Tag Archives: sensor networks

Atmel powers Waspmote Mote Runner for the IoT

IBM and Libelium have teamed up to offer an Atmel-powered IPv6 development platform for sensor networks and the rapidly evolving Internet of Things (IoT).

“Integrating IBM’s Mote Runner SDK on top of Libelium’s Waspmote sensor platform [creates] a unique and powerful tool for developers and researchers interested in 6LoWPAN / IPv6 connectivity for the Internet of Things,” explained Libelium CTO David Gascón.

Key Waspmote Mote Runner specs include Atmel’s ATmega1281 microcontroller (14 MHz frequency), Atmel’s RF212/RF231, 8KB SRAM, 4KB EEPROM, 128KB Flash, -10ºC, +65ºC temperature range and an RTC (32KHz) clock.

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, 6LoWPAN is an acronym for IPv6 over Low power Wireless Personal Area Network. This protocol offers encapsulation and header compression mechanisms that allow IPv6 packets to be sent to and received over IEEE 802.15.4 based networks.

There are two primary node types:

End Node – These nodes, which offer integrated sensors, are used to gather the information and send to the GW. Essentially, they create a mesh network among them, forwarding the packets of other nodes in order to facilitate the flow of information to the GW. Each End Node is equipped with a 6LoWPAN radio, sensors and a battery.

Gateway (GW) – This node takes the information sent by the End Nodes and relays it to the Tunnelling IPv4 / IPv6 server via the Ethernet IPv4 interface. Each GW Node is equipped with a 6LoWPAN radio, Ethernet interface and a battery.

In the diagram below, Libelium illustrates how the Waspmote Mote Runner 6LoWPAN / IPv6 Network operates.

  1. The sensor nodes use the 6LoWPAN protocol over the 802.15.4 link layer to create a mesh network which interconnects any device in the network with the Gateway (GW).
  2. Once the GW takes the 6LoWPAN packets, it changes the IP header to IPv4 while maintaining the UDP transport layer.
  3. It then sends the information to the IPv4 / IPv6 Tunneling machine, subsequently changing the header to a proper IPv6 format and sending the data to IPv6 Servers located on the Internet.

There are currently three Waspmote Mote Runner 6LoWPAN / IPv6 Radios targeted at a wide variety of markets and applications including sensors, events, smart cities, smart parking, agriculture, radiation detection, GPS, prototyping sensors and smart metering.

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Interested in learning more about the Atmel-powered Waspmote Mote Runner platform? You can check out the product’s official page here for additional information.

Electronics User Experience with Sally Carson, co-founder of Pinoccio

By Eric Weddington, Marketing Manager, Open Source & Community

Sally Carson, co-founder of Pinoccio

Sally Carson, co-founder of Pinoccio

Sally Carson, co-founder of Pinoccio

In February I did an interview with Eric Jennings, co-founder of Pinoccio. Pinoccio is a new Open Source Hardware business, building “a complete ecosystem for the Internet of Things”. The Pinoccio is a pocket-sized microcontroller board, with wireless networking, rechargeable LiPo battery, sensors, and the ability to expand its capabilities through shields, much like an Arduino board. It features the new Atmel ATmega256RFR2, a single-chip AVR 8-bit processor with low power 2.4GHz transceiver for IEEE 802.15.4 communications.

Pinoccio featuring new Atmel ATmega256RFR2

Pinoccio featuring new Atmel ATmega256RFR2

Eric Jennings, along with his partner Sally Carson, co-founded Pinoccio. In my interview with Eric Jennings he said:

Eric Jennings: Sally Carson, Pinoccio’s other co-founder, is an expert in the intersection between humans and technology.  What I mean by that is that she thinks very deeply and carefully about the psychology of humans interacting with computers.  Human-computer interaction, user experience, and usability all fall under her umbrella.  I consider her contribution a secret weapon in what we’re trying to achieve with Pinoccio.

A Secret Weapon?!… I had to find out more what Eric meant, and just what exactly is Pinoccio’s Secret Weapon. I contacted Sally Carson and asked her about the intersection of User Experience (UX) with electronics and the design of the Pinoccio. Along the way, I learned some good lessons on why Design is important, even to just a set of electronics.

Eric Weddington (EW): What intrigued you about the Pinoccio to co-found a hardware startup company?

Sally Carson (SC): Well, I was always a creative kid, always drawing or making something. And, I always loved fiddling around with gadgets and electronics. In high school, I became an audio/video nerd. I got into skateboarding and playing in bands with friends. But, a huge part of both of these hobbies was the A/V part. So, for example, I filmed tons of footage of my friends and I skating. I would make these skate videos, editing the footage down using two VCRs. I’d use a 4-track to mix in audio, or I’d splice in the audio from an old Nintendo, like from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Every time we ollied or did a trick, there would be the “bloop” sound of a turtle jumping. So, I wasn’t like, busting out the soldering iron, but I was trying to find all of the different ways I could combine the electronics that I had access to.

Later on, I became a Web Designer and suddenly all of my creative output was virtual and done on a computer. I missed the physicality of using my hands to make things. Tim O’Reilly was a big influence on me, and I tried to keep up with whatever O’Reilly Media was putting out. I cut my teeth on the Web Design In a Nutshell book. I listened to podcasts of ETech and the Web 2.0 Conference.

Around 2004, I started to specialize in Interaction Design, and I was really interested in the Interaction Design Institute of Ivrea — where Massimo Banzi was teaching, and where Arduino was being developed. They were teaching Interaction Designers to prototype and test their product ideas by quickly building a physical prototype. This was fascinating to me — you could still be a Tech nerd but also build things with your hands. That blending of physical and virtual was super compelling; I always thought I had to choose one or the other.

Then, I got the first issue of Make when it came out, and I was totally enchanted. Make had found this incredible group of people who were tech geeks like me, but who knew how to build real things with their hands. I filled sketchbooks with ideas for DIY projects that I personally wanted to build. But, I still felt this barrier to entry and I hadn’t yet found a community of Makers who could help me. Every project I wanted to build needed to be wireless and Web-enabled, but that seemed totally out of reach for someone like me who wasn’t deeply technical.

I think there are a lot of people out there like me, who are somewhat geeky, but not super “deep geeks.” They want to build wireless, web-enabled projects but they don’t know how and they’re not sure it’s even possible. With Pinoccio, we’re providing all of that scaffolding for you. Your board is talking to the Web wirelessly within minutes of taking it out of the box. It already has a rechargeable battery that can last for weeks or months. From there, it’s up to you to start imagining possibilities for this platform. We want you to focus on the specifics of your project, instead of losing momentum trying to figure out all that other stuff.

So, with Pinoccio, I got really excited about enabling other people to build cool projects like the ones I had been dreaming about for years. There’s something really magical about creating a tool that enables other creative, talented folks — there’s this amazing multiplier effect.

EW: The Pinoccio could be looked at just the electronic guts of a larger system, as just a set of functions to be implemented. You and Eric Jennings see a need to approach the problem differently with Pinoccio. What led you to do this differently?

SC: The two most basic questions that I ask when I’m designing a product are: “Is it useful?” and “Is it desirable?” I want the answer to both questions to be yes.

If we had approached Pinoccio as “just a set of functions to be implemented,” we would have been building something useful, but not desirable. And that’s when you run the risk of commoditization. Your customers won’t have any particular loyalty to you, they’ll simply comparison shop between functionally similar products and choose whatever’s cheapest. Even if you’re first to market, this makes you vulnerable to cheaper knock-offs in the future.

So we want to be both useful *and* desirable. What does that look like? Let’s take Sugru as an example. Sugru is this magic, self-curing rubber that you can use to fix or modify practically anything — tools, electronics, everyday objects around the house. I had a sample packet laying around for a few months. I understood what it was, I understood the usefulness of it, but it wasn’t yet desirable in my mind.

Once Fall rolled around, I was commuting by bike at night, and I was frustrated with my new headlight. It had this recessed on/off button that was nearly impossible to press with thick gloves on. I used Sugru to fatten up the button and make it taller. The next day, once the Sugru had cured, I tried turning my light on and off with gloves and it was way, way better. I FELT SO SMART AND AWESOME! That was the moment that I fell in love with Sugru, because of how it made me feel about myself. I felt clever, capable, and industrious.

Now Sugru is both useful and desirable to me. I want to use it again, because I want to feel smart and awesome again. I want to show off what I “made” to my friends. It’s less about the Sugru, it’s more about how it made me feel. That “a-ha!” moment is what we’re shooting for with Pinoccio. We want to build a useful tool that makes people feel smart and awesome. We want to reduce those frustrating barriers to entry so you maintain your motivation to see a project through to completion. Then we want you to share what you built, show it off online, and collaborate with others who are working on similar projects.

EW: How is the process of designing the User Experience for the Pinoccio different than for other products?

SC: When I’m designing for the Web, I try to put together a functional prototype as quickly as possible, even if it’s just a clickable simulation comprised of sketches. Then I test it with real users. But, this is harder to do with hardware, it takes a lot longer to get to the functional prototype phase.

So, we used conferences like the Open Source Hardware Summit as an opportunity to interview potential customers and ask them about what they have actually done in the past. Have they tried to build a web-enabled project? How were they powering their projects? What tools did they use? What was frustrating? What worked well? This is a lot different than asking them if they think they would use Pinoccio, or asking them what features they’d like to see. We tried to identify existing pain points, based on the actual previous experiences of our target audience, then shape features around those insights.

EW: What part of the design process of the Pinoccio surprised you?

SC: I wouldn’t say I was surprised by this exactly, but I am constantly amazed by how awesome our community is. They’re brilliant, creative, and determined. They’re also incredibly generous and it’s super fun to see them sharing ideas and helping each other. I guess it surprised me how much idea exchange is already happening between members of the Community. It’s really rewarding to see that happening, and being an open source hardware company made it possible.

EW: What was the biggest challenge of the design process of the Pinoccio, and how did you overcome it?

SC: Well, for Web-based products, we try to build a Minimal Viable Product, get something into the hands of users as quickly as possible, see how they respond, then iterate and evolve the product organically from there. That’s a lot easier to do with software, because it’s relatively fast and cheap to put together an MVP.

Hardware is slower, it’s more expensive, and it’s inherently a “Waterfall” process — meaning there are a series of linear dependencies and the project can’t advance until each phase is complete. For each iteration, you have to make design changes to the board, order components, order PCBs, get the boards assembled, test them, rinse and repeat. It’s a weeks-to-months iteration cycle, instead of the hours-to-days cycles that we enjoy in Web Development.

I think the way that we address this is to bring assembly in-house. That will really allow us to take advantage of these Agile methodologies that we’re used to — rapid iterations of testing and refining. It will let us tighten up those cycles of iteration.

EW: What are some common mistakes that you see in hardware product design, that don’t take into account User Experience?

SC: Well, I think for any tech product, be it hardware or software, it’s tempting to think about features first, and to create a list of technical requirements as a starting point.

What we try to do instead is to think deeply about who our customer is. We think about what Peter Merholz calls their “emotional requirements.” What are their needs, motivations, and goals? What excites them? What frustrates them? How does Pinoccio fit into their lives, and how does it fit into a typical day? We answer these questions via different methods of qualitative research, including ethnography and interviews. It’s not enough to ask your target audience if they think they would like a particular product or feature. People are famously bad about self-reporting, it’s better to observe what they actually do, as opposed to asking them what they think they might do or might like.

Let’s go back to my bicycle light again. I’m going to hypothesize around what happened. The designers knew they were designing a light. They decided on some features — it’s possible they even asked customers what features they’d like — and they decided the light should have three modes: blink (for visibility and longer battery life), steady/low beam, and steady/high beam. They explored the interface — how do you use a single button to turn it on/off and to cycle through the three modes? The single button may come from a cost constraint. The flat, rubber button may have been an attempt to waterproof the light for riding in the rain. But did they observe real customers actually using the product? Not just in a lab setting, but in the real-world, during a typical day? Here in the States, in the late Fall, daylight saving ends and suddenly we’re all biking home in the dark. This is the time of the year that I start using my bike light. And because of the colder weather, I’m usually wearing gloves. If they had observed customers like me, in everyday conditions, they would have seen how hard it is to press that button with gloves on. And they would have seen me cursing under my breath, vowing to never buy a light from them again.

I think the best products make their customers feel smart. When you’re building complex technology products, if you do a bad job with the User Experience, the customer will blame themselves, “I suck at computers.” But it’s not their fault, it’s yours. And no one wants to keep using a product that makes them feel dumb. Frustration, hacks, and work-arounds are all super valuable insights. These are signals that a need that’s not being met. When I used Sugru to make the button easier to push, this was a work-around that signaled a need was not being met.

The key is to learn who your customer is, and to build empathy for them. Let that shape your product.

EW: How do you extend User Experience to the Pinoccio shields that are being developed?

SC: We talk to customers, we try to identify pain points that they’ve experienced with existing tools out there. We also talk to them about what they’re planning on building with Pinoccio. So, we just sent out a survey to our IndieGogo campaign funders asking them what their first Pinoccio project would be. Their answers will inform which shields we produce first. Then, once we have some shields produced, we’ll conduct qualitative research — observe actual customers using them during a typical day, in a typical setting. For example, we might go to a Makerspace where we know someone is building a project with Pinoccio, and just be a fly on the wall while they’re working on their project. Where do they get stuck? Where do they feel frustrated, or need help? That will help us refine the experience for the next iteration.

EW: There are many different solutions in the Wireless field, and the networking of objects that communicate wirelessly. What are some of the challenges of the user experience in this area, and what is Pinoccio doing to help users in this area?

SC: I think to-date, most solutions out there are either (1) so technical that only deep geeks can make use of them, or (2) they’re user-friendly but they’re constrained to a very specific use case, like home automation.

Our challenge is to build an extensible enough system that can support a variety of use cases, a robust enough system that we don’t lose the interest of those deep geeks, and yet still offer something that is easy for less technical folks to understand and use. For that final piece, we’ll be building a series of web-based tools that will help get those less technical folks up and running quickly and easily.

EW: You and Eric Jennings are located in different parts of the country, yet you have a start-up company together. What are the tools that you use to work together?

SC: Yep, Eric’s in Reno, and I’m in Ann Arbor. Eric and I use a number of tools, and have found a set up that works really well for us. We usually have IM running in the background, and ping each other throughout the day. We also do a daily Google Hangout — basically our “Stand Up” meeting in the Scrum parlance. Because we’re a young company, we’re happy to let these calls go long, and meander from detailed product decisions, all the way to long-term roadmap stuff.

We use Git for collaborating on code. We also have an internal documentation site that we use for asynchronous communication. It’s just a WordPress install running the P2 theme — it’s well-suited for short updates that can grow organically into longer discussions. We can archive pages that have evergreen info, and can easily search for and reference them later:

http://wordpress.org/extend/themes/p2

EW: What are your future goals with Pinoccio?

SC: I want Pinoccio to become just another tool in the average person’s workshop, makerspace, or art studio, sitting there right next to the duct tape. When they have an idea, they’ll grab a couple of Pinoccios and quickly throw together a prototype. I want this to feel totally unremarkable. Pinoccio is just another tool at their disposal that expands their capabilities. The object — the board itself — is less important. What’s important is that it enables them to build what they want to build, and it makes them feel smart, industrious, and clever (which they are!).

1:1 interview with Michael Koster

Series 3 – Why IoT Matters?


By Tom Vu, Digital Manifesto and Michael Koster, Internet of Things Council Member


Three-part Interview Series (Part 3)


Tom Vu (TV):  Describe how Internet of Things matters? Why should anyone care? Should futurist, technologist, data hounds, product extraordinaires, executives, and  common consumer need to understand what’s to come?

Michael Koster (MK):

There are two main effects we see in the Internet of Things. First, things are connected to a service that manages them. We can now monitor things, predict when they break, know when they are being used or not, and in general begin to exploit things as managed resources.

The second, bigger effect comes from the Metcalfe effect, or simply the network effect, of connecting things together. Bob Metcalfe once stated that the value of a communications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected compatible communicating devices. Since then it’s used to refer to users, but maybe Bob was thinking way ahead. Notice the word compatible. In this context, it means to be able to meaningfully exchange data.

When we connect physical objects to the network, and connect them together in such a way as to manage them as a larger system, we can exploit the Metcalfe effect applied to the resources. We are converting capital assets into managed resources and then applying network management.

Because Internet of Things will be built as a physical graph, it’s socialization of everything, from simple everyday devices to industrial devices. Metcalfe states that 10X connections is 100 times the value.  Cisco is projecting that the Internet of Everything has the potential to grow global corporate profits by 21 percent in aggregate by 2022. I believe these represent a case for pure information on one end, and an average efficiency gain over all of industry on the other.

This has the potential to change things from a scarcity model, where the value is in restricting access to resources, thus driving up price, to a distribution centered model, where value is in the greater use of the resource.  Connecting things to the network is going to reverse the model, from a model of “excluding access” to “inclusion access”, a model where you push toward better experience for consumer/customer/co-business.

Crowdsourcing of things is an example, where models are inverted.  The power arrow is going in the opposite direction, a direction equalizing toward the benefit of the massive body consumers and people.  This in turn, helps shift the business model from a customer relationship managed by vendors, also called advertising, to vendor relationship managed by customers. This is called Vendor Relationship Management, or VRM, pioneered by Doc Searls. This reverses the power arrow to point from customer needs toward business capability to meet needs, and needs are met now that the vendor is listening.  A lot of this is not just IoT but also open source nature, and the big changes happening in people, where sharing being held more valuable than the exclusion of access.

Inverting the value model, breaking down artificially bloated value chains, creating a more efficient economy, I believe it important to create a layer of connectivity that will act as the necessary catalyst to the next Internet of Everything, Internet of Things, Industrial Internet.  Break down the scarcity-based models, exclusion of access, turn it around. Instead of excluding access and driving prices up for limited resources, we will yield higher more efficient utilization of resources.

michael-koster-2-Maker-Faire-2013-SanMateo-Atmel-Maker-Movement

Michael Koster describing Internet of Things and the Maker Movement and Open Source Importance of this Development with Booth attendees at Maker Faire 2013 in San Mateo

It matters on a Global Scale, by giving us better resource utilization. SMART Grid alone has resulted in up to 19.5% efficiency improvement, with an average of 3.8% improvement over all deployments already. We do not have enough energy storage or transmission capacity to deal with the major shift to solar energy sources now in progress worldwide. We are going to have to adapt, learn, monitor, manage, and control our usage in ways only possible with large scale sensing and control.

For the spirit of IoT, it’s not only in making peoples/consumers lives more convenient, solving their first world problems, but its more in the ability to manage resources together as a larger system, from the individual out to a global scale. Especially, this holds true with the effects of globalization, balancing, localization, connectivity, and ubiquity.  It’s for the people.  Social Media had it’s transformation across many things, Internet of Things will also have an efficiency and business transformation.

Companies like Atmel play an important role in creating the building blocks for embedded control and connectivity by means of progressing the ARM / AVR / Wireless / Touch portfolio of products, all of which are the necessary thinking and connecting glue of the Internet of Things. Internet of Things has a large appetite for ultra low power connectivity using wireless standards.  Wireless Sensor Networks are key technology for the IoT, so much that WSN was probably the number one issue in the early deployment. There are many competing standards: Zigbee, SA100.11, Bluetooth, Body Area Network, Wi-Fi Direct, NFC, Z-Wave, EnOcean, KNX, XRF, WiFi, RFID, RFM12B, IEEE 802.15.4 (supporting WPAN such as ZigBee, ISA100.11a, WirelessHART, IrDA, Wireless USB, Bluetooth, Z-wave, Body Area Network, and MiWi).

michael-koster-Maker-Faire-2013-SanMateo-Atmel-Maker-Movement

Michael Koster Exhibiting with Atmel Booth at Maker Faire 2013 San Mateo

Tom Vu (TV):  What would be the most important design decision that supersedes the eventual success of an open source Internet of Things compliance?

Michael Koster (MK):

The first most important decisions are to do open source design based on needs and use cases. I don’t think we can build an IoT if its not open source, or if it’s not connected to the real world use cases.

Just like the Internet, built on open source and open standards, the starting data models are important for building on and building out. HTML and http and URLs allowed many platforms to be built for the web and supersede each other over time, for example Server Pages, SOAP, Javascript, and AJAX. A browser can understand all of the current platforms because they are all based on common abstractions. We believe that the Semantic Web provides a solid basis of standard web technology on which to base the data models.

Tom Vu (TV):  Describe the importance of Internet of Things silos and other M2M standards currently at large in the development community? What are the differences?

Michael Koster (MK):

The IoT has started off fueled by crowdfunding, VC money and other sources that have to some extent built on a business model based on vertical integration. Vertical integration has a big advantage; you need to have a self-contained development to get things done quickly for proof of concept and demonstration.

Vertical integration is also a big driver of the current machine-to-machine, or M2M, communication market. This is the paradigm supporting the initial deployment of connecting things to services for management on an individual thing basis.

The downside of vertical integration is that it leads to silos, where the code developed for a system, the data collected, and even the user interfaces are all unique to the system and not reusable in other systems. Moreover, the vertical integration is often seen as a proprietary advantage and protected through patents and copyrights that are relatively weak because they apply to commonly known patterns and methods.

It’s not always this way, though. As an example, the Eclipse foundation is open source, allowing their M2M system to be used for vertical application development as well as integrated with IoT Toolkit data models and APIs to enable interoperability with other platforms.

The European Telecommunications Standardization Institute, or ETSI, also has an M2M gateway that is a combination of open source and paid license code. New features are enabled through Global Enablers or GEs that implement a particular function using an OSGi bundle consisting of Java code. The Smart Object API can be built into ETSI through a GE bundle, which will enable an ETSI M2M instance to inter-operate with other IoT Toolkit instances. This is the power of the approach we’re taking for interoperability, which is obtained by adding a Smart Object API layer to the system.

Tom Vu (TV):  Explain horizontal and service interoperability for Internet of Things, why is it so important?

Michael Koster (MK):

Connected things connect through WSN gateways and routers to Internet services that fulfill the application logic for the user. Today, for the most part, each vendor provides a cloud service for the devices they sell, e.g. Twine, Smart Things, or the Nest thermostat. There are also some cloud services that allow any connection, providing an API for anyone to connect, for the purpose of integrating multiple devices. But the dedicated devices mentioned earlier don’t work with the generic cloud services.

Many IoT services today are based on providing easy access to the devices and gateway, with open source client code and reference hardware designs, selling hardware on thin margins, and Kickstarter campaigns. There is typically a proprietary cloud service with a proprietary or ad-hoc API from the device or gateway to the service, and a structured API to the service offering “cooked” data.

These systems contain a highly visible open source component, but much of the functionality comes from the cloud service. If a user wishes to use the open source part of the system with another service, the APIs will need to be adapted on either the device/gateway end or service end, or both. It’s not exactly a lock-in, but there is a fairly steep barrier to user choice.

IoT in Silos

Internet of Things (IoT) in Silos

There is the beginning of an ecosystem here, where some devices are being built to use existing services, e.g. Good Night Lamp uses Cosm as their cloud service. Other services that allow open API connectivity include Thingworx and Digi Device Cloud. These services all use very similar RESTful APIs to JSON and XML objects, but have different underlying data models. As a result, sensors and gateways must be programmed for each service they need to interact with.

The current system also leaves users vulnerable to outages of a single provider. Even if there was a programmable cloud service that all could connect to that ran user applications, there would be a vulnerability to provider outages. Much better and more robust would be an ability to configure more than one service provider in parallel in an application graph, for a measure of robustness in the face of service outages. Even more, it should be possible to run user application code in IoT gateways, local user-owned servers, or user-managed personal cloud services. Today’s infrastructure and business models are at odds with this level of robustness for users.

In terms of business and business models, a lot of the connection and network infrastructure today was built on a “value chain” model. These are businesses that are built on a model of vertical integration. In these models, value is added by integrating services together to serve one function, hence vertical.  With the Internet of Things, traditional value chains are collapsing down and flattening. There is a bit of a disruption in the business model (services, etc), but also new opportunities emerge to create new Internet of Things services, which is good for business and consumers.

Companies will continue to build out vertical models to specialize in their services. IoT can potentially augment service models with the customer even further and offer creative possibilities of cost savings and experience and deploy more customer centric business fabrics, which will result in better service for consumers.

If companies build their vertically based infrastructure of applications integrating into the IoT Toolkit platform, the basic enablement for horizontal connections will already exist, making it easy to create horizontal, integrative applications based on automatic resource discovery and linkage.

Access to the knowledge can enhance the customer experience and ROI for businesses.  We are at the brink of the new era, where companies and products can arise from the information economy; only now motivation via implicit or explicit engagement is tied to things, assets, information, sensors, education, and augmentation; and everything is more intertwined and involved.

Tom Vu (TV):  Please assume the role of a futurist or even contemporary pragmatist. How does the landscape of Internet of Things fit into that picture for an individual?

Michael Koster (MK):

It goes back to the idea that your life is going to change in ways that we are no longer be driven by the scarcity pressures we experienced as hunter gatherers. IoT will trigger the overall shift from the resource accumulative, to the interaction driven and resource sharing-enjoying model due to the ubiquitous connectivity and the right kind of applications we can use to bring this experience to maturity.

We expect the Internet of Things to be where the interaction moves away from screens and becomes more like everyday life, only more convenient, comfortable, and easy to manage. We’re still looking for the valet, the system that simply helps us manage things to enable us to become more as people.

Tom Vu (TV):  Do you have any insights into how industries like Semi-Conductor can help share the responsibility of making Internet of Things for the People and by the People?

Michael Koster (MK):

Yes, of course, everyone has a part in the build up and build out of Internet of Things.  From business to academia, in the home and across the planet, the march to Internet of Things is inevitable.  Again and again, the familiar signs of disruption are being seen.  We see that happening today with the very first initial releases of connected products.  There is a movement in Makers, with substantial global activity. Which is quite harmonious to open source and open hardware.  This will be even wider spread once critical mass takes effect with products more and more becoming connected and smart via Internet.  The power of the sensor proliferation is akin to Twitter having 10 people registered and using their Social Fabric versus 100s of millions.  The more everyday devices and things are connected, the more the power of IoT will overwhelmingly surface.

It’s only how well we integrate and collaborate together across industry to propel this next phase of Internet to the next level.  Every potential disruptive technology has a turning point.  We are at that point and we are all part of this movement. In turn, the Internet of Things will make better products, a better user experience, and optimized efficiency across all resources. How we decide to apply this technology will make all the difference.

This very notion forces industries to be more aware, efficient, and productive. Sensors and connected devices will help supply chain, manufacturing, research, product roadmaps, experience, and ultimately drive an economy of growth. The enterprise begins to have a visibility, transparency to customers, people.   Ultimate, it’s a true nervous system, connected via an enterprise level to a personal consumer level.

SMART, AWARE, and SENSORY are new enhancements to business to include customer habits and patterns of use, threaded right into the production routine and product design. Internet of Things will help sculpt a more consumer oriented and customer centric world of products. Customers will have direct influence in the manufacturing of individual products and instances of products.  Companies can help by being part of the community, albeit in the field of electrical engineering, design, data, to software development on the cloud.  Internet of Things will have touch points between customers and business as much as the electrical power grids have influence across all business today.

The new ecosystem will have micro scale and agile manufacturing at a level of customization unimaginable today. It’s the next driver for brilliant machines, maybe artisan-machines that work for individuals but still live on the factory floor.

You can work with the developers and work toward expanding businesses that can embrace the development world.  Help build the $50 cell phone or connected devices that bridge fiscal and energy compliance for a better world.

Ride the long tail wave… and the inverted business models…  Make more accessibility to all products and be responsible in accessibility… From crowdfunding or crowdsourcing, like Kickstarter or Makers, someone is going to figure out how a sensor can do more, in a very impactful and human experience paradigm. The new innovations will come from everywhere; from the 14 year old in Uganda who takes apart her cellphone to repurpose it into a medical monitoring device, from the basements and garages of millions of makers and DIY’ers worldwide who have sure genius among them.

It is super important to get the very latest hardware out to the open community so that innovation can be leveraged, taken to new levels of creativity and crowdsource ideation for collaboration and massive cross-contribution. Accessibility, documentation, development, ecosystem for software support for the MCUs are all too important.  Atmel holds building blocks to many of these pieces, combined with their development tools and evaluation ecosystem (Atmel Studio 6, Atmel Spaces, Atmel Gallery) and involvement with Makers and Arduino.

Open Hardware / Open Source will come to be de-facto standards.  Bundle open source along with the open hardware to make it even more accessible and embed rapid guide start for newcomers. Right now a key piece is the Wireless Sensor Net. If there were a good open source WSN available and supported by manufacturers, it could enable a groundswell of connected devices.

Build open source and open hardware educational IoT developer’s kits for ages 8 and up, for high school and college, to hit all levels of involvement and expertise. Support community hackspaces and places (ie Noisebridge) where everyone can learn about the digital world and programming.

We are seeing the leveling out of the development happening in all parts of the world. Radical innovation is happening everywhere. Open Source is helping shape this curvature.  This is the broader whole tide that we are seeing. Pinocchio is one great innovation emerging from Makers and Open Source, then we have IoT hubs such as SmartThings, Thingworx, or Xively (formerly Cosm).  There is a lot of crowdfunding, ideation, blooming of disruptive products looking to change the scene of things to come….
Support open source and open collaboration in everything, to create a culture of sharing and innovation, a culture of synergy in building the Internet of Things together. Involve customers as participants and makers of their own experiences. Make sure everyone has access to the information and support they need to build, maintain, hack, and repurpose their devices over time to promote a healthy ecosystem.

This time innovation is going global. The ideation is happening everywhere. There are many global Silicon Valley type hubs, other metros in the world, as well as global accessibility to the same information. We see startup mentality blossoming across all geo-locations.  Again, Semi-Conductors is contributing, helping pave the back-plane for innovation & connectivity for the development layers on top.  Global village of innovation is coming of age… Now.

 

Also read Part 1 and Part 2 of the Interview Series.

1:1 Interview with Michael Koster


Three-part Interview Series (Part 2)


Series 2 – IoT Toolkit and Roadmap

Tom Vu (TV):  What is in the roadmap for IoT Toolkit?

Michael Koster (MK):

The IoT Toolkit is an Open Source project to develop a set of tools for building multi-protocol Internet of Things Gateways and Service gateways that enable horizontal co-operation between multiple different protocols and cloud services. The project consists of the Smart Object API, gateway service, and related tools.

IoT Smart Object Structure

IoT Smart Object Structure

The foundation of the platform is purely bottom up, based on applying best practices and standards in modern web architecture to the problem of interoperability of IoT data models. I believe that the practice of rough consensus and running code results in better solutions than a top-down standard, once you know the basic architecture of the system you’re building.

To that end, I created a public github and started building the framework of the data model encapsulations and service layer, and mapped out some resourceful access methods via a REST interface. The idea was to make a small server that could run in a gateway or cloud instance so I could start playing with the code and build some demos.

The next step is to start building a community consensus around, and participation in, the data models and the platform. The IoT Toolkit is a platform to connect applications and a mixture of devices using various connected protocols.  It’s real power lies in its broader use, where it can span across all of our connected resources in industry, ranging from commerce, education, transportation, environment, and us. It’s a horizontal platform intended to drive Internet of Things more widely as an eventual de facto standard, built for the people who are interested in building out Internet of Things products and services based on broad interoperability.

IoT Sensor Nets Toolkit

IoT Applications Run on Cloud or On Gateway

We intend to create a Request For Comment (RFC), initiate a formal process for the wider Internet of Things platform and standards.  An community agreed upon process similar to the world wide web that we use today, based on rough consensus and running code, with RFCs serving as working documents and de facto standards that people can obtain reference code, run in their system to test against their needs, and improve and modify if necessary, feeding back into the RFC for community review and possible incorporation of the modifications.

The Internet of Things interoperability platform stands as an ideal candidate, leveraging the power of the open source community’s development process.  In turn, community involvement is taken to a new level, across many fields of discipline, and in many directions. Here is where we can get the most benefit of an agile community.  Crowdsource the development process based on principles of open communication and free of the need for participants to protect interests toward proprietary intellectual property.

We need to build the platform together meshed around the community of Makers, DIY, Designers, Entrepreneurs, Futurist, Hackers, and Architects to enable prototyping in an open ecosystem.  Proliferation then occurs; a diverse background of developers, designers, architects, and entrepreneurs have many avenues of participation. They can create a new landscape of IoT systems and products.

This broad participation extends to industry, academia and the public sector.  We are aiming for broad participation from these folks, build a global platform based on common needs. As a member of the steering committee, when I participated in the IoT World Forum, I heard from the technical leaders of enterprise companies (Cisco and others), research departments, and IoT service providers. They believe an open horizontal platform would be needed to enable applications that span across their existing vertical markets and M2M platforms.

Instead of a top-down approach, where people from corporations and institutions get together in a big meeting and put all their wish lists together to make a standard, we’re taking an overall bottom-up approach, bringing together a diverse community ranging from makers to open source developers, and entrepreneurs. Together with corporations, academia, and public sector, we all will participate in a very broad open source project to develop a platform that can be ubiquitous that everyone can use.

In many ways, this is modeled after the Internet and World Wide Web itself.  As we need to create a more formal standard, it will likely engage with the IETF and W3C. A good example is the semantic sensor network incubator project, which is an SSN ontology that describes everything about sensors and sensing. This enables broad interoperability between different sensor systems and platforms, based on common data models and descriptions. What we want to do is something similar to that, only on a more comprehensive scale and intended for the Internet of Things.

Tom Vu (TV):  Can you take us through a tour of the Data Object model importance and how it yields significance for simple and sophisticated connected devices?

Michael Koster (MK):

The Internet of Things today consists of many different sensor networks and protocols, connected to dedicated cloud services, providing access through smartphone and browser apps. It is rare for these separate “silos” to cooperate or interact with each other.

We abstract the complexity of sensor nets connecting devices and hardware by adding a layer of semantic discovery and linkage. This enables the sensors and actuators on disparate sensor nets to be easily combined to build integrated applications.

The way this works is using a few techniques. First, the different sensor nets are integrated through a common abstraction layer. This works a lot like device drivers in an operating system, adapting different devices and protocols to a common system interface. Only in this case, they are adapted to a common data model.

The common data model for sensor nets is based on the new IETF CoRE application protocol and sensor descriptions. This provides standard ways for common types of sensors to be discovered by their attributes, and standard ways for the data to be linked into applications, by providing descriptions of the JSON or BSON data structure the sensor provides as it’s output.

We use the W3C Linked Data standard to provide web representations of data models for sensor data and other IoT data streams. Linked data representations of IETF CoRE sensor descriptions are web-facing equivalents of CoRE sensor net resources. Linked data provides capabilities beyond what CoRE provides, so we can add functions like graph-based access control, database-like queries, and big data analysis.

Internet Smart Objects

Internet Smart Object

Internet of Things Applications are essentially graph-structured applications. By using Linked data descriptions of JSON structures and the meaning of the data behind the representation, we can create applications that link together data from different disparate sources into single application graphs.

Then we enable the platform with an event-action programming model and distributed software components. The common semantic language enables the data sources and software components to easily be assembled and make data flow connections. The result is an event-driven architecture of self-describing granular scale software objects. The objects represent sensors, actuators, software components, and user interaction endpoints.

FOAT Control Graph

Interent of Things with FOAT Control Graph


Tom Vu (TV):  Who and what companies should be involved?

Michael Koster (MK):

Whoever wants to participate in the building out of the Internet of Things. The people that use the infrastructure should build it out; the people who want to provide products and services based on interoperability, along with those who provide the backplane of thinking low power microcontrollers / microprocessors, connected sensors, and importantly the network infrastructure.

We want to enable all avenues of participation to allow corporations, academia, policy and standards makers, entrepreneurs and platform developers, makers, and DIY hackers all to be involved in building the platform as a community.

For corporations, we will provide an important role, to build a vendor-neutral platform for data sharing and exchange, an open horizontal platform that will allow the integration of what were traditionally vertical markets into new horizontal markets.

Anyone participating or expecting to participate in the emerging Internet of Things, Internet of Everything, Industrial Internet, Connected World, or similar IoT ecosystems initiatives, could benefit by participating in creating this platform. Companies that provide network infrastructure and want to build in value add can adopt this standard platform and provide it as infrastructure. Companies that want to provide new services and new connected devices that can use the IoT Toolkit to easily deploy and connect with existing resources could benefit.

All companies, organizations, and people that can benefit from an open Internet of Things are welcome to participate in the creation of a platform that everyone can use.

Tom Vu (TV):  How important is Open Source to Internet of Things evolution?

Michael Koster (MK):

I don’t see how the Internet of Things can evolve into what everyone expects it to without a large open source component. We need to go back to Conway’s law and look at it from both the system we’re trying to create and the organization that creates it. Interoperability and sharing are key in the system we want to create. It’s only natural that we create an open development organization where we all participate in both the decisions and the work.

Removing the attachment of intellectual property, changes the dynamics of the development team, keeps things engaged and moving forward solving problems. It’s important for software infrastructure projects like this to remove the barrier to cooperation that arises from the self-protection instinct around proprietary Intellectual Property, or even egoism associated with soft intellectual property, “my” code.

Instead, we turn the whole project into a merit-based system as opposed to being ego driven.  Rather than worry about guarding our property, we are motivated to solve the problems and contribute more to the deliverable. The limits to participation are removed and there is a more rapid exposure of intentions and goals. Engagement and innovation can rule in this environment of deep collaboration.

Tim Berners-Lee said that he was able to achieve the creation of the World Wide Web system because he didn’t have to ask permission or worry about violating someone’s copyright. We are creating the same environment for people who want to build our platform, and even for those who want to build their services and applications on top of the platform.

We are going to create the service enabled layer as open source as well so that any one of the companies can help proliferate the idea and everyone has influence and access to the development of the underlying IoT platform.  If it’s open source infrastructure and platform software, you can make a service on top of that software that can contain proprietary code. With our license, you can even customize and extend the platform for your own needs as a separate project.

Tom Vu (TV):  Describe your work with the EU IoT organization and how you are involved as a voice for the Internet of Things?

Michael Koster (MK):

I work with the IoT Architecture group within the overall EU Internet of Things project. The IoT-A group is closely related to the Future Internet project. They have an Architecture Reference Model describing different features one might build in an IoT platform, a sort of Architecture for Architectures. Since their process mirrors my own design process to a large extent, I found their reference model to be compatible with my own architecture modeling process.

They are conducting a Top-Down activity, stewarding the participation in the architecture and standardization model.  One of the ways I work with IoT-A is to use the Smart Object API as a validation case for the Architecture Reference Model. They are building the reference model top down, and we’re building the architecture bottom-up, based on a common expression of architecture relationships and descriptions.

I am also involved in advocating open source of IoT and building of local IoT demonstrator projects, educating around IoT, open data, etc. as well as user controlled resource access and privacy.  I am providing a voice for open source and open standards, into the standards movement going forward.

Here in the USA, there is not anything like what they have in Europe. Here the process will be to engage corporations and institutions and create a participatory structure that enables fair and open opportunity for influence and access to both the development process and the final products.

Tom Vu (TV):  How important is an open standard – building of an RFC in which all industries can agree upon ultimately serving to a wider scale factors of adoption and proliferation?

Michael Koster (MK):

To simply put it, the construction of a formal RFC is something that describes part of system.  A Request for Comments (RFC) is a memorandum published by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) describing methods, behaviors, research, or innovations applicable to the working of the Internet and Internet-connected systems.  It is a process or evolution in achieving a more widely adopted standard.  The founders of the Internet created this process, and http, etc are all built using original RFC process from many years ago.

Through the Internet Engineering Task Force, engineers and computer scientists may publish discourse in the form of an RFC, either for peer review or simply to convey new concepts, information, or (occasionally) engineering humor. The IETF adopts some of the proposals published as RFCs as Internet standards.

If the IoT Toolkit platform becomes adopted, it may eventually be as many as 10-12 different RFCs, but it’s important to get people to agree on common first set.  This is the initial phase into a more pervasively used universal standard.  In fact, it’s sort of like a strawman platform.  It’s intent is to describe and collaborate, but also invoke and seek out broader participation…  We are at the stage of putting proposals together over the next few weeks and setting up meetings to talk to many people around collaboration and participation in building an Internet of Things platform.

We believe that an open standard platform for horizontal interoperability is key to achieving the promise of the Internet of Things. Everyone needs to be able to present and process machine information in machine understandable formats on the IoT, just as we humans enjoy commonly understandable web data formats and standardized browsers on today’s WWW. It’s important that developers be able to focus on solving problems for their clients and not waste resources on communication and translation.

Read Part Three to Learn More about Why IoT (Internet of Things) Matters?

Here are Part 1 and Part 2 of the Interview Series.

A Pocket-Sized, Low-Power Ecosystem Makes Wi-Fi Easy

By Ingolf Leidert

Sensor networks are nothing brand new and even terms like “smart dust” have been around for a while. Many have envisioned a future where every technical entity around us will be “smart” in some way and is permanently connected to a huge network consisting of small sensors that help monitor and control our world. Usually, the large step into such a future vision is divided into several smaller steps. Obviously, one parameter seems to be essential for the small and smart sensors vision: the power consumption of such an entity. With the ATmegaRF SoC family, Atmel has introduced one of the lowest power IEEE 802.15.4 systems in the world. Its low power consumption combined with the full AVR microcontroller (MCU) capabilities makes networks built with lots of compact, low-power wireless sensors look more realistic now. One project that shows this perfectly is the Pinoccio.

Pinoccio is an open-source, crowd-funded solution that provides a complete ecosystem for building products supporting The Internet of Things. These small “scout” boards, compatible with the Arduino platform, come with everything a “smart, wireless, connected entity” would need:

  • LiPo battery (chargeable over USB)
  • LED
  • Temperature sensor
  • Antenna
  • Several I/Os for connecting DIY hardware (like more sensors)
  • And, as its “heart”, the Atmel ATmega128RFA1 with its excellent power consumption of less than 17mA when actively transmitting. The ATmega128RFA1 is pin-compatible with the new ATmegaRFR2 family…so perhaps we’ll see future “scout” boards in 64kB or 256kB versions. 

The developers have chosen that MCU explicitly for its low power and RF capabilities. And, as you can see from the estimated power specs, a sleeping scout board should be able to run for more than a year from one battery charge. Because the whole Pinoccio ecosystem includes a Wi-Fi board that finally connects all the tiny “scout” boards to an existing Wi-Fi infrastructure and even offers SD card data storage, this whole system looks like a wonderful first step into The Internet of  Things.