The Internet of Things, a term being bandied to the point of almost meaninglessness now it’s hit the mainstream of the NYT and the BBC. Yet, while the mainstay of the media struggles to describe how and why smart sensor arrays are going to mean you spend less time in traffic, ultimately pay more for your electricity but make sure your fruit is always fresh, there is a quiet revolution taking place.
The action taking place is the creation of what I call the Sensor Commons. Why is this a revolution? Because as a population we are deciding that governments and civic planners no longer have the ability to provide meaningful information at a local level.
Two posts summarise this activity and its implications beautifully for me.
The first, by Ed Bordern from Pachube, is on the creation of a community driven Air Quality Sensor Network. His passionate call to arms highlights that we have no realtime system for measuring air quality. Further, what data does exist and has been released by governments is transient due to the sampling method (ie that the sensor is moved from location to location over time). Summarising a workshop on the topic, he discusses how a community oriented sensor network can be created, funded and deployed.
The implications of this quiet revolution are discussed by Jauvan Moradi in his post onhow open sensor networks will affect journalism. Jauvan discusses how citizen data will re-establish the localised roots of journalism by reporting on issues that matter locally and with accurate, real time data to help drive the story. Obviously Jauvan has an interest in media so he’s taking that slant yet this is but one of the many implications of the Sensor Commons.
We don’t know what we’re going to get when we arrive at a point where there is hyperlocalised data available on any conceivable measure – sound levels, temperature, rain levels, water quality, air quality, the number of cars passing a location in real time. The needs are going to be driven purely by local communities – by bottom-up interest groups that have access to cheap technologies to enable the sensor creation as well as a local need or concern that drives action.
I gave a talk at Web Directions in October this year on the Web of Things. The last third touched on the notion of community created and led data – citing the nascent Don’t Flush Me project in New York and the spontaneous self-organisation of radiation data in the wake of the Fukushima Disaster.
Through observation of many of these projects, as they mature one of the issues I have is that many of these endeavours require deeply technical knowledge in order to be effective. For the true Sensor Commons, as I see it, we need to have deep engagement with the population as a whole, regardless of technical ability or knowledge.
Original post by ajfisher here.