Internet of Things (IoT) is a term for when everyday ordinary objects are connected to the Internet via microchips. The technologies include sensors, RFID and smartphone standards like NFC. The use cases are still evolving, but over 2010 we saw large organizations like HP and IBM build out impressive platforms for the Internet of Things. We also saw companies as diverse as Nike and Pachube enjoying success with consumer applications based on these technologies.
Here are our picks for the top 10 Internet of Things developments of 2010. On Page 1 of this post we detail 5 large scale developments (3 specific trends and 2 IoT platforms). On Page 2, we select the 5 best consumer products for IoT. These include a product that connects your car to the Internet, an internet-connected shoe and a self-described “Cisco for small things.”
This round-up was co-written with Deane Rimerman, who has been a regular contributer to ReadWriteWeb on this topic.
HP’s CENSE Network
One of the leading IoT projects is being built by HP, in the form of a platform called CeNSE – which stands for “Central Nervous System for the Earth.” The goal is to create a worldwide network of sensors, which will create a feedback loop for objects and people. These sensors will measure data such as vibration, rotation, sound, air flow, light, temperature, pressure and much more.
ReadWriteWeb’s 2010 In Review:
- Top 10 Semantic Web Products of 2010
- Top 10 RSS and Syndication Technologies of 2010
- Best BigCo of 2010: Facebook
- Top Trends of 2010: App Stores
- Most Promising Company For 2011: SimpleGeo
- Top Trends of 2010: Internet TV
- Top 10 Startups of 2010
- Top Trends of 2010: Privacy
Earlier this year ReadWriteWeb visited HP Labs and spoke to several of their leading scientists. Parthasarathy Ranganathan, a
Distinguished Technologist at HP Labs, told us in May that there will soon be millions of sensors working in real-time, with data sampled every second. He said there’ll be lots of different applications for this data; including retail, defense, traffic, seismic, oil, wildlife, weather and climate modeling.
Hewlett Packard is at heart a computer hardware and IT services company. It’s building this platform because it sees that the coming data explosion will lead to huge demand for more powerful computers and better processing of all that data. Or, in the words of CeNSE lead Peter Hartwell, “one trillion nanoscale sensors and actuators will need the equivalent of 1000 internets: the next huge demand for computing!”
IBM’s Smarter Planet
IBM’s Smarter Planet campaign is about connecting objects to the Internet and applying intelligence and services on top of that. Like HP, IBM uses the central nervous system analogy. “The planet has grown a central
nervous system,” it states on the Smarter Planet overview page.
In January of this year, IBM CEO Sam Palmisano gave a speech in London which shed light on Big Blue’s sensor platform. He said that IBM had developed 1,200 “smarter solutions” up till that time.
HP’s Peter Hartwell: “one trillion nanoscale sensors and actuators will need the equivalent of 1000 internets: the next huge demand for computing!”
Due to its scale, IBM has the ability to provide sensor systems to support city infrastructures. Palmisano talked about “four cities where IBM has helped deploy congestion management solutions, traffic volume during peak periods has been reduced by up to 18 percent, CO2 emissions from motor vehicles were reduced by up to 14 percent, and public transit use increased by up to 7 percent.” Big Blue is also working with organizations in healthcare, banking, power metering, retailing, manufacturers and goods suppliers.
In May IBM announced the free open-sourced Mote Runner Software Developer Kit. It’s software that runs sensor-communications devices, like the Crossbow Iris.
Government IoT: China, EU
The Internet of Things was a key strategic concern for both the European Parliament and the Chinese government this year. Our Parliament of Things post covered the EU’s resolution to endorse the development of the sector, as long as there is an exhaustive survey of the effects of this technology on “health, privacy and data protection.”
In the middle of the year, China announced a plan that will “fix a clear positioning, development goals, timetable and roadmap of the IoT industry.” China plans to strengthen policy support of IoT, including financial and taxation measures. This was closely aligned with an IoT conference in China that was impressively covered by Florian Michahelles.
Maturation of RFID, Thanks to DASH7
The amount of electricity it takes to power a trillion nodes, or things, that communicate with the Web is significant. Yet battery life and battery production costs have not declined at the same pace as processing power. RFID is well positioned to address this. Thing Magic’s 100 uses of RFID campaign was an an effective awareness raising tool in the second half of 2010.
Even more notable this year was DASH7, a networking technology that uses the ISO/IEC 18000-7 standard for RFID – an open standard for license-free use in 433 MHz wireless bandwidth. This networking system has rapidly advanced. It’s used for supply chain tracking by the US Department of Defense, which paid nearly a half-billion dollars for its deployment 2 years ago.
In April, we wrote about the implications of DASH7 in the next generation of cellphones, as well as specific use cases. In December, Google’s Nexus S became the first phone that made use of the Dash7 standard. This month we reported that Google is testing this technology in Portland, by giving store fronts Google Places window stickers that you can touch your phone to – which automatically directs your phone browser to the store’s website.
Also worth mentioning is Novitaz, makers of Dash7-based smart cards that reside in your wallet and automatically perform many of the location-based tasks we currently manually do on our phones.
The Emergence of the Smart Grid
In 2010 the more practical uses of IoT began to take shape, in particular conserving energy – a.k.a. the Smart Grid. This year we took a tour of an Internet of Things home, where we discovered that half of the software in it was related to home energy conservation.
Also notable was the USNAP alliance, a group of companies including GE and Google which are attempting to standardize the meter-to-device in-home monitoring stage of the smart grid. “This is the equivalent of USB for consumer products,” Barry Haaser of the USNAP Alliance said. USNAP is an acronym for Utility Smart Network Access Port and the consortium has been developing its technical specifications for three years.
Consumer products aside, the greatest challenge to building a smart grid is the energy companies themselves – many of whom who are reluctant to invest in unproven technologies. Marshall Kirkpatrick touched on this issue in his Summer post called, Why Smart Grids Could Be Slow to Beat Web 2.0.
Nike + shoes
Nike+ running shoes are possibly the most well-known example of sensors in a non computing device. The shoes come with a sensor that tracks your run and sends the data to your iPod. It even has its own social network and can automatically tweet and post a status report on Facebook. Later in the year, we also discovered that Nike + can be set up to automatically post to Foursquare.
Nike + showed that the Internet of Things is already part of our everyday life, at least for those people who are motivated to track their running!
While the Nike + shoes have already arrived, a product that is still in private beta impressed us enough this year to also be included in our annual top 10.The winner of the Consumer Electronics Association’s i-Stage competition (where I was a judge) was AutoBot. Developed by Louisville, Kentucky company Mavizon Technologies, AutoBot is a car appliance that allows you to control aspects of your car with your smart phone. It also connects to the Web and offers integration with services like online mapping and instant messaging.
The AutoBot device plugs into the OBD-II connector in your car. It then syncs to a web service, accessible via a smart phone app or a web browser. Features include locking and unlocking doors, controlling window settings, locating your car if you forget where you parked or it gets stolen, doing diagnostic checks on your car, and messaging friends and family when the driver has been in an accident.
The appliance will become available next year, but already it’s a great example of smartly connecting an object millions of people use every day (a car) to the Internet.
Pachube (pronounced “PATCH-bay”) was on our Top 10 list last year and this open IoT platform continued to progress in 2010. Pachube lets you tag and share real time sensor data from objects, devices, buildings and environments both physical and virtual. The goal is for it to become a platform that is responsive to and influences your environment – for example your home.
A glimpse of what products may look like built on an Internet of Things platform is the partnership Pachube announced in June this year. It’s with Current Cost, a producer of real-time energy monitors. Current Cost is using Pachube’s Internet of Things platform for the Bridge, an ethernet device that connects Current Cost electricity monitors to the Internet. Pachube is being used for data management on the Bridge, enabling the device to deliver tracking, notifications, comparison tools and more.
In 2010 the clear leader in capturing the IoT hobbyist’s imagination was Arduino. In recent months the company’s blog feed has seen a steady increase in posts about interesting things people are doing with their Arduinos.
Not only is it the first company to have a popular documentary with a trailer that earned 75,000 views in one day, but they are also designing with an eye to the future by educating the next generation of programmers. ReadWriteWeb’s Audrey Waters explained what Arduino is in a recent post:
Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform with both a hardware and software component. Arduino’s hardware is programmed with a language similar to C++, and although it may not be the easiest of entry points for learning programming, there’s something about building things that actually move that can be pretty compelling. Projects that use Arduino to introduce children to programming include a modification of Scratch to support simple programming on the Arduino hardware
Arrayent is a new Internet of Things company that came across our radar early this year. It bills itself as the “Cisco of small things.” It is basically middleware for companies wanting to connect their products to the Internet. In particular it’s targeting smartphones. Arrayent made its first public appearance in January at CES.
Arrayent offers a “turnkey communication system” called the Internet-Connect System, which enables product companies to connect their products to smartphones and computers via the Internet. It counts toy company Mattel and audio/video components supplier Monster Cable among its early customers.
We think Arrayent is a great example of a startup seeing a commercial opportunity in the type of Internet of Things experimentation that Arduino exemplifies. As more and more objects become connected to the Internet, it will need the likes of Arrayent to be enablers.
There you have it, our pick of the top 10 Internet of Things developments or products in 2010. Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
Green Home photo by Svilen Milev.