IoT Experiments

Ok, so having thought, read and talked about IoT for a few years now in a professional context, now I REALLY want to work out some personal Internet of Things ideas and experiments myself. So let’s get it started! Basically I need 4 ingredients, (1) An internet connection (2) A laptop with programming environment (3) A microcontroller and (4) A Thing to connect to the internet.

Preparations
Well the first two ingredients are simple, I have a fast Ziggo internet connection and as for the laptop, I use my office laptop (that is not a fancy Mac but a 2kg rock solid Dell Latitude E5500, I call it “the monster” geh geh). It has Visual Studio 2012 Express Edition (free) on it. Maybe I will upgrade to professional some day but for the time being Express works just fine.

Then the microcontroller. Ah, here it get’s difficult! Shall I buy an Arduino or a Netduino board (.Net based) microcontroller. This is called the Arduino vs Netduino dilemma. After some reading and consideration I chose te Netduino for a few reasons. First of all through Visual Studio I have much better debugging options (even in the code running on the Netduino) and ability to program in C# using de .NET Micro Framework, which makes things a bit easier to begin with. Last but not least the Netduino is more powerful than the Arduino. Maybe in the future I will change to Arduino, depending on my experience with the Netduino. The only disadvantage is that the community around Netduino is much smalle (but growing… at least with 1 recently ;-)

The third ingredient I need is of course a THING to connect to the internet. I’m going to build that myself (I’m a maker after all eh ;-). Time to dust off all that good old Technic Lego which I haven’t touched for about 25 years. I really want to use that old 9V Lego motor as an acutator for something. By the way, evertything you always wanted to know about Lego motors you find here (although… the model I have is not listed, maybe I have a collectors item here). It has a different voltage as the Netduino (5V), so I will have to see how it will run.

I went to my parents recently to get the Lego. All the Lego parts were still in that big unorganized box I used to dig in to find the parts I needed. These days I’m a bit more structured so first thing I did was to sort the parts nicely… but when finished I thought where is my Lego motor?! I figured it might be with my brother, and indeed he found it somewhere in his house.

The Design
This summer holiday I bought this happy thing in Budapest Hungary this summer.It has a spring and when you move it up and down, the froggy bounces happily. Let’s make this an Internet of Things thingy!

What I want to do is to take the Lego motor and build some mechanism with imitates my up-and-down hand motion. For this I want to implement one of the mechanical engineering tricks from this brilliant movie Mechanical Principles (1930) by Ralph Steiner.

My ultimate goal here is to make the thing Twitter-controlled. The idea is that when I send a tweet to e.g. @GreenFroggy, the motor will run for a few seconds and the frog starts to bounce up and down. Additionally I could add a light tickertape thingy or a seven segment display so that I can see who’s tweeting, that would be AWEsome wouldn’t it ;-). Below some rough ideas for the mechanism.

Ok, I have the ingredients, I have a design… Now it’s time to start building and programming (next blog).

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On 4th of July I was invited by Juha van ‘t Zelfde of VURB to give a presentation on Geographical aspects of the Internet of Things at the Visible Cities meetup event Amsterdam. Visible Cities is a long-running evening (since 2009) on cities in the age of ubiquitous networks. Visible Cities is organised by VURB, in collaboration with De Verdieping and Stad-Forum. It is made possible with generous support from the Amsterdamse Fonds voor de Kunt and the Stimuleringsfonds voor de Architectuur.

It was nice that Willem could join me and contributed to the discussion after the presentation on subjects like artificial intelligence and face recognition. There were also interesting presentations from Matt Jones from BERG, London (via Skype) and Matt Cottam from TELLART, Amsterdam. Matt showed some really interesting IoT projects, I particularly liked the Blue Dot|Mono marketing stunt involving GPS tracking of designer chairs.

Inall, it was a very nice evening with great discussions on Geo, IoT and smart cities!

 

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OpenIoT Assembly London

On Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th I attended the OpenIoT Assembly Conference in London (http://openiotassembly.com). There was a mixed group of supernerdy programmers, IoT entrepeneurs, electronica specialists, venture capitalists, startup gurus, and 2 geospatial specialists ( Christine Perey of OGC and myself ;-)) talking about IoT and open (sensor) data. Everybody brought his or her specific expertise to the table and that lead to really interesting discussions on technology, philosophy, privacy, business models, etc.

The conference was held at Google campus, 5 Bonhill St EC2A London. The campus is close to the London financial district. It’s located in a part of an old industrial building.

Primary goals of the conference were:

  1. Meet and discuss with thought leaders, practitioners and government bodies around the growing field of “Internet of Things”
  2. Contribute to the Open Internet of Things Document discussion
  3. Participate in workshops where the community will share their concerns and vision for the Open Internet of Things
  4. Create & endorse the finalized Open Internet of Things Document at & after the event

My personal goals were to meet other people who think and dream about Internet of Things and creating awareness on the role of Geospatial technology in the Internet of Things.

Saturday 16th june
In the morning I atttended the session about The City. In the afternoon the session about Tools (flipped in the scedule).

There were interesting discussion about who owns data observed and measured by things. Observer versus the Subject of observation. This is an old problem, someone takes a picture from you, who is the owner of the picture? The person who owns the camera that takes the picture or the person whose picture is taken (portrait rights…). Another example, the government installs sensors and camera’s in the city, observing your geluid, beeld, positie, and in the future maybe your gewicht, volume, clothing choice, etc.). What are the rights of the observed people? If you demand that you don’t want to be monitored, it’s technically almost impossible to filter you out from the observations. Or the government puts a dome camera in front of your house (public space). Now the operators can see when you leave the house (face detection…). They can even zoom in through your window (private space)… This will happen because it’s technically possible. You se these kind of disscussions already with Google Streetview images. People demand to be blurred. Sometimes blurring of faces is sufficient, in other countries streetview is forbidden because of privacy concerns. Culture and laws differ per country on these matters.

There were also discussions on the definition of a “thing”. Things can be nanoscale or mesoscale (lamp, car, house) or megascale (ship, oil rig…). Largee things consist of many (vele) individual parts (also things) which are connected or part of the larger thing. A pipeline (thing) is made of pipe parts (things). Every thing takes it’s own position in space and time. The pipeline part is part of the pipeline and inherits basically the features of the pipeline. A house (thing) consists of stones, a stone can contain a sensor, etc. The lead to all kinds of interesting philosophical discussions.

Alle things can be made “smart” in the sense that they can be provided with sensors and/or actuators and then connected to the internet. With the current developments in nanotechnology, miniaturisation will lead to the situation that sensors and actuators become invisible. If we would register those things with exact x,y,z coordinates then you can see where they are using augmented reality glasses. Maybe there should be such a register and maybe an obligations to register things in public space to prevent BB situations. The register should be available through openc APIs. The Tools group came with the following statement regarding this subject:

“We should be able to physically or virtually touch a thing and then it reveals what it’s doing (sensing, actuating) and where the data goes (where and how long is it stored, how is it used, how can I access that data)”

Important is also the notion that most capabilities evolve from a combination or group (“family”) of things working together. Adam Greenfield: “A capability can sometimes only be established by a combination of things working together, e.g. poller + sensor + lamp + camera = access control system.

Unconference track over GEO en IoT
During the IoT conferences I attend I always notice there is a bit of a knowledge gap on the geospatial aspects of IoT. People are often not aware of geographical principes like geofences, possibilities of spatial queries and geodatabases. But location plays a major role in the IoT, in my vision it’s actually an vital aspect (next to time and causality). From my geo background I always try to create awareness on geospatial principles (I consider myself a geo-evangelist ;-). That’s why I gave a presentation in an unconference track on Geospatial aspects of IoT together with Christine Perey from OGC (a geo buddy :-). It was really nice to see that we could really give some new insights to the listeners on geospatial technology and standards (e.g. the OGC SWE standards), things like geofences en spatial queries, etcetera.

Sunday 17th june 2012
In the morning there were some keynotes and a panel discussion. Russell Davies had a cool presentation (e.g. with chrismas lighting on a house used as VU meters http://youtu.be/NI6-d8NOtc8).

In the afternoon we were working in groups on the Open IoT Bill of Rights (see also http://prezi.com/o_baykk9bc3-/internet-of-things-bill-of-rights). I attended the Core Framework discussion. Because of the many contexts, use cases and viewpoints it’s really difficult to formulate an overarching Bill of Rights. Further there was no consensus whether it should be a Bill of Rights at all, or guidelines or a vision or something else; To Be Continued…

Project showcases
Sunday at the end of the day there was some time in the scedule for showing real Internet of Things things. A number of people presented their projects, see the examples below.

The Bubblino was my personal favorite, It makes bubbles when you send a tweet to @bubblino.

The Goodnightlamp is a family of interconnected lamps. When you switch on the large lamp, the smaller ones (which you can give to family and friends) also switch on as well, a really cool concept.

Conclusion
It was a very intense and extremely inspirering weekend. I had many interesting conversations, new ideas and viewpoints. It was nice to present something on geospatial technology and create awareness on this important aspect of IoT. More on this conference you can find on the Twitter feed #OpenIOT.

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KNUT – a new way to connect stuff to the internet

Today I cam across this Kickstarter project called KNUT. It’s a small device to which you can connect up to 8 sensors. It periodically reads these sensors and sends of the data via your local WiFi network to an email box.

The project is aimed at developing KNUT into a project that will sell for around $100 for a basic unit without any sensors (except perhaps for an internal temperature sensor, but details are a bit sketchy). The sensors they will sell upon release are temperature, humidity, accelerometer (3-axis), Reed sensor and a water presence sensor. What’s great is that the unit comes with a breakout board so you can hookup your own stuff.

My personal feeling about KNUT that this is EXACTLY the type of product that we want to see more of. The easier to connect stuff to the internet the better! What I like is that it comes with both an Iphone and Android app to view your data. What I don’t like is the price point. For this type of capability you should be able to produce a much cheaper unit. So I am incredibly curious about the technical details. My hands are itching to take this baby apart.

At first I was exited enough to go out and buy this unit (or fund the project). On second thought I wont. It’s too expensive and I already have couple of idea’s on how to improve on this concept. Watch this blog for how that will play out :)

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Build your own wireless IP camera

Build your own wireless IP camera

Build your own wireless IP camera

Ingredients

    You'll need the following skills:
  • - Know how to work with Linux from the command line
  • - Be a able to solder (not required if you can find the right jumper cables)
  • - Be able to program Ansi C
  • So this project might not be for the beginning IoT-Maker. But I'll make the software available for those who do not want to program themselves.
  • Now on to the Bill of Materials:
  • 1x PIR sensor SB0081 (available from Futerlec): 5.2 EUR
  • 2x Webcams Trust Invido (available almost everywhere): 8.90 EUR
  • 2x USB hubs Trust Vecco (available almost everywhere): 5.95 EUR
  • 1x Sweex LW053 : 8.80 EUR
  • 1x 4GB usb memory stick : 5 EUR
  • 1x Bifferboard low power PC-on-a-Module : 45 EUR
  • Total cost: 93,70 Eur
http://www.iot-maker.nl/?p=424

I’ve been wanting to write a post about this for a long time now. So let’s dive into it:

If you are away from home for a longer period (say a vacation) or you spend a lot of time at work. It is convenient if you could look into your home from a distance, just to keep tabs on things. Wireless IP camera’s are perfect for this purpose.

A Wireless IP camera connects to your home network through Wi-Fi and allows you to login from the internet to look at the feed. Some camera’s also have motion detection and e-mail you a snapshot or uploads it to an FTP server. Looking around on the web I see these camera’s available for 80,- euro’s or more.

There are some different types. Some are pan/tilt camera’s which allow you to change the orientation of the camera remotely:

Of course the lower end camera’s are fixed and do not have advanced features such as infrared sensitivity and motion detection.

I started building my own wireless IP camera because of three motivations:

  1. I noticed how cheap webcams are today and realized that it would be easy to make your own custom wireless webcam and fun too!
  2. I was appalled at the resolution of these available cameras and thought I could do that better.
  3. I am interested in building low-power low-cost internet connected devices.

And ofcourse it would be nice if the end-result is usable too :)

We’ll be making a camera that:

  • Has wireless access to your home network (so you only need to plug it into a power socket and need not worry about any other wires)
  • Can detect motion and make a snapshot when there is something to see
  • Will send you mail when motion is detected
  • Saves images on a local USB stick (for easy viewing)
  • Saves images on a remote cloud service (photobucket), so even if someone takes the USB stick out, you’ll still have the images
  • Works both in daytime and in the evening/nighttime taking infrared pictures
  • consumes very little energy approx. 1 watt
  • Is completely open-hardware and software so you can make it work exactly as you want.

On to the actual making… (continue on next page)

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Talking about IoT on WherecampEU unconference 2012

Last weekend I attended the WherecampEU unconference 2012. I had a 30min time slot to talk about Sensorweb and IoT. I touched general concepts like sensors, actuators and event stream processing. The photo shows my favorite picture to explain the diversity of the IoT concept. I also showed the IoT movie.

 

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The Internet of Things Movie

This movie I made some time ago. It shows all kinds of aspects of the Internet of Things like sensors, actuators, networks, hardware, software, protocols, data centers, controlcenters, etc. The IoT opens fascinating new possibilities, but let’s keep in mind that everything is hackable… All the things that you see in this movie can and will fall in the wrong hands and then it’s getting a little scary… Keep this in mind while building the Internet of Things!

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