1:1 interview with Rob van Kranenburg (Part 2)

TV: What hardware principles help to ensure the transition proliferates for connected devices – yielding experience, efficiencies, and business profitability?

RvK: In the Special session on Planning Smart City of Japan in the 2012 IoT China, Shanghai Conference, Mine Shinshoro, director of Jetro Shanghai Office, recalls the 2010 disaster and explained that in the reconstruction of the cities the Japanese government will use the concept of smart communities to stabilize the energy power sources. Mr Masaki Yokoi (Nomura Research) takes up in the same discourse in his talk The social platform of the smart city, especially focusing on the change in mentality after the earthquake. Prior to that “we thought IT was King” he asserts,  however after the East Tokyo earthquake, industry, government and citizens come up with a different mind-set on what constitutes a smart citysmart-cities-japan

As infrastructure was totally destroyed, communication between regions was out, huge amounts of data were lost, over the past six months Japanese experts have reflected and brainstormed on the new nature of ICT. It still has a major role to play, but it must be a new role, especially in setting up more flexible resilient infrastructure, the regeneration process of communities, changing the layout of public services in society as a whole and inconsistent power supply and a more coherent business ecosystem.5 This describes the paradox that lies in the heart of IoT design. We want it to work seamlessly across all types and kinds of networks offering a constant and dependable flow to end-users wherever they are (home, car, abroad, indoors), without any visibility of the network nor hardware that is enabling this. It must run as smooth and invisible as possi4ble. The environment should become the interface.

Or, in the words of Mark Weiser: “Machines that fit the human environment, instead of forcing humans to enter theirs, will make using a computer as refreshing as taking a walk in the woods.”6 In our case, the end-users need not be human, but can be other machines. They too have needs in order to be themselves seamlessly tuned into a larger network. For them energy is the key issue. For us it could the breakdown described above caused by natural disasters, or for example in the case of Detroit it could be that the model that build the first iteration of such a seamless environment could go bust.

The key high level principles of the hardware architecture that will run sewage, mobility, energy, connectivity as well as appliances, devices and tools within the home and factories, is finding the perfect balance between optimizing convenience and enabling modding and hacking of any modular part. A recent study from Accenture shows “only 24% trust their utility to inform them of actions to optimize energy consumption – a decrease of 9% from 2012…. If given the choice, 73%… said they would consider alternative providers for purchasing electricity and alternative energy-related products and services.”7 This shows that designing trust into the system can only be done by allowing the largest and most varied group of stakeholders to list and add requirements to the architectures continuously.

TV: Describe the “data negotiation” in the network effect for Body Network, City Network, Smart Grids becoming deeply integrated?

RvK: Internet of Things is in its essence the seamless flow between:

  • BAN (body area network): the ambient hearing aide, the smart t-shirts
  • LAN (local area nework): the smart meter as a home interface
  • WAN (wide area network): the bike, car, train, bus, drones
  • VWAN (very wide area network): the ‘wise’ city as e-gov services everywhere no longer tied to physical locations
Connected Devices and the Seamless Flow of Data for IoT

Connected Devices and the Seamless Flow of Data for IoT

Whoever ensures trace-ability, sustainability and security linking up the gateways is de facto and de jure the new power. And would I want such a flow? The best possible feedback on my physical and mental health, the best possible deals based on real time monitoring for resource allocation, the best possible decision making based on real time data and information from open sources and the best possible alignments of my local providers with the global potential of wider communities.

In our architectures we are used to dealing with three groups of actors:

  • Citizens/end-users
  • Industry/SME
  • Governance/legal

These all are characterized by certain qualities, “a” for citizens, “e” for industry, and “o” for governance. In our current (Reference) Models and  (Reference) Architectures we build from and with these actors as entities in mind. The data flow of IoT will engender new entities consisting of different qualities taken from the former three groups. An example is the private grid operator, Frederic Larson is another:

“Twelve days per month Larson rents his Marin County home on website Airbnb for $100 a night, of which he nets $97. Four nights a week he transforms his Prius into a de facto taxi via the ride-sharing service Lyft, pocketing another $100 a night in the process. It isn’t glamorous-on nights that he rents out his house, he removes himself to one room that he’s cordoned off, and he showers at the gym-but in leveraging his hard assets into seamless income streams, he’s generating $3,000 a month. “I’ve got a product, which is what I share: my Prius and my house,” says Larson. “Those are my two sources of income.” He’s now looking at websites that can let him rent out some of his camera equipment.”8

TV: Take for example Smart Grids and Smart Energy. How does SEP 2.0 requirements shape the Utility and Energy Industry with Smart Meters integrating energy efficiency? Do you see solutions across the span of industry following a similar model?

RvK: I hope so.  It took two years for ZigBee, Wi-Fi and HomePlug “agreed to sit down and hash out a simplified yet IP-capable networking standard built on the foundation of ZigBee’s low-power home energy networking technology.”9 Cees Links, Founder and CEO of GreenPeak Technologies, writes on the Bosch blog on IoT “the wireless residential applications prosper best within the context of open communication standards, and offer OEMs the freedom to purchase from a large pool of suppliers and, most importantly, allow devices from different vendors to inter-operate, which is paramount in the market success of integrated Smart Home applications and will increase customer adoption when consumers can buy devices from different brands…One may think that WiFi and ZigBee are competing with each other. The reality, however, is that both technologies have their own place.”10

TV: What draws the importance in the work you do? How does it affect everyday people, developers, or EE designers? Is it vitally important for top-down influence to formulate the requirements across numerous verticals?

RvK: I must confess I am not a technical person at all. At home I am not even allowed to handle a hammer. I studied Languages and Literature because I like to read poetry and when I was younger aimed at as total as possible irrelevance to a world I thought and still think to be extremely badly governed, strangely tuned to scarcity as value (money, prestige, power) and unbalanced in the agency between humans, animals, things and the world at large. It is only when I grasped that with new forms of gaining influence and real power available at our feet for basically nothing, just your time and sober investment of energy: the internet and the web, it was actually possible to gain influence that I decided to fully devote myself to what is now called IoT from 2000 onwards.

I realized that IoT as it aims at individuating all objects on the planet, would effectively ‘be’ the new power as more and more resources would be linked together onto ever more stable platforms. That the next fight – that we see played out now – would be in trying to stabilize something that is in essence unstable; the internet as it was conceived as TCP/IP, or move the value chain as it is now in full to an Internet 2, a Quantum physics computing platform, for example the one build at CERN, or through research programs on Cyberphysical systems  in the US: “Cyber-physical systems (CPS) are engineered systems that are built from and depend upon the synergy of computational and physical components.  Emerging CPS will be coordinated, distributed, and connected, and must be robust and responsive.  The CPS of tomorrow will need to far exceed the systems of today in capability, adaptability, resiliency, safety, security, and usability.”11

Interested in reading more? Stay tuned for Part 3 of Atmel’s 1:1 interview with Rob van Kranenburg. View Part 1 and Part 3.




7 Shocker! Three-fourths of all consumers don’t trust their utility!




11 See here for the list of upcoming deadlines for proposals

2 thoughts on “1:1 interview with Rob van Kranenburg (Part 2)

  1. Pingback: 1:1 interview with Rob van Kranenburg: Part 1 | Bits & Pieces from the Embedded Design World

  2. Pingback: 1:1 interview with Rob van Kranenburg: Part 3 | Bits & Pieces from the Embedded Design World

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