August 9th, 2013

REST Fest 2013 is Coming!

REST Fest 2013It’s that time of year again! REST Fest 2013 is less than two months away (September 19-21) and preparations and are in full swing. Now in its fourth year, REST Fest has become one of my favorite events on the calendar and I’m very much looking forward to being involved with this year’s event.

REST is Just the Beginning
This year the keynote will be delivered by Brian Sletten. And – judging from the title (and my knowledge of Brian’s experience and knowledge) – it will be a great talk. We’re honored that Brian accepted our invitation and looking forward not just to his presentation but also the resulting converstations and explorations that are hallmarks of REST Fest.

Everybody Talks
An important part of REST Fest is the principle that everyone who shows up must give a presentation. The talks are typically quite short: a five-minute “lightning” talk followed by a short Q&A session. There are a few 30-minute  “featured talks”, too. But the basic idea is that we all get to talk about things that are interesting to us and we don’t have to make a big deal about it.

Every year, I probably learn more than 30 new ideas and novel approaches to problem solving and get to talk to the people who are coming up with these great things. REST Fest is a fantastic boost to my creative spirit!

Everybody Listens
The corollary to our key “talk” principle is that we all get to listen, too. And listening is, in my opinion, even more important than speaking. REST Fest attendees come from all sorts of backgrounds, experiences and points of view. The chance to hear how others view the Web space, how others are tackling problems and how others are advancing the practice of services on the Web is always an eye opener.

Less Theory, More Practice
And that leads to another key aspect of the weekend. The focus is on doing, not theorizing. We’re a decidely non-pedantic bunch and are usually much more interested in cool solutions than compelling theories. While it may still be common to think of anything with the REST acronym in the name to be a meeting of pointy-headed geeks, that’s not us. Each year, I get to see actual code solving actual problems in the real world.

We Hack, Too
Every year, we also host a hack day where everyone gets together to work on cool REST-related Web stuff. This year, Erik Mogensen will be leading the day. From what I’ve seen, he’s got some cool ideas in store for us, too.

It’s Easy to Join Us
Just as we cut down on the ceremony surrounding speaking and participating in a conference, we also try to eliminate the ceremony around signing up and showing up for REST Fest. It’s quite easy:

  1. Join our mailing list to see what we’re all about
  2. Drop into the IRC channel to chat us up
  3. Hop onto the GitHub wiki and create your “people page”
  4. Head over to the registration page and reserve your seat for the event

There’s no waiting to see if your talk was accepted; no wondering if what you’re working on would be interesting to some review committee. Just sign up, post your ideas and head down to sunny Greenville, SC for a great weekend.

Need More REST Fest NOW?
Can’t wait for RESTFEst 2013 to get started? Take a look at our Vimeo channel with all the talks from previous years. There’s lots of very cool stuff there.

See you in September!

(Originally published on my personal blog.)

July 19th, 2013

What I Learned in Helsinki: The Core Motivation of IoT & Other Reflections

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Category Conferences, IoT, M2M
 

Reflections on IoT-ALast month, I attended a two-day IoT-A workshop during IoT Week in Helsinki. The goal of the workshop was to showcase the various IoT research projects that are jointly funded by industry and the EU’s FP7 research program. The quality of the projects on display was amazing and I could not possibly do it justice in the space of a blog post. Still, here’s a partial list of what I saw:

BUTLER

  • Horizontal open platform for IoT
  • To learn the intent of a user requires a horizontal approach
  • This horizontal approach leads to context awareness

FI-WARE

iCore

  • Composed of Virtual Objects, Composite Virtual Objects and  Service Layer
  • User characteristics + situation awareness = intent recognition

OpenIoT

  • Linked sensor middleware
  • Data management instead of infrastructure management
  • Uses information interoperability and linked data to enable automated composition

ComVantage

  • Manufacturing automation
  • Uses XACML and extends it for linked data

CHOReOS

  • Probabilistic registration of things
  • Registration decisions are based on existing density and coverage requirements

To get a more complete picture, you can find all the presentations from the workshop here.

There were two key insights I took away from this workshop, both of which had to do with subtle similarities shared by all the projects.

First, sitting in and listening to the various presentations, I was struck by one particular similarity: at the core of each use case was the desire to make better-informed decisions. I’ve tried to capture what I call the core motivation of IoT in the picture below.

The identity of the user or thing combined with the temporal and/or spatial context based on real-world knowledge and data from the past can allow us to make better-informed decisions for the future. I think this holds for both the smart coffeemaker and the smart city.

My other insight had to do with the surprisingly similar characteristics of the various presented IoT applications. I tried to capture these characteristics in the picture below.

At the heart of the applications lies data – lots of data. But Big Data has two siblings: Fast Data and Open Data. The applications are graph-structured based on the relationship of things to each other and to me. They are event-driven rather than transactional and they are compositional.

What do you think? What kind of similarities do you see between the various applications?

April 2nd, 2013

Mobile World Congress One Month On

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IoT CompaniesIt’s has been over a month since the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona and it seems like a good time to review what I learned there. First, I was amazed by the prominence of mobile accessory vendors: from tablet bags to smart phone covers. Second, while IoT and M2M were mentioned, they were relegated to a narrow strip in the back of Hall 2. Taking both of these facts together, it appears that the mobile accessory business is for real and IoT is all hype.

So, are all these news stories about trillion-dollar business opportunities in IoT just stories? Most likely the truth is that no one has yet figured out how to make money with IoT but everyone wants to make sure that they are at least seen to have a plan – just in case it does take off. As if to prove this point, ZDnet made a very different assessment of M2M at MWC. I went into more detail on these issues during my recent interview with DeviceLine Radio.

Personally, I firmly believe in the disruptive potential for IoT. It will be disruptive because it will break down the separation between manufacturing industry on one side and IT industry on the other. Manufacturing companies like GE, Bosch and Siemens will increasingly see IT – and Big Data in particular – as a core competency they will need to master in order to sustain a competitive advantage. Simply outsourcing to IT companies will no longer suffice.

We can clearly see this developing as, for example, Bosch is readying its Internet Application Platform and GE is aggressively building out its Silicon Valley presence. At the same time IT companies are trying to position themselves as natural partners for manufactures or as integrators of smart things. Credit has to go to IBM, which has been pushing this trend as part of its Smarter Planet campaign, way ahead of other players.

Meanwhile, telecom carriers are also struggling to decide what IoT will mean for them. It’s easy to see how telecom’s core business can be seen as just a set of “dumb” data pipes. The challenge for this sector will be figuring out how to leverage its considerable assets, like cellular networks, global roaming and integrated billing, to create M2M business platforms. I think that Big Data analytics on the data piped through their network will have to be part of it.

February 22nd, 2013

The Internet of (Interesting) Things

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IoT at MWCRight now, a lot of companies are gearing up for Mobile World Congress – and Layer 7 is no exception. I’m attending MWC and I’ll be interested to see how the Internet of Things (IoT) and M2M play out at the conference. IoT has been getting a lot of attention recently, so – in preparation for MWC – let’s take a look at some of the most interesting things that have been said and done in the last couple of months.

I’m particularly excited about a very ambitious EU-funded project to map an IoT reference architecture. Whether it will really become the reference architecture or simply a collection of best practices is subject to debate but I think the simple fact of trying to pull together all the different knowledge domains into one set of documents is bound to be interesting.

Forbes recently published an article by Alex Brisbourne called The Internet of Things Isn’t as New as It Seems. The article offers some really fascinating insights into the renewal rates for built-in 3G services in iPads and OnStar. Reflecting upon my own positive experiences with a 3G Kindle, I have to agree with Alex that, for connected devices to really reach their potential, connectivity must be simply built-in without requiring a separate subscription.

Another indication of this trend is the fact that car manufacturers are apparently switching from built-in mobile connectivity (requiring the owner to carry a subscription) to tethering off the driver’s existing smart phone. This highlights the challenges telco providers are facing – as summarized in a recent blog post on telco2.net.

Alex Bassi has provided another look at the way IoT is affecting business models, making the point that technology is enabling us to use things without having to own them. In my humble opinion, we’ll see this service-based model, which we normally associate with SaaS and the cloud, extending more and more into the domain of physical “smart” things. We can already see this usage pattern emerging in the automotive sector: car sharing a la Zipcar; limo service from Uber; electric car solutions from Better Place. FastCompany calls this the new “self-service” economy in an article that explores these issues in depth.

To get a good overview of the Internet of Things, I suggest heading over to ZDnet, which regularly posts articles on IoT and M2M. Postscapes, meanwhile, is completely dedicated to tracking IoT – I particularly like this site’s (currently incomplete) directory of companies in the space. There’s also a good collection of relevant essays gathered together on Bundlr.

Finally, here are a couple of links for the technically inclined. First here’s a presentation on the impressive set of open source building blocks developed as part of the m2m.eclipse.org project. Second is a piece that touches upon some technical aspects of the semantic Web that have a good deal of relevance to IoT. This is an area I’m personally very interested in and it might be a good topic to explore in a future post.

In any case, I expect to have plenty of interesting things to report on after Mobile World Congress. If you’re attending the show, be sure to stop by the Layer 7 booth for a chat. We’ll be at booth  #8.1A47 in the App Planet zone.

February 20th, 2013

Journey to the Center of the Mobile World

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Layer 7 at Mobile World CongressMobile World Congress – three words that strike fear into the hearts of marketing managers everywhere, for this is the largest mobile event of the year and we’re just a few days away from seeing 70,000 visitors descend upon Barcelona like a kettle of vultures, hungry for new innovations. This year, they will be treated to new hunting ground too, as MWC moves to a new, larger venue with more room for fresh meat. Before that metaphor gets completely worn out, let’s take a look at what we can actually expect from this year’s show.

As usual, we’re likely to see a very broad sweep across various areas of telco innovation and mobile strategy but there are some fundamental questions facing the community and these will dominate many conference sessions, seminars and exhibits:

  1. Connected Living
    As the Internet of Things gains momentum, how can the service provider community deliver the kind of enriched connectivity the broader ecosystem increasingly demands?
  2. Mobile Commerce
    For years, mobile has been a key banking and commerce tool for certain markets. With the rise of NFC (near field communication) and success stories like the Starbucks mobile payment app, will mobile become the preferred payment instrument for us all?
  3. Next-Generation Communications
    The world of communications moves quickly – too quickly even for service providers at times, with the runaway success of technologies of iMessage, WhatsApp and – next – WebRTC. In this ever-innovating world of mobile communications, can service providers regain some ground and demonstrate their value?

Layer 7 has answers to these questions and will be at MWC, demonstrating a variety of solutions that can help service providers address the challenges ahead. For example:

  1. We have been collaborating with AT&T and have planned an M2M solution that will capture anonymous information about visitors as they move around the exhibition halls. This information will be presented as intelligent APIs via the Layer 7 platform.
  2. Security and authentication are very familiar terms to Layer 7 and we’ll be showing how mobile payments can be easily and securely integrated with a mobile app without compromising the user experience.
  3. “Communications as a Service” opens many opportunities for service providers and the new partnership between Layer 7 and Voxeo Labs will show how easy it can be to capitalize on these opportunities.

Come and meet the team at booth 8.1A47 in the App Planet zone or email info@layer7.com to schedule a meeting. See you there!