links: 6 January 2015

Four short links: 6 January 2015

IoT Protocols, Predictive Limits, Machine Learning and Security, and 3D-Printing Electronics

  1. Exploring the Protocols of the Internet of Things (Sparkfun) — Arduino and Arduino-like IoT “things” especially, with their limited flash and SRAM, can benefit from specially crafted IoT protocols.
  2. Complexity Salon: Ebola (willowbl00) — These notes were taken at the 2014.Dec.18 New England Complex Systems Institute Salon focused on Ebola. […] Why don’t we engage in risks in a more serious way? Everyone thinks their prior experience indicates what will happen in the future. Look at past Ebola! It died down before going far, surely it won’t be bad in the future.
  3. Machine Learning Methods for Computer Security (PDF) — papers on topics such as adversarial machine learning, attacking pattern recognition systems, data privacy and machine learning, machine learning in forensics, and deceiving authorship detection.
  4. voxel8Using Voxel8’s 3D printer, you can co-print matrix materials such as thermoplastics and highly conductive silver inks enabling customized electronic devices like quadcopters, electromagnets and fully functional 3D electromechanical assemblies.
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Four short links: 1 January 2015

Four short links: 1 January 2015

Wearables Killer App, Open Government Data, Gender From Name, and DVCS for Geodata

  1. Killer App for Wearables (Fortune) — While many corporations are still waiting to see what the “killer app” for wearables is, Disney invented one. The company launched the RFID-enabled MagicBands just over a year ago. Since then, they’ve given out more than 9 million of them. Disney says 75% of MagicBand users engage with the “experience”—a website called MyMagic+—before their visit to the park. Online, they can connect their wristband to a credit card, book fast passes (which let you reserve up to three rides without having to wait in line), and even order food ahead of time. […] Already, Disney says, MagicBands have led to increased spending at the park.
  2. USA Govt Depts Progress on Open Data Policy (labs.data.gov) — nice dashboard, but who will be watching it and what squeeze will they apply?
  3. globalnamedataWe have collected birth record data from the United States and the United Kingdom across a number of years for all births in the two countries and are releasing the collected and cleaned up data here. We have also generated a simple gender classifier based on incidence of gender by name.
  4. geogigan open source tool that draws inspiration from Git, but adapts its core concepts to handle distributed versioning of geospatial data.
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The changing nature of design is coming full circle

Matt Nish-Lapidus on the evolution of product development from pre-industrial through post-industrial eras.

Circles_Susanne_Nilsson_Flickr

Design is entering its golden age. Now, like never before, the value of the discipline is recognized. This recognition is both a welcome change and a challenge for designers as they move to designing for networked systems. Jon Follett, editor of Designing for Emerging Technologies, recently sat down with Matt Nish-Lapidus, partner and design director at Normative Design, who contributed to the book. Nish-Lapidus discusses the changing role of design and designers in emerging technology.

As Nish-Lapidus describes, we’re witnessing the evolution of product development from one crafts-person, one customer; to a one crafts-person, many customers; to a one craft-person, one product that many people will customize. He explains how the crafted object and the nature of design has changed, beginning with the pre-industrial era:

“If you look at a pair of glasses from the pre-industrial era — anything from Medieval up through the 1700s to 1800s — what you’re seeing is an object that’s the direct expression of a single crafts-person and was made for a single individual to use. It’s a representation of that crafts-person’s view of what glasses should be. They create one, and they sell that one pair. It was often, at the time anyway, also made on commission, so it was rare that they would make large quantities of the same thing and have them sitting around. Pre-industrial, in this way, is an expression of the individual crafts-person involved.”

Read more…

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We need an Internet that performs flawlessly, every second of every day

As we increasingly depend on connected devices, primary concerns will narrow to safety, reliability, and survivability.

Editor’s note: this interview with GE’s Bill Ruh is an excerpt from our recent report, When Hardware Meets Software, by Mike Barlow. The report looks into the new hardware movement, telling its story through the people who are building it. For more stories on the evolving relationship between software and hardware, download the free report.

More than one observer has noted that while it’s relatively easy for consumers to communicate directly with their smart devices, it’s still quite difficult for smart devices to communicate directly, or even indirectly, with each other. Bill Ruh, a vice president and corporate officer at GE, drives the company’s efforts to construct an industrial Internet that will enable devices large and small to chat freely amongst themselves, automatically and autonomously. From his perspective, the industrial Internet is a benign platform for helping the world become a quieter, calmer, and less dangerous place.

“In the past, hardware existed without software. You think about the founding of GE and the invention of the light bulb — you turned it on and you turned it off. Zero lines of code. Today, we have street lighting systems with mesh networks and 20 million lines of code,” says Ruh. “Machines used to be completely mechanical. Today, they are part digital. Software is part of the hardware. That opens up huge possibilities.”

A hundred years ago, street lighting was an on-or-off affair. In the future, when a crime is committed at night, a police officer might be able to raise the intensity of the nearby street lights by tapping a smart phone app. This would create near-daylight conditions around a crime scene, and hopefully make it harder for the perpetrators to escape unseen. “Our machines are becoming much more intelligent. With software embedded in them, they’re becoming brilliant,” says Ruh. Read more…

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