June 17, 2011 Increasingly, the things people use on a daily basis can be connected to the Internet. An alarm clock not only rings, but can also switch on the coffee machine while turning on the light. But what is needed to ensure that the Internet of Things operates as efficiently as possible?
Thus far, the Internet has been an arena reserved for people. But now more and more physical objects are being connected to the Internet: we read emails on our mobile telephones, we have electricity meters that report readings automatically, and pulse monitors and running shoes that publish information about our daily jog directly on Facebook.
Tools for collaboration The Internet of Things will introduce new smart objects to our homes. One challenge is to find effective solutions to enable different products to work together. Currently no standardised tools or distribution platforms exist in this area.
A group of Norwegian researchers have been addressing this issue. In the research project Infrastructure for Integrated Services (ISIS) they have created a platform for developing and distributing applications for the Internet of Things. The platform encompasses a programming tool for developers, called Arctis and the website ISIS Store for downloading applications. The project has received funding from the Research Council of Norway's Large-scale Programme VERDIKT.
Arctis was developed by researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). One of them is postdoctoral researcher Frank Alexander Kraemer.
"In a 'smart' everyday life objects and applications often need to be connected to several different communication services, sensors and other components. At the same time they need to respond quickly to changes and the actions of users. This requires very good control over concurrence in the system, which can be difficult to achieve with normal programming," he explains.
Dr Kraemer believes that the tool will make it easier to create new applications, adapt them to existing applications and update software as necessary.
"Developing a simple application with Arctis can be as easy as fitting together two building blocks, but more advanced applications can also be created, depending on what you are looking for," Dr Kraemer continues.
Talking to each other
"It is the collaborative system ICE Composition Engine (ICE) that will govern the whole thing and allow the objects to talk to each other," explains Reidar Martin Svendsen, project manager at the Norwegian telecommunications company the Telenor Group.
ICE can both manage the communication between objects in your home and keep track of any updates. The system is installed on a modem, a decoder or an adapter in the home and provides the user with a local gateway which ensures that the Internet of Things will continue to work even when the user is offline.
Telenor is seeking to become an operator for the Internet of Things by acting as a link between developers and end-users. But if the company is to succeed, a sufficient number of developers will need to choose to use its tools.
"We have established our own App Store where talented developers can publish the new applications they create and end-users can buy and download the applications they need. Basically, you can choose software according to your own needs and preferences," says Mr Svendsen.
The downloaded applications can be combined as needed using a software programme called Puzzle. The Puzzle programme is a user interface to the ICE system.
For the project to flourish, people have to be willing to pay for the applications. There are already many similar applications available online free-of-charge through the data infrastructure platform Pachube, for example. Why are users going to pay for something they can download legally and at no cost?
"It is better if a well-known operator is responsible for critical systems such as house alarms. For these types of systems you should go via the App Store to a supplier you trust. You don't know anything about the intentions of those who put out programmes free-of-charge on the Internet. But if your system needs updating or you require a service, it is an advantage to be using a reputable, recognised operator," explains Mr Svendsen.
"On the whole it will be up to the developers to decide what to charge for. At the ISIS Store there are currently a number of applications available that can be downloaded free-of-charge," he continues.
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