New products, Conferences, Books, Papers, Internet of Things

Archive for April, 2012

Microsoft forges ahead with new home-automation OS

More than a decade ago, Microsoft execs, led by Chairman Bill Gates, were touting a future where .Net coffee pots, bulletin boards, and refrigerator magnets would be part of homes where smart devices would communicate and interoperate. Microsoft hasn’t given up on that dream.

In 2010, Microsoft researchers published a white paper about their work on a HomeOS and a HomeStore — early concepts around a Microsoft Research-developed home-automation system. Those concepts have morphed into prototypes since then, based on a white paper, “An Operating System for the Home,” published this month on the Microsoft Research site.

The HomeOS is a “PC-like abstraction” for in-home devices, like lights, TVs, surveillance cameras, gaming consoles, routers, printers, PCs, mobile phones and more. These devices appear to the HomeOS user as peripherals connected to a single PC.

The white paper never explicitly says that HomeOS is derived from or based on Windows. (There are other operating system research projects and incubations at Microsoft, including Singularity and Midori, neither of which is Windows-based, so it’s not a given that HomeOS is Windows-derived.) But it was built using C# and the .Net Framework 4.0, the new white paper on the technology explained. The core of HomeOS is described in the white paper as “a kernel that is agnostic to the devices to which it provides access, allowing easy incorporation of new devices and applications. The HomeOS itself “runs on a dedicated computer in the home (e.g., the gateway) and does not require any modifications to commodity devices,” the paper added.

More info here.

Social Networks for People and Things (SoNePT)

Social Networks for People and Things (SoNePT): The on-going connection of appliances, the increasing adoption of smartphones, and emerging instrumentation of items with QR-codes and RFID provide the basis for a comprehensive layer of connectedness to objects, Products, things and people. People are becoming part of digital social networks driven by personal interests and aspiration. The feeling of belonging to a community and the perpetual drive of getting connected from real life finds it continuation in digital networks.

Both the digital integration of things and people starts to embrace our daily lives and enables for new interaction, new experiences and new behaviors. We can remotely query and control appliances of a smart home, we can participate in the experiences and opinions of our friends about product while shopping, and we can share our activities, our preferences instantly
anytime anywhere.

It is the goal of this workshop to investigate how digital social networks and physical things can play together. We want to get inspiration from novel scenarios and applications showing digital relationships between people and Things may embrace and improve our lives. We want to speculate on new interactions, resulting experiences and emergent behaviors. And we want to discuss social and practical implications once things and people become part of a growing living network. Finally, we want to elicit how established notions thing-people relationships may be challenged, e.g. will the ownership of things we be replaced by temporal ownership of using things.

Submissin Deadline: June 17, 2012
co-located with Mensch und Computer in Konstanz

More info here.

ARM: Embedded 10X Bigger Than Mobile


ARM CEO Warren East says the embedded device sector will be be ten times larger than mobile in a few years.

“If you add up all the smartphones and the tablets and the digital televisions and the PCs… and cast your eye forward a few years we see a large opportunity of perhaps 3 billion to 4 billion units per annum, but we see an embedded market that’s maybe 30 billion to 40 billion units per annum, and so that’s where we get the factor ten.”

As part of its first quarter results for 2012, the microprocessor company said the number of chips based on its architecture increased by 15 percent during the period to hit 800 million. In comparison, chips for mobile phones and computers remained fairly static compared to the year before at 1.1 billion units.

More info here.

Wireless sensor broadcasts environmental data via Twitter

Tsubuyaku Sensor is a new wireless device from Japanese Ubiquitous Computing Technology that monitors conditions such as temperature, humidity and radiation levels and automatically tweets the resulting data via Twitter.

If Twitter can be used to broadcast recipesschool lunch menus and fresh bread alerts — to name just a few of the many examples we’ve covered — then why not environmental data as well? That, indeed, is just what’s possible with the Tsubuyaku Sensor, a new wireless device from Japanese Ubiquitous Computing Technology that monitors conditions such as temperature, humidity and radiation levels and automatically tweets the resulting data via Twitter.

Targeted primarily at applications including food warehouses and wine cellars, the Tsubuyaku Sensor measures data including temperature, humidity or radiation levels and can then automatically broadcast it to Twitter, according to a recent TechCrunch report. Boasting a battery life of about a year when posts are made every minute, the device features a range of about 40 meters, though a repeater option is available to extend that further. Twitter broadcasts can be set for public or private viewing. Pricing is USD 560 for the base unit and USD 286 for each sensor.

Is there any end to the remote monitoring possibilities? We’re thinking not. One for inspiration!

More info here and here.

CFP: IEEE Comm-Magazine: Smart Cities (deadl 1 Aug 2012)

Urban living is commencing to take a central role in the direction humanity evolves. Today, more than 1 in 2 is living in urban environments with related efforts to facilitated viable living conditions becoming tremendous. Urged by these observations, city halls and political decision makers have become very alert, calling for urgent solutions to the growing problems. Quickly advancing ICT technologies may just be the answer, which has triggered global ICT players to have launched various smart city initiatives. This corroborates that suitable technologies are a cornerstone to a sustainable development of a city. This is facilitated by means of smart services that use networked sensors and actuators deployed in the city, allowing the authorities to monitor the environment in real-time, to react immediately and just in time if needed and to establish automated control processes with less or even without human intervention.

These services, on the other hand, rely heavily on appropriate technologies, be they in the field or in the cloud.

This special issue, the first of its kind, thus focuses on ICT technologies, allowing for Smart City rollouts, deployments and growth. Part of the gamut of technologies have been researched and developed for years already, others are new. However, their composition and application in the area of smart cities is unprecedented and accounts for the tremendous upsurge in work in this area, which is mainly attributed to the unique timing between the undeniable need for making cities more efficient, and an enormous set of ICT technologies having become available and affordable. As of today, however, some major issues remain to be tackled, which pertain to technologies, their integration and interaction, architectures, applications, services, privacy, to name a few. In the light of the above, the main purpose of this special issue is threefold:

  • to obtain a coherent and concise synthesis from the abundance of recently emerged material in the area of smart city technologies and architectures,
  • to promote unprecedented approaches in analyzing, designing and optimizing smart city technologies and architectures, and
  • to identify open issues which remain as a challenge towards using ICT technologies in smart city markets.


IDTechEx webinar on energy harvesting and wireless sensor networks

On Wednesday 25 April you are invited to join IDTechEx for a free webinar, where Raghu Das will discuss:
Energy Harvesting and Wireless Sensor Networks: Markets, Challenges & Opportunities 2012-2022
During this webinar Raghu will cover the latest IDTechEx research on Energy Harvesting for small electric and electronic devices. IDTechEx’s latest ten year forecasts will be revealed and dissected, with examples of success and failure. Areas of under and over supply in the supply chain will also be identified.
The session will look at the progress of wireless sensor networks, from its start as battery powered ‘active’ RFID to real time locating systems and then mesh networks. Raghu will present the future outlook for wireless sensor networks.
Space is limited, please reserve your place at: 

PhD Student Position in Wireless Sensor Networks at University of Trento, Italy

Applications are invited from those interested in pursuing a PhD in wireless sensor networks (WSNs) at the University of Trento, Italy, in the D3S group. D3S (http://d3s/ is a cross-institution research group focusing on dynamic, decentralized, distributed systems.

In the context of WSNs, the D3S group has been particularly successful in bringing research results into real-world, long-term, operational deployments. Examples are the structural health monitoring of a medieval tower, and the closed-loop control of lighting in a road tunnel. The scientific results of these projects received the Best Paper Award at IPSN (both in 2009 and 2011) and the Mark Weiser Best Paper Award at PerCom 2012.

Other ongoing projects include: i) a pervasive computing environment equipped with audio, video, and other types of sensors to provide support for elders and people with disabilities; ii) a mobile WSN for monitoring wildlife; iii) a platform for integrating WSNs into business process, through a model-driven approach.

Although we emphasize real-world applications as a motivation and a concrete opportunity for the validation of our research, the latter is not limited to the immediate needs of WSN deployments. We perform a mix of curiosity-driven and application-driven research. The research challenges tackled by D3S span a broad set of topics, ranging from low-layer issues concerned with the characterization and design of communication protocols to higher-layer issues related with programming platforms and software architectures for WSNs.

New PhD students are invited to participate in ongoing projects to gain experience and insight into real systems, and to identify novel, challenging problemswhose solutions break new grounds. The D3S group, and Trento at large, provide a fertile environment for high-quality research: two of our PhD students received the Best Ph.D. Thesis Award at the European Conference on Wireless Sensor Networks (EWSN) in 2009 and 2012.

The language of the research group is English.

The Department of Information Engineering and Computer Science is a leading and fast.growing research institution, characterized by a young and international faculty and by a large, international student population. Indicators for scientific production place the department among the top in Europe. The department and the PhD school closely collaborate with – and operate in – a fertile and rapidly growing research and innovation environment characterized by top class research centers and an increasing number of industrial research labs. The successful candidate will therefore have the opportunity to work in a dynamic and exciting environment.

Trento is a vibrant city with a beautifully preserved historic center, consistently ranked at the top for quality of life in Italy. It offers a variety of cultural and sports opportunities all year around, as well as excellent food and wine.

Applications must be filed online before May 15 2012 (at 13:00, Italy time).

More info here.

Help – My Thermostat is Calling Home to China!

According to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal, a group of hackers in China broke into the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s network around November 2009 and were not discovered until more than a year later.

The hackers likely used a spearphishing attack to install spyware on end-user machines.  The spyware was used to steal employee administrative credentials, which were then used to install about a half dozen back doors which communicated with computers in China every week or two.

The hackers stole sensitive Chamber data such as trade-policy documents, meeting notes, trip reports and schedules, and emails containing the names of companies and individuals in contact with the Chamber.  They even used their own search tools to locate documents containing keywords related to financial and budget information, and stole all emails from four targeted employees – who worked on Asia policy – for approximately six weeks during one portion of the attack.

And here’s an interesting twist — a thermostat at a Chamber town house on Capitol Hill was communicating with an Internet address in China, and a printer spontaneously started printing pages with Chinese characters.

More info here.

Researchers Boost Efficiency of Multi-Hop Wireless Networks

Multi-hop wireless networks can provide data access for large and unconventional spaces, but they have long faced significant limits on the amount of data they can transmit. Now researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a more efficient data transmission approach that can boost the amount of data the networks can transmit by 20 to 80 percent.

“Our approach increases the average amount of data that can be transmitted within the network by at least 20 percent for networks with randomly placed nodes – and up to 80 percent if the nodes are positioned in clusters within the network,” says Dr. Rudra Dutta, an associate professor of computer science at NC State and co-author of a paper on the research. The approach also makes the network more energy efficient, which can extend the lifetime of the network if the nodes are battery-powered.

Multi-hop wireless networks utilize multiple wireless nodes to provide coverage to a large area by forwarding and receiving data wirelessly between the nodes. However, these networks have “hot spots” – places in the network where multiple wireless transmissions can interfere with each other. This limits how quickly the network can transfer data, because the nodes have to take turns transmitting data at these congested points.

Data can be transmitted at low power over short distances, which limits the degree of interference with other nodes. But this approach means that the data may have to be transmitted through many nodes before reaching its final destination. Or, data can be transmitted at high power, which means the data can be sent further and more quickly – but the powerful transmission may interfere with transmissions from many other nodes.

Dutta and Ph.D. student Parth Pathak developed an approach called centrality-based power control to address the problem. Their approach uses an algorithm that instructs each node in the network on how much power to use for each transmission depending on its final destination.

The algorithm optimizes system efficiency by determining when a powerful transmission is worth the added signal disruption, and when less powerful transmissions are needed.

The paper, “Centrality-based power control for hot-spot mitigation in multi-hop wireless networks,” is published online by the journalComputer Communications, and is in press for a print version of an upcoming issue of the journal. Pathak is lead author. The research was supported in part by the U.S. Army Research Office.

Design and deploy your own IoT/M2M solutions in the magical environment of Drvengrad

The 7th Summer School on IoT/M2M and Applications of Smart and Connected Devices, senZations’12, takes place September 3 – September 7, 2012, in Drvengrad, Serbia.  The senZations summer school has become an annual event on the agenda of young researchers in Europe. Covering a range of novel topics from wireless sensor networks to M2M to Internet of Things and their applications with support of excellent lecturers and senior researchers from academy and industry, the senZations have attracted more than 300 students during the past six events.

Design and deploy your own IoT/M2M solutions in the magical environment of Drvengrad and run experiments on the SmartSantander framework! Learn about the latest achievements in the field of IoT and M2M from the experts coming from the EU FP7 projects EXALTED, LOLA, HOBNET and SmartSantander! Join us, have fun, meet peers and experienced researchers, expand your network of contacts.

The aim of the summer school is to:

  • Run experiments on SmartSantander framework including a live deployment in Drvengrad
  • Present the latest results, trends, activities and applications in the IoT and M2M domain
  • Identify novel research opportunities, important challenges and research directions
  • Demonstrate existing prototypes and demos – and implement new ones!
  • Interact with experienced researchers and establish new contacts
  • Have fun and enjoy the beauty of the Serbian mountains while acquiring new skills and expertise

More info here.