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Sunday
Aug232015

Resource Frameworks for the Internet of Things

The first wave of the Internet of Things (IoT) was widespread but disorganized. SCADA operated nearly every industrial process, and was proprietary and the network rarely left the building. Power grid sensors and telemetry, if available, only extended to the substation. Home Security systems bundled sensors and a hardware-based app to provide fixed functionality. Building systems moved slowly off of pneumatics and onto digital controls. Hobbyists built apps on X10, but they enjoyed the making as much as the function. Over all of them, security was non-existent.

The second wave was the Internet of Sensors—thousands and thousands of sensors. These sensors were typically carefully placed. The meaning of the sensors came from the deliberate placement and recording of metadata.  Some of this was encoded in SensorML, but few sensors could describe themselves.  There were limited if intriguing demonstrations of sensors that could describe their locations, typically in the interoperability demonstrations of the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC). Wearable sensors were identified types that gained meaning through the person that wore them.

During the second wave, the low level descriptions were standardized in some domains. BACnet and LON and KNX identified standardized communications in buildings.  OPC, which began as OLE for Process control, matured into more robust protocols. OBIX normalized the base of communications to read, change, and interact with control systems. Higher level vertical smokestack ontologies such as MIMOSA saw limited acceptance.

The second wave began to transition to the next wave with efforts to homogenize systems and guide them through central control. One-size-fits-all cloud applications were the standard. The energy Standard Energy Profiles (SEP) treated all home systems as commodities, with identical energy use and minimal involvement of those who owned the systems. This created its own risks, as the fan and ducts for fume hoods, office cooling, and biohazard labs are all identical form distance. In homes, these were unpopular because most people do not want to cede control over their personal spaces and possessions to third parties.

The third wave will be built on Apps of Things, and ontologies based on composite semantics of sensors. The pervasive availability of the AllJoyn platform, as multi-platform open source, and now as a core component of Windows 10 will enable the wide development of Apps for Things. The Smart Television Alliance will soon bring its own App platform into consumer electronics and smart phones. The larger applications already in existence, for large building operations and the like, will gain some App characteristics.

Apps, as we know them on our smart phones, can be thought of as re-collecting and re-purposing feature sets for novel purposes. You may have a dozen apps on your phone that make use of the GIS functions and the SMS functions available. A sensor on a system component of your Smart Kitchen App may be used by an Aging at Home App to alert near-by relatives. Smart laundry systems already sends text when you can move clothes to the dryer. Smart EV chargers with their own storage may plan their strategies by consulting other Apps in the home.

More and more I think of Apps as the Device Drivers for the Internet of Things. My first commercial microcomputer app was a bubble sort that incorporated explicit memory mapping, explicit disk IO, and even disk head activity into a single hot mess of assembly code. It was a great relief to let the disc activity go as we got enough memory to support drivers, and later to stop moving blocks of memory around within business code. The first SCSI drives moved the disk IO out of the CPU and onto the device. RAID controllers are Apps that manage both IO optimization and fault recovery. Today the IO is off on network attached storage, with the technology optimization incorporated into the storage service. There are some conversations about using transactive frameworks to manage multi-application and multi-system allocation of storage services.

A growing challenge of overall efficiency is managing the interactions between these quite different Apps. A highly efficient dishwasher may reduce an instant hot water heater to the inefficiency of a peaker plant. Resource smoothing is of growing importance, not just for electric power, and not just to incorporate distributed energy. Resource frameworks, at the App level, can be a big part of that. This is why the Energy Mashup Lab joined the AllSeen Alliance—the cross-industry group pressing for wide adoption of the AllJoyn platform.

I will write more about the resource frameworks, from smart energy (EMIX) to the BIM for O&M (COBie), from UNITY to the Classification of Everyday Living (COEL). Come and see me at TechIntersection in Monterrey, California in mid-September (http://ow.ly/QSKGp), use my code CONSIDINE for a $50 Discount.

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