This is the 5th segment in the Postscapes Interview Series with some of the top people influencing the Internet of Things.
Who are you, and what do you do?
I’m Antonio Pintus, since 2000 I have been a researcher/technologist at the CRS4, a research center based in Sardinia, the wonderful island in the center of the occidental Mediterranean Sea. My past research topics include network distributed software architectures, Service oriented Architecture (SOA) and Resource oriented Architecture (ROA); in the last years I’ve focused my research work on the Internet of Things and, in particular, on the Web of Things. Together with my collegues Davide Carboni and Andrea Piras we are the creators and developers of Paraimpu, a social tool for the Web of Things.
How do you view the term “Internet of Things”?
Among the “classic” original definitions and projects about IoT, which included RFID technologies, objects identification, etc…I like to stress the effort done towards integration of things using Internet protocols. I firmly believe that the IoT and Web of Things are the forthcoming revolution of the way we use Internet and the Web today. I believe it is more than a geeky futuristic vision, but rather a scenario already among us, where sensors, things, heterogeneous electronic devices and everyday smart-objects, together with people can interconnect, produce and share data and functionalities. This collaborative real-time web of machine-and-people is enabled by well-known protocols. Despite the big steps we’ve made in that direction, I think that IoT/WoT still suffers from a certain degree of immaturity, and this fact also opens up opportunities: we have the chance to explore, reason, research, invent, develop and innovate.
In particular, I think that the major obstacle to achieving that goal is represented by the diffuse opinion that the IoT is for hackers in-lab experimentation, an idea made up of tiny and obscure electronic equipments, hard to explain and use and with hazy and fuzzy usage scenarios. When we are able to shift our platforms to the next level, providing a better user experience and when more and more
fascinating everyday objects are available on the market, we will be witness to a natural and broad adoption by people of what we’re working on like what we have seen lately happen with social networks and the collaborative Web in general.
Please, let me be provocative: it’s in my opinion that large scale successful solutions and platforms in this field will be those capable of adopting existing Internet/Web protocols, perhaps improving them, but keeping openness and interoperability, instead of trying to “re-invent the wheel”, for example developing obscure, ad-hoc, protocols and architectures. The Web protocols are the “lingua franca” in a real world made of such very heterogeneous things.
Where do you see the Internet of Things and its technologies creating the most impact?
In my opinion, a current relevant impact of IoT we’re assisting is in the field of urban/environmental monitoring: logging of data coming from globally distributed sensors, such as CO2, temperature, humidity, and radioactivity are the most meaningful usage example of IoT/WoT. Another interesting field of application is represented by domotics (home automation) and ambient assisted living, an evolution of the domotics we are used to thinking of, with the possibility to control our domestic appliances through the Web, interconnecting and mashing them with other things, real or virtual, like social networks. Moreover, a recreational/entertainment usage is an interesting topic to explore and experiment with.
Capitalizing on the results of our past research experience we conceived and created our project named Paraimpu: an online service for a large scale social Web of Things. Basically, the idea is to provide a Web-based tool in order to allow people to connect their own heterogeneous things to the Web, inter-connect them “à la mashup”. By setting simple or complex data transformation/adaptation rules and allowing social thing sharing with friends or with other Paraimpu users.
The whole concept respects the following guidelines:
- it must be possible for users to connect their things to the Web, to Paraimpu.
- it must be as simple as possible and work in an intuitive way.
- it must enable the interconnection of things, also very heterogeneous among them, giving the possibility to configure each connection through the definition of data adaptation/transformation rules.
- it must be possible to add and inter-connect not only physical objects but also virtual ones, like Web services, APIs, RSS feeds, existing social networks like Facebook or Twitter and so on.
In other words allowing the creation of hybrid physical-virtual mashups; the Web of Things should be Social-by-design: it must be possible to share things with other people, to share data, to share functionalities toward a participative, collaborative re-using of the things.
In its current version, Paraimpu proves how all of these assumptions and ideas are possible now and it offers several facilities with the aim of allowing people to add, connect and configure both well-known specific components like Arduino boards, social networks, software applications but is also able to wink at the “geek part” of the world able to build their own objects or hack existing ones. Wherever it’s possible and needed, the system helps the user, and in some cases it provides all the ready-to-use software components and sketches for well-known things typologies, like Arduino, Quartz Composer, Max/MSP, Processing and PureData.
A very exciting aspect for us is realizing that Paraimpu just works. Our users are effectively using the system in order to satisfy their own needs de-facto becoming Web of Things participants: not only performing raw data-logging, but also building mashups involving real things.
Finally, we’re having also great fun and time actively collaborating with the quit-project’s artists in designing and building art exhibitions/multimedial installations where data coming from heterogeneous and globally distributed sensors (also including the ones shared by other users) is used to drive workflows designed with dedicated software or languages like Quartz Composer, Max/MSP or Processing in which Paraimpu provides ready-to-use components for.
One of the first and noteworthy results of this is at the T-hotel permament installation in Cagliari, where on the circular building’s glass top floor a set of 16 large RGB LED panels change their color and intensity depending on the data coming from several sensors (measuring values like temperature) connected to Paraimpu. Parampu drives the RGB panels through a Max/MSP-based workflow.
Shout-outs: Any sites/people/articles or books that have inspired you lately?
Undoubtedly, meeting the webofthings.com’s guys, Dominique Guinard and Vlad Trifa in conferences and workshops (like the last one, WoT2011 in San Francisco) is always a great opportunity to discuss cutting edge WoT topics, share knowledge and enthusiasm and build a (yet) small but growing, high-quality community. Indeed, many other inspiring people and/or projects are listed in your TOP 100!
From another perspective, we consider the concept of “Collaborative Consumption” very interesting. Coined by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers, the authors of the book titled “What’s mine is yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption”, where it is defined as:
”traditional sharing, bartering, lending, trading, renting, gifting, and swapping redefined through technology and peer communities – that is transforming business, consumerism, and the way we live.”
Paraimpu is not far from these ideas with the social and things sharing aspects. Moreover, how can we not credit the Arduino Team and OpenPicus just to mention a few hardware projects? Finally, several scientific and industrial papers inspired us in investigating and shaping different point-of-views, considerations and ideas about the IoT/WoT.
The community is growing, platforms like Paraimpu are evolving quickly and we believe in them. Stay tuned!
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us and we look forward to seeing Paraimpu grow.