Sensors Sensors Everywhere

A sensor is anything that can create data about its environs. A more formal definition is

a device that detects or measures a physical property and records, indicates, or otherwise responds to it -New Oxford American Dictionary

A very simple example is a thermocouple.

A picture of a k-type thermocouple showing the standard connector
This is a picture of a k-type thermocouple taken from the FAA under a CC By license

Essentially, two metals are bound together such that when the environment around this wire becomes hotter or colder, the metals produce a voltage. Through this thermoelectric effect, this strain translate into a voltage differential across the wire, producing an electrical signal. A simple voltmeter can read this signal, and one could calibrate that electrical signal to be read as degrees of temperature change.

You likely have one of these in your home thermostat. Perhaps you have a very simple thermostat that turns your home heater on and off.

A picture of an older home thermostat with cover removed
This is a picture of an older model, simple home thermostat, with the cover removed, showing the inner workings, under a CC By license

Perhaps you have a more complex, programmable thermostat that can control the temperature and humidity of your home through a furnace, air conditioner, humidifier/dehumidifier and fans, with different settings for different times of the day and days of the week.

This is a picture of an advanced Honeywell Programmable Thermostat
This is a picture of an advanced Honeywell Programmable Home Thermostat with a green backlit LCD display from the Honeywell website.

Perhaps you have something that looks very simple, but is now part of a complex system that includes not only your home HVAC system, but your computer and smartphone, and computers and analytic software at your utility company.

This is a picture of the very advanced Nest home thermostat.
This is a picture of the very advanced Nest home thermostat, which looks very simple but connects to your computers, smartphones, tablets and more, from the Nest website press downloads.

And this progression is why the Internet of Things is about to explode with Connected Data, with sensors being the new nerve endings of an increasingly intelligent world.

A Section of my Internet of Things mindmap showing the sensor branches
This is a section of my Internet of Things mindmap showing just the sensor branches.

Imagine sensors streaming Connected Data from your home entertainment system, refrigerator & most of its contents, toaster, coffee maker, alarm clock, garden, irrigation, home security, parking on the street in front of your home, traffic flowing by your home to your destination, air quality, and so much more.

We will interact with the world around us in ways that will change our decision making processes in our personal lives, in business, and in the regulatory processes of governments.

If you want to learn more, join IBM and my fellow panelists on Thursday, Sept. 13, from 4 to 5 p.m. ET to chat about cloud and the connected home using hashtag #cloudchat.

The Internet of Things and Change

Will You Be Ready For the M2M World?

The Internet of Things, the Connected World, the Smart Planet… All these terms indicate that the number of devices connected to, communicating through, and building relationships on the Internet has exceeded the number of humans using the Internet. But what does this really mean? Is it about the number of devices, and what devices? Is it about the data, so much data, so fast, so disparate, that will make current big data look like teeny-weeny data?

I think that it's about change: the way we live our lives, the way we conduct business, the way we walk down a street, drive a car, or think about relationships. All will change over the next decade:

  1. Sensors are everywhere. The camera at the traffic light and overseeing the freeway; those are sensors. That new bump in the parking space and new box on the street lamp; those are sensors. From listening for gun shots to monitoring a chicken coop, sensors are cropping up in every area of your life.
  2. Machine to Machine [M2M] relationships will generate connected data that will affect every aspect of your life. Connected Data will be used to fine-tune predictives that will prevent crimes, anticipate your next purchase and take over control of your car to avoid traffic jams. The nascent form of this is already happening: Los Angeles and Santa Cruz police are using PredPol to predict & prevent crimes, location aware ads popping up in your favorite smartphone apps, and Nevada and California are giving driver licenses to robotic cars.
  3. Sustainability isn't about saving the planet, it's about saving money. Saving the planet, reducing dependence on polluting energy sources and reducing waste in landfills are all good things, but they aren't part of the fiduciary responsibilities of most executives. However, Smart Buildings, recycling & composting, and Green IT all increase a company's bottom line and that does fall under every executive's fiduciary goals.

Making Sense of Inter-Connectedness - Introducing My Internet of Things Mind Map

As you can tell from the mindmap associated with this post, I've been thinking about the Internet of things quite a bit lately. It's a natural progression for me. I'm fascinated by all the new sensors, the Connected Data [you heard it here first] that will swamp Big Data, the advances in data management and analytics that will be needed, the impact upon policy and regulation, and the vision of the people and companies bringing about the Internet of Things. But more, as I've been reading and thinking about the SmartPlanet, SmartCities, SmartGrid and SmartPhones, and that ConnectedData, I realized that I can never look at the world around me in the same way again.

Let's look at some of the "facts" [read guesses] that have been written about the IoT.

Looking to the future, Cisco IBSG predicts there will be 25 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2015 and 50 billion by 2020. From The Internet of Things: How the Next Evolution of the Internet Is Changing Everything by Dave Evans, April 2011 [links to PDF]

Between 2011 and 2020 the number of connected devices globally will grow from 9 billion to 24 billion as the benefit of connecting more and varied devices is realised. The Connected Life: A USD4.5 trillion global impact in 2020, [links to PDF] February 2012 by Machine Research for the GSMA.

Two different estimates, one of 24 billion devices of many different types, connected by wireless broadband, and one of 50 billion mobile devices using different types of cellular networks, all by the year 2020. And neither of these estimates include the trillions of other types of things that will deployed over the next eight years. Trillions, not billions, using a variety of personal, local, and wide-area wireless networks.

My Focus Starts at The Intersection of Sensors, Analytics and Smart Cities, with Energy Management and Sustainability

One of the things that will change over time is the way that I look at the Internet of Things. All of it is interesting. But for now, I'll be focusing on the intersection of Sensors, Analytics and Smart Cities, with Energy Management and Sustainability.

Count RFID, Zigbee, MEMS, Smartdust and more traditional sensors, Robots, autonomous vehicles, Healthcare monitors, Smart Meters and more, being distributed in cities, cars, factories, trains, farms, planes, animals and people, and the number of connected devices in 2020 will be in the trillions. Data generated by less than one billion humans using the Internet a few times a day swamped traditional data management & analytics systems, spawning "Big Data". Trillions of devices updating ConnectedData every few nanoseconds will indeed change everything.

Of paramount importance moving forward is determining how to extract business, personal and social value from the intersections, interfaces and interstices of the infrastructure, connected data, objects and people building relationships through the Internet of Things.

Come join me as I look at this convergence and the business impact ahead of us.

Renewables and Smart Grid

We are currently in, at least, the fourth era of growth and interest in renewable energy. The first two of which I'm aware, in the late 1800's into the turn of that century, and in the 1950's, both concentrated on solar (Photovoltaics and Solar Thermal), with some wind power in the first. The third was during the Carter Administration in the 1970's (famously ending when Ronald Reagan ordered the solar panels off the roof of the White House). Disclosure: I was doing photovoltaic research at SES, Inc (now part of Royal Dutch Shell) as a physicaleletrochemist during this time.

During the recent upswing in interest, investment and installations of renewable energy sources (photovoltaics, solar thermal, wind, wave, tidal, geothermal, biomass, etc.) I've been worried that the bubble would soon burst. But today, I've had a thought that encourages me, that maybe renewables will take their place along side coal, oil and nuclear. The reason for this is complex, more social than technical, more due to business than to science.

Many point to the past failures of renewables, of whatever type, due to inefficiencies and to long periods, or infinite time, for a return on the upfront investment. But I think that much of what prevented adoption of renewables is more for social and business reasons. For the most part, the past marketing effort for renewables was to get people off the grid. This was scary for the individual, not justified by the ROI, and inimical to business interests.

Today however, we have the prospect of the Smart Grid. What exactly defines the Smart Grid is still being debated, but here's my hopeful thought. Just as the Internet evolved to combine data, communication and collaboration protocols into what we now term Web2.0 or read-write-web or social media, allowing anyone who desires to do so, become a producer of content as well as a consumer, the Smart Grid will not force users of renewable energy sources off the grid, but will allow whoever desires to do so become a producer as well as a consumer of utility services, starting with electricity, but perhaps evolving to include other utility services as well. Let me also point out that I'm not [just] talking about the individual, I'm talking about communities and small businesses. For example, the Smart Grid would allow a small business such as our local Coastside Scavengers to install an AdaptiveARC reactor, transforming the waste they pick-up from our homes into electricity, and additional cash flow.

This possibility has social, business and economic implications that the previous generations of renewables lacked. This gives me hope. This also strengthens my desire to see workable standards, and working implementations of the Smart Grid(s) - whatever that turns out to really mean.

Agile Project Management

In response to a comment that I left to a blog post of his in Herding Cats, Glen Alleman said "... phrase Agile Project Management, were so clearly defined". While I'm not an official source of definitions, I would like to take a stab at answering "What is Agile Project Management?". There are really four questions here:

  1. What is Agile?
  2. What is a Project?
  3. What does it mean to manage a project?
  4. How does one manage a project in an Agile fashion?

What is Agile?

Agile is a mindset, a philosophy, for software development. The Agile Manifesto lays it out quite clearly. Any software development, product management, project management or other methods that claims to be Agile must embody the mindset laid out in the Agile Manifesto. You really must read the whole manifesto. I won't copy it here, but I will discuss the main ideas. The emphasis in the Agile Manifesto is on satisfying the customer and responding to changing user needs for competitive advantage. Self-organizing teams, ongoing communication and working end products are preferable to formalized, stultifying processes. Supportive environments for sustainable efforts using simplicity, technical excellence and good design allow the sponsors, developers and users to maintain a constant pace indefinitely. Reflection on the process at regular intervals allows for continual and appropriate tuning and adjustments to the agile process.

Most of this isn't strange to project management, though the concept of "self-organizing teams" might seem a bit odd to a traditional, hierarchical organization. :>>

What is a Project?

A project is a temporary, collaborative effort to achieve a specific goal in a set time. At least, this paraphrases the definition I first saw in my first project activities in the Aerospace & Defense industry back in 1979. I've seen definitions that add things like "create a unique product", but the end result can be almost anything: a product, a pyramid, a rocket engine, a scientific advancement, a data warehouse, etc, etc, etc.

The emphasis for a project is that people and other resources come together temporarily to deliver a well-defined result by a specified due date.

What does it mean to manage a project?

Whips often come to mind. That was the main tool to manage the various pyramid building projects. &#59;) Ok, maybe not.

Project management is the skill of leading people and controlling the expenditure of resources to achieve specified goals on-time and within budget.

There are a variety of schools of thought, methodologies and guides to managing a project. I agree with Glen in that a good starting point is the Project Management Institute (PMI) Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBoK). I would also add PRINCE2 to that. Updated 20100308 per Jay's comments, below: The Prince2 link given is to a USA based training organization; Jay gives a link in his comments, which redirects to a UK based training and accreditation organization, APMG-UK.

I also need to step onto one of my favorite soap boxes for a moment. Project Management does not equal Product Management. Program and Portfolio Management are also unique and separate disciplines. These four professions often get confused. Product Management is a blend of marketing and engineering with the goal of translating user needs into technical specifications that result in marketable goods or services. Program Management specifies, implements and governs large initiatives that impact cross-disciplinary groups within a organization, and changes the process by which an organization conducts its daily affairs; examples are things like a Quality Program or a Decision Support program. Portfolio Management is the art and science of prioritizing and coordinating a set of Projects, often large capital projects, that may or may not overlap in goals, but definitely compete for money, people and resources. Ok, stepping down off the soap box and getting back on point now. :p

How does one manage a project in an Agile fashion?

Ah, well now. This is the point isn't it? Agile project management requires reconciling the discussion of Agile above with the definition of a Project and Project Management and developing a methodology that uses the Agile mindset of customer satisfaction, responding quickly to changing market needs for competitive advantage with self-organizing teams that reflect upon how they work and change their processes on the fly, while delivering working, valuable, as-specified results in an incremental fashion, on-time and in-budget.

Hmm, that doesn't sound so hard, does it?

Over time, we have evolved our project management methodology for delivering data warehousing, business intelligence and MDM solutions in such a way that, in the words of Todd McGrath of supergloo, inc. have become quite agile, and are now deliberately agile. We've gone from five dimensions of a project to eight over the eight years that IASC has been in existence.

Here's a mindmap that gives you an idea of what we're doing. Though there's a lot more to discuss about this, including the strategic, tactical and implementation tracks, and how iterative waterfall and agile mindset must work together to keep everything and everyone working a sustainable fashion, without burn-out and without missed deadlines, while learning from each iteration, and responding to changing user needs.

Apps on my iPhone

In January of 2007, I wrote that the iPhone didn't qualify as meeting my perfect handheld criteria. Now that I own one, and now that the app store has been open for five months, but mostly because Tawny Press has bought a new iPhone and asked for app advice on Twitter &#59;) I'm writing to say that I'm close to changing my mind. The iPhone isn't perfect, but it's close.

screen shot of iPhone

While having a conversation with Tawny Press in Twitter about her new iPhone, I realized it was time to start blogging again, and what better way to start than with my use of the iPhone apps that have come close to replacing my Palm Lifedrive.

screen shot of iPhone

The home page of the iPhone, or the first screen of apps, or the screen that shows when you press the one big round button at the bottom of the phone, is the screen that holds my most used apps. First, let's take a look at my 2005 criteria for a perfect handheld, slightly updated in 2007 for the iPhone:

  • Open Source OS but I would take MacOSX, if it was really the full OS - Check
  • Lot's of third-party apps - as of today, there are 1573 Games, 705 Entertainment, 141 Social Networking, 204 Music, 320 Prodcutivity, 270 Lifestyle, 301 Reference, 258 Travel, 201 Sports, 135 Navigation, 276 Health & Fitness, 101 Photography, 180 Finance, 166 Business, 413 Education, 41 Weather and 277 Books - that's a lot of apps
  • Multiple input methods including [soft] QWERTY keyboard, handwriting recognition, taps and multi-touch gestures, and voice [commands and dialing] - yes on the soft keyboard, handwriting recognition coming through Phatware apps, yes to taps & multi-touch and third-party apps do a so-so job of voice recognition in some areas
  • wired & wireless synchronization of ALL my digital life: contacts, calendar, audio/video/photo/eBook media, documents, spreadsheets, presentations, databases... all files, all the time - yes and no, which is why it's not perfect yet, some of this is available through third party apps, but it's all in individual sandboxes
  • wireless PAN, LAN, MAN & WAN and GPS, and keep IR too - whatever the latest protocols, such as those listed above for today, with expandability and upgradeable for tomorrow - again, yes and no, with limited bluetooth for PAN, WiFi for LAN, EDGE/3G for WAN, and iPhone3G gives GPS
  • convenient Voice and Data, and SMS, MMS, IM, chat, VoIP, and web & video conferencing - Yes, Yes, Yes, No, Yes [3rd party], Yes [3rd Party], Coming [3rd Party]
  • advanced graphics rendering for data visualization, games, and more - oh yes, indeed
  • Storage and more storage, hard drives, solid state disks, and maybe more than one compact flash memory slots, like SD and CFII - not really, no, but maybe in the future
  • Full IMAP & POP3 email compatibility with all servers that meet those protocols and with the ability to send, receive and handle all attachment & MIME types - yes on IMAP & POP3 & Exchange, Yes on viewing attachments and many MIME types, but No on sending attachments; there's that sandbox again
  • Complete web, wap & location services - Yes, emphatically so, though no need for WAP
  • feed syndication reader - third party apps & web apps
  • cookies & javascript enabled, with security management - Yes, but no Flash, which is cool as I don't like Flash on a computer, let alone an handheld
  • Full encryption handling for SSL, VPNs, etc. - Yep, yep, yep

So, look at what's on the home page, the main screen, the number one of my iPhone. The bottom four are the native apps that come with the iPhone, even before web apps were available. You can decide what four apps are in that bottom area, and the four apps in that bottom area appear in every screen. I stick with the phone, safari, mail and iPod as the four apps. But then, I'm a bit anal. :) I should also mention that I arrange the apps from the outside in, that is, the apps on any one screen that I use most often are towards the outside of the screen, top or bottom, left or right, and then I move inwards.

The rest are more important. I used my Lifedrive mostly for reading books and taking notes, so the first thing I wanted from the App Store when it opened in June was eReader from Fictionwise and a way to sync my 12 years of memos from my various Palm devices to my iPhone, to take new notes and to edit the old ones. On the very first day, eReader was on the App Store with a very easy way to get my purchased books from Peanut Press, Palm Digital and Motricity onto my iPhone. This was a serious win for me, and was the first step for the iPhone in approaching my perfect handheld. The second area, notes, is more problematic. The MissingSync from Mark/Space allows one to offload notes from the native Notes app onto one's Mac, but no two-way sync. That's not good. The iPhone doesn't have a system wide select/cut/copy/paste clipboard mechanism. That's not good for notes. But TextGuru does have copy & paste, and an awkward but workable two-way sync, and I've been able to get my old notes onto my iPhone and my new notes into Mark/Space Notepad. I prefer to take notes by writing vs. typing, to break up my day from keyboard to cursive, and a third party app may one day fulfill that desire. We'll talk about that later.

Next to eReader, and below TextGuru, you'll find TwittelatorPro. Now, I never tweeted from my Lifedrive but I use TwittelatorPro all day long to keep in touch with my tweeps. Twitter has been the best social networking medium I've found, and TwittelatorPro allows me to use all the features of Twitter with ease. Next is the web app leading to and that is my preferred feed syndication app for the iPhone, as the mobile page of Newsgator was for my Lifedrive and earlier Palms. Later you'll see that I also have NetNewsWire, and it's good for a pared down list of my feeds, for reading offline, such as when traveling, but it becomes too unstable with all my feeds, and I'm rarely away from a connection around the Bay Area.

And now, in the lower right hand corner, you'll find my new favorite app, Pandora. Pandora radio has been around for about three years, but it really became useful to me on my iPhone and has replaced my car radio as I drive around the Bay Area to meet with clients, work out of my café offices and run errands.

TextGuru also provides for other files to be brought onto the iPhone, and it has viewers for MSoffice, PDF and other file formats, but the viewers aren't great. One powerful capability that TextGuru provides is to share files between mobile devices that also have TextGuru [that sandbox principle again]. By mobile devices, I mean iPhone, iPhone3G and either generation of iPod-Touch devices. Next to TextGuru, you'll see AirSharing. This app provides a more streamlined way of moving files from a desktop/laptop to your mobile device and it provides very good viewers for MS Office, iWork, PDF and other file formats.

The remaining apps on the home screen are from Apple, standard on the iPhone, and apps to which I want quick access.

Now what else do I have on my iPhone?

screen shot of iPhone

The second screen has apps that I use somewhat frequently, or, such as Hahlo3, a web app for Twitter, that I moved while checking out a native app. EccoNotePro is my favorite of the voice recorders. Facebook is a native app for accessing Facebook - doh! Sketches provides a very nice way to draw and to annotate pictures, drawings and google maps, and is nicely integrated with the iPhone apps. As you move across that row, you'll see other media oriented apps, MediaShare, from Brancipater, the TextGuru folk, allows for sharing media file formats, as TextGuru allows for sharing of other formats. MyShow accesses pictures on the web, according to your search terms, and creates slide shows: a great screen saver. Next is Photos, from Apple.

The next row are news oriented. Instapaper allows one to bookmark web sites, transfer them to the iPhone for offline reading in their original or text only format. Seismic ties into the USGS and provides updates on earthquakes worldwide. AP Mobile news provides world, US, local, whacky, etc news from AP for both online updating and offline reading. NetNewsWire is the best iPhone feed reader for me, as it syncs with Newsgator and NetNewsWire on my Mac.

Palringo for IM and Fring for IM plus Skype for communication. Fliq is from Mark/Space and provides a way to send contacts as VCF files and media files from one Fliq user to another.

screen shot of iPhone

The third screen has some good apps for translations, social networking, such as LinkedIN, another file sharing app, and two types of terminal apps: VNC to control my Mac remotely, and iSSH to log into our linux server out in the Internet.

screen shot of iPhone

The fourth screen is a mish-mash from Obama'08 to Uiqloq: performance art and a clock, another screen saver sort of thing. Shazam and Midomi listens to songs and identifies them for you; you can even purchase a tune through iTunes from them. The rest are self-explanatory, I think.

screen shot of iPhone

Screen 5, above, has some good ones. SplashID, which syncs with Mac or PC, and is available for PalmOS, WinMo, etc, etc, etc is a great way to generate and securely store passwords and private information of all types. eMailContact is a great way to share contact information with others. I use it to introduce folk that may want to do business together. Wikipanion reformats wikipedia for the iPhone and stores searches, great app. Most of the rest show that I'm a geek. :>> One app for which I have great hope is WritePad, handwriting recognition for the iPhone; this is a proof of concept only, and I'm waiting less than patiently for a note taking app that takes advantage of it. The last app, EasyWiFi has proven to be useless useful once you RTFM and know to enter the information for each public WiFi network manually, even if you don't actually need login information; it doesn't keep me connected to free WiFi at Tully's or others that require web logins.

screen shot of iPhone

Screen 6 has some games, which I rarely play. Sorry, I try, but gaming just isn't my thing.

screen shot of iPhone

The final screen has the web apps that I used before the App Store opened, and I rarely use them now.

I'm still looking for an outliner to replace BrainForest on my Palm. The app, Outliner may be it, especially as it now imports OPML, which BrainForest exports, so I can have my old gift lists, business plans, corporate values, etc. There is also mindmapping software for the iPhone that might do the job even better, and of course, there is the renowned but troubled and expensive OmniFocus.

Since I like taking notes on my handheld, you may ask why I don't use Evernote. Two reasons: no cut and paste, and I don't want my notes stored on a web service that may or may not be available in ten years.

So there you have it. The apps I use now. The apps that are making the iPhone close to my perfect handheld, and have very much replaced my Lifedrive.

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The TeleInterActive Lifestyle is about the business processes, life choices, management challenges and technical issues facing organizations and individuals as individuals and organizations adopt the Internet of Things, Mixed Reality, wireless networks of all levels, mobile devices, long-distance collaboration, social networks, digital transformation, and adjust to growing urbanization.

Sensor Analytics Ecosystems for the Internet of Things (SAEIoT) brings value from emerging technologies through data management and analytics, advances in data science, as the IoT matures through the 5Cs: Connection, Communication, Contextualization, Collaboration and Cognition. The socialization of machines will allow for Privacy, Transparency, Security and Convenience to be flexibly provided with two-way accountability to build Trust among Humans and Machines.

AsDataArchon, we have evolved our consulting data scientist work from learning how to incorporate sensor analytics into data warehouses, business intelligence and analytics to focusing on IoT data management and forming sensor analytics ecosystems.

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Our current thinking on sensor analytics ecosystems (SAE) bringing together critical solution spaces best addressed by Internet of Things (IoT) and advances in Data Management and Analytics (DMA) is here.

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