Best quick intro to the IoT that I’ve seen!

Following up on my last post, I’ve found what I think is the best quick intro to the Internet of Things!

Internet of Things,” released today by the Center for Data Innovation (hadn’t heard of them! BTW, they also get points in my book for covering XBRL, the magic potion for data…) is a quick read: it has short intros to most of the major consumer-oriented areas affected by the IoT, from healthcare to home automation, combined with two examples for each of those topics. I hadn’t heard of some of the examples (thanks, authors Daniel Castro and Jordan Misra!), although most are frequently cited ones ranging from the Nest thermostat to the Vitality GlowCap.  All in all, they’ll show almost any skeptic that the IoT is already a reality and that it will change their life!

The report concludes with brief policy recommendations for government and business alike:

  • (for government agencies) lead by example, i.e., include funding for sensors in bridge projects, etc. Yea (you listening, Obama Administration?).
  • reduce barriers to data sharing (this harkens back to my Data Dynamite book: data gains value by being shared!).
  • give consumers access to their data (again, something I wrote about in Data Dynamite).
  • avoid inundating consumers with notices (a fine line, since they need to be informed, in plain English, about how their data will be used).
  • regulate the use of data, not the collection (in line with Mercatus Center’s advice)

All in all, a nice intro to the IoT!

BTW: Thanx to ol’ friend Pete O’Dell for turning me on to this report!

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Two good sites if you’re introducing the IoT

Categorize this under “posts I’ve been meaning to write for a long time!”

For the current writing assignment I’m working on, I’m looking for as many good examples of practical Internet of Things applications that are available right now.

There are two sites that I repeatedly go to for those examples that deserve some praise.

postscapesOne is Postscapes, which I find to be an important all-around IoT news source. It features products (and links to their sites) in the “Body,” “Home,” “City” and “Industry” categories, as well as a DIY/Open Source grouping. The descriptions are well written and it’s attractive.

The other site is a corporate one, from Libelium, the Spanish open source sensor platform. A portion of its site is devoted to “50 Sensor Applications for a Smarter World,” grouped under “Smart Cities,” “Smart Environment,” “Smart Water,” “Smart Metering,” “Retail,” “Logistics,” “Industrial Control,” “Smart Agriculture,” “Smart Animal Farming,” “Security and Emergencies,” “Domotic and Home Automation,” and “eHealth.” There’s a wealth of accompanying information about — surprise! — the Libelium sensors that are matched to each of these applications. Of course it’s marketing for Libelium, but the range of applications does illustrate the wide range of ways that the IoT is already affecting industry, cities, and personal lives.

Check both sites out — and point your skeptical contacts who wonder if the IoT is just a laboratory curiosity to them!


White House recognizes IoT with Smart America Challenge

Posted on 11th November 2013 in government, Internet of Things, M2M

I’ve been critical of the Obama Administration in the past (except for the FTC, which is increasingly active in the field) for ignoring the Internet of Things.

Now there’s news that things are changing — slightly.

The White House has announced the SmartAmerica Challenge to build several IoT “test beds” by next April. It will hold a workshop Dec. 12th to kick off the project.

The goal:

“The SmartAmerica Project is bringing together organizations with cyber-physical systems (CPS) technology, programs and test beds to demonstrate the potential to improve safety, sustainability, efficiency, mobility, and overall quality of life. The purpose is to elevate awareness of the exciting opportunities possible through CPS and demonstrate what can be done today with cutting edge communication technology.”

The White House asks groups that want to be considered for the program to send one-page descriptions of their r & d “and include possible scenarios for the proposed interconnected set of disparate test beds and identify the potential benefits …. Actual test beds will help demonstrate the benefits and practical operational requirements of these interconnected disparate systems on a smaller scale and in real time – creating valuable experience and protocols for full-scale operation of such systems” (we may be dealing with cutting-edge tech here, but it’s reassuring that the program can still be described in Washington-speak …).

Evaluation criteria include: “Successfully interconnecting different test beds requires a high confidence network, seamless connectivity on many levels, robust security in any communication mode, and the use of open easy-to-use data architecture.”

“‘Our goal is to come out at the end of the day with two or more, but less than five, real substantial scenarios and commitments from the participants to build them,’ says Geoff Mulligan, an IoT veteran and one of two [White House Innovation] fellows working on the project.

“‘We want companies and researchers to roll up their sleeves, look at the various pieces of technology, and see what we can build out of it — like a stone soup,’ Mulligan told us [EE Times] in an email exchange.”

Oh, and they’re doing it on the cheap: the White House won’t provide any funding for the program.

Contrast that to China, which spends billions on IoT projects.

Oh well: it’s a (modest) start.


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Here’s where I draw the IoT privacy line! social sensing badges

Posted on 5th November 2013 in Internet of Things, management, privacy


I had the same reaction to this story by the Boston Globe‘s Scott Kirsner (“Is this a management breakthrough, or Big Brother in the workplace?” — sorry, no linkie: it only appears to be available through the subscribers’ archive) that a lot of people did to the story about the hacked, un-encrypted baby monitor: this is the Internet of Things run amok.

Sociometric Badge

It seems that a local firm, Sociometric Solutions,  has come up with a “social sensing badge” that employees would wear around their necks. According to the firm’s CEO, Ben Waber, before long “every employee ID badge will have sensors in it.” Holy George Orwell!

As Kirsner said, “You might call it the NSA style of management.” My thoughts exactly.

Here’s how this demonic gizmo works:

“…the badges rely on infrared sensors to know when you are clustered with other people in a meeting or conversation. While they don’t record conversations, they capture data about how often you talk versus listen, how frequently you interrupt people, and your tone of voice.” (my emphasis)

This is supposed to lead to a more humane workplace, that “.. will enable companies to try different approaches to office design, corporate hierarchies, and perhaps even work schedules.”


I’m reminded of a story a friend tells. He had a very talented employee who was anti-social, and frequently would work in the middle of the night, even sleep at his desk. Unconventional, but absolutely essential to the department. How long do you think he’d last after wearing one of these badges? Turn in your sociometric badge as you pick up your last check, anyone with ADHD or Aspergers — and probably a lot of others who wouldn’t fit some manager’s pre-conception of the ideal employee!

According to workplace consultant Alexandra LaMaster, of OrgSpeed:

“When there’s trust between an employer and employee, and they see that you’re moving people around because you want more communication across departments, or to achieve some kind of business result, that’s one thing. If there’s a lack of trust, people might feel they’re being policed.”

I’ve seen far too many dysfunctional workplaces — particularly in low-status companies such as retailers — to subscribe to the idealized view of how this device could be used. As far as I’m concerned, the sociometric badge is one example of technologists (IMHO, shame on MIT Prof. Sandy Pentland, who is a co-founder and chairman of the company’s board, and who I’d always counted among the IoT Good Guys) who get the idea that because you can do something, you should do it.

You shouldn’t.

What do you think?




Smart water grid — as important as smart energy grid

Posted on 5th November 2013 in environmental, Internet of Things, M2M

Environmental efficiency is one of my passions, and there’s compelling evidence that shortages of clean water are almost as much a threat to life on Earth as global warming is.

That’s why I was so excited to learn that Spain — already an exemplar of “smarter cities” thinking (due in large part to Libelium using it as a test site for its devices) — is launching a “smart water grid” program in the city of  Cáceres.

According to Jesse Berst (you really should subscribe to his Smart Grid News!), ACCIONA Agua, the water services division of ACCIONA, a global renewable energy, infrastructure and water services group, will build the system “as part of a European project that aims to apply new technologies to the management of drinking water networks.”

Its benefits will parallel those for “smart grid” electricity projects, including real-time detection of underwater leaks (so they can be repaired more quickly) and real-time control of water distribution and use, and remote meter reading that will allow the utility to alert homeowners to possible leaks in the home or other problems.

Note the critical benefits of real-time data: “Real time data is expected to optimize investment plans according to real needs, as well as hone the management of water services.”

Components will include:

  • remote meter readers
  • GIS
  • remote control information
  • water quality monitoring sensors
  • mathematical model to predicting the system’s behavior.

The project is part of ” SmartWater4Europe, an EU research project that brings together 21 participants, including water utilities, technology companies, universities and research centers. The project has a budget of more than €10 million, of which €2.5 million has been assigned to Cáceres.” Results will be monitored over a 4 year period.

I’ve been noodling for a while about what it will take to get mainstream companies that may not even know about the IoT, let alone have a strategy to capitalize on it, to test the waters. I’ve concluded that since water and energy utility bills are such a big issue for most companies that launching “smart grid” projects that capitalize on utilities’ investments in this area and can lead to quick savings in utility bills might be the ideal entry point. What do you think?

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IoT Essential Truths: Coordination

Posted on 1st November 2013 in design, Essential Truths, Internet of Things, M2M, maintenance, management

Just as I’ve written repeatedly about one of the “Essential Truths” of the Internet of Things is that we have to learn how to collaborate, there’s another “co- word” that’s crucial to realize its full potential: coordinate!

That’s brought to mind by news from this week’s Internet of Things World Forum in Barcelona, where SAP (full disclosure: I’m working on a project for them), and SK Solutions, the global leader in anti­-collision software (heck, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as anti-collision software, let alone that SK was the leader!) have teamed to create a system helping engineering and construction companies increase collision avoidance and protect workers through real-time information sharing.

I’d never thought of it, but modern construction sites are a nightmare in terms of the need for coordination, with huge cranes, a multitude of construction vehicles, and many workers on the site.

The system, being tested at a construction site in Dubai, is gathering actionable, real-time data (historical data is pointless when so many players are interacting right now!) from mobile field workers, equipment and operational processes.

When you think of it, it’s difficult to maximize productivity and cut costs on a job site because so many operations have to be coordinated.

Here’s how it works:

“SK Solutions deploys sensors on cranes and construction vehicles to pull data such as 3­D motion control via inertial motion unit, location via GPS and load weight, equipment usage and wind speed and direction. This data is loaded first into the Navigator real­time operating system and its on­board set of applications, including collision avoidance. The data is then fed through the SK Navigator Anywhere Agent, which uses SAP technology. Site and project managers monitor the equipment via a dashboard built with SK Asteroid, which uses the SAP HANA platform, SAP® 3­D Visual Enterprise applications and SAP LumiraTM software. SK Asteroid 360 Middleware is a cloud­based platform that provides connectivity to SAP® Business Suite software.”

That leads me to another “Essential Truth” of the Internet of Things:

We have to start asking, where are there situations where real-time data from a variety of sources could help coordinate inter-related activities to improve safety & efficiency and reduce costs?

Whether it’s coordinating hospital rooms, integrating supply chains or assembly lines — even traffic flow — there are situations everywhere in which the Internet of Things can improve productivity, reduce operating costs — and even save lives.

N.B. For those who are interested in what the prefix co- really means, it’s from a Latin prefix of the same name, and means togethermutuallyjointly. Class dismissed..

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