Tags: arduino, IoT, m2m, mqtt, nanode, Rasberry Pi, Twitter
The Internet of Things is not a new notion. It’s been proposed in differing forms over a period of more than 10 years. The IoT links uniquely identifiable physical objects (things) to their virtual representations online, which can contain or link to additional information on identity, status, location or any other business, social or privately relevant information.
The intention is to provide access to accurate and appropriate information in the right quantity and condition, at the right time and place and at the right price.
IBM’s strategic Smarter Planet initiative, currently featuring in a mainstream UK TV advertising campaign, has been in place for a number of years. During the course of 2012, ny work as an IBMer has taken me into the world of Smarter Planet and in particular, into the field of Smart Grid and Smart Meters.
Influenced by working with a team of experts, particularly Dr Andy Stanford-Clark (IBM’s UK CTO for Smarter Energy), I set out to investigate the possibilities of the IoT for myself, determined to be able to talk to the myriad devices I use daily and to have them talk back to me.
As a gauge of what can be achieved, I looked into the monitoring and automation that Andy had built into his own home on the Isle of Wight.
In this TEDX talk, Andy describes how his experimenting moved from the personal to the local to the regional and how he believes that the Internet of Things will evolve as a global system of systems, interconnecting regional smart grids.
To start with though, let’s talk about some of the attributes of the Internet of Things:
The IoT is based on the premise of pervasive computing. This means machine to machine communication (m2m) between potentially trillions of devices. These don’t have to be just new “smart” devices. The availability of small, simple and low-cost components means that legacy devices can be connected as well. Each devices then exhibits three key characteristics:
- Instrumented: Sensors are provided to monitor the device operation and collect key data
- Interconnected: The device has a means of communicating with other devices, or through a hub to deliver its data and receive requests or commands;
- Intelligent: The device has sufficient memory, storage and processing power to forward the data to an intelligent back end, where it’s analysed to form a world view.
The ready availability of low-cost compute nodes, such as arduino and nanode and more recently the Raspberry Pi makes it simple to get started with adding these capabilities to existing devices.
The consequence of these pervasive computing capabilities is inevitably an explosion in the amount of data available. This explosion can be described in terms of:
- Volume: The amount of data accumulated either from a single device or multiple devices of the same type (accumulation);
- Variety: The types of data made available, structured and unstructured, including voice, video and other rich data types;
- Velocity: The rate at which events are received by the hub or the subscriber.
Big data can be as much a hindrance as a help, unless we keep in mind a couple of key design principles:
- Device data needs to be filtered to make it relevant – a change in inside temperature of 0.1deg isn’t significant, a drop of outside temperature to < 4degC is.
- Just like any well designed metric, the event the device generates must be actionable by the person viewing it.
- The utility of data (big or otherwise) increases exponentially, as it is enriched through aggregation with data from other devices or sensors.
- The collection, filtering, aggregation and analysis of data needs to be focussed on supporting a specific human decision.
- From devices and sensors into local networks, using a simple, small footprint subscribe and publish messaging protocol such as MQ Telemetry Transport (MQTT)
- Allow the network to communicate with the outside world through a microblogging service, such as Twitter
Over a series of posts, I will describe my adventures on the IoT, experimenting at the personal level with these components, to:
- Monitor power usage within my own house
- Connect devices within the house, through the MQTT messaging protocol
- Contribute data to community sensor projects
Tags: human behaviour, Twitter
Not my normal security-related subject matter, but I had to pull together some highlights (wrong word?) of the appalling events in London over the past few days.The sequence below, taken from Twitter and Flickr and assembled in Storify (http://www.storify.com), show clearly that the vast majority of people in the UK are sickened by the mindless violence and sheer greed of the criminals who did this. The story also shows (to me at least) that when it comes down to it, the people of the UK, and particularly Londoners, will always rise above attempts to terrorise them and just get on with sorting things out.
Something we can all do to help. Publish the banner on your website or your blog or retweet the post. Let people know, so they can turn out to help with getting things back to normal.
For me, this picture sums up the violence of the whole thing. This morning’s television news showed footage of a 150 year old family run furniture store ablaze. Why? What did that achieve?
But, as bad as things get, people act with kindness and show their appreciation to the police..
And then this morning, I can only echo Professor Brian Cox on Twitter (above). it really does restore your faith in human nature.
People turned out in droves, responding to a spontaneous campaign to clean up the devastation left by the rioters.
|#riotcleanup pictures on PicFog
Check out this site for more pictures of the clean up operation around London.
Now something else we can all do to help. Look at the pictures from the Met Police. If you know any of these clowns, tell the police. They need to be stopped before someone gets seriously hurt.
Tags: 3G, broadband, BT, iPhone, Peter Cochrane, Twitter
- How important is your Internet connection to your every day life?
- How long can you afford to be without the connection?
- Have you made any plans to cope with the loss of your connection?
It never ceases to amaze me how quickly we’re all becoming dependent upon Internet-based communications. 10 years ago, dial-up modems were the norm and home access to the Internet was only for the technically savvy. Over the last decade, I’ve moved through unlimited evening and weekend access, to unlimited anytime access and onto broadband, first at 512Kbps and by increments up to 8Mbps (as luck should have it, the local BT exchange is around 150 yards from V1951 Towers, so we do actually get a reasonable speed). We use that connection for 3 different PCs, an internet radio, my iPhone, my home office phone, our Nintendo Wii (for BBC iPlayer), MrsV1951’s Nintendo DS and anything else we can think of. And the trend is bound to continue. More and more devices are now internet-enabled. Did you know that you can even buy TVs with built-in Skype? No? Well, take a look at this.
We use our internet connection as the platform of choice for banking, managing insurances, researching new purchases (and often making those purchases), booking holidays and countless other day-to-day activities. We’re currently looking forward to being able to make and change appointments at the local doctors’ surgery online. Plus of course, as a self-employed consultant, I mostly work from home!
So, a few weeks ago, I was running seriously late (for a variety of reasons) on the promised delivery of a draft report to a customer. At around 7pm that evening, my broadband connection failed. Disaster! MrsV1951 and I were due to leave at 5am the following morning for the airport, en route to a few days holiday. A quick investigation showed that while all my devices were connecting to the wi-fi element of the Home Hub, none could reach the outside world. The hub however seemed to be synchronised with the ADSL service. Having first got an apology off to my customer (thank heavens for iPhone and 3G – the customer kindly agreed to a generous extension to the deadline), I phoned BT’s help desk (inevitably, it’s in India). I explained the situation – I have identical symptoms from multiple PCs, so it looks like the hub – but the help desk agent was clearly following a script and insisted that we slowly and painfully check configuration settings and Internet Explorer settings on the PC, and then repeat it all on a second PC and then change the connection from wireless to wired and do it all again. After 2 hours, during which I’d been told to click the reset button in Internet Explorer (“Don’t worry, it won’t change your configuration.” Yes it did! For a start, it disabled all my add-ins), I was close to hysteria. My comments about single point failures were totally ignored, but finally, I got the answer (“We can see the sync signal from your ADSL hub, so it must be a problem on the hub. We’ll try a hard reset and, if that doesn’t work we’ll need to replace the hub.”) that I’d been hoping for at the start of the call. Fortunately, that restored the connectivity, just leaving me another couple of hours, resetting all the configurations I’d lost during the troubleshooting. The following morning, tired after only a couple of hours sleep and a long drive to the airport, I vented my frustration on Twitter. I was quite surprised to get the following reply:
Useful to have a fairly direct line of communication to people who can help. If you’re a BT Total Broadband customer, it’s well worth following this account on Twitter (@BTCare) for service updates. Interestingly, I’d not seen this publicised anywhere until they contacted me. Incidentally, a little detective work revealed that the fault coincided with BT pushing a firmware update to the hub and also that I wasn’t the only person to lose their service as a result.
So, given that I work from home, I should have had the sense to make provision for this sort of failure, right? Well, maybe, but it seems to me that we’ve already come to regard our broadband connection as just another utility. We assume that it’s going to be available and working, whenever we choose to use it. Product assurance engineers will explain that component failure rates mean there will always be a degree of unreliability. However, that can often be unacceptable. In the military, some systems are classed as militarily essential. Thus, they are designed with multiple levels of redundancy and spares are carried, even for components that are never expected to fail. David Hart Dyke was Captain of HMS Coventry during the Falklands War. He once commented that “To me, reliability means that, when I push the button, it works.”
So, when I returned from holiday, I bought a 3G dongle and tested it from my desktop PC and my laptop. I’m not going to get caught out again.
Looking to the future, my neighbour and his neighbour are both consultants, also working from home offices. We’re discussing the possibility of introducing routers and CAT 5 cables between our 3 houses, to provide a fallback capability if any one of us loses broadband connection. We might even look into broadband aggregation services, to permanently combine our bandwidth. Peter Cochrane describes how aggregation services work in his blog.
Finally, I found a series of short videos by journalists, scientists and technologists, speculating on what the World be will be like in 10 years’ time. You can find these thought-provoking pieces on the Huffington Post. The last video, is by Johan Bergendahl, VP of Marketing at Ericsson and discusses the importance of broadband. Take a look at it below.