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1:1 interview with Rob van Kranenburg (Part 3)

RvK: Around 2000 it became clear to me that too few stakeholder were negotiating this paradigm shift. IoT literally is, without exaggeration, about global domination for whoever who ensures inter-operability through his standards, protocols and legal formatting. It must be a public IoT if we want to ensure the largest and most inclusive playing field of free men, women, animals and machines who through the best possible resource allocation and decision-making are able to live in harmony with each other and the environment. rob-iot-shanghai

For the past 10 years I have been talking to political and civil servant decision makers. My story was and is that this transparency and full traceability is not an attack on their system. In fact they played a vital role in providing democratic tools such as education, libraries, relatively open access to knowledge. Yet they have no more agency in this current age. A large majority in the previous Chinese government were engineers. The new Premier is a chemical engineer. The country is already run like Google (which has about the same ration engineers/non-engineers). In the West our politicians are fundamentally unable to grasp that their skills and toolsets (and ego’s) have become irrelevant. The civil servants I talk to understand they have no more managerial role in the (semi) autonomous grids they have build themselves, but do not want to let go for fear of losing prestige, a pension, a “position.” Throughout history such paradigmatic shifts have led to revolution, breakdown and loss of life and resources. It is the task and duty of the current IoT engineering community to help these forces understand that we can facilitate their skillsets to move over into more networked organizations.

TV: Describe the foundation of the IoT consortium? Why is it important for organizations in technology to map to these requirements ensuring such use-cases are adopted? What is the integral center-piece? Any rule of thumb such as aligning with Efficiency? Cost? Experience? Customer? or Multi-Faceted?

RvK: This is indeed a key issue. It is about the nature of value. No one is making money with IoT at the moment beyond the boring low hanging fruit of optimizing, efficiency and pre-pre figuring out predictive maintenance; nickles and dimes. These do add up of course on a global scale but even there at one moment every object is tagged with a barcode, QR code, NFC, RFID, monitoring device. Cisco has grasped the implications and is selling its hardware and is moving into output based business models, occupying the very moments where the data becomes meaningful to the customer entangling customer relation management of their client clients with their own formats of making the data legible to them in the first place. Imagine a giant like Cisco having to go through the nitty gritty of identifying 21 use cases (including the ‘smart toilet’) and imagine the savvy people trying to sell that to the Board as their only way of survival: trying to get through the next three to five years making pennies of these use cases, just to stay afloat in order to be the new hegemony in a world that has become fully traceable by then. Quite a feat I’d say.  The real value of IoT will only be visible if it is embraced, trusted and really wanted by the people. One can imagine a business model of providing neighborhood servers, amassing all data anonymous, selling or auctioning it to providers who enrich it and play back scenarios that you might want to buy into on the full spectrum from housing to mobility, from food to health, from better sleep advice to matchmaking skill sets and providing work (not ‘jobs’).

TV: The appeal for IoT has taken the stage globally now. How are you involved in the IoT China Consortium and what are the drivers regionally? Do they have distinct differentiators across other regions for IoT? IOT_China_2013

RvK: I was asked to moderate the first IoT Conference in Beijing in 2010. In the conversations prior to that I realized from the questions how savvy the Chinese organizers were. No wonder given the fact that most top politicians are engineers. In 2005 a Whitepaper on RFID was published. It was released by 15 Ministries and Commissions, including the Ministry of Science and Technology. To build that level of integration between your Ministries means that the channels to communicate and understand a technological paradigm shift underlies the entire structure. The same might be said to be true of the US, but with a difference that in the US half your tax dollars go to the military which is building a similar structure (as we see now in the revelations of Manning and Snowden) but fully closed without any sense that this cybernetic harness could be used for something else then security and isolating data.

In fact, negotiating with the top military is what needs to happen fast by the top IoT US companies – Cisco, IBM, Google, Apple, GE, Microsoft, or else they will suffer greatly from the lack of trust that globally is beginning to take shape. And as we know, trust is the key to making money and adding value in IoT. Imagine if they could do what RAND did after WWII, take the entire field to a new plane: space in their case. Imagine that negotiations could start on how the entire USA, or maybe even the whole world, could benefit from opening up this military infrastructure and use it for sharing and cooperation?

For the past two years I have been involved in helping to program and shape the IOT China Conference in Shanghai and I have been struck by the enthusiasm and the positive attitude towards monitoring – and why should that not be? IoT can help clean the air, provide better food from farm to fork, solutions to the crazy car ownership notions, streamline energy from infrastructure to devices (why should you ‘own’ your washing machine? Is that what life is about? ‘Owning things?). iot-a-internet-of-things-architecture

My point is very simple and I make it everywhere. If we want a better balance between humans, animals, resources and the planet we should take control of infrastructure that should be fully open, modular and public. All data coming from that platform should be open to the public to build better services and better iterations of the infrastructure. I think I can safely say that the Chinese leadership also knows that if it wants to make full use of the creative potential of this younger generation, that it should stop any kind of censorship on content level, but precisely open all data sets and allow all stakeholders to work in the public interest. If all is in the open, it is very difficult to be corrupt or to isolate data for a long time. Building the best balance between open and closed on a platform will be the biggest challenge. Whoever gets that right will have the hegemony in the 21th century.

TV: What vertical industry or player do you see playing a major role in fulfilling at least a major part of IoT concepts then reciprocating this back to the customer?

RvK: Given the current global crisis the focus is not so much on the home and housing, but I think about the Connected Car. The revenue streams are as solid as possible. The younger generation is buying less cars, but still sharing them. Fleet management is relatively stable. China and Africa are growing markets. Automotive is both a vertical as well as a horizontal. It makes it possible for Apple for example to sell hands free Siri across a range of brands. Google can sell its expertise of autonomous driving. Synching data from home, work, and even ehealth with the sensors in the car allows for the ‘seamless’ experience. People like driving cars, they won’t easily give up this sense of ‘freedom’ (even if they are in traffic standing still in most mega-cities).

TV: What are the differentiators between IoT, IoE, Industrial Internet? Do you see an overlap, is there a need to coin the evolution into a unified technological disruption?

RvK: Internet of Things is a term coined by Kevin Ashton that was timely and productive, and it still is. To the researchers doing ubicomp, pervasive computing and ambient intelligence it must be a bit sour that people start googling ‘Internet of Things’ and are not finding their work. So yes, there is a huge overlap between the cybernetics from mid last century, McLuhan, Mark Weiser, the pervasive and calm computing groups and AmI (ambient intelligence). The new terms coined by the big boys is just marketing. Smart Planet, IoE, Industrial Internet have the same roots. The focus might be slightly different. IBM sees the smart city as the business model for IoT (just lease everything in a gated community), Cisco wants to draw attention away from end to end connections only and focuses on intelligence at the edge of the network, in the devices (one can imagine routers that could be enhanced with robotic qualities; drone routers), therefore the ‘Everything’ and in a mail conversation I had with GE on the name, that I thought was retro leaving out all the DIY, Maker movementKickstarter, open hardware and bottom up qualities of IoT, I was informed that with that name they refer to huge and mission critical infrastructure and services thinking very little of that messiness on the ground. I think such thinking is a huge mistake. There is no more top, down, middle. We are in the network now and becoming a supernode means that you take each and every stakeholder (even to the level of one/the super-empowered individual/lone entrepreneur) extremely serious.

TV: We have seen how Social Networks changed things from all places. How does IoT affect culture, poverty, business, and earthly things such as humanity? What does it take for this to clearly show?

RvK: We see the effects most clearly in the fact that the creative elites are able to organize with cheap tools on the web now. In fact, Council too is just a website and I post everything myself. Membership is free and all the Knowledge Partnerships I have done so far are done without money, simply swapping logo’s. We see it in organized and semi organized networks such as Anonymous, Wikileaks and all kinds of new initiatives on Kickstarter, itself a good example of bottom up funding for those without resources like money, heritage or institutional power. The Internet and IoT is a meritocracy. All you need is time, intelligence, focus and perseverance, belief and hope maybe too. The cracks in the all old system power – banking, government and security agencies, hereditary forms of authority – are beginning to show because as a bright geek or activist you are no longer dependent on their ‘salons’, ‘projects’, ‘creative industries’.

You just start your own team and if you are good the brightest will find you, immediately or eventually, like in the Coolio song ‘I’ll see you when you get there’. What this means for the world? Only good things, a thorough shift from forces of competition, to forces of cooperation and sharing. Monitoring resources eventually eradicates corruption and mafia (this is already happening). There is no longer a role for the state, nor the current actors that make up states. The future is in ‘platforms’ and a Steve Jobs model of dedicated devices talking to particular platforms where citizens manage services, taxes and identities. Again it is our task to help the current actors to see this as a logical and normal generational and technical operation that they should not stall or perceive as a threat, but welcome as a joint responsibility of much more stakeholders.

TV: How can a business line manager, Executive for Engineering, CEO, or Founder take evolve a product or business in to IoT centric characteristics and IoT customer-centric experience?

RvK: For the past two years now I have posted a course on Internet of Things on a Dutch portal for courses where people that are working go to find out to learn about the latest trends. They flock to courses on social media and Twitter but so far I have no takers, none at all!  After a while I realized that if you are working or running a business you do not see ‘IoT’, no you simply start to worry or be a bit surprised that you see clients you never saw before, new types of customers that come for a problem or a solution that does not fit your current business model. The trick is to go and talk to your competitors now as they probably experience the same issue with your service or product and jointly look for IoT type of solutions, taking it together to a whole new level.

From that point on you lower structural costs to a minimum as you share them and compete on issues tailored to specific needs of clients. It is for these kinds of situations, as well as for in house consultancy: talking to basically everybody in the company – that we set up IoP Limited in London recently with Lorna Goulden (ex Philips), Martin Spindler (specializing in energy) and Alex Deschamps Sonsino (ex Arduino and Tinker, now Goodnight Lamp and IoT Meetups London). We have learned that basically the major issue is the balance between good old fashioned change management  and technical potential in every given business, that will determine the successful implementation of new business models.

This concludes Atmel’s 1:1 interview with Rob van Kranenburg.  View Part 1 and Part 2.


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.


5 http://www.theinternetofthings.eu/rvk-end-smart-city-live-opening-speeches-internet-things-china-2012-shanghai

6 https://www.ics.uci.edu/~corps/phaseii/Weiser-Computer21stCentury-SciAm.pdf

7 Shocker! Three-fourths of all consumers don’t trust their utility! http://www.smartgridnews.com/artman/publish/Business_Consumer_Engagement/Shocker-Three-fourths-of-all-consumers-don-t-trust-their-utility-5856.html

8 http://www.forbes.com/sites/tomiogeron/2013/01/23/airbnb-and-the-unstoppable-rise-of-the-share-economy/

9 http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/home-energy-networking-alert-sep-2.0-goes-live

10 http://blog.bosch-si.com/zigbee-the-standard-for-smart-home-applications/

11 http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=503286 See here for the list of upcoming deadlines for proposals http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_list.jsp?org=NSF&ord=date

IoT - 1:1 Interview Rob van Kranenburg

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

1:1 Interview conducted by Atmel’s Tom Vu with Rob van Kranenburg, IoT-A Stakeholder Coordinator, Founder of Council, and Adviser to Open Source Internet of Things, osiot.org.

rob-van-kranenburgTV: Why IoT-A? There are a multitude of IoT consortiums important to forging the progress of this next era of connective technology. Why is it important to the general business and mainstream? Why so many consortiums? Will it eventually roll up to one?

RvK: In systemic shifts the next normal is at stake. Of course you have to believe that IoT is a systemic shift first. Paradoxically, it is precisely the fact that we see so many contenders and consortia – no one wants to miss out or be left behind – that IoT is moving from being a vision to a business proposition. The success of the device as a standard – the Steve Jobs approach to controlling hardware, software, connectivity, app store; what goes in and what goes out and who it is friends with – has been an eye opener.

Patrick Moorhead writes in his Forbes piece that “the stunning success of smartphones, followed by similar success for tablets, has pushed the standardization opportunities for next generation infrastructure into play for the top tier of visionary companies”1, listing among others IBM Smarter Planet, Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group, Google, IPSO Alliance, ARM, International M2M Council, IoT-A (Internet-of-Things Architecture), and Intel’s Intelligent Systems Framework (ISF).  Software as a service, could only come into existence with the Cloud: “In the 90s, storage disks of less than 30GB capacity were incredibly expensive. Today, thanks to innovations in silicon technology, we are able to get high capacity storage disks at a nominal cost.”2 In the early 2000s we see the first experiments with real-time feedback.

In an earlier post you mention Formula 1. In 2002 Wired published a piece on sailing and the America’s Cup: “We’re trying to find patterns, to see that one set of conditions tends to result in something else. We don’t know why, and we don’t need to, because the answer is in the data.” This a programmer talking, a programmer and a sailor: Katori is writing a program that crunches the measurements and creates a “wind profile number an implied wind,” a wind an implied boat can sail on, as sailing, so long an intuitive art, has become a contest of technology: “Sensors and strain gauges are tracking 200 different parameters every second and sending the information across Craig McCraws OneWorld’s LAN to its chase boats and offices. Then the info gets dumped into a Microsoft SQL database, where it’s sifted to pinpoint the effects of sail and hardware experiments. Unraveling all the input is, in the words of OneWorld engineer Richard Karn, “nearly impossible.” And that’s not all: every day for the past two years, five OneWorld weather boats have headed out into the Gulf to harvest data.”3

I remember how struck I was by that notion of an “implied wind.” Before that notion there was the “real” and the “digital,” two concrete and separate worlds. You could argue that prior to that there was the “real” and the “surreal” or spiritual world. Large groups of people historically have been animists. To them objects do have stories, hold memories, are “actors.” Things are alive in that vision. Introducing this notion of implied, it became clear that it was no longer about the relation between the object and the database, materialized in a “tag,” but that the relation itself was becoming an actor, a player in a world where you did not know why, and you could nor care less why or why not – you wanted to gather data. There is “something” in it.

Grasping this key paradigm shift, it then becomes clear that the stakes are very high. In 2001, Steve Halliday, then vice president of technology at AIM, a trade association for manufacturers of tagging (RFID) technology, interviewed by Charlie Schmidt claimed: “If I talk to companies and ask them if they want to replace the bar code with these tags, the answer can’t be anything but yes. It’s like giving them the opportunity to rule the world.”4 Since then the most publicized attempt to create one single architecture, an Object Name Server, is the story of the RFID standard called “EPC Global” -two standard bodies EAN and UCC merging to become GS1 in 2005. In a bold move that no regulator foresaw, they scaled their unit of data from being in a batch of 10,000 and thus uninteresting for individual consumers to that of the uniquely identifiable item.

TV: Gartner suggest IoT as a #4 business creation factor for the next 5 years. What are your thoughts? Is this true?


Credit: Image obtained from Gartner’s 2012 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies Identifies “Tipping Point” Technologies, Unlocking Long-Awaited Technology Scenarios


RvK: Depending on how you define IoT, I would say definitely. Internet of Things influences changes in production (smart manufacturing, mass customization), consumption (economy of sharing, leasing vs ownership), energy (monitoring grids, households and devices), mobility (connected cars), decision making processes (shift to grassroots and local as data, information and project management tools come in the hands of ‘masses’), finance (IoT can sustain more currencies: Bitcoin, bartering, and again ‘leasing’) and creates the potential for convergence of the above shifts into a new kind of state and democratic model based on the notion of “platform.”

It is more an operation on the scale of: before and after the wheel, before and after printing/the book. In a kind of philosophical way you could say that it is the coming alive of the environment as an actor, it touches every human operation. The browser is only 20 years old – Mosaic being the first in 1993. The web has dramatically changed every segmented action in every sequence of operations that make up project management tools in any form of production and consumption. Because of this some people in the EU and elsewhere are trying to change IoT name-wise to something like Digital Transition. The Singularity is another way of looking at it. As a concept it is Borgian in the sense that the next big trends: Nano electronics and (DIY) biology are not in an emergent future realm as time to market could increase exponentially as they are drawn into being grasped within the connectivity that IoT is bringing.

Interested in reading more? Tune into Part 2 of Atmel’s 1:1 interview with Rob van Kranenburg. View Part 2  and Part 3


1 http://www.forbes.com/sites/patrickmoorhead/2013/06/27/how-to-intelligently-build-an-internet-of-things-iot/?goback=%2Egde_73311_member_253757229

2 http://www.ramco.com/blog/5-cost-effective-ways-to-store-data-on-the-cloud

3 Carl Hoffman, Billionaire Boys Cup. High tech hits the high seas in a windblown battle between Craig McCaw and Larry Ellison. Carl Hoffman sets sail with Team OneWorld in the race to take back the America’s Cup.http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/10.10/sailing_pr.html

4 Beyond the Bar Code – High-tech tags will let manufacturers track products from warehouse to home to recycling bin. But what’s great for logistics could become a privacy nightmare. By Charlie Schmidt, March 2001.http://www.technologyreview.com/featuredstory/400913/beyond-the-bar-code/