Internet of Things

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"The "internet of things" is a concept that describes a wireless network between objects. In a way, it parallels the current network of addressable web pages (aka the "world wide web"), except "the internet of things" would include addressable inanimate objects that could be anything from your home's refrigerator to the shoes on your feet." (


Chris Dew:

"The Internet of Things is the foundational intelligent infrastructure of the new economy — integrating a Communications Internet, Energy Internet and Logistics Internet into a single IoT operating system. Hundreds of billions of consumer products will eventually be connected to the internet and to one another, feeding real-time data to an integrated global neural network. Corporations around the world are already beginning to develop and distribute “smart” appliances and products that are capable of being connected to the internet and controlled by consumers via Wi-Fi. One of the most powerful effects of this global network of things will be the comprehensive energy efficiency and productivity gains across society, largely afforded by big data analysis.

According to Jeremy Rifkin:

- “The Internet of Things will connect everything with everyone in an integrated global network. People, machines, natural resources, production lines, logistics networks, consumption habits, recycling flows, and virtually every other aspect of economic and social life will be linked via sensors and software to the IoT platform, continually feeding Big Data to every node — business, homes, vehicles — moment to moment, in real time. Big Data, in turn, will be processed with advanced analytics, transformed into predictive algorithms, and programmed into automated systems to improve thermodynamic efficiencies, dramatically increase productivity, and reduce the marginal cost of producing and delivering a full range of goods and services to near zero across the entire economy.”

The IoT is inherently designed to be open, distributed, and collaborative, giving anyone the freedom to utilize this collective data, create applications, and contribute to increasing economic efficiencies. However, the IoT is not just about data analysis. One of its defining features is making possible the transition from carbon-based fuels to renewable energy sources through a distributed Energy Internet. Taken as the sum of its parts, the Internet of Things will enable humanity to use less of the Earth’s resources dramatically more efficiently and, ultimately, aid in re-integrating our species with the biosphere of the planet." (

Software Tools

Excerpted from an overview by Sarah Perez:

(full article and links [1])

  • With a Tikitag starter kit and some client software, you can program your own RFID tags so that they can do anything you want them to do.

What's great about Tikitag's tags is that you don't need a specialized RFID reader in order to scan them - they're compatible with third party readers like NFC (Near Field Communication) enabled mobile phones. There are already over 40 million of these phones available and analysts expect over 250 millions to be sold in 2012.

  • Mir:ror is a device from a company called Violet that detects the objects you show it and gives them powers. As you wave a device over the USB-attached mirror, you can trigger applications and multimedia content automatically. The "magic" mirror isn't actually sensing the object itself, but is reacting to an RFID tag placed on the object which then tells your computer what to do.

Those tags are embedded in the company's Ztamps, colorful RFID stamps that you stick on the objects you want to connect. They also work with the company's other more well-known internet-connected object: the Nabaztag, an adorable rabbit that can deliver anything from ambient information through lights and sounds to verbal information - like when he reads your email or RSS feeds to you.

  • Pachube is a service that lets you "tag and share real time sensor data from objects, devices, buildings and environments around the world. The key aim is to facilitate interaction between remote environments, both physical and virtual." On their web site, you can either input a feed or use one of the feeds available. The feeds come from devices, buildings, or interactive installations that are already connected to the internet or that send out SMS messages. Also supported are Second Life installations.

By registering a feed on the site, you can share your real-time data with other objects, keep historical records of your data, or create online graphs to use in a web page.

  • Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform made up of open source hardware and software. It's intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments - that is, "the internet of things."

  • ZeroG Wireless is a semiconductor company that's focused on building low-power wireless chips. Their low-power Wi-Fi chips can be embedded into any system including consumer electronics, smart energy devices, home and building controls, portable medical sensors, and sensor networks. The company was founded "based on the belief that a new paradigm of wireless connectivity is upon us. According to their web site, they envision a "4th Age of Wireless™ -- the Internet of Things."



Build-out and Financing of an IoT Infrastructure

Chris Dew:

"The build-out of an IoT infrastructure will be carried out and phased in over the next several decades. According to one study, carried out by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), a US based non-profit energy think tank, the cost of phasing in a national Energy Internet over 20 years is estimated between $17 to $24 billion per year, or about $476 billion in total[43] — roughly equivalent to the $470 billion annual revenue of Royal Dutch Shell for 2011.

However, the EPRI estimate is a no-frills approach to the smart-grid, consisting of smart-meters and power line improvements. When energy storage and additional hardware components are taken into account, along with the intelligent communication management infrastructure to coordinate the flow, storage and exchange of renewable energy by millions of prosumers — including IT management and big data feedback nodes — total cost for an Energy Internet is estimated at $1.2 trillion.

According to the initial EPRI study, the estimated energy savings for consumers that would result from the installation of an Energy Internet is $2 trillion.[46] This savings alone is justification for the up-front infrastructure costs, however, this figure does not begin to account for the aggregate energy efficiency gains that result from an intelligent IoT infrastructure — a rise from 14 percent efficiency to 40 percent, as previously discussed — and accompanying productivity gains.

Financing and construction of a smart-energy infrastructure is already underway in many countries, most notably throughout the European Union. Fourteen countries are currently implementing smart-grids, financed by slight increases on consumer energy bills with the remainder absorbed by local, state and federal governments in the form of subsidies, incentives and allowances.[47] This is the same mode of private/public financing that has been used to fund national scale infrastructure development in the past.

Energy and utility companies are anxious to profit off of the smart-grid and have, in the past, sought to force a centralized and proprietary architecture of control onto the infrastructure. The European Union has already taken steps to require these companies to unbundle their power generation from electricity transmission, effectively allowing small energy producers to connect to the main grid and ensure the open nature of the Energy Internet.[48] Increasingly, energy corporations seem to be acquiescing to the new energy reality and are changing their business models as a greater number of prosumers are encouraged to produce their own green energy by governments. As more people begin to generate their own renewable energy, the future income of these companies will “increasingly rely on managing their customers’ energy use, reducing their energy needs, increasing their energy efficiencies and productivity, and sharing a percentage of the increased productivity and savings.”[49]

Another important platform in supporting many of the new startups involved in the IoT build-out is crowdfunding. Instead of small startup businesses having to seek out and pitch ideas to venture capitalist investors, who would usually assume some percentage of ownership over the company, startups can now post proposals online and collect small donations from thousands of individual donors that want to support the project. Crowdfunding donors emphasize that it is not so much about the money as it is about “being intimately involved with helping others pursue their dreams and feel that their small contribution…really counts in moving the project forward.”[50] Online social lending and crowdfunding are expected to play an important role in establishing millions of renewable micropower installations as they become more accessible and demand begins to surge.

To help advocate the benefits of an intelligent energy infrastructure social entrepreneurs, such as the Cleanweb Movement, are using social media to “cluster like-minded people together to create lateral economies of scale in the implementation of energy efficiencies and the introduction of renewable energy harvesting technology.”[51] Similarly, a US government initiative called Green Button is encouraging power and utility companies to provide access to real-time energy usage data that is now available with the installation of millions of smart-meters. In less than one year, the number of customers with instant access to their personal energy use data increased to 31 million.[52] Apps are now in development that will allow users to easily share and compare this data with friends over social networks and incentivize increased efficiencies — perhaps ranking user’s homes against one another or comparing the energy use of different brands of appliances, etc. More advanced applications are also being created that will allow people to co-generate and exchange renewable electricity across an Energy Internet.

In February 2013, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) published a proposal that would create “super Wi-Fi networks across America, making wireless connection free for everyone.”[53] The plan would reemploy unused television station frequencies that are capable of penetrating walls and buildings. This would allow people to make free calls from their phones over the internet, provide free internet access to homes and businesses across the US, and could help spur the introduction of millions of smart devices on a connected Internet of Things. Fundamentally, “the harnessing of near zero marginal cost communications to manage near zero marginal cost renewable energy gives society the critical operating platform to build out the Internet of Things infrastructure and change the economic paradigm.” (

The Internet of Things You Don't Own

"Scott Johnson:

" it will subtly redefine ownership as we know it. You will no longer own many of the most expensive and sophisticated items you possess. You may think you own them. But you’ll be wrong.

They say “possession is nine-tenths of the law,” but even if you physically and legally own a Smart Thing, you won’t actually control it. Ownership will become a three-legged stool: who physically owns a thing; who legally owns it; …and who has the ultimate power to command it. Who, in short, has root.

This is not a hypothetical situation. Your phone probably has three separate computers in it (processor, baseband processor, and SIM card) and you almost certainly don’t have root on any of them, which is why some people refer to phones as “tracking devices which make phone calls.” The New York Times recently ran a story about cars being prevented from starting because payments were days late. (And as CityLab points out: “Losing transportation could mean losing everything.”) Consider also the recent discovery that Belkin routers apparently had to connect to Belkin’s servers before they would connect to the rest of the Internet.

As The Atlantic puts it:

- the smarter one’s things, the greater the possibility that they’ll be conscripted into schemes you never would have imagined and might not like.

The fundamental issue here is that the Internet of Things will not have a standard set of open APIs for consumers. (Well, there’s ThingSpeak, but it’s not exactly widely supported.) You can’t get your Tesla to dump all of its data to a server you specify. While Nest has a public API, they maintain gatekeeper control over it. (You may think: “Of course!” — but imagine being told that you can’t use Safari to access any Google services without Apple’s explicit consent and approval.) When you buy a Smart Thing, you get locked into its software ecosystem, which is controlled by its manufacturer, whether you like it or not.

Techno-utopians like to argue that open systems always win, but that simply isn’t true, as the mobile era has shown. Android is more open than iOS, but for most intents and purposes, both are walled gardens." (

IoT as a ideology

Justin McGuirk:

"To say that the internet of things is an ideology is to suggest that the use-value of the concept has yet to be sold to the consumer. It is easily mocked by skeptical hacks who question the need for talking fridges and washing machines that you can program with your smartphone (“You still need to put the clothes in yourself, right?”). Bruce Sterling argues that the internet of things has nothing to do with the consumer and everything to do with the business interests of the service providers. Given that data is the new currency, the internet of things is an epic power grab by the lords of the network—Sterling focuses on the “big five” of Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft—to gain control of as much human data as physically possible.1 As the primary interface of the internet of things, the smart home is effectively the tendrils of the network rising out of the ground and into every one of our household appliances to allow mass data collection and digital surveillance.

That, at least, is one interpretation. It goes without saying that the internet of things agenda is being driven by the technology industry with the eager boosterism of the business community, which sees a blizzard of dollar signs. And while the evangelists of the IoT would hardly define themselves in Sterling’s terms, neither do they contradict him. As an effusive cover story in the Harvard Business Review put it recently, “It is the expanded capabilities of smart, connected products and the data they generate that are ushering in a new era of competition.”2 For better or worse, the smart home is the new New Domestic Landscape.


The internet-of-things evangelists proclaim that it is that most “disruptive” of phenomena: a paradigm shift. Bearing in mind Banham’s assertion that electrification was “the greatest environmental revolution in human history since the domestication of fire,” one naturally looks for equivalent consequences when it is claimed (no doubt accurately) that “the network is the new electricity.”3 So just how, exactly, will the internet of things revolutionize domestic life?

The proposals to sell this revolution to the consumer are myriad and many splendored. But perhaps the poster product of this new domestic landscape is the Nest smart thermostat, which not only tells you exactly how much energy you’re using but can also learn your energy-use patterns and adjust itself according to your established preferences. The ostensible motive is environmental sustainability—Nest is helping us be better planetary citizens. But of course the reason why Nest was purchased by Google is that its smart thermostat is also a data hoover—a point we shall return to later.

The potential applications of the domestic internet of things cover a whole array of multi-billion-dollar industries, from security and healthcare to lifestyle and gaming. Thus Microsoft is developing kitchen counters that can recognize foodstuffs and display appropriate recipes. There are smart mattresses that monitor your sleep patterns by measuring your breathing and your heart rate. There are any number of smart locks now available that open when you walk up to the door and that can be programmed to let in your friends or guests (perfect for the Airbnb generation). There is cautious excitement about the potential of “ambient assisted living” for the elderly. A University of Manchester research group has developed smart carpeting that can tell when someone has fallen and that can even diagnose potential mobility problems from their footsteps.

Most of these products correspond to Arthur C. Clarke’s third law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” And it may well be that magic is precisely the quality that will seduce the consumer into embracing a world of all smart mod cons. The world of hyper-performance products, colluding in a domestic ecosystem that we barely understand but that lay its manifest intelligence at our disposal, may be our inevitable destiny. Banham was skeptical about this, averring with amusing bathos that while space capsules may require omni-competence, “here on Earth it will often prove that drawing a blind over a window … is all that is required.”4 More trenchantly, Sterling argues that we the consumer will have little choice in the matter either way. The internet of things is like electrification: if we are even able to opt out, we will simply be routed around and made redundant.

In the meantime, there are various intractable problems to solve. Some of them are technical. For instance, it is widely understood that the effective interconnectivity of all our household devices—their ability to sync and update and communicate with each other—depends on a single unifying platform. All tech companies agree on this and that is why they are all beavering away at solving the problem with their own proprietary platform that will not work with all the others. The idea that all our products may have to be either Apple-compatible or, say, Samsung-compatible, is a disincentive. As for the rapid cycle of updates and obsolescence, well, architects simply do not think in such ephemeral time spans. There are also security concerns: our houses become eminently more hackable the more connected devices we have. Experts evoke a cyber-security nightmare of “botnet” armies using smart toasters to launch DDoS attacks, etc. But let’s concern ourselves with the ethical implications of the smart home. Because if we are in the midst of a subtle domestic revolution, its consequences are in new forms of labor, the erosion of privacy, and the monopolization of control.

It is a truism worth restating here that our homes are increasingly the primary sites of production. This is not just true of new flexible labor models that allow many people to work from home; it also applies to the so-called “sharing economy” (read the digital rental economy) that allows us to commodify our private spaces so effortlessly. Already, the idea of the home as a retreat, a sanctuary from work, comes into question. But it is also literally true that our homes are sites of production simply by dint of rising property values. In London, with its 18 percent price rises in recent years, it is quite likely that your home makes more money every year than you do.

Added to this is the fact that the proliferation of smart, connected products will turn the home into a prime data collection node. It is estimated that there will be fifty billion wi-fi-connected devices by 2020, and all of them will collect data that is transmitted to and stored by their manufacturers. In short, the home is becoming a data factory.

Our participation in this process has been underway for some time, not least through social media, which has helped constitute the post-Fordist world in which we no longer fabricate machine parts but subjectivities—opinions, lifestyle choices, our public image. Different theorists come at this from different angles. Zygmunt Bauman calls it the commodification of the self, while Franco “Bifo” Berardi calls it “cognitive labor,” which is essentially a labor of communication. It is not hard to extrapolate Berardi’s theory of the info-commodity to the smart home. The insidious aspect of the smart home is that even as we go about our lives consciously producing data—as happily tweeting members of the “cognitariat”—we will also produce vast quantities unconsciously. Some of this data will be of use to us—knowing how much energy we are using or knowing on the way home whether there is milk in the fridge—but much of it, especially the metadata, will not. All of it, however, is valuable currency to the producers of those products.

The home, then, becomes an extension of our immaterial labor. It is the producer of metrics. Just as our wearable tech counts our footsteps, our homes will monitor and measure us in other ways. All of our devices will cooperate in one great collective data harvest. Why is that data useful to the tech companies that own the appliance companies? Because they will use it for consumer profiling, all the better to send you targeted advertising. They will also use it to try and streamline our future customer experiences through predictive analytics—the same tools that allow Amazon and Netflix to suggest that we might want to read more Dave Eggers or watch the new season of Homeland. Our countless daily actions and choices around the house become what define us. As Eggers puts it, “Having a matrix of preferences presented as your essence, as the whole you? … It was some kind of mirror, but it was incomplete, distorted.”" (


Report 1: Rob van Kranenburg

Report: Rob van Kranenburg, The Internet of Things. A critique of ambient technology and the all-seeing network of RFID. Report prepared by Rob van Kranenburg for the Institute of Network Cultures with contributions by Sean Dodson.

URL = (Series =[2])


"The Internet of Things is the second issue in the series of Network Notebooks. It's a critique of ambient technology and the all-seeing network of RFID by Rob van Kranenburg. Rob examines what impact RFID and other systems, will have on our cities and our wider society. He currently works at Waag Society as program leader for the Public Domain and wrote earlier an article about this topic in the Waag magazine and is the co-founder of the DIFR Network. The notebook features an introduction by journalist and writer Sean Dodson.

In Network Notebook #2, titled The Internet of Things, Rob van Kranenburg outlines his vision of the future. Rob tells of his early encounters with the kind of location-based technologies that will soon become commonplace, and what they may mean for us all. He explores the emergence of the "internet of things", tracing us through its origins in the mundane back-end world of the international supply chain to the domestic applications that already exist in an embryonic stage. He also explains how the adoption of he technologies of the City Control is not inevitable, nor something that we must kindly accept nor sleepwalk into. In van Kranenburg's account of the creation of the international network of Bricolabs, he also suggests how each of us can help contribute to building technologies of trust and empower ourselves in the age of mass surveillance and ambient technologies.

The Network Notebooks series is edited by Geert Lovink and Sabine Niederer. Network Notebooks #2 is supported by Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (HvA) and Waag Society."

Table of Contents:

1. Forward: A tale of two cities Sean Dodson 2. Ambient Intelligence and its promises 3. Ambient Intelligence and its catches 4. Bricolabs 5. How to act

Report 2: OECD Report


"To outline what still needs to be done, and give governments a framework for understanding how 50 billion devices could be connected in the next 8 years, the OECD has released a report laying out the needs of an M2M network and the tradeoffs associated wtih different technologies. It offers a few interesting use cases, as well, although the focus is more squarely on the practicalities of making it work. As usual, it starts with the networks." (


Stacey Higginbotham:

The networks

"The OECD breaks down the needs depending on the type of device and its function, basically if a device moves or not, and then how far it moves. For highly mobile devices that travel around the world, we’re actually short on options, but cellular is probably the best bet. For stationary devices in the home, power line communications or Wi-Fi could offer compelling options. However, with each technology there are tradeoffs, and those tradeoffs become magnified if you’re considering connections for products designed to be used globally.

For example, cellular technology has drawbacks because 2G networks, which are fairly ubiquitous are also being phased out, and the lifetime of a connected device may stretch for decades (think of how long you keep your fridge or a bike. However 3G networks aren’t going to arrive everywhere, which means some places might then never have a connection. Imagine if you had a pet tracking service for Fido that used 3G and Fido wandered out of a coverage zone. LTE and 4G might seem like a good solution for offering the longest time until obsolescence, but right now radios suck power and networks are thin on the ground.

Each wireline and wireless network technology offers drawbacks of this nature plus those associated with costs, reliability and security. It’s enough to make one’s head spin, or to at least hope that someone might combine a variety of services under one roof and just offer connectivity packages.

The role of wholesalers

It’s not that companies don’t want to take on the role of aggregating connectivity for customers, but that the wholesale market for access has a few roadblocks, according to the report. One roadblock is how devices will be identified on M2M networks. From IP addresses to individual mobile subscriber numbers, there are a variety of ways to authenticate devices on a network. But not all methods of identification are available to everyone.

In some cases the government will only allow telecom providers to offer identifying numbers, which means only they can provide service for M2M communications. The OECD believes that will keep prices high and limit the market. That brings us to the role governments will have to play in the creation of a viable system. From the report:

- Access to a unique and verifiable identity is another important requirement for many M2M applications. The model provided by SIM-cards seems to offer a great deal of flexibility and possibilities. There are other ways of providing a secure identity, but using a SIM-card chip soldered onto a motherboard or integrated into a chipset appears to be a very cost-effective method of providing security. As regulators play an important role in assigning SIM-card numbers (so called ESN-numbers) they will have to take this role into account in terms of the future of M2M.

The role of regulation

In asking governments to rethink their regulatory environment for a new age of communications built on IP networks and between people, machines and back-end computers processing data, the report hits on an increasingly common problem of the Internet age. Ironically, a decade or so after IP communications became widespread in the U.S. we are only now getting to a place in our regulatory regime where the government is discussing how this changes the way laws should be written and enforced. Legislation and regulation lagging the marketplace isn’t new, but the OECD report makes a good first step in understanding one of the next regulatory battles looming on the horizon." (

More Information

  • Open Source Hardware for getting your objects connected:
  1. Fly Port (Open Picus)
  2. Arduino Ethernet Shield
  3. Pinnocio


  1. Bruce Sterling's SIGGRAPH 2004 lecture:
  2. ITU Report 2006: The Internet of Things, at
  3. Specialized conference website at
  4. The Internet of Things. A critique of ambient technology and the all-seeing network of RFID, Network Notebooks 02, Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam, 2007. ISBN: 978-90-78146-06-3. Order a free copy by emailing: [email protected] [3]
  5. Internet of Things Council
  6. Economist (2012). ‘Welcome to the thingternet: Things, rather than people, are about to become the biggest users of the internet.’ The Economist, November 21: [4].


  1. Blobject
  2. Blogjects
  3. Gizmo
  4. Physical Bookmarking
  5. Spime


  1. 50 billion connected things graphic by CISCO,


  1. Bruce Sterling on the Internet of Things
  2. Bruce Sterling on the Internet of Things and Spimes


  1. Buglabs
  2. Open Source Programmable GPS Devices
  3. Open Spime
  4. Semapedia


  1. Key tag:
  2. Key conference:


  1. RFID
  2. QR Code