Internet of Things

"The Computer for 21st Century" does not have a keyboard or a monitor.  Ubiquitous computing is arriving as the Internet of Things (IoT), transparently embedded in everyday devices in your home and in your city.   M. Weiser from Xerox-PARC in 1991 envisioned "tabs" that we would always carry, now people live and sleep with their phones.  Data for connected devices will transform society at a scale even beyond the WWW.  All devices and the data they produce will come with a location using   GPS/GNSS and soon with ubiquitous indoor positioning.  Most devices will include network accessible sensors, a vision seen in 2001 by Mike Botts:  “In much the same way that the HTML and HTTP enabled WWW, OGC Sensor Web Enablement (SWE) will allow Sensor Webs to become a reality.”  

Business investments by major information technology companies have been preparing for IoT.  CISCO observed that “in 2008, the number of devices connected to the Internet exceeded the number of people on Earth.  By 2020, there will be 50 billion devices connected.”   General Electric anticipates the Internet of things to give $10-15 trillion boost to global economy.  Hexagon sees a redefining of the geospatial industry by dynamically connecting the digital information world to the real world through sensors.  This ubiquitous vision has long been prophesied.  So how is that working out?

IoT is finally arriving and it’s bubbling up from the grassroots. While IT companies provide an institutional backbone, it is by making IoT personal that it will arrive.  Hackers now use increasingly inexpensive sensors and open source hardware to add intelligence to ordinary objects (Arduinos, Netduino, others).  Digital literates are connecting new devices to the internet and controlling them with their phones (Koubachi, NEST, Twine).  Cloud services let devices interact in unexpected ways (Cosm, Evrything,  “If This Then That” and more).  IoT has reached the “Apple II stage”  - when a new technology finally becomes easy enough to use that people start using it for personal lives.    The smartphone ecosystem makes is easy for users to intuitively control devices by using a familiar interface.  One quagmire is that adding a device to a home network and then connecting a smartphone to the device is now done differently by each vendor.  There is a need for open standards.

What benefits will IoT bring?  Large scale, ad hoc sensing networks using IoT will provide an unprecedented understanding of our environment.  Seismic monitoring, air pressure, air quality, noise and a myriad of other environmental variables will be recorded with a spatial density of measurements that will revolution our understanding and our ability to predict physical and social phenomena.  Using sensors on Android phones, pressureNET provides a global network of user-contributed atmospheric pressure readings which can lead to improved weather forecasting.  The Air Quality Egg is a community-led sensing network that gives people a way to understand the air quality in their community.  The EO2Heaven project has experimented with Air Quality Eggs and OGC standards.  The OGC SWE standards are will suited to bring large scale sensing to reality.  Many other opportunities are sketched out in the OECD Digital Economy Paper:  “Machine-to-Machine Communications: Connecting Billions of Devices."

OGC's developments aim to achieve the vision of an "Open IoT".   Interoperability of IoT devices based on open standards will be required to meet the vision of IoT.  Based on a series of workshops, OGC members chartered development of a Sensor Web for IoT standard.  OGC’s existing standards for location information and sensor observations are the basis for this work.  OGC’s Sensor Web Enablement (SWE) provides a rich basis for this new development. Two implementations from OGC members – TinySOS and SenseBox – provide implementation experience for this new standard.  The OGC Sensor Web for IoT will enable many IoT applications based on sensors.  Through liaisons with other standards organizations, participating in research projects, monitoring commercial developments and meet ups, OGC is realizing the vision of an Open IoT that fully realizes the value of location information.