Thursday, November 25, 2010

Internet of Things: first, there have to be plans…

GIOTC (see for pictures) brought me to Beijing. Compared to Shanghai (I visited earlier this year) Beijing feels much more relaxed, less high-rise, wider spread, less crowed and by far older. The conference took place just next to the remarkable buildings from Olympia 2008.

Zhong Qi, chairman of the Chinese RFID alliance open the conference by emphasizing the importance of the internet of things as a vehicle for growth after financial crisis. As the US have promoted Smart Earth, Europe the IoT development plan [1], South-Korea the u-Korea initiative [2] and Japan the i-Japan program [3], the prime minister of China has identified the Internet of Things as one of the seven key technologies for China. China can build upon the Golden Card project [4], which involves the 940 million ID cards, 2.7 billion banking cards, health insurance cards which adds up to a total of 7 billion RFID-based smart cards in China and suddenly put China 3rd after US and UK. China strongly believes in developing their own technologies and standards while simultaneously recognizing openness and international cooperation as key parameters to success. According to Qi, the growth rate of RFID in China was at 35% throughout the last years.

Florent Frederix from the European Commission motivated the Internet of Things with the on-going trends of miniaturization, mobility, pervasiveness and sensors. He referred to the work being conducted in the funded iot-research cluster focusing on logistics, supply-chain, retail, green buildings, green cars and ehealth. As a counterpart to China’s 12 year development plan he outlined the EU’s IoT action plan [1] which defines governance, privacy, silence of chips, security, standards, public private partnerships, smart cities, informed consumers and IT waste as major steps to be worked on.

Philip Cousin presented the EU-China expert group as a first attempt to exchange ideas on architectures, naming concepts and protocols in EU and China. Zou Liu from the Ministry of Communications, Science and Technology and Gao Yanjie from the Ministry of Health reported about achievements and goals in their divisions. It would have been really interesting to learn more specifics about their learnings and their pilots they have performed.

David Boswarthick from ETSI instead mentioning specific business cases or scenarios motivated the emergence of the IoT by the saturation of mobile market (as everybody already has at least one cell phone…), the opportunity of not networked 50-70 billion machines, and the emerging legislation demanding smart systems. He described the development of the Internet of Things as a step-by-step development process which should be also replicated in the corresponding standardization efforts. The requirements of the ETSI platform he outlined as a technology-agnostic multi-purpose service platform providing machine to machine services in an end-to-end fashion while re-using existing standards.

Liu Jianming from the national power provider State Grid impressed me with the astonishing number of 1.6 million employees in his company. Kang Lee from NIST presented the standardization activities in RFID and sensors networks from the US perspective. Wu Donya from CESI promoted OID as China’s open numbering scheme, frankly, looking quite similar to the EPC framework. It's rather questionable how this (old) approach could successfully build upon old legacy [5] being designed for unix machines instead of resource-constrained RFID tags.

Finally, I could talk (slides) about the importance of not limiting the IoT to business corporations but to include the consumer and to provide service for the everyday use. I gave some examples of our work about and and Product Empire. In various discussion I later had offline I was confronted with questions about how brand owners would react about bad comments on their products being spammed by fake users of their competitors. I was told several times that our approach might work in Europe but not in the harsh environment of China where competitors might try everything for fighting each other.

It was very refreshing when Michael Dohler from World Sensing challenged the unbelievable numbers of business research agencies creating hypes and heating up markets. He specifically took the example of 7 trillion networked devices (see how this wrong number travels the world, 140k hits on google!) predicted by WWRF for 2017, which would mean about 10.000 nodes per square meter on earth… He mentioned that the technologies for IoT are basically there, the tricky part would be the optimization for data rate, range and power consumption. He proposed to break up with the old thinking of separated communication layers but to design for bi-directional communication instead: "I talk to my sensors, the sensors can also talk to me.". Finally, he disclosed his approach of not only selling components but bundling them with services and then co-leveraging with big players. Big players, he mentioned IBM, are already established in the market and speak the language of the clients, nobody is interested in sensor data…

In the final panel discussion of day one about future perspectives and challenges, both Chinese and European participants either referred to expert groups or to work reports which would provide the answers soon. While in Europe the funding schemes of the European Commission are remarkable (just outreached by the vast amounts of funding the 14 ministries bear in China!), for natural and sustainable growth in our economies we still need to watch out for real problems and pains which are not found in the scenarios use case sections of work reports...

Next day, Girgio Priester from the Smart Cities initiative motivated the need cities to invest into infrastructure, human capital and, additionally, also in new technologies. He reported about the municipal wi-fi mashup in Barcelona which provides municipal workers (police, inspectors, social workers) with communication. He also mentioned networked parking meters, public lighting optimization and informative panels. This would all sum up in savings of 400kEur/year. Venice was another example. There, a multi-purpose smartcard would allow to use transport, bicycles, museum entries for 90.000 residents and 22 million visitors. The vision is to apply dynamic pricing to distribute the tourists more efficiently over the year. It was not quite clear how this RFID pilot on the old continent does really link to Internet of Things.

Prof.Sangchan Park from Kyung Hee University really contrasted these pilot with not just one but 20 "u-city"'s currently being build in Korea aiming at public services, eco-friendly areas, and promoting u-city as a new lifestyle of the future. While all projects are very much technology-driven the extend, pace, and size is really breath-taking (e.g. Songdo).

Alvaro de Oliveira from living labs in Europe summarized on real-life test and experimentation environments in Europe where users and producers co-create innovations. Living Labs have been characterised by the European Commission as Public-Private-People Partnerships (PPPP) for user-driven open innovation, but not going much beyond pilots.

I perceived it a little foolish when the successes of the future cities and living labs in Europe were praised as IoT success stories. Compared to the mega project in Asia (which yet have to prove their success not to become another Masdar!) they are, if at all, first seeds of the beginning of networked RFID (see also another comment here).

Ramjee Prasad, Devasis Bandyopahdyay, Geir Koien and presented about security and privacy. The tradeoffs between security and comfort, the long-term perspective of privacy, and also the dynamics changing notions of privacy. Looking at the younger generation today: what George Orwell was afraid of the big brother could watch, the digital natives voluntarily shout to cyberspace without any purpose...

Usman Haque from Pachube called for a very pragmatic approach of deriving standards: forming them through gradual implementation. He proposed to be as flexible as you can, make as simple as possible to share data, to include context, to support multiple protocols & adapters, to not sumarize data, but to maintain single points, to help individuals manage data, and to
help companies, cities to provide service. He summarized that as extreme data sharing. He sees the role of pachube to "pipes for the internet o
f things" and to reduce friction to build things for others. He bases his business models on high volume service that pay, while the masses could use this service for free. After his talk, he just disappeared in the crowd of people asking for his business card.
Zhang Jianning from Z-Park was talking about the success of virtual good sellers in China and reminded the audience to thoroughly seek to understand the internet of things and not just running along the hypecycle.
Chen Xianxing from LSD Science and Technology was just going in this direction by pretty
directly promoting his company's wireless devices as well suited for the Internet of Things.
Peng Haixing f
rom Huawei reported about the importance of the IoT from the perspective of network solutions provider.

The final panel discussion concluded that IoT would be more succesful in Europe and Asia due to the strong believe in infrastructure there. I would call this rather sellfish, at least there was no representative from the US participating in this panel. Jusgt to mention that it was the Auto-ID Center at MIT coining the term Internet of Things (see here), it were the giants wallmart and DoD deploying RFID, just look at RFIDJournal for the latest stories. But indeed, I don't see the the big funding schemes for IoT either. Perhaps it's more about top-down (Europe and Asia) or bottom up (USA), e.g. IBM's smarter planet is right on track.

Overall, GIOTC has been a very exciting event for again feeling the power and enthusiasm in China for the Internet of Things. Due to China's scale and its long-term perspective of plans combined with the pace and the once-decided-irreversible-will to implement we could expect large scale IoT implementations, not just pilots, very soon. Whether this will be successfull has yet to be found out.Thus, China should be an exciting environment to work in for the upcoming years.

I was also very happy to feel the spirit of the crazy IoT gang, Rob van Kranenburg, Usman Haque and Mischa Dohler. To be continued!

[1] Commission of the European Communities (2009-06-18). "Internet of Things — An action plan for Europe"

[2] u-Korea Masterplan, 2006

[3] i-Japan Strategy 2015, 2010

[4] China RFID Whitepaper

[5] X.660 : Information technology - Open Systems Interconnection - Procedures for the operation of OSI Registration Authorities: General procedures and top arcs of the ASN.1 Object Identifier tree (link)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

It's not a bug, it's a feature: measuring rain fall through signal disturbances of mobile phone networks

Heavy rain floods canals and streets. Gaining more knowledge about rainfall would allow to more effectively manage canalization systems.
The Swiss Eawag analyzes the signal quality between radio towers of mobile network operators for that purpose. Due to the fine-grain deployment of mobile networks they claim to achieve more accurate measurements than the coarsely deployed weather stations can do. Comparing the data of 23 cell towers with 13 rain weather stations over a period of two months they could calibrate their system and derive rainfall from signal disturbance. Find details in German here.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The default setting is: public

I am a big fan "Professor Tarantogas Sprechstunde", a story from Stanislaw Lem, which describes self-announced inventors and visioners stealing the time of the poor Professor Tarantoga. Then, two "Antecepists" drop by who have developed a revolutionary concept for the fortune of human man kind. This arouses the professors' interest...

My interest got aroused about The Quantified Self. Peter Drucker's credo "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it." gets a twist towards
If you can't measured it, you haven't done it!

Facebook updates and Tweets are only a pretty rough estimation of what we are up to. What if we can quantify that...scary? Maybe, but it's already happening, this is where I have been quantified so:
Then, there are these tracking devices people use to do sports (nike sports plus, nokia sportstracker, fitbit etc.). These devices also feed to twitter.
Why not capturing all these and putting into one place, a facebook for quantified activities, a pachube for personal tracking. It's there:

A quantt (notice the double t) is a simple way of describing human effort in social network status messages like Twitter and Facebook. It takes the form of:

#verb:value(optional unit) eg. #run:8miles (see

A nice way of how the quantified self can directly feedback for personal improvement is this meditation assistant:

Beer van Geer - Project Dagaz from Quantified Self Amsterdam on Vimeo.

Privacy was yesterday, the default is public? Let's see, it's not the big brother, it's our big ego this time watching us...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Call for Participation: Visit IoT2010 and register now!

############ IoT2010 | Call for Participation ############

Tokyo - Internet of Things (IoT 2010), a three-day public conference, gathers leading researchers from academia and industry to elaborate on the major themes of the emerging Internet of Things. On November 29, 2010 focused workshops and tutorials feature in a pre-conference program. On the two following days, researchers and industrial practitioners meet and present talks and keynotes in front of an expected audience of 300 visitors.

For more information about the event, refer to the flyer

or the event website at

Registration for IoT 2010 is open!

The Conference Programme is now available!

2nd International Internet of Things Conference (IoT 2010), November 29 - December 1, 2010, Tokyo, Japan

IoT for a Green Planet

This 3-day conference in Tokyo is organized by Auto-ID Labs (Keio University, ETH Zurich & University of St. Gallen and Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and supported by the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, European Commission, T-Engine Forum/Ubiquitous ID Center and WIDE Project.

Important Facts


- 28 Full Papers (26.9% acceptance rate)

- 13 Demos

- 6 Invited Workshops

- 5 Open Workshops

- 6 Videos

- Special Workshop on International Trade

- Special Round Table on IoT for a Green Planet

- 5 Exhibit stands (IBM, NTT Laboratories, Unicom, Mitsui, Keio University)

Important Dates


- Workshops, Roundtable: November 29, 2010

- Main Conference Dates: November 30 - December 1, 2010

Keynote Speakers


Norishige Morimoto

- Director, IBM Research - Tokyo

Patrick Wetterwald

- President, IPSO Alliance and Manager, Advanced Technologies, Cisco Systems, Inc.



General Chairs

- Jun Murai (Keio University)

Program Chairs:

- Florian Michahelles (ETH Zurich/ St. Gallen)

- Jin Mitsugi (Keio University)



IoT2010 2010 is supported by IBM, Cisco, TOPPAN, NTT docomo, SOUM Corporation

Conference Scope and Description


The Internet of Things Conference 2010 ( will explore the technical requirements and business challenges to address today's societal challenges with IoT technology: health monitoring systems to support the aging society, distributed awareness to help predict natural disasters and react more appropriately, track & trace to help reduce traffic congestion, product lifetime information to improve recyclability, transparency of transportation to reduce carbon footprint, and more insights into various kinds of processes to improve optimization. This conference will continue the success of the International Internet of Things Conference 2008 in Zurich and will put a dedicated focus on the IoT infrastructure and applications, facilitating environmental responsibility, an "IoT for a Green Planet".



Original research and technical papers not published elsewhere focusing on some the following topics (but not limited to) will be presented:

- Green by Internet of Things / Green of Internet of Things Technology

- Design of future sustainable technologies linking the physical and virtual world

- Novel services and applications to facilitate environmental responsibility

- Emerging Internet of Things business models and process changes

- Communication systems and network architectures for the IoT

- Experience reports from the introduction and operation of networked things in areas such as healthcare, logistics & transport

- Emerging applications and interaction paradigms for everyday citizens

- Social impacts and consequences, such as security, privacy, opportunities and risks

- Smart Objects

Panel @PhoneSense 2010: Business Aspects of PhoneSensing

Andrew Campbell has invited me to organize a Panel about Business Aspects of PhoneSensing at the PhoneSense Workshop held in conjunction with Sensys 2010 in Zurich (slides).
I invited Roman Bleichenbacher (codecheck), Samuel Mueller (MiraSense), Michael Wehrmeyer (Mammut Sport group) and Juha Laurila (Nokia Research Center Lausanne) to join the panel which took place in the lovely forest house of ETH Zurich.

First of all, there was a strong consensus among the panelists that contextual relevance of services is an important asset mobile users are highly appreciating. Furthermore, it became pretty obvious that most commercial services today are only presenting information selected based on sensor-input, e.g. location. The actual collection of data from users, as largely discussed as participatory and opportunistic sensing is not taking place yet. Thus, terms of privacy and ownership of data are just not relevant yet.
Additionally, the most used sensors today is still the camera: be it for barcode-reading or augmented reality applications.

The expectations of the panelists from the researchers were: development of open sensor data sharing platforms, more accurate mobile augmented reality frameworks, and a better understanding of how mobile applications are actually being used as part of daily routines and tasks, how users select apps, and to which apps they actually return. It also remained unclear whether the current trend of walling services into apps will prevail, or whether mobile websites are coming back as soon as sensing can be integrated, e.g. HTML5.

Mobile Monday: Trends in Japan

I could attend the Mobile Monday in Zurich which had the topic Trends in Japan. Koji Fukada, President of YUMENI Inc., gave a tele-presentation live from Japan. He emphasized the importance of social networks on mobile networks, yielding fives times more users than accessing these services from desktop computers. I also liked the twitter-wallr being projected next to the slides where some people from audience did a pretty good job in posting summarizing life tweets of the talks...

Second Daniel Scuka, former editor of Mobikyo claimed in his talk that the mobile business success in Japan is not due to the unique user culture, instead it's the unique competitive culture in the business environment and regulatory regulations. The different carriers were competing not just on services but also using different communication technologies. This has fostered much more innovation than in Europe (see also here for details about this talk). I especially like table the showing "innovations" of the iphone having been released before.
Finally there was the talk of Jan Michael Hess, founder of MobileEconomy. He was reporting about the success of Felica and deriving lessons for Europe. He was a proclaiming Japan being six years ahead. However, what I didn't was the trick he was playing: taking the huge number of wireless payment and assuming that all of those would use this technology on their phones while there wireless cards being used in Japan as well.

Overall, I was pretty impressed from what we can learn from Japan. However, we also have to be careful to consider and understand ecosystem: I'm pretty convinced that the success of mobile internet in Japan largely depends also on the long commuting distances. Japanese often commute an hour and more to work using public transport where making calls is strongly forbidden. So, people have to do something else with their phones...gaming, web surfing, social networking.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Workshop report "What Can the Internet of Things Do for the Citizen?" released

A few months ago we have organized the CIoT workshop at Pervasive 2010. Together with 25 participants we discussed mobile applications using Twitter and Facebook to facilitate urban interactions, opportunities for user innovation, as well as changing perceptions of privacy.
Throughout the workshop, we asked the participants to think of issues and aspects relating to citizens and IoT write them on sticky notes. The entire group then organized the notes and clustered them into topics. The resulting clusters were crowd-sourcing, system design, business models, and privacy. As a consensus we derived that research should not only on development but also on deployment in order to evaluate the use of systems.
For more details see our workshop report in the current issue of IEEE Pervasive Computing [1].

[1] What Can the Internet of Things Do for the Citizen? Workshop at Pervasive 2010, F. Michahelles, S. Karpischek, A. Schmidt. IEEE Pervasive Computing, vol. 9, no. 4, pp. 102-104, Oct.-Dec. 2010, [PDF, doi:10.1109/MPRV.2010.88].

Monday, September 27, 2010

Ubicomp in the large

Finally, there was a workshop organized by MobileLifeCentre which I considered really important: how to conduct ubicomp in the large considering all these app stores and mobile devices...

First the participants had 3-5 minutes to briefly report about their work and experience with ubicomp in the large. Examples ranged from social soccer fan apps [1] to architecture planning [2] and public displays [3]. Myself I briefly introduced Appaware but quickly realized that most of the people already knew about it when they showed it to me on their phones.

During the second part of the workshop we had a lively discussion about
  • how to get users?
  • how to keep control of the quality of the results?
  • which research questions suitable to be investigated in the large?
Most importantly, the apps to be distributed have to create some value for the users, be it a game or a productivity app. Hitting the blogosphere is great which is probably best achieved by a well-designed app.
Keeping control of the data quality probably is a tricky one as we do not know who the users actually are: a bunch of people with nicknames. This might overcome by linking facebook profiles to the app, but this requires some added-value functionality of the app justifying this link. Throughout the discussions we found out that with every question we add to an embedded questionaire we limit and design the target group of users: only a subsets likes to answer - pure self-selection. Giving rewards and payment might be an incentive, but this again also incentivizes another special subset of users. There is probably nothing to be done than to try to capture as much information as possible from the users which has to be done in a transparent way with opt-out.
Finally, we struggled about why doing research in the large at all?
Reason were: because it matters more, gets closer to reality, finds unexpected uses, promotes the own lab, creates longer lasting results, gives something back to the public, yields more justified statistics...
In order to distinguish from pure app developments there should be a research question beyond simply finding out whether the crowd would accept a certain app.

I'm looking forward to the special issue following up on this topics soon to appear in IJMHCI.
Thanks to Henriette Cramer, Nicolas Belloni, Mattias Rost, Frank Bentley and Didier Chincholle for this great workshop!

Monday, August 30, 2010

NFC is back!?

I was just glad to see several reports praising the opportunities of NFC and documenting activities of several players that suddenly recognize NFC: the mobile network operators AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile have started to test NFC according to Bloomberg, the online payments giant PayPal has partnered with Bling to implement payment, Facebook is experimenting with RFID according to AllFaceBook, Apple has hired an NFC expert and acquired several patents to implement NFC into the upcoming iphone 5 as TechCrunch reports, and new entrants as Google, Microsoft and others see NFC's advertising potential by linking a consumers' transaction history to their current location. Last but not least every "Nokia smartphone will have NFC, regardless of fact that the technology lacks a business model or any market demand", according to NFC World.

It would be great to deploy new consumer services current 1D-barcode applications are paving the road for and to revert on NFC which just provides a much better user experience than barcodes do [1]. Finally, we could move away from services where users deliberately have to scan items and arrive at services that push information to users once certain items enter the scanning range.

Back to the future of NFC - it has taken time, would be great to finally make it happen. Yet another step towards the internet of things for everybody...

[1] An Evaluation of Product Identification Techniques for Mobile Phones, F. von Reischach, F. Michahelles, D. Guinard, R. Adelmann, E. Fleisch, A. Schmidt, In Proceedings of the 12th IFIP TC13 Conference in Human-Computer Interaction (Interact'09), Sweden, August 2009, [PDF] [Talk]

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Internet of Things and Citizens

I really get the feeling that moving from RFID, a technology for businesses, over an architecture for the internet of things, at least initally for businesses as well, to DYI consumer and citizen technology starts to touch the ground.
Rob van Kranenburg has released his report about the The 2nd Annual Conference Internet of Things Europe 2010. He outlines
  • integration of policy recommendations, applications and cloud to store
  • standards to go hand in hand with applications
  • more effective application of governance
  • multi stakeholder consultation process
  • migrate terms: seamless might shift towards usability: seamless experience, hard-coding might shift toward social values, in the sense of standard making will also mean not only technical but also interaction and value
as necessary step to achieve this vision. I do not agree with
What we need: an (EU) device:
as I do not believe that development and adoption of devices can be mandated. Obviously, I'd appreciate alternatives to all the Androids and iphones, but either it happens or it doesn't - but it can not be governed. Instead, I'm really intrigued by the opportunities of IoT is changing the relationship between the individuals allowing to scale democracy to finer-grain decision making. Which, obviously, requires education and debates about 'sensor wisdom’ very early on in schools.

Most importantly, it's already happening today:

express your opinion on everything, everywhere and in public

rewards shopper behavior, beginning when they walk through the door. Consumers rack up points for scanning products, testing products or even visiting a dressing room.

a mobile wallet—consumers can buy, send and redeem gift cards
users can find deals up to 20 miles away

Friday, August 6, 2010

INTERNET OF THINGS 2010 - Call for Workshop Papers/Call for Videos

INTERNET OF THINGS 2010 (IoT2010) is calling for workshop contributions and video submissions. See

International Conference for Industry and Academia
Nov 29 - Dec 1, 2010, Tokyo Japan)
Organized by Auto-ID Laboratories at
Keio University, ETH Zurich & University of St. Gallen and MIT

Call for Video Submissions
IoT2010 invites submissions by Sept 10 of draft videos (2-5min long) that showcase the interlinking of physical world and cyberspace as a central theme to inspire other researchers and to educate the general public.

Videos will be shown as part of the main IoT 2010 program on November 30th and December 1st and to a general audience via youtube.

Please visit for further details on the submission.

Call for Workshop Papers
IoT2010 plays host to a range of interesting workshops (all on Nov 29) in the area of the Internet of Things. We want to draw your attention to the deadlines of the workshops that still invite and accept submissions.

Please see for details and follow the individual links to the workshop homepages for detailed topics, deadlines, and submission information.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Peephole to the future

I found this video quite inspiring:

Augmented (hyper)Reality: Domestic Robocop from Keiichi Matsuda on Vimeo.

I think it's pretty realistic. Hopefully, the output will be designed less intrusive and more seamlessly. Probably it won't be based on augmented reality only but rather rely on (cheap) displays and incorporate other networked output devices, e.g. picture frame/mobile phone/ipad/tv/radio.

Given the information overload I experience in Japanese stores, I'm surprised how other people just got used to it...

Monday, July 5, 2010

There are more phones than iphones

If found this blog discussing the hype of iphone developments and deriving a high likelihood for single developers to actually fail. The blog of Kevin C. Tofel is actually based on an earlier blog from Tomi T. Ahonen. As he is a former Nokia guy it is quite understandable that he is not very excited about the iphone but nevertheless the numbers he is presenting, 80million iphones are still just 13% out of all smart phones, or only 4% out of all 2.1 billion phones in total.
These numbers are indeed good to keep in mind: if you want to hit the masses, the iphone is not the right thing - you may hit the media, which just suggerates you had hit the masses...
Nevertheless, as many readers already have posted on this site: How many of the feature phone users have ever thought about downloading an application? How many would know how to do it? How many would be willing to pay? How could that even established without a mechanisms as Appstore/Google Marketplace provide?

Furthermore, dividing the overall revenue by the overall downloaded apps yields increasingly low revenue per average. But following this argument, you can almost deny any effort: divide university degrees by population, divide accepted papers by submitted papers, divide total number of blogs by blogs people read...fortunately, we don't have gaussian distribution in every situation but can improve our chances by special skills in niches accordingly.

Anyway, it's good to recall: despite it's hype and success, there are much more phones out there than iphones...

Sunday, June 27, 2010

China: Internet + Internet of Things = Wisdom of the Earth

The IOTEXPO, the 3rd conference for telecommunication dedicated to Internet of Things, gave me the opportunity to visit Shanghai. I was very amazed about the strong motivation for Internet of Things in China. Several talks mentioned the opportunities for network carries and solution providers for implementing better services and solving society problems. I learned that the entire hype for Internet of Things has actually been jump started by the current premier minister Wen Jiabao mentioning Internet of Things as one of the key industry areas for China. In accordance to that, the chinese government decided that the city of Wuxi should be premier place for IoT in China: every year the lpolluted ake of the city could not provide drinkable water anymore, until the local government has installed a huge sensor network – the national government was so excited that Wuxi is now the home of internet of things in China. Furthermore, the local party leader had the ambition to attract in the next 5 years 30 talents and entrepreneurs, which coined the 530 plan, This plan supports start-ups in Wuxi, e.g. with free office space.

Backed by this political order various company leaders discussed the opportunities of RFID and sensor networks. In my first talk I took the opportunity to reflect on the history of the Internet of Things strongly emphasized that IoT goes far beyond RFID and has to focus on citizens and consumers and not companies and commercial businesses only. In my second talk I presented a number citizen IoT examples of our current research in Zurich.
Later, I also could visit the Auto-ID Lab of Hao Min at Fudan University. I pretty astonished about his company Quanray. Besides the development of chip design for EPC UHF Gen 2, which is applied to Liquor bottles preventing counterfeit and as well as for ticketing featuring 64kbit of memory. The most stunning development, however, was the integration of NFC into a SIM card: As the SIM is owned by the TelCo’s the get into the position of offering NFC payment services now including over-the-air configuration (OTA) without depending on the hesitating handset manufacturers. In order to get the signal out of the SIM which is usually shielded by the battery, Quanray’s RFID sticker which is powered by the external reader amplifies the SIM’s NFC signal and load-modulates it to the reader. Thus, all smart phones could turn in to NFC phones soon, Even if this just happens which the major TelCo in China, this already targets 500 millions of consumers...
Overall, Shanghai is really a very exciting fast changing place...I went to a restaurant with fishes swimming inside the table.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Talk from Karmen Franinovic about Responsive Technologies

I could attend a talk Karmen Franinovic from ZHDK as part of a lecture series about responsive technologies. Karmen is an architect and works as an artist and interaction designer exploring the use of technology in architecture, public space and everyday life. She raises awareness of interaction with/in the urban surroundings and its diverse ecologies. She a number of examples where she installed technologies, e.g. loudspeakers the grasp and reply environment sounds, and observed people's behavior.
Being an artist she does not have to tackle questions like "what is it good for?", "what are the learnings from that?", it's more about playing with daily routines and behaviors and challenging those by technology.

Predictions from the past

These examples show why predicting the future is so difficult. Even the basic idea of e-mail/e-banking/e-commerce has been predicted rather correctly in the following video, it is still presented in the context and style of the time of it's prediction. And that does make it so odd, the analog screen, the men/female role pattern and the mere more on effectiveness leaving out fun and experience completely:

The following video nicely topics to the timeline, it's nice to say how once important topics render out meaningless, "who needs a phone in a PC?", "Is there money in microchips?", "Willinternet be useful?", "From mono to stereo?"...

This is why mainly futures from the past work can work well, e.g. Heinz' Life.

The Case of RFID in Japanese public transport

Tokyo has rather a complex transportation system. First there are many lines, second they are operated by various private independent players cutting the entire network into smaller pieces. Each line featuring its own pricing schemes makes ticketing and payment as complex as mobile roaming. Apparently, RFID provides a nice abstraction from this underlying complexity. Using PASMO, a standard chip card players all over Japan have agreed on enables a complete track & trace of passengers, measuring entry and exit, and adjust the fare to the travelled distance accordingly - RFID sits like an "application layer" on top of the pricing scheme.
As of April 2009, over 11 million card (wikipedia) have been issued.

Watching the masses of people rushing through the gates shows the convenience and necessity of RFID. Nevertheless, I'm surprised that people still rather stick to their magnetic cards than using the Felica feature of their phones. I probably have to watch out for Mobile Suica eastern Japan...
Comparing this clear advantage with the open access system of public transport in wesgtern Europe makes the case for RFID much more diffcult. Sometimes it can be easier to introduce new technology than changing tradition of a complex payment system...