Blogthng

Andy Perrin,

Reddit-logo

Offering up the challenge; ‘Ask me anything!’ to a potential audience of 230 million Reddit users is a small step into the unknown.  This is what our intrepid CTO and co-founder Dom Guinnard threw himself into last Friday, when he hosted a Reddit AMA session on the Internet of Things, to coincide with the launch of his new book, Building the Web of Things, written with fellow EVRYTHNG co-founder Vlad Triffa.

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Building the Web of Things book by Dominique Guinard and Vlad Trifa.

It was a chance to hear from a wider group of people about the IoT – a kind of informal barometer of geek public sentiment.  So what did we learn about attitudes towards the IoT?

Excitement. Fear. Optimism. Cynicism.

All in equal measure. And although it wasn’t what you could call a scientific survey, we definitely got a clear sense of what matters most to people.

Security top of the agenda

Unsurprisingly, the recurring theme that came through was the perception that the IoT and smart home technology in particular, makes us less safe. Couldn’t we stop all devices from directly connecting to the Internet, Dom was asked. Say, have a smart home manager or a central server on a ‘home LAN’, which controls all access to all smart products?

This, said Dom, is where today’s IoT gateways or home hubs come in. (EVRYTHNG, for example, has THNGHUB a local cloud gateway which provides a single access point to the home environment).  His prediction was that the next wave of IoT developments will see companies taking their learnings from securing big web systems into the embedded system world.  And as far as the devices themselves go, although security cannot ever be absolute, using existing protocols and in particular their open implementations like OpenSSL, means vulnerabilities can often be spotted and patched very quickly.

What about my privacy?

Just as important was the subject of privacy, which comes hand in hand with security.  How could the metadata about our everyday lives be used against us if we are hacked?  And what about the data that consumers voluntarily give to brands? Does the average user know exactly what it is, and how it will be used?  Shouldn’t there be a standardized model or vocabulary, a little like when you download an app and are informed what data will be accessed.

Dom’s view was that whilst such fears are completely understandable and in some cases justified, pragmatically it’s about the ‘give-gets’.  Its vital that brands give consumers full transparency of data ownership, and make sure the benefits are clear on what users get in return for giving this data.  The discussion acknowledged that this is a wider subject which revolves around national and international laws (think about the differences between the EU and the US regulations) and so governments play a leading role in turning the grey areas black and white.

How to raise standards

The lack of standardization around protocols and languages was brought up numerous times.  How does Dom view this, especially given his book focuses on this very topic?

Standardization will happen, just not as fast as we would like.   The IoT is slowly converging to the internet, in terms of network, with Zigbee, Zwave, Thread, Bluetooth all now being bridged to Internet protocols.  At the application layer, the Web and its associated open standards, dominates.  This is the ‘how’ of the IoT.   For the ‘what’, there are a lot of developments around the semantic web, which aim to promote common data formats for smart devices.  Key to progress is ‘openness’.

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EVRYTHNG Co-Founder Dominique Guinard mid flow during his Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session.

What else got people going?

And then there were other questions a little more personal; ‘how smart is your home?’ ‘What devices do you have and recommend?’  It turns out there isn’t much time for TV in the Guinnard household – he has 20+ devices, both off-the-shelf products and homemade sensors – which all take time to maintain and troubleshoot.  What would be really great, to make the whole smart home work smarter, is a unified dashboard, giving consolidated status and management of all his products. (Adding more weight to the argument for using shared, open web standards – but that is one for another blog.)

And many more question besides – how will the world store the vast amount of data generated by the IoT, what part Bitcoin will play, and of course, how do you get a job working in the IoT industry (EVRYTHNG are hiring…)?

60 minutes of insightful, thought-provoking, troll-free Q&A.  Some fast typing, some fast thinking, and, then it was over.   IoT AMA AOK.

Click here to check out the full AMA session.

Andy Perrin,

So far, 2016 has proved to be something of a breakthrough year for the Internet of Things (IoT). From transforming domestic security and insurance through developments for the smart home to dramatically expanding opportunities for brands to communicate with and understand their customers through their interactions with everyday products, organisations from a diverse range of sectors around the globe are rolling out projects that are driving IoT closer to mainstream awareness and engagement.

It’s not just commercial organisations leading the IoT charge. It was announced last week that the Netherlands has become the first country with a nationwide network designed specifically for the Internet of Things. Built on low-power, long-range ‘LoRa’ technology – rather than WiFi or 3G/ 4G spectrum – in order to improve performance and accessibility, the network will launch with deals in place to connect 1.5 million objects, and many more to come.

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Hot on the heels of the Netherlands, South Korea announced its launch of a national low-cost IoT network for commercial purposes. Users will have the opportunity to access IoT through monthly subscription plans costing as little as 350 Korean won (around 20 pence) – around one-tenth of the cost of existing LTE-based IoT services from the network’s creator SK Telecom.

Here at EVRYTHNG, we’ve been fortunate enough to contribute further to this super-scale adoption of IoT, most recently through our commitment with Avery Dennison back in April to make 10 billion items of clothing ‘Born Digital’ over the next three years. This contribution was recognised last month, as we were named Best Internet of Things Startup at The Europas. We’re honoured, as The Europas has consistently supported high-quality technology innovation and growth by connecting the best ideas, capital, and entrepreneurs in Europe. It’s always fantastic to be part of the occasion – and, this year, to walk away with a gong for the promise that 10 billion shirts and shoes will soon talk back to you via your phone. This is only the start, however: we believe in a future in which every consumer product has a digital identity.

Europas award EVRYTHNG

We were also delighted to be listed in Market Inspector’s Top 50 Innovative Companies in the UK list as part of their 2016 Innovative Business Awards. Other recognition this year includes Red Herring 100, Bloomberg Innovators and 100 Most Disruptive Brands. All in all, further validation of EVRYTHNG’s vision of every consumer product eventually being ‘born digital’ with an Active Digital Identity(tm) in the cloud that operates the product as a web object, generating and capturing data to drive applications. Good to know we know we’re on the right track. And another shiny bauble – even one that isn’t yet smart – for the digital mantlepiece is never a bad thing.

 

Seoul Korea image from Tracy Hunter under Creative Commons license.

Myra Godfrey,

Reddit blog

What do Barack Obama, Gordon Ramsay, Steve Wozniak, Patrick Stewart, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Ronda Rousey all have in common? They’re all previous participants in the distinctive and high-profile ‘Ask Me Anything’ interview format hosted by Reddit, the self-styled ‘front page of the Internet’.

On Friday 8 July at 1700hrs BST (0900hrs PDT/ 1200hrs EDT), EVRYTHNG co-founder and CTO Dominique Guinard will join their ranks, sitting down to answer all manner of questions from Reddit’s users about the Internet of Things (IoT) and its potential to dramatically change our physical environment, the everyday objects that surround us, and our personal and professional lives.

If you thought the Internet of Things was about your fridge talking to the grocery store to have milk delivered before you run out, think again. From the things we wear to the food we eat, the bikes we ride and the cities we live in, IoT has the power to transform a host of industries across the globe by making everyday objects smarter, more connected, and – ultimately – more useful.

EVRYTHNG’s vision of the inter-connected future is a world in which every physical thing comes to life digitally, equipped with its own unique software identity in the cloud. As more products are ‘Born Digital’, i.e. manufactured with a cloud twin to access these programmable data capabilities, developers and manufacturers can create innovative ways to connect any object into the real-time ecosystem of the web, and our digital lives.

Dom’s AMA chat coincides with the launch of his first book, Building the Web of Things, written with another EVRYTHNG co-founder Vlad Trifa. The book compiles much of the insight Dom gained during Ph.D. studies in 2007 working on the WebofThings.org initiative, which has continuously evolved since then as the pre-eminent community of developers, researchers, and designers exploring the future of the physical Web.

Join the digital conversation on Friday 8 July at 1700hrs BST (0900hrs PDT/ 1200hrs EDT).

Curt Schacker,

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One thing that became abundantly clear while speaking at and attending the CONNECTIONS event put on by Parks Associates in San Francisco last month, is that product manufacturers are starting to ‘get it’ when it comes to smart, connected devices.

By that, I mean: gone are the ‘fire and forget’ days whereby you could ship a products for distribution to your end customers with almost no further interaction with those customers.  The essence of IoT is that products are evolving to become ‘service portals’, and the delivery of the product to market is only the start of an on-going customer relationship.  Some manufacturers are still daunted by the enormity of this sea change, but more are beginning to appreciate the tremendous opportunities this represents.

For example, many products include consumables, like filters, brushes and detergents.  It’s far easier to sell genuine OEM replenishments to connected customers rather than losing that sale to an after market knock off, or worse a counterfeit, as is often the case today.  In fact, one company with which I’m familiar has justified their entire investment in connectivity through the sale of a single replenishment purchase, and the product in question averages over 10 such purchases in its lifespan.  Pretty easy math.

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Other service opportunities abound.  Connectivity means you know who your customer is and how your product is being used.  This information can be leveraged to, for example, set the price for an extended warranty; upsell newer models of the same product, or cross sell complementary products.  Clearly, this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Speaking of services, CONNECTIONS was one of the first large events to bring into focus the emerging role of service providers in the connected home.  It seems that everyone from utilities to insurance companies to cable operators have realized that connected products will dramatically impact their future; whether positively or negatively is very much to be determined.

Take property insurance, for example.  This industry has operated on pretty much the same principle for the past six thousand years, namely an indemnification service correlated to the risk being covered.  But the actual assessment of that risk has been a very imperfect science at best.  With IoT and connectivity, all of the guesswork goes away. 

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An insurance carrier can now know exactly where your water is leaking, when the leak started, and most importantly will be able to take a variety of actions to stop the leak.  This is a dramatic change in their role as a service provider.  Rather than simply indemnifying the loss due to water damage, they can prevent the damage from occurring in the first place.  And, because their risk is lower, the property owner can probably expect a lower premium.  It’s the definition of a ‘win win’ scenario.

Bringing these propositions will require close partnerships between those who build products and those who offer services (enabled and tied together by those like EVRYTHNG that provide cloud-based digital identity and data management).   Manufacturers of physical products must embrace a new component of smart

connectivity and deliver software and analytics services to compete. Both manufacturers and service providers have to develop new types of collaborations powered by connected data. A global Accenture survey of 2000 executives found leading firms using digital connectivity to move from silos to smart ecosystems, creating new value by combining with new partners and data services.  Such partnerships aren’t entirely new, of course, but their importance to both businesses and consumers will take on far more significance in a smart, connected world.

Ps. You can download our free whitepaper “The Insurance of Things” here.

Joel Vogt,

Recently, the EVRYTHNG engineering team visited CERN to participate in an exciting hackathon at IdeaSquare, the on-site facility promoting and encouraging innovation and science for the benefit of society.

The CERN hackathon sprang from the desire to bring together smart minds to leverage the Internet of Things for the next generation of industrial health and safety solutions.

A natural fit for EVRTHNG, as both Web technologies and innovation are at the core of what we do, beginning with co-founders Dominique Guinard and Vlad Trifa who pioneered the ‘Web of Things’ as an initiative to bring the ease of the Web to the Internet of Things.

Equally, Web technologies are widely adopted by many users, even those without technical backgrounds. They provide a common standard for the numerous and diverse Internet of Things solutions that improve our lives.

EVRYTHNG team at Cern 1

Figure 1 EVRYTHNG Engineers at CERN

Our trip began with a guided tour of the CERN campus to acclimatize to the environment and culture. Remember, this is a place where every room can tell a tale of important scientific discoveries or may witness the next major breakthrough.

After the official guided tour, Harri Toivonen (IdeaSquare) offered to show us some of the lesser known treasures. First stop, the office where Tim Berners-Lee worked and invented the Web!

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 Figure 2 Co-founder Dominique in front of Tim Berners-Lee’s office

Harri then lead us through a maze of corridors to the facility where the beam for the Large Hadron Collider is generated. This very same building also houses a small cafeteria, also known if not jokingly, as the ‘other birthplace of the Web’ – but ten years earlier when Tim Berners-Lee was working as a student to think of ways PS control room engineers could better communicate with the nearby control room.

The day ended in the traditional Swiss manner, with a delicious fondue in Geneva, joined by hackathon hosts Marco Silari and his team. Needless to say, we all felt tremendously privileged to have received an invitation to collaborate with Marco.

The next day was the hackathon itself. The challenge presented to the twenty-seven participants from CERN and EVRYTHNG was to split into four teams and devise innovative solutions to four complex topics in industrial health and safety. Less than one working day later all four teams presented fully functional prototypes!

EVRYTHNG team at Cern 2

Figure 3 John opening the hack at IdeaSquare

Taking the opportunity to expand on two of these topics waste monitoring and personal health monitoring, both provide fascinating use cases for two bleeding edge Internet of Things technologies, SIGFOX and Eddystone.

The aim of the waste monitoring topic was to connect the EVRYTHNG cloud to very low-power environmental sensor networks (light sensors for this prototype) located within a waste container. Sensors inside the container communicate over nRF24l01, a protocol for ultra-low power short range radio communication. SIGFOX, a low-power yet wide area network, provided a power-efficient solution to connect the containers to a larger network.

Each container was equipped with an nRF24l01 and SIGFOX-enabled Arduino gateway, that polled the sensors in regular intervals and transmitted the data via the SIGFOX network to our cloud. Thus, we enjoyed the best of both worlds: incredibly low power consumption without compromising on connectivity and mobility over such a large area as CERN.

The challenge set for the personal health monitoring team was to know exactly where measurements taken indoors were located, GPS and communication networks such as Wifi are not always available in the mish mash of locations that make up the campus. Eddystone bluetooth beacons provided a very low-power and simple way to demarcate zones indoors, which could then be used by our Web app to pinpoint where any measurement had been taken. This is especially relevant for the locations at CERN that are below ground level.

It was awesome to see how well the EVRYTHNG platform performed in such a sophisticated scientific environment and with critical data sets.

In addition to having had an amazing and truly inspirational time applying our technology inside one of the World’s most advanced science laboratories, IdeaSquare also gave us the opportunity to develop an open-source aspect to the Web of Things alongside the very talented people at CERN.

The Web of Things is still in its infancy and we hope such a hackathon at the birthplace of the Web is a step that will help the Web of Things to mature into an inclusive, open and user-centered Internet of Things.

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