The Internet of Things (IoT) isn't coming, it's here and some companies are leading the way to connect the digital with the physical world.
In part one of this article we looked at what the IoT is, how it came to be, what it is composed of and most importantly, how it might interact with us and whether or not that interaction would be collaborative. In this second part of the article we look at the how more than the what or why.
Companies like ThingWorx and Raco wireless are trying to create platforms for IoT applications. In addition, the XMPP standards foundation XSF is creating a framework in a fully open standard that is free of any company ties and unconnected to any cloud services. The idea is to show how XMPP can empower the collaboration between humans and smart objects. This initiative is called Chatty Things. XMPP provides a set of needed building blocks and a proven distributed solution that can scale with high security levels.
Another technical issue is how easy is it to connect these connected devices to Web services? Temboo has integrated its platform into some of the hardware (Arduino boards) that deal with connected objects. The big deal about this is that Temboo has a library of APIs for Web Services like Facebook, Dropbox and Evernote.
At the recent DEMO Fall 2013 I got a chance to hear Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote talk about some of the history and design philosophy of Evernote but also to see where they are going. He talked about
moving from a manufacturing economy to a knowledge economy. In the knowledge economy, for the first time, the state of mind or 'happiness' of knowledge workers can determine how productive and successful they are. The ability of making those knowledge workers happy, helps them deal with the ever larger onslaught of details.
To operationalize this, their investment hypothesis (what features they will give resources to) is that the lines between the digital and physical world and the consumer and enterprise world will quickly disappear. He believes that this can happen within the next five years and that any company that is not able to design for the physical world (IoT) will not survive."
So it is no coincidence that Evernote launched Evernote market, which offers scanners, stylus and a few other objects. It launched two weeks ago and accounts for 20 percent of Evernote’s revenues over that time period.
Kits and Tools
Cisco has created a counter for the Internet of Everything (IoE). It says there are over 10 billion things connected to the Internet, with another 80 connected every second. Not to be outdone, GE, Pivotal and Amazon are also collaborating on the IoT, and Oracle and Freescale have partnered to provide new services.
Start-ups like Ninjablocks and Twine have started to offer kits for early adopters that allow us to connect our own sensors to track temperatures in specific rooms, e.g., if the plants need watering or to turn on my hot tub so it will be warm when I get home. A lot of these building blocks are also emerging in the medical area. iHealth's devices measure oxygenation, blood glucose, blood pressure, activity level, etc. -- all connected to your smart phone through Bluetooth.
iHealth device and app for iPhone, connected by Bluetooth
Cisco has also created the Cisco Network Convergence System (NCS) to serve as a foundation for what they call the IoE, which includes not only connected devices but also cloud, mobile, video and machine-to-machine communications, people and processes.
the city of Nice in the French Riviera unveiled Cisco's first proof of concept for the Internet of Everything architecture in a real-life urban context! Boulevard Victor Hugo in the center of Nice is now home to 200 different sensors and devices being connected up to the Internet on heterogeneous technologies. And the city is harnessing data from parking, traffic, street lighting, waste management and environment to generate context-aware and real-time information intelligence to explore different operational models as well as enable Open Data."
What Kind of Interactions with the IoT?
A recent TechCrunch article noted a Gartner report claiming two thirds of CEOs believe that “smart machines” will take away many middle class jobs in the next decade.
Smart machines are coming to the business world, but don’t tell that to the CEOs. Sixty percent of CEOs surveyed by Gartner Research say the emergence of smart machines capable of absorbing millions of middle-class jobs within 15 years is a 'futurist fantasy.'”
Whatever this CEO future turns out to be, location and presence data will be a lot more specific and can be used to initiate or end a conversation. For example, instead of my wife texting me the grocery list, she would be able to tell when I was near the grocery store, make sure I got the list and make sure I know which things on the list are on sale by marking them in specific grocery aisles and shelves.
With the accelerated rate that “things” are becoming “smart” or connected to the IoT, we have to choose how to interact with “things” over the next few years. This ability to interact or take advantage of the IoT will determine how successful we are in connecting the digital with the physical world. While collaboration with these objects is still in its infancy, I am sure we will see new open source projects, emerging standards and of course a plethora of software solutions (apps) in the next few years that will help us deal with this barrage of new data, enabling us to interact with many of the things in, on and around us!
Editor's Note: Be sure to read the first part of this two part look at the Internet of Things.