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.
TV: 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?
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
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/