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...

A roadmap to an Internet of Things @ Home, by Philips

Searching for related work about Internet of Things for citizens I stumbled upon this nice presentation summarizing the results of a workshop about how far the roadmap to an IoT has really progressed.
It talks about areas of potential applications, analyzes the state of the art of required technology, assesses the maturity, gives nice perspectives by looking back and reviewing applications from the past - obviously a little bit biased to Philips visions, but that's ok;):

...very insightful and inspiring using the prezi capabilities for presentation (though it does require some time to load).