Recently, I was fortunate enough to attend the first meeting of IoT Sydney where we enjoyed a couple of excellent presentations and plenty of enriching conversation in the breaks. However, the main take-away for me was how far we still have to go in terms of interoperability, safety assurance and contextual awareness.
One thing that struck me was that there seemed to be a lot of situations where we have a solution looking for a problem. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a fan of distributed intelligence and the power of big data – but right now what we mainly seem to be able to do is turn on a light or adjust the air-con using our iPhones on the way home. Now, if Siri could help with that it might get a little more interesting but we’re not there yet.
The pace of experimentation is increasing but we should be cautious about extrapolating too much from the hobbyist mindset where things are automated primarily for fun and the educational experience. For example, I was told about integrating internet-enabled thermostats with pool-pumps (less circulation needed on cooler days where pool usage is lower). For me, that is a function that: (a) does not benefit from internet connectivity and (b) the pump manufacturers could easily build in if there was a real demand.
The immediate applications of the Internet of Things would appear to be in data gathering rather than actuation. For example, monitoring shopper behaviour through intelligent tags or analysis of energy usage on massive scales would benefit from large numbers of distributed remotely accessible devices. Actuation, on the other hand, has a significant number of legal and compliance hurdles to overcome in the area of safety and this will take some time in the commercial arena. Currently this seems to be handled with ‘prototype’ disclaimers.
Another issue that is likely to surface down the track is an inability to handle all the data being generated in a useful way. This happened when the military first digitised the battlefield and subsequently needed to put considerable effort into data fusion and intelligence at the sensor or within local aggregators.
I intend to remain plugged into this evolving area and expect to see a concerted push into the intelligence and higher layers of the architecture; something that is starting to happen with the open source Ninja Sphere platform.