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.
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!
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!
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.