When architect James Law looks in the mirror each morning his reflection is not all that greets him — he can also see the weather report, e-mail messages and his heart rate.
“The biggest game changer of the past 25 years has been the Internet,” said Law, whose Cybertecture Mirror is an offshoot of his Hong Kong architectural firm’s focus on integrating technology in design.
“In buildings, the Internet has become ubiquitous but it hasn’t caught up in the products that inhabit buildings — chairs, doors, tables and mirrors.”
Law’s company — and a raft of new government-funded projects in mainland China — is looking to change that. Law’s $5,000 mirror began as product his firm designed for a high-tech residential building in Dubai. “The Internet of Things began to become more real for us as a project,” Law said. “We started to take these things out of our building designs to make them independent products, and try to impregnate them with as much technology as we can.”
If there’s a race to lead the Internet of Things (IoT), China aims to set the pace. Since Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao identified IoT as an “emerging strategic industry” in an interview on state media, Beijing has focused on developing technology by which devices can communicate via infrared sensor, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and other Machine-to-Machine (M2M) technology.
Beijing plans to invest 5 billion yuan ($800 million) in the IoT industry by 2015. The Ministry of Information and Technology estimates China’s IoT market will hit 500 billion yuan ($80.3 billion) by 2015, then double to 1 trillion yuan ($166 billion) by 2020.
More info here.
Productivity gains resulting from the “internet of things” could add between $10 trillion and $15 trillion to global GDP over the next 20 years, according to a new study from General Electric (GE).
The manufacturing giant reckons the “industrial internet”, as it terms the phenomenon, could find direct application in sectors accounting for more than $32.3 trillion in global economic activity, but expects this figure to reach about $82 trillion – one half of global economic output – by 2025.
As noted in the study, an efficiency improvement of just 1% brought about by the use of the industrial internet would yield terrific gains in a variety of sectors.
In the aviation industry, for instance, a 1% improvement in fuel savings would be worth about $30 billion over the next 15 years, while the same efficiency improvement in the global gas-fired power plant fleet could lead to savings of about $66 billion in fuel consumption.
The global health industry could realize savings of more than $63 billion by reducing process inefficiencies by 1%, but the most eye-catching figure is the $90 billion that GE (Fairfield, USA) believes could be slashed from capital expenditure in upstream oil and gas exploration and development, simply through a 1% improvement in capital utilization.
GE says the savings are possible by combining three elements of the industrial internet: “intelligent machines”, “advanced analytics” and “people at work”.
While the industrial internet starts with the embedding of sensors in an array of machines, it is the collection and analysis of data this process allows that generates much of the savings, with an additional boost provided by connecting people at work or on the move.
Using the example of the aviation industry, GE says that each of the three pieces of rotating equipment in a single jet engine could be instrumented and monitored separately.
More info here.
A year ago, two MIT Media Lab graduates raised half a million dollars on Kickstarter to create Twine, a cigarette-pack-sized chunk of Internet magic that promised to turn any object in your home into a web-connected, interactive “smart product”. Want your basement pipes to send you a text message when they’re in danger of freezing up, or your garage door to ping you if you forget to close it? No problem: With Twine, building your own personal “Internet of things” is supposed to be easier than programming a VCR. And now that the product is available for purchase, it looks like creators John Kestner and David Carr have very nearly delivered on that ambitious promise.
How do you get a non-hacker to even understand a device like Twine? With product design that would make Steve Jobs proud. Kestner, who studied industrial design as an undergraduate, tells Co.Design that “we wanted to wrap the functionality in something that didn’t read as an electronic object.” Twine is packed with sensors that detect temperature, moisture, and position, but it’s as light, small, and unassuming as a pack of gum. “It’s just a solid chunk of connectivity,” Kestner says. “We settled onelastomer [for the outer case]–it feels great to the touch, and reads as durable, friendly, and decidedly non-electronic.”
But Twine is also intriguingly mysterious: Flip the rubbery, featureless box over on its back and two instructions reveal themselves: “Place this side up,” and “go to Twinesetup.com.” From there, configuring Twine feels like an adventure instead of a chore. Wow, it just connected to the Web by itself–now a little light is turning on–whoa, now I can see an image of it in my Web browser, sensing the temperature–what will this thing do next?
Building this sense of wonder and delight right out of the box is essential to making Twine feel useful. If you think of it as a little magic box that can do anything–kind of like a Swiss Army knife crossed with a Tamagotchi–you’re more likely to find its open-ended possibilities inspiring instead of intimidating. After all, there’s no instruction manual. Once your Twine is set up, the dashboard in your Web browser invites you to set up “rules” (which are actually simple programs) for telling it what to do. I just moved into a new house with a cold basement office, so I used the simple drop-down menus to program my Twine to send me a text message saying “Get a space heater, doofus” whenever the temperature drops below 70°.
More info here.
Libelium has released a set of Encryption Libraries for Waspmote and Plug & Sense!™ sensor platforms in order to ensure the authentication, confidentiality (privacy) and integrity of the information gathered by the sensors. To do so different cryptography algorithms including AES 256 and RSA 1024 have been implemented in the libraries and released under an open source license.
Software is making its way into places where it hasn’t usually been before, like the cutting surfaces of very fast, ultra-precise machine tools.
A high-speed milling machine can run at 42,000 RPM as it fabricates high-quality machine components within tolerances of a few microns. Excessive wear in that environment can lead to a failure that ruins an expensive part, but it’s difficult to use physical means to detect wear on cutting surfaces: human operators can’t see it and detailed microscopic inspections are costly. The result is that many operators simply replace parts on a pre-determined schedule — every two months, perhaps — that ends up being overly conservative.
Enter software: in a paper delivered to the IEEE’s Industrial Electronics Society in Montreal last Thursday*, a group of researchers from Singapore propose a way to use low-cost sensors along with machine learning algorithms to accurately predict wear on machine parts — a technique that could cut costs for manufacturers by lengthening the lifespan of machine parts while avoiding failures.
The group’s demonstration is a promising illustration of the industrial Internet, which promises to bring more intelligence to machines by linking them to networks and integrating them with sophisticated software. Techniques from areas like machine learning, which can be computationally intensive, can thus be available in monitoring parts as small and common as cutting surfaces in milling machines.
“This is a simple optimization problem,” says Meng Joo Er, a professor at the Nanyang Technological University and an author of the paper. “But you’re talking about a very expensive piece of equipment working on a very expensive product. We have to be very careful.”
More info here.
A wireless vibration sensor being developed by a Victoria University student could provide a low-cost solution for engineers to monitor the damage of buildings affected by earthquakes – and, more impressively, harnesses the kinetic energy generated by the tremors in order to power itself.
Daniel Tomicek has been working on the innovative device – designed to be placed at several locations around a building to monitor the stress sustained by different areas during an earthquake – as part of his final year research project.
It also uses the energy of the building’s movement during an earthquake to power itself, measuring the acceleration of the movement, and transmitting information in the form of data packets to an off-site computer. The greater the vibrations, the greater the energy harvested and the more data packets that are sent.
The data can then be used by engineers to help assess the extent of damage to the building.
Currently, no sensor exists in the marketplace that doesn’t rely on batteries or electricity supply to run, he says.
Tomicek has been testing the sensor’s capabilities at Te Papa’s Earthquake House in its Awesome Forces exhibit, where the device monitored ‘earthquakes’ at the house over the course of a week.
“Testing at the Earthquake House was a real success. The device managed to sense each earthquake and send packets of information for each one.”
He says he was inspired to create a kinetic sensor after a friend worked on a similar project during a summer research scholarship at Victoria University.
He had also heard about applications being developed in Europe, where special springs added to dance floors in nightclubs can harness an electrical current generated by the movement of dancers, which is then stored in batteries and used to run devices.
More info here.
What if all objects were interconnected and started to sense their surroundings and communicate with each other? The Internet of Things (IoT) will have that sort of ubiquitous machine-to-machine (M2M) connectivity. Since there are estimates that between 50 billion to 500 billion devices will have a mobile connection to the cloud by 2020, here’s a glimpse of our possible future.
Your alarm clock signals the lights to come on in your bedroom; the lights tell the heated tiles in your bathroom to kick on so your feet are not cold when you go to shower. The shower tells your coffee pot to start brewing. Your smartphone checks the weather and tells you to wear your gray suit since RFID tags on your clothes confirm that your favorite black suit is not in your closet but at the dry cleaners. After you pour a cup of java, the mug alerts your medication that you have a drink in-hand and your pill bottle begins to glow and beep as a reminder. Your pill bottle confirms that you took your medicine and wirelessly adds this info to your medical file at the doctor’s office; it will also text the pharmacy for a refill if you are running low.
Your smart TV automatically comes on with your favorite news channel while you eat breakfast and browse your tablet for online news. After you’ve eaten, while you are brushing your teeth, your dishwasher texts your smartphone to fire up your vehicle via the remote start. Because your“smart” car can talk to other cars and the road, it knows what streets to avoid due to early morning traffic jams. Your phone notifies you that your route to work has been changed to save you time. And you no longer need to look for a place to park, since your smartphone reserved one of the RFID parking spaces marked as “open” and available in the cloud. Don’t worry about your smart house because as you exited it, the doors locked, the lights went off, and the temperature was adjusted to save energy and money.
More info here.