A Web of Things on the Internet of Things


Summary

Giving me more apps on my phone and more things to manage doesn't appeal to me. But giving me a personal network that automates drudgery and enables things that I couldn't do before does. That's the promise of a personal event network and why I think everyone will want one.

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This article by Marshall Kirkpatrick describes why the Internet of Things is real and happening right before our eyes. The Internet of Things is happening because more and more things are being connected to the 'Net. This, of course, is inevitable as Moore's Law incessantly drops the price of such connectivity. Marshall says "real-world devices not traditionally connected to the Internet that will be wired-up into a future Web of Things."

I like the phrase "Web of Things" because "Internet of Things" has come to describe what is known as "M2M" or machine-to-machine connection. Web of Things conveys something different to me. Where M2M is about connecting things together for what ever reason, Web of Things implies a higher level of functionality and something that people will use.

M2M technologies are being used to create services that back up physical products. This is the idea I blogged about recently with products as avatars for a service. Many products are really just physical manifestations of the real product which is an evergreen service. Tivo is a good example. So are phones, Fitbit, and even my Ford truck.

Marshall uses the example of a traffic sign:

If you've ever driven past one of those big signs on a road that show you your own driving speed, you might have wondered who else was seeing that information. Originally, no one else was. A company called AllTraffic sold those signs to government agencies around the US as a hardware play. Stick it on the side of the road and show people how fast they are going - hopefully it will cause speeders to slow down.

About a year and a half ago, though, they connected those blinking signs to a web portal accessible by police headquarters and citizens, using Axeda's connectivity technology. Now they sell access as a subscription and they've changed from being a hardware vendor into a software and service vendor.

From Google X? These Nine Products From the Future Are Real Right Now
Referenced Thu Dec 15 2011 10:14:03 GMT-0700 (MST)

We might view M2M interactions like this:

M2M relationships

A manufacturer, GE in this case, has created a network of all the devices they manufacturer of a particular type for purposes of managing those things. They might update the software in your dishwasher, gather operating statistics, and so on. Marshall talks about this:

[Bill] Zujewski [of Axeda] shared a story with me about a dishwasher manufacturer that made a mistake. The company didn't program its rinse cycle to be long enough and was getting thousands of phone calls from customers complaining that the machines weren't working well. The company sent a technician out to reset the rinse cycle timers - but future iterations of the machines saved all those costs by adding read/write cellular connections to the dishwasher computers that could be re-calibrated remotely.

Ovens, dishwashers, all kinds of appliances get shipped from the factory with certain assumptions. Add connectivity and they can be optimized, in the field, remotely.

From Google X? These Nine Products From the Future Are Real Right Now
Referenced Thu Dec 15 2011 10:22:18 GMT-0700 (MST)

But of course, once the dishwasher has connectivity, then all kinds of things are possible. Marshall continues:

[O]nce the computer is on board, you may as well start building apps that add value directly to the consumer as well.

Want to start the pre-heating cycle from your phone, while on your way home? Can't remember if you turned your oven off or not? An application framework layer on those devices enables engagement with the devices themselves via mobile device.

"Because cellular connection capabilities for these devices are coming down from hundreds of dollars, sprinklers, garage doors, smoke detectors, all kinds of things are being experimented with as connected devices," Zujewski says. "It wasn't economic before because consumers wouldn't pay for that connectivity, but if it was a couple cents a month, then they will. Right now, costs are around $50 per month to retrofit devices with connectivity, but if you can do it with a chip involved at the origina of design, it can be around $10 per month."

If you can engineer connectivity right into the product from the start, the price drops dramatically. The sales cycle is long, though, because it takes years to bake connectivity into the core of a device.
From Google X? These Nine Products From the Future Are Real Right Now
Referenced Thu Dec 15 2011 10:24:42 GMT-0700 (MST)

How all this happens is of intense interest to me and my colleagues at Kynetx. I don't just want apps on my phone that control my oven. Our view is bigger than that. We want things--what we call social products--cooperating on behalf of their owner. For this to work people need personal event networks--a private cloud--where their products and services can interact to get things done for them. I don't merely want dashboards so I can turn on my oven from my iPhone or remotely check the temperature. I dream of my things working together with only modest intervention and interaction with me.

The following picture illustrates how I think personal event networks will interrelate to M2M networks that manufacturers are bound to put in place. This creates a Web of Things:

Web of Things

While the manufacturers still have their M2M connectivity so they can manage my things (presumably with my permission), each of the things I own is also part of my personal event network. My personal event network also has access to APIs for Web services and personal data. Applications running in my personal event network do the heavy lifting of scripting interactions for my things. Some of these might come from manufacturers; many come from third-party developers.

Giving me more apps on my phone and more things to manage doesn't appeal to me. Giving companies more control over my life doesn't appeal to me. But giving me a personal network that automates drudgery and enables things that I couldn't do before does. That's the promise of a personal event network and why I think everyone will want one.