Pachube: Building a Platform for Internet-Enabled Environments

Pachube was one of 5 Internet of Things services that we profiled in February. Pachube, (pronounced “PATCH-bay” according to the New York Times) lets you tag and share real time sensor data from objects, devices, buildings and environments both physical and virtual. In a recent monumental blog post by Tish Shute, Pachube founder, Usman Haque, explained that Pachube is about “environments” moreso than “sensors.” In other words, Pachube aims to be responsive to and influence your environment – for example your home.

This type of environmentally aware Internet technology will become increasingly important, so in this post we look at the business model of Pachube and an early product built on top of the service.

One of the motivations behind Pachube was to “open up the production process of ‘smart homes’,” in order to provide an alternative to products by the likes of Microsoft and Apple. Usman Haque wants Pachube to be a platform for others to transition to the Internet of Things. Although, he doesn’t yet know what types of applications built on the service will become important.

On the Pachube site, as we explained in our earlier post, users can either input a feed or use one of the feeds available. The feeds come from devices, buildings, or interactive installations that are already connected to the internet or that send out SMS messages. Also supported are Second Life installations.

Where’s The Business Model?

In an interview with Tish Shute’s excellent UgoTrade site, Usman Haque said that “Pachube came about as a direct attempt to enable the production of dynamic, responsive, conversant ‘environments’.” However it’s not all scientific endeavour – there is also a business model behind Pachube. Haque explained that there are 4 current facets:

1) Pro accounts with “a more sophisticated set of services”, ala Flickr.

2) A set of tools and applications for medium scale manufacturers and developers who want to web-enable their offerings, who according to Haque “will be able to take advantage of the growing repository of Pachube.Apps and add-ons, and who want the convenience, security and economy that Pachube will be able to offer.”

3) Involvement in large-scale urban infrastructure projects.

4) A “killer” business model, currently being kept under wraps!

The service is far from finished. Upcoming features in Pachube will include a range of privacy options on feeds, the ability to create “aggregates” from collections of feeds, groups, and open environment-level tagging (so that anyone will be able to tag environments).

Day of the Networked Triffids

An early example of a product built on top of Pachube is one created by Usman Haque’s company, Haque Design & Research, called Natural Fuse. It uses house plants, energy-monitoring sensors, and Pachube to create “a city-wide network of electronically-assisted plants that act as carbon-cycle circuit-breakers in much the same way as conventional electrical circuit-breakers do”. If that sounds like Greek to you (it did to me), basically these “networked plants” enable people to “cooperate on their energy expenditure. Then, the plants thrive (and they can all use more energy); but if they don’t the network starts to kill plants, thus diminishing the network’s energy capacity.”

It doesn’t sound too pleasant for the plants, but it is probably good for the environment.


We’ve only scratched the surface of Pachube here. It’s an ambitious new platform for sensor data – sorry, environments. Expect this kind of Internet service to be a key part of your urban environment in the not too distant future. You can keep track of progress via the Pachube community and of course their Twitter account. Also, read Tish Shute’s blog post for more details about Pachube, and/or check out the slideshow below.

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