#IoT, a perspective on Realms


This post may seem a little chaotic and irrational. Bear with me, it was a sequence of twits that I posted sometime in 2011. I had tried to find them a couple of years later with no luck, however a few days ago I noticed a wonderful button in one’s twitter profile, that allows to download all of your twits! 🙂 et voilà!

#IoT will definitely be an ingredient of web 3.0

The term Internet of Things, aka IoT, has been evolving significantly during the last 15 years, it was conceived in the Auto ID Centre, sometime back in 1999 when the first vision of EPC (Electronic Product Code) was drafted. Since then, many future-looking organisations have provided different angles to the concept of joining the real & cyber worlds with IoT.

EPC has been one of the visions behind the advent of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, the next step from optical identification (barcodes) of objects. When UHF RFID Gen 2 was mandated by Wall Mart back in the early 2000s, there was a strong market demand that dictated the limits of the technology and the scope of innovation in areas like RFID inlay production, reader & middleware technologies, etc. Since then, I have not come across a real, significant market driver to evolve the technology further. Don’t take me wrong, there are numerous applications and groups working in solving vertical problems that one can say are early IoT examples. These range from smart energy meters, to logistics track & trace systems, to traffic management, you name it!

What I don’t see is the emergence of an overall concept, a paradigm which perhaps touches the core of Man Machine Interface. What does IoT would look like to the ordinary people? How would you interact with your training equipment, your fridge, your heating system or your box of cereal? I don’t know if this comes from Star Trek or from my involvement in developing custom UIs early in my career, but  the interaction of IoT objects with people needs to be tech natural and perceived in ubiquity .

Few days ago I read an article by Tim O’Riley touching this very topic, he named it #IoTH: The Internet of Things and Humans. Tim and IBM’s Rod Smith came up with an interesting notion of an entity named Nest, where a set of sensors, apps, actuators and networks would do things for you. They talked about weak and strong devices (in terms of intelligence autonomy) as well as the modus of weakly or strongly connected. Yet again, I failed to see an attempt to touch the Man Machine Interface paradigm.

Hello, it’s me!

 #IoT objects should have a universal discover & hello protocol, covering  basic ID function and coms capability

I come from the auto-id, telematics and telecoms worlds and one of the basic principles that prevail is that any two elements in a network that need to transact, must be able to identify themselves and communicate. Hence, each IoT object should at least have a unique ID and a communication capability.

The discover & hello protocol of #IoT should be short range (up to 3 meters) and have enough energy to activate passive objects

As our senses have limits, so the discovering senses of IoT objects may have limits too. Why would an IoT object want to discover and say hi to another IoT object 50 miles away? Also, lets open our mind and think of passive objects like a table, a handbag or an artwork. Why should we exclude them from the IoT world?

Can you see me?

Only #IoT objects with UI capability can allow the interconnection of a discovered object with a person’s realm.

In an IoT world humans are the masters and each person creates his IoT realm by discovering and using IoT objects relevant to his needs. There will be IoT objects that will not provide any function to a person, these may be talking and working together with other IoT objects. Such objects can be seen through other IoT objects that provide UI capabilities to the person.

#IoT objects can participate in more than one realm

IoT objects have uses just like real world objects. A person can own and use an IoT object or he can use someone else’s IoT object. As per real world objects, the use of IoT objects may be shared or be exclusive to a person, regardless of ownership. An easy to understand paradigm is an IoT wifi router that can be shared with all people who are inside my house but with no one else outside of the house. This extends to a person discovering IoT objects for public use, like ePOS for payments or gym equipment in health studios.

Can you trust me?

The hailing UI of an #IoT object must have an extremely simple dialogue with minimum q&a related to trust, info share & connection

IoT ubiquity is a characteristic of one’s IoT realm. Minimal interaction when discovering and trusting IoT objects is a key ingredient of ubiquity and as such it should be done in a consistent way, perhaps using a natural gesture, through any IoT object with UI capabilities.

The information type and direction between the human and any IoT object is another key attribute to the basic hailing & acceptance of the IoT object in one’s IoT realm. Issues of privacy, anonymity and intrusion must be dealt at this level, as the very first priority of IoT.

Do you need me?

A person’s realm can connect through any #IoT UI object to common share #IoT objects

In our IoT ubiquitous world each one of us exist in his own IoT realm, a connected physical-cyber domain, where one’s owned IoT objects and common-share IoT objects interact between them and provide an enhanced life experience to the person.

It is not the purpose of this post to describe what an enhanced life experience is, nor the ethics behind the ever increasing “intrusion” of technology in human life. One thing is for sure, IoT will have a viable future only if it can address a real human need.

Why do you need me?

Throughout the history of technological evolution, we have seen any significant technology innovation happening  in a very specific industrial sector and then expanding beyond this sector and flooding the society with products and services that eventually transform the world as we know it. Refrigeration is a good example of this, as it has changed dramatically human’s interaction with food production over the last 2 centuries and has enabled the formation of urban life as we know it.

Over the past years technology has been repeatedly changing our life, making obsolete old ways and introducing new, exciting products and services that liberate humans. Refrigeration liberated us from food production, electricity from darkness, cars and transportation from geography, telecommunication from distance, computers from ignorance (?). IoT must be a liberator too, if it is destined to prevail.

So, what do you think? What will IoT liberate us from?