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

Archive for April, 2012

techBASIC 2.0 brings sensor data collection, analysis and visualization to iOS

Scientists and hobbyists who want to use their iOS devices as tricordersnow have a new tool to help them to bring that dream to life. Byte Works has released version 2.0 of techBASIC, a US$14.99 scientific and educational programming environment for iOS that can be used to pull in data from internal (accelerometer, magnetometer, and gyroscope) and external sensors.

In case the name Byte Works sounds familiar to some of you, the company has been around for a long time. Mike and Patty Westerfield started the company in the early 1980s, developing the ORCA computer languages for the 8-bit Apple II. ORCA/M became the standard development system for the Apple IIGS under the names Cortland Programmer’s Workshop (CPW) and Apple Programmer’s Workshop (APW). techBASIC has its roots in another Byte Works product, GSoft Basic for the Apple IIGS.

techBASIC 2.0 is a universal app, so any program you develop on your iPhone can easily be run on your iPad or vice-versa. Launching the app on the iPhone displays a list of included example programs — the source code for these programs is a nice place to pick up some tips on how to access and use readings from the sensors built into iOS devices. The iPad version shows the list of programs and also provides a window showing the graphical output of your programming efforts.

More info here.

International Internet of Things Event

6th of June 2012

High Tech Campus, Eindhoven, The Netherlands

Internet of Things (IoT) is hot. All over the world new initiatives start to offer Internet of Things products and services, but there are many obstacles to be taken before the business case becomes realistic and succesful. Still Internet of Things is very much a technology driven activity applied by hard- and software developers, whereby competing technologies offer different solutions with unclear business cases. Besides that different industries who don’t know each other traditionally, need to work together in order to create new succesful IoT value chains.

This international event will merge business (where is the money) and technology, and will focus on two Internet of Things cases: The individual and The Home.

The event exists out of two linked activities:

  • The seminar will tackle social, technical, cultural and design challenges, discuss innovative solutions, show new business opportunities and will give an outlook into the future of Internet of Things for The individual and The Home.
  • The exhibition will show Internet of Things products and services in its current and future formats

The following topics will be covered during the conference:

  • What are actual business cases for IoT in Healthcare, Consumer Electronics, Utilities and Automotive and how will this impact business in the future
  • What is the current status of IoT technologies (f.i. ZigBee, zWave, DECT ULE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, KNX etc.), how do they compete and are they complementary.
  • Who takes the lead in the value chain of IoT
  • What are legal, social and IP consequenses of IoT (will Big Brother watch us in the future?)

More info here.

IoT Interoperability Workshop

The FP7 PROBE-IT project organized its first Internet of Things interoperability workshop. It gathered around 45 attendees with the aim to identify and debate on IoT interoperability issues and practices and to provide a 2012 action plan and recommendations in IERC deliverable to be published by end of 2012.

You could download the presentations made during the workshop here.

Open-Source Hardware Association!

Open-source hardware has seen a number of exciting development over the past few years: the open hardware summit, the open-source hardware definition, an open-source hardware logo, and, of course, lots of great new open-source hardware products. Many of the people behind these efforts have been working together to establish an lasting framework for the promotion of open-source hardware and the coordination of these kinds of community initiatives. I’m very happy to share the news that this initiative has found a home in the newly-announced Open-Source Hardware Association (OSHWA).

The founding board consists of Alicia Gibb, co-founder of the Open Hardware Summit and former employee of Bug Labs; Nathan Seidle, founder and CEO of SparkFun Electronics; Windell Oskay, co-founder of Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories; Danese Cooper, a long-time advocate of open-source; Wendy Seltzer, a lawyer and expert in free software and free speech; and Catarina Mota, PhD researcher and co-organizer of this year’s Open Hardware Summit.

The association was set up and the initial board members selected by a working group which also included myself, Tom Igoe, and Massimo Banzi (of Arduino); Ayah Bdeir, co-founder of the Open Hardware Summit, founder of littlebits, and instigator of many of the above community initiatives; and many others (listed in the OSHWA FAQ). These folks have been much of the driving force behind the open-source hardware summit, definition, and logo and I’m thrilled to see the energy from these efforts being translated into a more lasting form. Additional board members will be elected soon, from public nominations.

This is a very exciting time for open-source hardware and I think the establishment of the association is an important step in maintaing and developing a vibrant open-source hardware community.

Read more about the Open-Source Hardware Association here.

E.U. Gets Ready to Regulate Internet of Things

Huge growth is expected in the number of connected devices. Many of these will be sensors, often capable of communicating with each other without the need for human intervention, creating a so-called “Internet of Things” (IoT).

The European Commission says it recognizes the huge potential benefits of the IoT, but also the threat to individual rights from all this data being gathered, processed and stored. Its reaction is to launch a public consultation with a deadline for responses of July 12.

In a press release Neelie Kroes, European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Agenda, said:

An Internet of Things with intelligence embedded into everyday objects is the next big thing. I want to promote an Internet of Things that serves our economic and societal goals, whilst preserving security, privacy and the respect of ethical values.

V3 explains how the consultation process will begin:

The survey asks for opinions and concerns on matters ranging from personal privacy and identity protection to the role of the government in mandating information security and delivering reference architectures for systems.

The study is open to both citizens and businesses as well as advocacy groups and industry professionals.

Rethink-Wireless continues:

That process will feed into a European Commission proposal, to be presented to national governments and the European Parliament in summer 2013, for a framework to control how the billions of devices gather, store and share data.

The questionnaire on the governance of the IoT, with supporting documents and useful links, is available on the European Commission website.

Photos from the frontier: The Internet of Things

Networked sensors are finding their way into an increasingly broad set of applications marketers have dubbed The Internet of Things. The following photo gallery provides a few glimpses of this diverse frontier in electronics and distributed computing.

At its core, the Internet of Things is all about the mote, the tiny module that combines some sort of sensor and communications, and perhaps a bit of memory and computing capability. One example is a mote designed by IBM using the network technology of startup Dust Networks, recently acquired by Linear Technology.

The devices are appearing where once no semiconductors were found, in everything from hydraulic pumps to wristwatches, board games and bandages. Indeed the apps frontier is almost comically diverse.

In a keynote at the Mobile World Congress earlier this year Ralph de la Vega, chief executive of AT&T, talked about wireless sensor networks measuring both the moisture content of farm fields to automate irrigation systems and the fullness of dumpsters to calculate the most efficient routes for garbage trucks.

“If you think about our future think trash, think dirt—there’s money there,” he quipped.

Chip makers pursuing these apps include nearly every microcontroller maker, broad analog companies such as Maxim and Texas Instruments and niche players such as Ember Corp. (whose development kit is shown below). A host of mainly wireless networking options are making claims to this territory from Bluetooth to Zigbee.

One hot debate is whether today’s Internet protocols are just fine for this work or specialty energy-saving techniques are needed. Both are in use or in development now.

More info here.

Intel, Beijing Municipal Government and Chinese Academy Of Sciences Establish ‘Internet of Things’ Joint Research

Intel Corporation announced today a joint agreement with the Beijing Municipal Government and Institute of Automation of Chinese Academy of Sciences to establish “China Intel Internet of Things” (IoT) Joint Labs to collaborate on IoT-related core technology research, development and business model innovation. The three organizations will invest 200 million RMB (US$31.7 million) over the next 5 years.

IoT is a global technology evolution through which data from billions of devices are seamlessly connected, intelligently managed and securely interacting over a network. This enables people, devices and systems to turn data into useful information and valued services.

The foundation of the joint research will address the core technologies associated with IoT including sensing, networking and processing, among others that will help address computing, storage and communication challenges of massive-scale systems derived from the large amounts of data gathered.

Tan Tieniu, director of National Laboratory of Pattern Recognition Institute of Automation of Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Jesse Fang, vice president of Intel Labs and managing director of Intel Labs China, were named co-presidents of the China Intel IoT Joint Labs.

“The China Intel IoT joint labs is the largest of its kind that Intel has participated in research collaboration in China, and it is unique in that Intel not only contributed funding but also employees as dedicated senior research leaders,” said Fang. “New applications from personalized energy management to smart traffic control to smart cities will be made possible by the research conducted at these labs.”

More info here.

Wikidata, the first new project of the Wikimedia Foundation

Wikidata, the first new project of the Wikimedia Foundation, created in 2006, now begins to develop. The organization, known mainly for its user-created Web encyclopedia of knowledge, Wikipedia announced recently, the new project on Semantic Tech & Business Conference in February in Berlin describes as Wikidata new attempt to create a database of knowledge that can be read and can be processed by humans and machines alike offer.

There have been other attempts, a semantic database of Wikipedia data before construction – for example, DBpedia, a community effort to extract structured content from Wikipedia and is available online. The difference is that in Wikidata, the data will be made not only available, it will be edited by anyone.

The aim of the project to develop a semantic, machine-readable database not only help the web forward, it also helps Wikipedia itself. The data will bring to all localized versions of Wikipedia on par with each other in terms of the basic facts they house. Today, the English, German, French and Dutch versions of most coverage, with other languages fall much further back.

Wikidata also allows users to make different kinds of questions, such as those of the world’s ten largest cities have a female mayor? Have, for example. Queries such as these are now answered by user-created lists of Wikipedia – that is, manually created structured answers. Wikidata on hand, be able to create these lists automatically.

The initial effort will create Wikidata of the German chapter of Wikimedia, Wikimedia Germany, the managing director Pavel Richter calls the project conducted “groundbreaking”, and describes it as “the greatest engineering project ever undertaken by one of the 40 international Wikimedia chapter. “Much of the early experiments that were conducted in the concept Wikidata conducted in Germany, which is why it is served as a base of operations for the new company.

The German chapter performs the initial development in the creation of Wikidata is involved, but later handed over the operation and maintenance of the Wikimedia Foundation, when complete. The estimate is that hand-off will be a year occur from now, March 2013.

More info here.

5 ways to power the Internet of things

The Internet of Things could have a mind-boggling 24 billion devices connected by 2020 and that means there will be more than three times the amount of connected devices as people on the planet by that time. So, how will the world power all of these gadgets and machine-driven devices? The answer, beyond plugging all of those devices into the grid, will include farming tiny slices of power when available, from sources like the sun, vibrations, mechanical energy, heat and more.

Here’s five ways the Internet of things will be powered:

The sun: During the day, when the sun shines down, it’s a relatively passive energy source that largely remains untapped. A couple years ago Peregrine Semiconductor started working with Kansas State University researchers on an energy-harvesting radio that gains power from a board made of solar cells taken from low-end calculators. The rest of the setup (see photo) includes a low-power integrated chip — originally developed for a NASA Mars project — to store the data, and a radio to transmit the data every five seconds. Another more recent innovation is researchers developing organic and polymer-based solar cells that are thinner than spider silk that MIT Tech Review says “can be bent and crumpled and still produce power.”

Flipping a light switch: GreenPeak is a company that sells battery-free wireless chips and network hardware that can create wireless sensor networks for industrial and commercial buildings that don’t use batteries, but harvest energy when it’s available. GreenPeak has been developing tech for “Self Powered Switches,” which are essentially a light that can run off of the power generated by switching a light switch on and off. A company calledEnOcean is developing this sensor tech, too.

Human motion: People powered motion sparks the imagination of jogging powering iPods and footsteps providing juice for iPhone. Remember this energy collecting knee brace?

Vibration: UK firm Perpetuum makes a device that capture vibrations and converts them into energy. The last time I had talked to the company it was selling its products to industrial companies for between $750 and $1,000 for various volumes of 500 to 1000 nodes. Widely accepted standards could bring that cost down, and developers could incorporate the technology more into the residential environment.

Changes in temperature: As MIT Tech Review writes: “devices could be powered just bydifferences in temperature between the body (or another warm object) and the surrounding air, eliminating or reducing the need for a battery.”

More info here.

Solar Cell Thinner Than Spider Silk Could Power Internet of Things

When you think about how to power a distributed network of environmental sensors–the kind we’ll want to have in order to connect the entirety of our physical world to the Internet of Things–the answer is obvious: solar power. Most of these sensors are by nature too tiny to have access to much of a temperature gradient, and a steady supply of vibrations isn’t always available. Batteries have limited lifespans and add bulk and expense.

That’s one of the reasons that organic and polymer-based solar cells are so interesting, particularly the latest development: A polymer-based (i.e. plastic) solar cell thinner than spider silk that can be bent and crumpled and still produces power.

From the abstract of the paper announcing their development:

These ultrathin organic solar cells are over ten times thinner, lighter and more flexible than any other solar cell of any technology to date.

This solar plastic only converts 4.2 percent of the sun’s energy into electricity, which is awful by the standards of conventional polycrystalline solar cells, but absolutely miraculous when you consider how thin and versatile this material could be.

For example, Tsuyoshi Sekitani from the University of Tokyo, one of the researchers on this project, told the AFP that this material could be worn on clothing like a badge, to power a personal health monitor. So why not a thin film under a protective shield, on the back of gadgets, so that prolonging their battery life is as simple as leaving them in a sunny spot?

When it comes to the Internet of Things, tiny sensors require tiny amounts of energy, and that’s exactly what organic solar cells can provide. Price and size are the factors that will determine whether or not they become ubiquitous, and this announcement suggests that it’s only a matter of time before both requirements are met by organic solar cells.

More info here.