Category Archives: research and funding

IoT expert mtg 5

Xiaohui Yu from China Academy of Telecommunication Research (CATR) of the Ministry of Information Industry (MII) gave a fascinating overview of IoT activity in China. The scale of their investment is well reported so it was useful to hear about the support coming via government, enterprise and research, and where those programmes are being implemented.

“IoT is deemed as an important part of the strategic emerging industries, as a measure for transformations of the mode of economic development, for developing low carbon economy and achieving green and sustainable growth, as a footstone of forging the information society and improving people’s life in China”

Pilot applications are being rolled out in infrastructure (100′s of smart grid trials completed, ITS in 17 provinces), upgrading the traditional industry (agriculture, industry, logistics – this “smart” approach across sectors is aimed at “transforming” the mode of economic development), to serve the people (healthcare and housing) and environment and safety (environment protection and energy saving).

Convergence of information and industrial transformation.

In addition to the different research programmes the MOF (Ministry of Finance) and MIIT (Ministry of Industry and Information Technology) have just launched an IoT Development Special Fund aimed at technology development, industrialisation of the technology, application development and the creation of a “standard public service platform“. The label assigned to the latter has potential to be something quite interesting but it seems there is some uncertainty around what and how it will be delivered. One to watch though.

Florent Frederix reported on a presentation to the European Commission on IoT governance roadmap that was made the previous week to Neelie Kroes, Vice President and EU Commissioner for Digital Agenda. Governance refered to the “rules, processes and behaviour that affect the way in which powers are exercised particularly as regards openness, participation, accountability, effectiveness and coherence.” The five “principles of good governance” presented were:

1. Identification (network address of object and identification of the object) – issues are around maintaining interoperability of identifiers.
2. Privacy and Security (regulatory and technological) – issues being debated around privacy by default, the right to be forgotton and privacy by design, silence of the chips.
3. Ethics (implants, privacy in the home, accountability, liability of objects) – the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies are very interested in creating an independent report and are asking for feedback at
4. Decentralised architecture (extensions to physical infrastructures such as Smart Grid) – the quest for solutions offering more autonomy and stronger security.
5. The European IoT Norm (self- or co-regulation) – need to be compliant with EU Norm, future IoT recommendations and the legislative framework without the need for specific directive or EU legislation.

This translates into sub working groups in: identification, privacy + security, ethics IoT architectures, IoT standards, multi-stakeholder governance architecture.

A complete paper will be complete by the end of 2011 and will then go to public consultation. Impact assessments and consultations with the commission will occur through 2012 and expected adoption is in early 2013.

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3rd IoT European Conference

I recently attended the 3rd Annual Internet of Things Europe 2011: Bridging the divide between policy and reality at the Management Centre Europe, Brussels I was invited by Rob van Kranenburg from Council and attending as a representative of the IoT Expert Group and was invited to contribute to the panel on standardisation. The event was useful to get a feel for the temperature of IoT developments in Europe and the progress being made. I think this was best summarised by Mike Nelson (@mikenelson) on the culture of the room when viewed through the lens of West Coast / East Coast / Europe. Which was a different take on the opening quote “Caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar” (Traveller, there is no road; you make your path as you walk).

Mike Nelson on the differences between west, east coast and Europe
fun, money and rights

Tech cultures
ready aim, aim, aim, aim….

This was partially down to the sessions of the event (below) but also reflected the nature of the community in the room. One message that struck home for me was a comment that 2-3 years ago it felt like we had a first starter advantage, but now we are moving to trying to keep up.

Societal challenges and applications for a smart and green planet
Where are we today? – The International Experience
Technological developments and business applications
Sources of funding for the IoT
Governance, privacy and security
Standards to support policy

The aim of the event was:

“The Internet of Things is finding its way into real applications and services. It is driven by smart city concepts, energy and mobility management and the quest for data to bring better foresight to scenarios for industry, government and citizens. The 3rd Annual Internet of Things Europe Conference will explore the major trend towards M2M and the merging of online and offline worlds. This event will facilitate the debate among all stakeholders on the discussion of the future of the Internet of Things and how it will re- shape our interactions with the real and virtual worlds in the coming years and how it will affect citizens in everyday life.”

Things I found interesting were Michael Nelson’s thoughts about IoT not needing a single “privacy by design” solution, rather creating the space for many different solutions to be brought to market. And on transparency, its about transparency of the systems to hold the data not necessarily transparency of the data itself.

The keynote presentation by Neelie Kroes (@NeelieKroesEU), Vice President and EU Commissioner for Digital Agenda, European Commission is below but focused on the governance needed and highlighted three issues of object identification, privacy and security. At a meeting at the OECD later that day she extended these to the “Compact for the Internet”: an Internet of Civic responsibility, One Internet, that is Multi-stakeholder, Pro-democracy, Architecturally sound, Confidence inspiring, and Transparently governed!

Peter Hustinx, Supervisor, European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) made a great point that “fundamental to the successful deployment is trust”, ergo effective data protection is a critical success factor. Privacy of data and trust of consumer will be critical – whilst the “right to silence” is “hyperbole (and probably impractical)” it is getting the conversation started on privacy by design. This is a watch-it for us since we need to understand the privacy implications in the built environment that are in-directly caused by us observing and understanding the behaviour of people in buildings. He made this point nicely when he stated “I don’t see objects exercising rights” but went on to describe how the increasing ubiquity of these devices in our environment makes the distinction between us and the objects difficult.

Pilgrim Beart from AlertMe, made a really clear presentation of their consumer IoT application and stated that most IoT once installed is ambient and does not require “modal” interfaces that require our attention – therefore design for that. Great reminder.

Professor Julian Kinderlerer, President, European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies gave a good intro on ethics around IoT and identity “in applying right to be forgotten, we have to know what is that we have to forget.” – their group want your opinions. He also raised the interesting issue of ownership of data and knowledge using the example of ICKN at MIT – should info be mashed together to create swarm behavior? An alternative application could be Police and Insurance DB “sharing” scheme recently in the news.

But the most thought provoking talk for me was Usman Haque from Pachube with a very frank and open talk on the cultural differences between investment in IoT from a start-up perspective learned through 8 years of experience. Worth a flick through the slides covering the IoT market, Europe vs. US funding, and an intro to Pachube.

And slides from my panel intro are also on slideshare.

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smart pop up retail

Over the past couple of years we have done several workshops on the theme of retail of the future with collaborators such as the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute and the Narrative Environment students at CSM. One of the consistent “future tech” ideas that popped out of those charettes would include some magic that allowed friendly robots to make “suggestions” that supported your consumption. Over the next couple of days we will be testing such robots in a temporary pop up retail installation at Arup Phase 2.

Po-Up Wine Shop

Gonzalo is a CASE PhD researcher who has been with the Foresight team for the past few years. He has just completed the major experimental component of this work at the OU in Milton Keynes and is now bringing the installation to the Arup offices at 8 Fitzroy Street to conduct a second “mini” experiment with a different cohort of test subjects. Gonzalo says

The focus of my research is the design of smart products and services and how these may change people’s behaviour. As computers become ever so small and disappear inside walls, tables and many everyday objects the way we interact with information changes radically. Like footprints in the snow our encounters with smart objects and spaces leave a permanent mark in the information substrate. From these traces smart artefacts can learn how, when and where they are used, and can react to that information.

If you are near the BT Tower in central London over the next couple of days please call in. Full details of both the installation and the research is over on makingsenseofspace.

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Internet of Things, police rather than prevent activity?

An interesting “expert meeting” on the Internet of Things last week. We were joined by DG JUST who had prepared a draft paper for comment titled “A comprehensive approach on personal data protection in the European Union”. It is an update to the 1995 Data Protection Directive (Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament) and is reviewing data protection in general but is being influenced by the Internet of Things work in response to a changing world where “new ways of collecting personal data have become increasingly elaborated and less easily detectable”. The review is particularly looking at the following issues:

  • Addressing the impact of new technologies
  • Enhancing the internal market dimension of data protection
  • Addressing globalisation and improving international data transfers
  • Providing a stronger institutional arrangement for the effective enforcement of data protection rules
  • Improving the coherence of the data protection legal framework

The discussion in the morning (and most the break outs) seemed to surface out two different schools of thought. This is best illustrated through one of the discussion points around the theme of “Enhancing control over one’s own data” – also referred to as “silencing the chips” and “right to be forgotten”. The “kiki” types spoke of the difficulties in the practical implementation of such regulations and highlighted how such an approach would constrain innovation. The “bouba” types stressed the need to protect and educate people on the possible abuse they could be subjected to. The answer, as usual, is not at either extreme.

Going into the meeting I was definitely in the “kiki” camp and still think that the genie is out the bottle already on this one, I think it will be near on impossible to implement some of the “silencing of the chips” proposals being made since it would just wipe out the business model for actually implementing these technologies. What I did realise however, was the assumptions I had been making around the safety nets that I believed would be in place to support these technologies. For example, i had assumed a state system would exist that would stop people abusing my data if that happened and I had assumed that there would be “consumer groups” who would “keep an eye on the street” to discourage people from trying to abuse me.

So I departed the day with more questions than when I arrived – I guess a useful day at work. But non the less, many questions still unanswered. I need to figure out a way to take this to the ECTP (European Construction Technology Platform) cohort to get their input but also list some questions below, would love to hear your opinions.

The “silence of the chips”; – at what level do we de-activate personal information? – are there different levels of privacy for different identities / contexts? – why do we want to silence the chips? – what kind of abuse is anticipated?

The “right to be forgotten”; – the logistics of how to delete on demand personal information? – But these devices are very simple low power objects – is it practical to include the kind of data protection management being proposed? Should we focus on dealing with abuse rather than preventative measures? – sometimes when we mine data we only retrospectively realise the value in it – when do we make the value judgement as to if it should be deleted? the current worst cases of abuse are probably imprisonment for your ideas – will the deletion of data really help this? when all the chips and readers are being manufactured outside Europe is this a moot point? Is this kind of policing helpful or based on an outdated process?

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INTA 34 World Urban Development Congress

I presented our work on the Internet of Things at INTA34 yesterday. The theme was “Reinventing the Urban Environment” and discussion ranged from the philosophical to the practical and was interspersed with examples of work in progress (e.g. the nearby Port of Pasaia).


I had great feedback on the Drivers of Change cards (again several people came and told me they had a set) and also on the Internet of Things work (the EU funded Sensei project and the new TSB funded YCT project). I also have a pile of cards from people requesting more info on the Arup Smart City report.

My favorite speaker at the event was Clara Gaymard – President GE Europe – she gave an interesting perspective on the future of urban development and work they are doing to help cities deliver the necessary infrastructure. One line from her talk I liked was: “a child today wishes for a computer for their birthday, their parents wished for a scooter or a car – why? They both want to be connected.” and she also made reference to nice idea i had not heard about – City of Melbourne public transport example of smoothing peak load at no extra cost; they made public transport free before 7am. Would love to hear more about that if anyone has references.

INTA34 interview location

The event was held in the Kursaal Convention Centre in the beautiful San Sebastian where we were also treated to a reception at the excellent Aquarium. I was in Santander a few weeks ago, not many mile down the coast. I was surprised to learn that both cities are going for Cultural City status in 2016 – tough competition – but was impressed with San Sebastian’s preparations. Weird highlight of the trip was being interviewed on data shadows in front of surfers out in the bay.

The INTA reporting is blogged here, there a few videos here and tweeted here. Lots of photos are here.

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Today i was at the kick off meeting for an interesting EU funded project called SmartSantander. It builds on the work of a couple of previous European projects in the “future internet” domain including Sensei which completes at the end of this year. The project overview is:

“SmartSantander proposes a unique city-scale experimental research facility in support of typical applications and services for a smart city. Tangible results are expected to greatly influence definition and specification of Future Internet architecture design from viewpoints of Internet of Things and Internet of Services. This unique experimental facility will be sufficiently large, open and flexible to enable horizontal and vertical federation with other experimental facilities and stimulates development of new applications by users of various types including experimental advanced research on IoT technologies and realistic assessment of users’ acceptability tests.”

I am on the advisory group so not directly involved in the project however it was refreshing to here that as part of the testing of the “platform” they are going to run two open calls for applications to be built in Santander using their kit – watch this space, or if you have ideas you would like to test on a live platform get in touch.

The project team is quite heavy on technical skills, which is probably not surprising nor a bad thing given the technical challenges ahead, but they have a narrow window at the start to define some really compelling use cases situated in the context that is Santander. The risk is they will have the tech platform but no app (lots of balls but no one to play with). They do have designers and anthropologists on the team and the local council / mayor and regional development agency are involved, so chance of success is probably higher than usual.

The facility will comprise of more than 20,000 sensors and there is talk of a 61km backbone network being built along the roads of the city. The city of Santander has full support from the regional Government of Cantabria with real cash contribution of 500,000 €. Also of note is Santander is bidding to be the 2016 Cultural Capital of Europe.

More information is on the project website, facebook and twitter.

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Pervasive 2010 Helsinki

Gonzalo had a demo of his UCL / Arup CASE research at Pervasive this year and I was presenting at a workshop on “Energy Awareness and Conservation through Pervasive computing”. We had great feedback on the ambient displays with several requests for others to use the devices as communication media on their own projects. Next steps will be to make robust units with doorways into different datasets (e.g. resource use at Arup offices).

place stats on flickr

Place stat* demo

The workshop was an interesting mix of researchers but heavily focused on the domestic energy monitoring market which was a shame since i think pervasive computing has much to offer the commercial / public building space and will probably have a greater impact than the domestic. Notes are at the bottom of this post but of interest was the use of social norms to influence behaviour, the use of REST to interface data and the lack of looking at patterns in the data to understand meaning. All three of which are areas we are looking at with the internal “Seewatt” research project.

Also of interest was the keynote by Henry Tirri SVP and Head of Nokia Research – which had two key take-aways:

- 4.6 billion users of mobile services, 1.6 billion have bank accounts – what do the other 3 billion do? the demand for banking services via telcos in growth markets. I had heard this anecdotaly but the numbers referenced were very significant.

- on the issues of understanding energy management on mobile devices where transmission is major energy expense ie use cached local version or continually pull from cloud – the future is not about bandwidth or cost but the availability of energy to sustain device use. Whilst he side stepped the question on the commercial drive to get users to replace handsets on 2 year cycles it was interesting that they recognise the benefit in the research community developing methods for continually trying to use less resource.

And finally a great video from the conference on the Formamat project at:

Links at

Photos on flickr

Notes from WP2 – Energy Awareness and Conservation through Pervasive computing

Andreas – Cyprus – interacting with smart meters using REST principles – using Web Application Description Language (WADL) to describe services. Using TinyOS nodes to simulate energy meters.

James Scott – Microsoft Research Cambridge – predicting occupancy to control heating and cooling of domestic properties – measured temp on boiler, outside and on at thermostat + using GPS to predict arriving home. Debate – INFORM OR CONTROL?

Jon Bird (Yvonne Rogers) – Open University – CHANGE project –, Tidy St (Brighton), “social norms” (life of brian – we are all individuals – i am not) boomerang affect – people gravitate towards the average – ie if they were below the average they tend up towards it – research done on beer consumption in US. Tidy St – displaying energy use of each house in the street – they liked the idea initially but then got slightly uncomfortable. a project which says if the national grid is under stress or not (a one pound circuit will tell you the current frequency – also So compare national demand with tidy street average.

Jorn – Fachhochschule – matrix of types of usage (info, advice, automation) and data aspects (data sources, processing, interface, control / sharing)

Tatsuo – Waseda Uni – EcoIsland, game play to involve participants. Users add their behaviours and get recommendations for how to reduce resource use (from Japanese gov list of activities). Being used in 7 houses / families.

Matthias – Fraunhofer – energy awareness and self awareness – took measurements from an office / home and then asked inhabitants to review and describe their behaviour during that period. Not the graphs, it is understanding the graphs that is important – the behaviour. About events that occur not the readings themselves (the kink in the curve).

Karthikeya – School of Art and Design, Aalto Uni – Helsinki Energy Informer – video record usage of light switches (to see which ones were on) to monitor the use of lights in an office space – usage sent back to inhabitants via text. Drop in usage between 1st and 2nd week of trial “due to Hawthorn effect” of people being monitored. More activity in use of light switch in second week.

Daphne – TUDelft – a community based approach for engagement. – changing beliefs, incentives, education, community mgt (Gardner & Stern 1996) – focus here on latter, community mgt.

Jorge Zapico – KTH – and an interesting hackday output to compare CO2 to other stuff “to try to help people understand what the measurement kg of CO2 means and

Giulio – Helsinki Inst. for Info Tech – iPhone app to feedback usage of appliances in lab and also survey / quiz to challenge people to think about resource usage BeAware –

“Cialdini has an interesting take on persuasion”

“lots of talk about sensing and visualising but not much on data mining and making sense out of the data”

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User Centred Design for Energy Efficiency in Buildings

I spent last week at a TSB Sandpit on User Centred Design for Energy Efficiency in Buildings. 5 days with 30 people from academia and industry thinking about how UCD could be used to support energy efficiency in buildings.

TSB sandpit

We were successful in winning a few projects “Social BMS” and “YouCaretaker”. The former will be a schools based project to map energy / resource use overlaid with socialised data to create “data shadows” which describe continuous real time use of the school environment. The latter is focused on creating an online community to support the sharing of data and best practice amongst stakeholders in the operation of buildings. Both projects have a really interesting mix of partners of which more will follow on the blog once the projects get started. There are still a few hurdles to jump through before kick off (in Sept) but it is supposedly down hill from here.

TSB sandpit

The event was facilitated extremely well by the guys at Know Innovation (they have a write up on their blog)

links are on delicious tagged UCDEEB

photos on flickr

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ITOBO wireless sensor network design tool

Alan Gibney was over at Arup a couple of weeks ago testing a Wireless Sensor Network design tool in number 8 Fitzroy Street that he developed during his PhD on a tool for wifi access point positioning.

Using a 3D info of the building the tool allows us to figure out the best location for network gateways based on the required location of sensing nodes and the material characteristics of the building. This particular installation was of interest since the majority of the office is open plan which means that the “stuff” that interferes with wireless signals is much more dynamic and difficult to model than say a concrete wall or a glass partition which is traditionally quite stationary and has modelable properties.


Data Capture Process

The process shown in the sketch above involved 1] identifying sensor locations on the fourth floor of number 8 Fitzroy, 2] walking around the floor plate taking measurements of signal strength for each node in different areas, 3] mapping the signal strength, 4] generating a heatmap of gateway options, 5] running agent based optimisation algos to select optimal gateway positions.

WSN node map

Signal strength of node in different locations of office

The signal strengths were then loaded into the design tool to verify that the actual were similar enough to those predicted in the model. With a mean error of 1.41 the model seemed pretty robust.

The design tool then allows a variety of gateway / sensor nodes positions to be tested and compared for different types of optimisation (battery life, signal robustness, minimising nodes required etc.)


Topology of possible WSN

A ray launching method is used to propogate the signal strength from a node to a gateway with the journey being recalculated using a motif model that describes the radion propogation model of a material. The image below shows the heat map generated for a gateway positioned in the open plan area of the office.


Candidate gateway locations

measure predict

Measurement vs Prediction


Heat map based on signal strength from gateway

Next steps are to use the design tool to model the whole building in preparation to roll out a 200+ node WSN in the building. The aim of the installation will be to monitor light (lux) levels in the office alongside occupancy to analyse and optimise both light comfort levels and energy efficiency.

More detail on the WSN design tool is available at:

Motif Model

Propagation Model

Optimisation Algorithms

All images on Flickr

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Open innovation for future Internet-enabled services in smart cities

DG INFSO (Information Society and Media Directorate-General of the European Commission) is exploring the idea of pilot projects on “Open innovation for future Internet-enabled services in “smart cities”. Their recent communication “A Strategy for ICT R&D and Innovation in Europe: Raising the Game” recommended that “the CIP will support SMEs piloting highly innovative technologies, and the development of open platforms for user-driven innovation”.

As such under the “Competitiveness and innovation programme” (CIP), theme 4 “CIP ICT PSP” will probably consist of 5 pilot projects to be funded on internet based technologies and services in the city. At least one will have a focus on use of RFID technologies. Call expected Q1/2010 deadline Q2, info day Jan 2010. More at

Making a strategic move from islands of services to common open platforms requires investment beyond the scope of a single application developer or city. It is important that cities connect, share and identify common best practice through pathfinder projects that can drive the development of common open platforms. User-driven open innovation methodologies or ecosystems such as the Living Labs are being proposed to nurture this process.

Pilots are being proposed that would combine all three of the following synergistic elements: 1) user-driven open innovation, 2) connected smart cities, and 3) Internet-based services.

Ideas around the following themes are of interest:

  • smart living: participatory urban planning and co-design of spaces
  • green digital agenda: master-plans for digital infrastructure to enable low carbon, e.g. energy production, environmental monitoring, buildings and facility management, traffic and transport (‘Urban Information Architecture’ or CIM in Arup)
  • The citizen in transformation: citizen as an active co-producer, as
  • well as consumer, of content and services, e.g. wellbeing, health, inclusion and participative democracy

The only pity is that it will be five large scale (10mil Euro each?) projects rather than one hundred 50k Euro projects. Just think of the diversity of urban informatic / internet of things prototypes you could build around Europe with that finance…

Still if you have any project ideas you would like to pursue around the theme of user centred / urban design led applications that the future internet may be able to support then please get in touch. They EC are keen for these projects to be urban design ‘pulled’ rather than technology ‘pushed’.

Brussels 16.11.09

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