"Internet of Things" entries

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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Signals from OSCON 2015

From Pluto flybys to open source in the enterprise to engineering the future, here are key highlights from OSCON 2015.

Experts and advocates from across the open source world assembled in Portland, Ore., this week for OSCON 2015. Below you’ll find a handful of keynotes and interviews from the event that we found particularly notable.

Cracking open the IoT

In an interview at OSCON, Alasdair Allan, director at Babilim Light Industries, talked about the data coming out of the New Horizons Pluto flyby, the future of “personal space programs,” and the significance of Bluetooth LE to the Internet of Things:

Now that all the smartphones have Bluetooth LE — or at least the modern ones, there is a very easy way to produce low-power devices (wearables, embedded sensors) that anyone can access with a smartphone. … It’s a real lever to drive the Internet of Things forward, and you’re seeing a lot of the progress in the Internet of Things, a lot of the innovation, is happening — especially in Kickstarter — around BLE devices.

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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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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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At Solid San Francisco, you could see all the way to the future

Making sense of the intersection between connected devices, accessible hardware, and synthetic biology.

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Register for Solid Amsterdam, October 28, 2015 — space is limited.

I don’t usually describe conferences as “mind expanding,” but in this instance, the description is justified. At O’Reilly’s Solid 2015: Hardware, Software & the Internet of Things, held recently at Fort Mason in San Francisco, I encountered startling views of the future, thoughtful presentations on creative combinations of exciting new technologies, and warnings about what might happen if somehow it all goes wrong.

Dozens of speakers and presenters covered topics ranging from synthetic biology to augmented reality helmets to 3D printed automobiles. The audience was a mix of software developers, hardware designers, traditional manufacturers, digital manufacturers, academics, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists keen to spot the next major tech trends.

The conference was organized around multiple tracks and themes, including data, design, software, hardware, product development, manufacturing, biology, security, technology, and startups. What follows is an overview of my key takeaways. Read more…

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Trillions of things sending billions of messages

The O'Reilly Radar Podcast: Mickey McManus on preparing for an era of unbounded malignant complexity.

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In this week’s episode of the Radar Podcast, O’Reilly’s Mike Hendrickson talks with Autodesk research fellow Mickey McManus about engaging with extreme users and what’s going to happen when we have trillions of things sending billions of messages. McManus also talked about how we can prepare for the coming era of unbounded malignant complexity.

Unbounded malignant complexity

In talking about Trillions, a book McManus co-authored with Peter Lucas and Joe Ballay, McManus explained what exactly we’re up against in the next five years as our world becomes more and more permeated with computation:

We are probably five years away from trillions of computing devices, and that wouldn’t be bad, but then imagine a world saturated with computers. It’s almost like a super-saturated solution. They’re not all connected, so maybe we could cope with that. But, concurrently, connectivity is joining Moore’s law — people like Intel are working on Moore’s law radio that basically puts all the parts of a radio on silicon. Which means that, suddenly, the cost of connectivity drops to dirt, to nothing, to dust.

We’ll have this super-saturated solution where that seed hits it, and we’re going to turn the sock inside out. We’re going to go from information in computers, like your super computer in your pocket, to us being surrounded by information. … The next information age will be an era of unbounded malignant complexity. Because there’s a lot of stuff. We have to get ready for that.

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10 principles for sane automobile manufacturing

A new, low-impact model for manufacturing using a dematerialized approach

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The current approach for manufacturing automobiles is expensive, wasteful, and energy-intensive; it hurts our environment as well as our economy. When it costs hundreds of millions of dollars to start a car factory, innovation becomes nearly impossible. As we triple the number of cars on the road in the next 30 to 40 years, the conventional approach will not be sustainable.

Dematerialization — reducing the material and energy required to build cars — is the only effective way to reduce the environmental and social damage stemming from automobiles. Dematerialization will lead to:

  • Far fewer emissions from both manufacturing and operation
  • Much lower material and energy inputs in manufacturing
  • Dramatically better gas mileage
  • Lower wear on roads
  • Fewer fatalities from car accidents

By focusing on dematerialization, my company Divergent Microfactories was able to build a car with only a third of the total health and environmental damage of an 85 kWh all-electric car. The objective: drive that impact down to a quarter or less. Read more…

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“Internet of Things” is a temporary term

The O'Reilly Radar Podcast: Pilgrim Beart on the scale, challenges, and opportunities of the IoT.

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In this week’s Radar Podcast, O’Reilly’s Mary Treseler chatted with Pilgrim Beart about co-founding his company, AlertMe, and about why the scale of the Internet of Things creates as many challenges as it does opportunities. He also talked about the “gnarly problems” emerging from consumer wants and behaviors.

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Smart building: Building bridges between IT and facilities

Building organizational bridges across the enterprise is critical to ensure successful IoT deployments.

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With the proliferation of IoT-enabled systems and devices across the physical environment, the IoT is already embedded in the enterprise, often deep inside the industrial infrastructure. Generating terabytes of data, sensor-laden objects — lighting, HVAC systems, thermostats, beacons, and others — justify their cost based on the business benefits alone. Whether for energy savings, process efficiency, worker tracking, threat detection, or other purposes, facilities engineering teams are procuring these sensors and systems to address business needs. The challenge? Buildings are getting smarter without explicit or intentional involvement from IT, creating missed opportunities to leverage these assets and their data, and to align with a broader IT strategy.

While IT focuses on the computing and network infrastructure rather than the physical environment, facilities teams are deploying a new layer of smart devices across the infrastructure, without thinking that these objects are actually a series of data-generating nodes on the corporate network. To extract maximum value from these new, smart, networked devices, organizations need to redefine the historically challenged relationship between facilities and IT teams. While facility managers handle everything from plant operations, HVAC systems, maintenance teams, and snow removal, they are now also a new customer or partner for IT as buildings become instrumented. IT teams are subject matter experts and strategic partners that can ensure technology acquisitions within the physical environment will integrate with the other systems across the enterprise.

In fact, for the deployment of IoT technologies across the enterprise, there are obvious questions that IT is particularly well suited to address: Read more…

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The future of car making: Small teams using fewer materials

How we make cars is a bigger environmental issue than how we fuel them.

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Around two billion cars have been built over the last 115 years; twice that number will be built over the next 35-40 years. The environmental and health impacts will be enormous. Some think the solution is electric cars or other low- or zero-emission vehicles. The truth is, if you look at the emissions of a car over its total life, you quickly discover that tailpipe emissions are just the tip of the iceberg.

An 85 kWh electric SUV may not have a tailpipe, but it has an enormous impact on our environment and health. A far greater percentage of a car’s total emissions come from the materials and energy required for manufacturing a car (mining, processing, manufacturing, and disposal of the car ), not the car’s operation. As leading environmental economist and vice chair of the National Academy of Sciences Maureen Cropper notes, “Whether we are talking about a conventional gasoline-powered automobile, an electric vehicle, or a hybrid, most of the damages are actually coming from stages other than just the driving of the vehicle.” If business continues as usual, we could triple the total global pollution generated by automobiles, as we go from two billion to six billion vehicles manufactured.

The conclusion from this is straightforward: how we make our cars is actually a bigger environmental issue than how we fuel our cars. We need to dematerialize — dramatically reduce the material and energy required to build cars — and we need to do it now. Read more…

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Connected machines: Taking manufacturing to the next level of IoT

Linking factory machines back to their builders creates an efficient production loop.

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We’ve all seen how connected products can transform industries in areas like home energy management and personal health, and manufacturing is no exception. When products communicate back to their original makers, the manufacturers can detect production flaws well before customers would need to raise warranty claims. Further, product usage data can become the core of value delivered to the customer. Now that we have Fitbit and Jawbone UP, would you ever consider buying a traditional pedometer whose only method of telling you steps is on an LCD display? These ideas can be applied to machines on the factory floor, too.

In a previous blog post on the connected factory, I shared how Cisco’s designs combine best practices from operational technology (OT) and IT into robust and secure networks. I also addressed how wireless connectivity can enable a more effective workforce and how digital transformation with real-time production analytics improves quality.

Now, imagine extending that connectivity beyond the plant floor and internal operations by connecting factory machines back to the machine builders that created them. Manufacturing operations that rely only on data generated within the plant and shared internally are missing an important opportunity. Sharing data with the machine builders who know the machine best can create opportunities to significantly improve machine performance by making those machines smarter. Read more…

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