Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Internet of Things 2012 in Wuxi

As a program co-chair I had the opportunity to visit the recent IoT conference hosted by Fudan University in Wuxi.
Elgar Fleisch opened IoT2012 by reviewing the potential of IoT to add things-generated data to the gulf of human-generated data. He listed standards, biz models, ownership management, and human behavior change as future research topics within the IoT domain.
Li-rong Zheng, general chair IoT2012, thanked the various organizers and conference chairs. Then, Junyu Wang reflected on the importance of Wuxi as the center of IoT in China walked through the program. A rigor selection of papers yielded an acceptance rate of only 24.7%.
Finally, I had the pleasure to introduce Stefan Ferber from Bosch who is not only a professional but also passionate private user of IoT technology (see his smart home here). In his opening keynote of IoT2012
Stefan Ferber (see his slides) introduced to various  IoT projects going on within Bosch and reflected on the significant differences between old and new economy in terms of organization structure, decision processes and effectiveness. He showed how technology finally helped to disrupt established hierarchies allowing for more flexible and dynamic patterns of collaboration. By refering to Conway's law ("organizations which design systems ... are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations") he underlined the importance of changing organizations correspondingly along the technological innovations.

Stefan used the very strong metaphor colliding galaxies to express the impact of IoT to organizations. He introduced the geigermaps project as an example of how a grassroot movement of people connecting their sensors to each other can provide a much faster and more fine-graine picture on radiation than the official authorities could or wanted to provide during the Fukushima accident. As a second example of grassroot movement he refered to the iot bill of rights signed during the open iot assembly by various stakeholders of IoT as a free movement of concerned individuals outside regulatory bodies.
Stefan went on reflecting on the properties of IoT-enabled products. Originally, purposeful systems were handled and controlled by their owners: the owner was responsible, the producer only provided the tool. However, once the tool becomes smart this might change: the tool's functionality grows outside its original physical purpose and follows the digital configuration the producer has set-up. Thus, the producer becomes responsible as well (see also his blog post on his talk).

Haitao Liu, Wuxi SensingNet Industrialization Research Institute talked about  IoT projects in China which focus on standardization and  applications, such as resolving traffic jams, better public transportation and parking guide systems. As part of public security initiatives he mentioned the "Golden Shield Project" which aims at improving communication of security data and management of capturing technology as cameras in public areas. He also mentioned smart homes as an emerging trend in China which would pose challenges of integration and interoperability. There would be also several activities of environment monitoring where single measurements stations are being gradually replaced by swarms of collective pollution meters. Furthermore, IoT projects in China would also focus improving efficiency of agriculture and food safety.

Overall, it became pretty obvious that IoT in China clearly relies on central power and control leveraging the the central governance system. I'm pretty sure that sooner or later this approach will collide with the rather distributed technical nature of IoT. Mr. Liu concluded his talk by referring to the current bottlenecks of limited understanding of requirements, insufficient standards and prevailing information silos. He mentioned IoT as a big market for Chinese companies for transiting from traditional manufacturing to highter value IT businesses. The Chinese government sees IoT as new enginge to accelerate the development of Smart City construction for upgrading the industrialization in China.

Then the technical program started, the proceedings can be found here. Overall, the conference had about 300 visitors. According to comments I received from visitors the mix between large variety of  scientific and industrial workshops, demos and posters was highly appreciated.
Finally, the show goes on in 2014: see you all at IoT2014 hosted by Prof. Sanjay Sarma at MIT.

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