Humankind 2.0

a book in progress...
Meditations on the future of technology and society... be published in China in 2016

These are raw notes taken during and after conversations between piero scaruffi and Jinxia Niu of Shezhang Magazine (Hangzhou, China). Jinxia will publish the full interviews in Chinese in her magazine. I thought of posting on my website the English notes that, while incomplete, contain most of the ideas that we discussed.
(Copyright © 2016 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

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Internet of Things: History, Trends and Future

(See also the slide presentation)

Narnia: You told me that the Internet of Things represents the biggest business opportunity of our time. Why?


In the 1980s we connected computers (the Internet). In the 1990s we connected pages of knowledge (the World-wide Web). In the 2000s we connected people (e.g., social media like Facebook). Each of these conceptual revolutions created new vast markets. In the 2010s we will be connecting objects, and this will create a new wave of applications. A few years ago a historical threshold was reached even if not many magazines noticed it: there are now more things than people connected to the Internet. Some studies forecast 20 or even 30 billion objects connected to the Internet by the year 2020. A 2015 study by Cisco estimated that by 2025 there will be 100 billion interconnected devices, each equipped with dozens of sensors, for a gran total of more than a trillion sensors, that will generate a $19 trillion economy.

I get upset almost every day that things cannot talk to each other and perform simple tasks. Let me give you two recent examples, and then i am sure that you will start coming up with your own list of favorite applications.

These days i spend half of my life in hotels and i change hotel room very frequently, so i make mistakes. I went into the shower and turned the handle to cold water instead of warm. For a second i had very cold water raining on my head on a very cold winter day in Beijing. Obviously it makes no sense. The shower could be made "smart" by connecting it with a thermometer: if the temperature outside is zero, most likely it is a mistake that i select the cold shower. The shower should "know" that people don't take cold showers in cold winter days. Then every evening i get back to a hotel room, but sometimes i can't remember exactly which one because it changes all the time. In a world of "smart" objects, this is what would happen. I enter the hotel carrying in my pocket the key card. The elevator recognizes me, says "Hi piero, would you like to go to your room?". It knows my room number, so i don't need to press the button. The elevator takes me to the correct floor and, when the door opens, it tells me "Turn right". As i walk down the hallway, my room's door recognizes my key card and opens automatically. The lights and the heating turn on. The tv set might ask: "what channel would you like to watch?" None of this is science fiction: the technology is available today, and i expect to see it in luxury hotels very soon. Every time i have to struggle with my key card in my room's door (which rarely opens at the first try) or i have forgotten my floor, i am reminded of how easily it would be to make objects do things automatically.

Another dream is that one day i will be able to communicate with the drivers of the cars around me. It is amazing that the nicest people can get so angry and so easily when they are inside a car. Put the kindest person in the world inside a car, and she will turn into a savage. The reason is that drivers don't interact the same way that pedestrians interact. It would be nice if i could send messages to the cars around me. Sometimes i'd like to say "sorry, i am not familiar with your city, i am driving slowly". Or i want to tell someone "hey, careful, there is something wrong with the trunk of your car". Or i want to ask him for a direction: "Do you live around here? Do you know where i can find a good home-made ice cream?" This will happen when cars are connected. My car will tell me which cars are connected and will offer an app to communicate with the drivers of those cars.

I think of one possible application almost every day, and i am sure that thousands of people in Silicon Valley are thinking of possible applications every day. For the traditional manufacturing companies, the companies that make kitchen appliances, bathroom fixtures, etc, this is a colossal opportunity. Every object can become part of an intelligent process that people will want to have in their homes, shops, offices, hotels, restaurants, etc.

Sometimes it takes longer to pay for an item than to find the item in the store. If there is a power outage, the store cannot sell you the item, even if you want to pay cash for it. Cash registers are an electronic dinosaur of the shopping-mall era. If you have experienced the lines at the ticket machines of the Beijing subway, you also know how annoying it is to stand in line 20 minutes instead of catching your train. My US credit cards are not accepted in many places in China and Europe, and i cannot get an AliPay account because i don't have an account in a Chinese bank. These problems would be solved if i were equipped with an electronic wallet that can be automatically charged the proper amount of money when i walk out of the store with an item or when i enter the subway. Theft would not exist anymore: if you take an item out of the store, you are charged with it automatically. If you want to return it, just walk back into the store. The Apple Store has removed the need to stay in line at the store to "check out" (to pay for the items that you are purchasing). You simply walk out after purchasing your item with your Apple Pay app on your iPhone. China is actually ahead of the USA with AliPay and WeChat Pay. But i think that this is just the prehistory of register-less payment. You shouldn't need an iPhone and you shouldn't need to do anything. The electronic wallet in your pocket should talk directly to the item, and then your electronic wallet should directly communicate with the RFID/NFC readers of the store to complete the purchase and then the store should automatically email you a receipt. There is no need for you to do anything: you should simply pick up the item that you want and walk out with it. Everything else should be done by the smart objects. In the case of Apple Store, you still have an intermediary: your iPhone (because Apple is an iPhone-centered company). ApplePay is a step in the right direction, but it is not a success. In the USA fewer than 10% of stores have installed NFC contact-less readers. Today, as you are writing this article, there are 220,000 store that accept ApplePay (stores where you can pay with your iPhone without standing in line) compared with 9 million stores in the USA where you can pay with a credit card. This experiment was already tried in 2011, when Google introduced Google Wallet, another NFC-based payment service, but so far it has not succeeded. In the USA some think that the right way to proceed is CurrentC, the standard supported by Wal-Mart, that does not use NFC but instead uses a QR code (that the store scans on its smartphone app). I am still waiting for the day that an electronic wallet will talk directly to the items and the items directly to the NFC reader and i will simply walk out of the store when the item, without having to do anything else.

As you know, one of my popular talks in China and Europe is about the "top ten technologies of the future". A journalist asked me why i did not include social media (like Facebook and WeChat) in the top 10 of the future. I replied that these days i am more interested in the social life of objects than in the social life of people...

For the manufacturers there is also another big advantage: products will be able to "report" back to the manufacturer about the user. Traditionally, the retailer (the shop, the supermarket, the department store) used to know the customer best, because the retailer would get the feedback from the customer; now it will be the manufacturer who will get feedback directly from the product itself about the customer. This can be used by the manufacturer for refining the product (based on how the user uses the product) and upgrading the product (based on what else the user uses in combination with this product). Basically, the product will become part of the process of designing the next generation of products. It will send back data that will help design the next generation of itself, its "children".

The Internet of Things will connect people, their personal devices, home appliances, buildings, cars, roads, etc.

We will live in a "smart" world where objects are "smart" and provide "smart" services. That world will be hyper-satured with data.

Narnia: Why is it "big" now? What new technology enable the Internet of Things?


First of all, it is not really happening "now". The field shows a lot of promise, but what we have now is very limited. Nest and August offer "smart" gadgets that can talk to smartphones and browsers, but not really to other "things". In 2016 the Target store in San Francisco had an exhibit titled "Home Smart Home" that exhibited many of the products available today, but for most of us it was difficult to find one that was truly useful. Switching on a coffee machine with a smartphone instead of pushing a button is not really revolutionary! However, in the future these things will start talking to each other, and then we can talk about something "big" happening. In 2015 Stanford researcher Ashutosh Saxena founded Brain of Things in Redwood City to automate the entire house, i.e. to create a "robot home" fitted with hundreds of sensors and programmable objects that learn your habits.

When journalists ask me what will be the "next big thing" to come out of Silicon Valley, i reply that it will be the "next small thing". The revolution has quietly taken place in the world of technology is the sensor revolution. Sensors have become cheap, light, small and powerful. So we can now put sensors into every object. The difference between being a rock and a living being is the sensors: living beings "sense" the environment and react to it. When we put sensors into objects, we inject a sort of life into them. They can now act on their own. And the "cloud" allows them to communicate. The cloud organizes them into an ecosystem.

There is a website that has the real-time number of sensors in the oceans: In 2015 there were already 750,000 high-tech sensors in the oceans of the world, of which about 45,000 are feeding data into computers, producing 1.5 billion data every second. The sensors of the 1980s were expensive and big, and probably not water-proof, and the computers of the 1980s were not powerful enough to handle so many data. Now we can put sensors everywhere, even in the ocean.

Narnia: So the Internet of Things is not only about the hardware (the devices) but also about the software (the "cloud")?


Yes, the two are inter-related. The headline news are usually about the devices, the hardware; but the devices will not be able to coexist in the future if they can only communicate by exchanging messages directly with each other. We will need "back-end solutions" just like we did with networks of computers. The cloud is the natural place where machines can communicate. A device can post the temperature of the room, for all the devices that operate based on room temperature. A device can post the message that the front door has been opened, which signals that someone has walked inside the house to all the devices that operate based on the presence of humans in the house. And so on.

It is not trivial to write applications for the Internet of Things. We need software for monitoring sensors and processing their measurements in real time, and to broadcast the data over the cloud. Ideally, the smart objects in your house should form an ecosystem: a system of coexisting and collaborating devices. An infrastructure providing a public cloud service for machine-to-machine communication has come to maturity via "machine cloud" pioneers such as Jasper Technologies, founded in 2004 in Santa Clara by Jahangir Mohammed (and acquired by Cisco in 2016); London-based Pachube (now Xively); Boston-based Axeda (now PTC); and Minneapolis-based Spark (now Particle). Spark, for example, provides a development kit for makers and hobbyists to build smart devices and its SparkCloud to make them communicate over the Internet.

San Francisco-based SeeControl (acquired by Autodesk in 2015) provides a cloud-based platform for makers to create M2M (machine to machine) applications by connecting and managing smart sensors and devices spread around the world. Other products for connecting (wireless) sensors to the cloud come from Libelium (Spain, 2006), one of the world's pioneers; Seebo (Israel, 2012); Konekt (Chicago, 2013), that is betting on GSM instead of WiFi or Bluetooth; and Temboo (New York, 2013), that partnered with Arduino to manufacture a chip with built-in WiFi. Notice that Seebo's main customers seem to be toy manufacturers: maybe we will see children playing with interconnected toys before we see adults enjoying interconnected appliances.

Over the last few years all the big names in "cloud services" have quickly changed their brochures to advertise that their cloud can be used for the Internet of Things. If you search the web for "Internet of Things and cloud", the first names that you find are Amazon, SalesForce, IBM, Oracle, Google, Microsoft... It is not difficult to imagine that Amazon's Kinesis, Google's Cloud Dataflow, Microsoft's Azure and so forth can be easily expanded to handle thousands of devices.

Luckily the big companies have an interest in creating a community of manufacturers and programmers, so some of the software is arriving for free. In 2016 IBM transformed its big-data product Streams into an open-source software called Quarks for the manufacturers of smart objects and for the developers of applications.

The Internet of Things will produce a lot of data: who is going to do "data analytics"? All these devices will need firmware updates just like any smartphone, tablet, laptop and desktop computer: who is going to manage and direct these firmware updates? These are the functions that have been traditionally been performed by backend machines. They are now performed in the cloud. It makes sense that the same services will be used for the Internet of Things. So the software component will be as important as the hardware component.

Narnia: OK, rich people will be able to buy "smart" objects that will provide "smart" services, but what will be the benefit to ordinary people?


When radio and television began to connect the world, Marshall McLuhan's book "The Gutenberg Galaxy" (1962) coined the term "global village": the whole world was becoming like a village. When social media like Facebook started spreading to dozens of countries, sociologists and politicians picked up that term again: we live in a "global village". That is not quite true. We don't. A village is a place in which you don't need to lock the doors of your house because nobody steals. A village is a place where you have so many neighbors, friends and relatives that you can easily solve simple problems such as you ran out of rice, or you need a ride to the school, or your car doesn't start, or you need to carry some heavy stuff inside the house. We live in a world in which you need to lock your house, watch your belongings and use anti-theft devices in your car. We live in a world in which you need a smarphone or computer to call for handymen when you need help in the house, to call the police or the hospital when something bad happens, to order a service online when you need a car ride or a good. This is not a global village: it is a global metropolis. The village that we have created is a village in which people are connected to people via objects such as smartphones, computers, satellites and routers; but these objects "hide" the world of each person from the other person. When i send you an email, i have no idea what you are doing. When we Skype or Wechat, i can see your face, i don't see outside your window. I cannot protect you from a thief and i cannot help you in the house. Now imagine a world in which many objects of your house are connected, and they are connected to many objects outside your house, and they are all connected with the Internet. This is the global village. Now you can leave your doors unlocked because there are one billion eyes on the Internet that can look after your house (cameras that check what is going on in the stairwell or simply the door broadcasting that is being opened). If you are not home, you can use the Internet to see what is going on in your neighborhood and inside your apartment. If you have children, you can check where they are and what they are doing and who is with them. Today there is only one object that you can use to communicate with your children when they take the subway or the bus. Tomorrow you will have a huge number of objects that can report the movements of your children.

Let's not forget who is the first beneficiary of privacy: the criminal. Privacy is much more valuable for a criminal than for me. I don't care if you search through my garage or even my bathroom: you will only find dirty clothes. But a criminal does care. Privacy looks like a value, but sometimes it is a liability because it tends to reward those who have something to hide. Many crimes have been exposed precisely because today there is less privacy, and the criminals have been caught "on tape" (by videocameras or by the smartphone of an eyewitness). My friend Antonio was able to track down the Uber driver who hit his motorcycle because Uber's computers immediately identified who was driving that car in his street at that time.

Today people talk about living longer and longer lives, and even about immortality. This is impossible to achieve in the near future. But it is possible to improve our near future in many ways, and eliminating crime should rank very high in our priorities. Villages used to have very low crime rates. Big cities created the high crime rates that we are used to. The Internet of Things can return us to the crime-free life of the old-fashioned village. Today we escort our children to school until they are almost 20 years old because we have so much crime. In the future your children will be able to go to school by themselves because all the objects between your house and the school will be programmed to make sure that nothing happens to them.

The Economist magazine in February 2016 ran an article titled "Mean Beaches" about the fact that 99% of the crimes committed in Mexico go unpunished. This encourages people to commit more crimes, not fewer.

Narnia: I have seen estimates that 2008 was the year when the number of connected things exceeded the number of connected people. Companies like Qualcomm, Apple and Intel already offer the technology to connect things. If the technology is here today, why do we still talk about Internet of Things as something that will happen in the future?


There are at least three major reasons. The first one is that we don't have a winning standard, something that convinces everybody about investing in IoT. The second one is the duration of battery life. Chips that are connected all the time consume batteries very quickly, even if their power consumption is low. When we start connecting millions of objets, not just one or two, we will also fcace a new level of security problems. How can i guarantee that nobody else will be able to command my house's door or my car? How can we guarantee that the communication between my car and my garage will not be "hijacked" by a "pirate" device? We already had a case of a woman who suddenly heard a man on the videocamera that was supposed to monitor her baby in another room: someone "hacked" the software of that videocamera in her own home. In 2015 a cyber-attack on toymaker VTech exposed the personal data of 6.4m children: what if the same hackers can hack the "smart" toys that VTech will sell to the children of the future? Those hackers will even know where the children are playing.

Lithium-ion batteries were introduced in 1991, one of Japan's great inventions. Since then, their performance has improved between 5 and 10% per year. Unfortunately, our needs have improved a lot faster. Furthermore, they have not shrunk much in size. We want lighter cameras, lighter smartphones, lighter laptops, etc but these devices consume more and more electricity, no they need bigger and bigger battery packs. For 20 years mobile phones have been getting smaller and smaller. Now, suddenly, smartphones are getting bigger. Open the back of the smartphone and you'll realize why: the battery is still the same lithium-ion battery, but it is twice the size of a few years ago. The result has been a spike in the price of lithium, one of the few commodities whose price has increased over the last few years. This will also create geopolitical complications because just four chemical companies (Albermarle, with headquarters in Louisiana, Chile's SQM, FMC of Philadelphia, and China's Tianqi) account for most of the world's lithium. In 2012 the US government decided that batteries are such a strategic asset that it launched a program called "Joint Center for Energy Storage Research" (JCESR). California has a goal of 1.3 gigawatts of electricity from batteries by 2020, which is more than double what the entire world has today (0,5 gigawatts). Big companies have opened their own research centers on batteries. The Chevrolet promised that the 2017 Bolt will have batteries never seen before. Tesla and Panasonic are building a factory in Nevada to manufacture advanced car batteries. Tesla will soon start selling the Powerwall, a home battery that charges using electricity generated from solar panels. In the short term, startups like 24M (Boston) are trying to invent better and cheaper lithium-ion batteries. My main hope is in nanotech. For example, Israel-based StoreDot, founded by former SanDisk executive Doron Myersdorf, is working on "super-capacitors" that would match Tesla-Panasonic batteries but recharge in minutes instead of hours. The Internet of Things needs batteries that are light, cheap, that charge in seconds, and that last months.

Because of the limitation of batteries, the current IoT applications are mostly related to electrical appliances (objects that are physically plugged into a power outlet). In 2015 Amazon launched its Dash Replenishment Service which consists in linking "smart" appliances with its order system so that the appliances can automatically re-order supplies when they are running low. For example, in 2016 Amazon started selling a printer that re-orders ink when it is low and a washing machine that re-orders detergent when it is low,

Security on the Internet of Things is obviously not trivial. Some companies are adopting a strategy similar to what doctors do to prevent infections: check for signs of intrusion and immediately isolate compromised devices before they can infect all the other devices in the network. For example, Atlanta-based Luma sells a WiFi router capable of checking traffic inside the home network and detecting "infections", and Finnish-based F-Secure Sense sold a security monitor, a device sitting between the home router and connected devices to scan all traffic for "infections". ForeScout, originally founded in Israel in 2000, helps organizations catalog the devices that are connected to their networks, some of which could be "infiltrators" trying to camouflage as legitimate devices of the organization.

Afero, founded in 2014 in Los Altos by Danger's co-Founder Joe Britt, provides security that works even when there is no WiFi or WiFi is down, complementing it with LTE and other communication technologies.

There is also a very simple reason: the companies that will make objects and appliances "smart" will (mostly) be the ones that already make those objects and appliances; but they have an inertia, i.e. it takes time for them to change those objects.

So right now we are still connecting "things" via intermediaries. My favorite example is Waze, that combines GPS-based mapping technology with crowd-sourcing to provide live advice to drivers on which route to take. Each car using Waze sends data to Waze about traffic, and then Waze sends data to all cars about traffic. Waze acts as the intermediary between cars. The cars that use Waze are connected through Waze. In an ideal world the GPS technology would be inside the car (a lot of new cars already have built-in GPS technology) and the car would be "smart" enough to use the data from Waze directly. Our children will laugh when we tell them that in 2016 we needed a smartphone to tell us which way to go. In the future the car will know which way to go. Today the connected car platforms (Automatic in San Francisco, Dash in New York, Zubie in South Carolina, etc) are still relatively unsuccessful.

The idea of the Internet of Things is old (Mark Weiser's article in the Scientific American magazine titled "The Computer of the 21st Century" that talks about "ubiquitous computing" came out in 1991; Paul Saffo's article "Sensors - The Next Wave of Infotech Innovation" came out in 1997) but the implementation had to wait for a number of technologies to get into place: an operating system, a hardware platform and more Internet addresses. In 2003 Adam Dunkels at the Swedish Institute of Computer Science wrote an open-source operating system for the Internet of Things named Contiki. Hardware platforms such as Arduino, invented in 2005 by an international team based at Ivrea's Interaction Design Institute in Italy made smart objects practical. Arduino was meant as an open-source platform for a community of makers, facilitating the transition to a world of interactive objects that could sense and control the physical world thanks to microcontroller-based kits. The Internet Protocol (IP) is the network protocol that identifies things on the Internet. By the year 2000 the old IPv4 (published in 1981) was becoming too limited to handle the number of things connected to the Internet. Finally, in 2006 IPv6 published in 2006, introducing a 128-bit address that allows 2 to the 128th power (or 10 to the 38th power) Internet addresses, enough to assign an Internet address to every atom of the surface of the Earth. (Solve one problem and you create another one: IPv6 sounds great, but in practice its addresses are so big that they become a problem to be transmitted by small things with tiny batteries).

Chip manufacturers are rushing to design boards containing all the sensors and chips needed to wirelessly connect objects. In 2014 Samsung launched the open platform ARTIK and acquired Palo Alto-based SmartThings and then it acquired French startup Sigfox whose goal is to build a low-cost alternative to the cellular network for connecting low-battery demand objects. In 2015 Intel introduced the Curie module, comprising a sensor hub, a microprocessor and a Bluetooth connection in a tiny space.

It is interesting that in 2015 Intel made a deal with Arduino to incorporate Curie in a new cheap Arduino board, the 101. This marked another victory by the open-source world over the corporate world. The Curie may be a great chip, but Arduino is the established standard: when Intel decided to enter the IoT market, it had to partner with Arduino.

Narnia: How about wireless power transmission? Is it a reality? Would it solve the problem of batteries?


In 1902 Nikola Tesla built the 62-meter high Wardenclyffe Tower that scared his neighbors in Long Island. He was convinced that it was possible to transmit electricity via the air, but he failed to prove it and the tower was demolished in 1917. Wireless power has been tested since then, and it took more than one century for the industry to catch with his vision. Today there are several companies selling devices that will recharge your smartphone without any power-chord. In 2007 a theoretical physicist at the MIT, Marin Soljacic, published a paper in Science magazine titled "Wireless Power Transfer via Strongly Coupled Magnetic Resonances". That paper proved that Tesla's dream was indeed feasible: electrical power can be transmitted wirelessly (60 watts of power over 2 meters) although using a different technique, magnetic resonance. He helped found WiTricity to commercialize the technology. In 2014 Intel bought a license to integrate the wireless charging feature into its Skylake processor. At the same time, Ran Poliakine founded Powermat Technologies in 2006 in Israel. He used Tesla's idea, inductive power transfer, that, after decades of failures, had been perfected in 1991 by Andrew Green and John Boys at Auckland University in New Zealand. In 2009 Powermat introduced a device capable of charging a smartphone remotely. He then created a joint venture with the most famous brand in consumer-electronics battery, Duracell, and in 2014 their redesigned product was adopted by the coffee franchise Starbucks in 200 of their Bay Area locations. Technically speaking, the inductive technology is tightly coupled, whereas the resonance technology is loosely coupled. Another route was followed by Energous, founded in 2012 as DVineWave in San Ramon (East Bay) by Michael Leabman, and Ossia, founded in 2008 in Seattle by Hatem Zeine: radio waves. Energous started selling its device in 2015 and in 2016 shrunk it to the size of a thumb drive. One device plugs into the USB port of a laptop, locates compatible devices via Bluetooth and sends them beams in radio-frequency waves; another device (a tiny receiver chip) attached to a smartphone or wearable converts this radio frequency into direct current. Ossia demonstrated its technology in 2013 and has partnered with KDDI, Japan's second-largest wireless carrier. In 2016 a team at the University of Washington that includes Shyam Gollakota (winner in 2015 of the World Technology Award for communication technology) demonstrated a system, PoWiFi (Power Over Wi-Fi), that uses traditional Wi-Fi routers. Joshua Smith sounded like a crazy man when he was experimenting at Intel with an idea to create electrical power from the radiations of television broadcasts, but now that he is working with Gollakota's team they are planning devices that will get their power from the "air". TV broadcasts, Wi-Fi radiations and Bluetooth radiations are all cases of power that moves through the air. Smith wants to "harvest" this power and use to power devices. No more batteries! In 2014 they founded a startup called Jeeva Wireless to commercialize this technology. Finally, the prototype by uBeam, founded in 2011 by University of Pennsylvania's graduate Meredith Perry, who then relocated to Los Angeles, broadcasts electricity via high-pitched ultrasound beams in a manner similar to how transducers work in hi-fi speakers. As usual, the big companies are waiting to see which standard prevails. There were three alliances until last year: the Wireless Power Consortium, which is behind the standard Qi (supported by Nokia, Samsung, LG, Sony, BlackBerry, and HTC), the Power Matters Alliance (the one chosen by Powermat, Duracell, AT&T, Google and WiTricity) and the Alliance for Wireless Power. In 2015 the Power Matters Alliance and the Alliance for Wireless Power united in the AirFuel Alliance, which now has almost 200 members, including almost all the ones who are also members of the rival Wireless Power Consortium. Starbucks has adopted Powermat's technology. This matters because Starbucks was important in choosing the winning standard in 2001. There were two competing standards for wireless networking: HomeRF and Wi-Fi. Starbucks picked Wi-Fi.

Narnia: In 2016 the British newspaper The Guardian published an article titled "The internet of things: how your TV, car and toys could spy on you". The US director of national intelligence, james Clapper, admitted publicly that his government agency might use the Internet of Things for "identification, surveillance, monitoring, location tracking". Will the Internet of Things spy on us?


Some people in Silicon Valley started using the expression "Internet of Other People's Things": the "smart" things that you install in your house are not "your" things. They are made by others, and they obey the manufacturer, not you. Many devices will soon capable of voice recognition and face recognition. This sounds great because it means that they can respond to your commands or to your gestures. But the voice recognition and face recognition software must be always on, always working. The machine doesn't know when you are going to talk or gesture, so it has to pick up everything that you do all the time. This is a big difference with the old world of "touch": my tv set turns on when i touch a button on a remote control, but it doesn't need to track everything that i say and every movement that i make. The new tv sets will listen to everything that i say and watch every movement that i make because one of those words or those gestures could be a command to switch on or off. The first class of products to implement these features will probably be toys. Mattel already markets a Hello Barbie doll that interacts with the child via the "cloud"; which means that Mattel's cloud knows what the child is doing. There is a watch for children manufactured by HereO that contains a GPS, so that parents can know where their child is all the time. Raj Talluri of Qualcomm said that the #1 breakthrough of 2013 - 2015 was the arrival of "always-on sensors". It also means that machines will now be watching you and listening to you all the time.

Narnia: People already complain that privacy is being violated by Google and Facebook. What happens when we have all those millions of connected objects "spying" on us all the time and learning our habits?


What happens in a village where everybody knows everybody else? There is no privacy in a village. The people of the village sacrifice their privacy in order to create a safe and friendly community. You can choose to live alone in a cave, with absolute privacy, but then nobody will protect you from wild beasts and criminals; or you can choose to live in a village, where you will have very little privacy but you will be surrounded by many friends. But you are right: our privacy will be further reduced. For better and for worse, the Internet of Things will mark the end of uncertainty: we will know exactly where everybody is, what each person and each things is doing. This is a process that started a long time ago. In 1971 a professor of Law at Harvard, Arthur Miller, published a book titled "The Assault on Privacy". Read this line: "Too many information handlers seem to measure a man by the number of bits of storage capacity his dossier will occupy." It sounds like it was written yesterday.

First of all, it is interesting that we are discussing privacy when discussing (smart) objects. Ten years ago we would have discussed privacy in the context of email and browsing. Five years ago the context was Google searches and Facebook posts. In the near future you will have to defend your privacy from objects.

Secondly, we already lost our privacy. It is not true that Google and Facebook stole our privacy: we gave it to them, for free. Don't forget that the entire Internet economy was built around volunteer work We all provide content for free to Google and Facebook and they make money out of it. We not only sacrifice our privacy, but even donate our content. We are happy to do this to get free services like search engines and social media. People are increasingly telling the whole world about their habits. When you download an app on your smartphone, your smartphone asks you if you allow the app to do a,b,c,d and all of those things steal your privacy. How many people answer "no, thanks"? If you answer "no" to just one of those questions, you cannot download the app. Millions of people answer "yes" because they want the app, and their privacy is only a secondary concern. Let's be honest: the corporations and the government didn't have to fight too hard to get our privacy. The business model that succeeded on the Internet was simple: you give me a service for free, and i let you track my movements, i.e. i let you spy on my private life. The Internet economy in the age of Google and Facebook has been built around the model that services are free but the service provider (Google, Facebook, etc) makes money by selling your private life to businesses who then pay the service provider (Google, Facebook, etc) to advertise their products to you. In fact, you are the product that Google and Facebook sell to their customers. We accept this deal when we use those free services. We are eager to use those services. We are eager to be robbed of our privacy. On services like Facebook we are actually eager to tell Facebook more than Facebook asks us. We post daily news about ourselves. We work for free to make it easy for Facebook to spy on our lives. When we invented the Internet, we had no idea that your privacy would turn out to be the most valuable asset on the Internet.

It got even worse. Today we live in an age in which you look suspicious if i cannot find enough information about you on the Web. People discriminate against you if they can't find out enough about you online. Why don't you have a Facebook account? Why there is no trace of you in high school and college? Why there is no trace of you giving any talk when you worked at that company? If there is nothing about you on the Web, people wonder "What is wrong with you?" I have friends who initially refused to be on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Over the last few years they all joined at least one of these platforms. They were being discriminated because there was so little about them on the Web. After they joined, something funny happened to most of them: they realized the advantage of being "popular" and started promoting themselves as much as possible on the very social networks that they used to hate.

You better get used to it: all the connected gadgets that they will give you to install around the house or in the car will certainly collect information about you. Your private life is a gold mine. The temptation is just too big. It's like someone installating a device near a gold mine that nobody else is using. The temptation to go inside and take the gold is just too strong. An intelligent kitchen light will be sold to you at a discounted price, or even installed for free, because it can sense what you are cooking and how often, and this information can be sold to thousands of businesses and it is worth more money than the $50 of the kitchen light I know people who are already saying "there will be zero smart appliances in my house because i don't want spies in my house" but these are the same people who said they would never share their private life on social media and now they post information about themselves on all sorts of social media, and they are happy that the social platforms offer them all sorts of commercial deals.

It is easy to list cases in which people will be afraid of objects that "spy" on them. But think, for example, of the anxiety related to bureaucratic procedures. You just had to apply for a US visa. The US consulate asked you to collect a lot of documents and then scheduled a physical interview. Before and during the interview you had to live with the anxiety that you might say something wrong and be "black-listed" by the US consulate. Did you enjoy this process? Nobody does. It is a waste of time, it is humiliating, and it is even inefficient (who knows how many criminals and terrorists get the visa to the USA simply because they are good at interviews). Now imagine a world in which so many objects know so much about you that the US consulate can simply query a knowledge base and find out in a few seconds whether you can be trusted or not. The smart objects that you encounter in your daily life become the equivalent of the neighbors who know everything about you in a village. These objects can tell the US consulate "she's a good person" the same way that in the old days the villagers would say "she's a good person" because they knew you well. Smart objects will know what you buy, where you spend your spare time, where you go on vacation. Smart objects will tell the US consulate "She likes to hang out at the Lingyin monastery, she likes parks, she buys books of classic poetry, she traveled to Bhutan and she reads a lot of technical literature". The US consulate will not need an interview to grant you a ten-year visa. Yes, your privacy is gone, but you get through a bureaucratic procedure in ten seconds instead of ten days.

Narnia: You think that young people don't care for privacy anymore?


We know one young person who does, and he is the very person who killed privacy on the Web: Facebook's founder Mark Zuckerberg. In 2013 he started buying all the homes around his Palo Alto home, so that he created a large private space around his domestic life. When his baby was born, very few people knew. But this is typical of the future: privacy is becoming a luxury that only very rich people can afford.

Attitudes towards privacy change from country to country. In January 2016 the Pew Research Center published a report titled "Privacy and Information Sharing" ( ) that studied the attitudes of people in the USA. A majority of people accept that their employer can install monitoring cameras in the workplace (in theory, to catch thieves, but obviously the cameras can be used for anything). People were split 50-50% about "loyalty cards" given away by big stores: once you get the card, the store tracks your purchases but you also get some discounts. There was only one "smart object" included in the survey and that's the one thing that people were most afraid of: the spy is coming into the house. Only 17% of people said they wouldn't tolerate any form of intrusion in their privacy. It is interesting that 4% said that they would accept all of them. This is the future: the younger generations will be more and more likely to accept all forms of intrusion. I suspect that one generation from now the numbers will have reversed.

The Facebook generation has been willingly surrendering privacy in return for celebrity. You cannot have celebrity and privacy at the same time. Choose on. Most kids choose celebrity. If you want people to "Like" what you are doing, you need to tell them what you are doing. Vanity has been winning over safety. People want to be famous and liked, not to be safe; especially young people.

Narnia: It is subjective if the loss of privacy is good or bad for the citizen, but is it good for the economy? or the beneficiaries are going to be only the big corporations?


The big corporations are the first beneficiaries. In fact, some of the corporations that are "big" today became "big" because they used this system (Google, Apple). They are some of the many companies that were created by this new business model: i'll give you a service for free if you let me spy on you. This new business model may sound horrific (almost like selling the soul to the devil) but it has generated the Internet economy in which we live. I don't see why it shouldn't work in the future. Our loss of privacy will generate more economic opportunities. Companies will be motivated to invent new services because they are competing for our privacy. I have something valuable that they want, and they can get it only if they offer me a great app. That's why i shook my head in disbelief when the European Union took steps to protect the privacy of its citizens from the Internet of Things. In the year 2000 the European Union had signed an agreement with the USA known as the "Safe Harbour" agreement. This agreement allows for free transfer of information between European and US companies. In 2013 Edward Snowden revealed that the US government had a program of mass surveillance that also gathered consumer data from firms like Facebook. The Europeans were shocked and over-reacted. In 2015 the European Union decided to terminate that agreement in order to protect the privacy of its citizens from companies like Google and Facebook that collect information about their users. These data protection rules (known as "General Data Protection Regulation" or GDPR) will come into force starting in 2018.

I don't see how the protection of privacy can help the economy and innovation. A member of the European Commission, Andrus Ansip, said: "Today's agreement builds a strong basis to help Europe develop innovative digital services". But he didn't mention one single case. I think that agreement simply discourages startups from innovating in many fields because the business plan becomes more complicated: starting in 2018 they will have to make money by selling a product or service instead of selling information about the users, and products are much more risky to make than collecting and delivering information. If Google had to make money with its search engine, today we wouldn't have such a good search engine, and maybe we wouldn't have a company called Google at all. Unemployment of young people in Europe is very high (almost 50% in Spain, almost 40% in Italy, 25% in France). The European Union is protecting the privacy of the future generations, but the future generations will have no jobs.

Narnia: What about you? You are not concerned about privacy?


I don't remember the last time that i wanted to hide something from the masses. I am not concerned that people will know a lot of things about me. I am much more concerned about the distortions that tools like Wikipedia can create. My biography on Wikipedia is created by anonymous people who obviously don't know me and who totally distort my life. I literally don't recognize myself when i read my biography on Wikipedia. When you become a little famous, you always create detractors as much as fans. On Wikipedia, detractors win, because they tend to be the most stubborn: they will keep changing the article to make sure that it reflects their opinion of me. That has little to do with privacy, but it is indeed annoying. It is the opposite of privacy: i wish there was a way to let people know who the real Piero Scaruffi is, not the Piero Scaruffi that Wikipedia presents and that is not the real me.

Narnia: If privacy is not an issue, what is the social issue that concernes you?


I am always concerned by the integration of machines and humans because machines are simple while humans are complicated. Whenever we introduce machines, we expect humans to behave like machines, not machines to behave like humans. We expect humans to become simple, but humans are complicated. In theory, a machine that replaces a human being offers a faster and simpler service. In practice, the machine knows nothing about the world of humans and can be a great annoyance. For example, in 2013 San Francisco has added videocameras and automatic plate-number recognition to its FasTrack system to pay bridge tolls. This is a model of what goes wrong with interconnected machines that don't understand the human world. In the old days the cars would form a queue at the tollbooth and pay cash to cross the bridge. Then, in about 1989, systems like Telepass in Italy and one in Texas introduced RFID-based payment, so that you don't have to stand in line at the tollbooth but you simply drive through the sensors and your bank account gets automatically charged. In 2000 this technology finally came to San Francisco, called FasTrack: if you get a FasTrack card, you can just drive through the tollbooth and the RFID sensors will automatically trigger the payment. Until 2012 if you didn't have a FasTrack card, then you had to stand in the line to pay the bridge toll a human being. I think the first highway equipped with plate-reading cameras was the 407 ETR in Canada in 1997. In 2013 this technology was adopted in San Francisco, and the tollbooths were removed from the famous Golden Gate Bridge. Now if you don't have a FasTrack, the sensors trigger a camera that takes a picture of your plate; then the software recognizes the plate number, finds the address of the owner and mails a bill to that address. It sounds great, but only in a world of machines.

In the world of humans, many things are complicated. First of all, the FasTrack card works only in California. The machine has no idea that there are thousands of regions on this planet and that each has its own system and that you are coming from another region. It still demands that you purchase a FasTrach card if you are driving through one of California's bridges. If you don't do it, then a camera takes a picture of your car when you pass in front of the sensors, and then a letter is sent to your home asking you to pay the bridge toll. To pay, you have to go online or make a phone call or drive to a "service center" and pay cash. All of these systems are more complicated than standing in line at a toll booth.

Secondly, humans are complicated. Sometimes the driver of the car is not the owner: sometimes he is someone who borrowed a friend's car. The machines have no concept of "friends". They will send the bill to the car's owner. If i sold the car to someone and the sale has not been registered yet by the state of California, i will have to pay his FasTrack fees. Sometimes humans are tourists, who sometimes don't even understand English well and cannot read the sign that explains FasTrack when they are driving over the bridge at 80 km/h. Even if your English is perfect, it would be a bit crazy to stop the car on the bridge to read the details of how FasTrack works. If you are a tourist and drive through one of the bridges of the Bay Area, you will receive a letter at home asking you to pay within so many hours. But if you are tourist, you may not see that letter for weeks. In that case you will receive another letter that tells you that now you have to pay a very expensive fine. The machines don't have any knowledge of "tourism", "far from home", "doesn't know that FasTrack exists", etc. The human world is complicated. The automatic plate-number recognition system was announced as a way to avoid the queues at the bridge tollbooths, but in reality it is just a way to minimize the costs and maximize the profits because so many drivers make a mistake or don't pay in time and then have to pay an expensive fine. If you have to deal with the bureaucracy associated with it, you will think that it is just a scam to steal money from tourists.

And here is the worst part. The machines are stupid, very stupid. I had a two-months battle with the FasTrack bureaucracy because their machines were saying that i didn't pay, but i was sure that i had paid online, and luckily i had printed out the receipt. It took two months for a human being to look into the problem. Then they called me and explained to me that i had accidentally clicked on the wrong button and paid the toll for any crossings after 6pm that day, but i had crossed at 5:59pm. The machines are so stupid that they didn't realize what any human being would have realized: that i intended to pay for the 5:59pm crossing. Because of the one-minute difference, i spent two months exchanging letters with the FasTrack bureaucracy, and those letters were mostly read by machines; and other machines, unable to understand my appeals, were sending me replies asking me to pay more and more expensive fines. Eventually the human being agreed that this was a silly case and he closed the case. I wasted more time proving my innocence than if i had stayed in a line of cars at the old bridge tollbooth of 20 years ago.

Coming back to the issue of privacy, the good news is that the bridge has a record of all the cars that passed through. If the police are chasing a car, the bridges can tell them which way the criminal drove. If a person goes missing, we can easily find out which was the last bridge that her car crossed. In the future we may have videocameras on all highways recording who is driving at what time and in which direction. It is an invasion of privacy, so maybe each driver will have to give his/her written consent for it, but i suspect that honest people will have no problem with it. The criminals are the ones who will have a problem with it: if your job is to rob banks, you don't want videocameras that can record where you were and where you are going.

Narnia: But you are not concerned about the things in the home that know what you are doing?


You will laugh, but here is what worries me. I am afraid of software and hardware upgrades. Sometimes i am showing a slide presentation and my laptop decides to download software updates. Sometimes an application asks to be updated every single day, and, when i finally click "yes", the application's new release is different from the old one, making my life more difficult. Every time i have bought a computer with a new operating system, it has taken me several days to learn all the things that changed from the old operating system. My desktop computer, the one that i use to do my research and to write all my books, is almost ten years old because i am scared of what will happen when i buy a new one with the latest operating system. My laptop is brand new and there are at least two of the old applications that don't work anymore. My new laptop keeps downloading "important updates" because the manufacturer of the operating system keeps finding problems in the new operating system. DVDVideoSoft used to have a free suite of video converters. I click on "update" and now this application only allows you three types of conversion. I upgraded my computer from Windows 7 to Windows 10 and now i always get an annoying image on the screen when it turn on the computer, and i can't find where they moved some of the options that i used on the old system. And so on and on. We tolerate the "new release" phenomenon in computers. We would never tolerate it in refrigerators and chairs. Imagine if one day, while you are cooking a meal, you open your refrigerator and you get a message that says "sorry, update in progress, do not open". Imagine if friends come to visit, try to sit on your chairs and the chairs ask them to upgrade to a new release. Imagine if the "important update" for your refrigerator causes a change in the way your refrigerator works. We are used to "things" that are passive: they never change their behavior. If their behavior changes, it means that they are broken: you call someone to repair them. But the Internet of Things will give us appliances and furniture that have a "personality", whose behavior changes over time. And sometimes those appliances and furniture will have software "bugs", so they will malfunction. Today a chair is a chair. Tomorrow a chair will be something with an electronic chip running some software, maybe to warm up the chair if the temperature in the room is low. If the software of the chair has a "bug", who knows what happens to your chair.

It always takes time for things to "bootstrap", to switch on. We are used that things in our house just work: you press a button and they do what you want them to do. For example, you press a switch and the light goes on in your room; you press a button and the microwave oven warms up your meal; you press a button and the washing machine washes your clothes. But what happens when you press a button to turn on your computer? You have to wait. The bootstrap process on my desktop computer takes so long, that i turn on the computer and then take my shower.

Smartphones and computers like to "beep". They are not particularly intelligent, but they beep all the time, like babies. My smartphone even beeps (very loud) when i turn it off. My tablet beeps very loud when i turn it on and when i turn it off. Hardware and software engineers have a passion for making devices beep. Imagine when you have 100 "smart" devices in your homes: will they all beep when they turn on and off, when there is an update, etc? Today i have five computers in the house and each one is like a baby: there is always something wrong with the software or the hardware. Imagine the day that my house has 100 objects with a computer inside...

Smartphones and computers have become vehicles for advertising. What about the "smart" objects that we install in our homes? Will they also display advertising? Will i get an advertisement about where to buy fresh eggs whenever i open my refrigerator?

These devices are designed by hardware and software engineers, who are the worst possible people to design something to be used by everybody. Hopefully, the "smart" objects for the Internet of Things will NOT be designed by engineers.

Narnia: The Internet of Things will change the concept of "home". Will it also change the concept of "city"?


The "smart city" will probably be the first visible application of the Internet of Things on a massive scale. The term is confusing because it is often used (especially in Asia) to refer to a city that offers nice living, low pollution, and fast Internet: fast and ubiquitous connection for people. In the age of IoT the term "smart city" will refer to a city in which objects such as street lights and parking spots are connected: fast and ubiquitous connection for things. The traditional cellular phone systems are not suited for "things" that need to be small, light and cheap: their batteries can't provide a lot of power. The smart city needs a networking technology for very-low-power operation, but also capable of long range transmission. The telecommunications companies that arose during the cellular era typically think in terms of "broadband": they want to provide an infrastructure that can carry large amounts of data (your pictures and videos). Therefore they have invested in 3G, 4G, and now 5G and tomorrow 6G. But these are precisely the technologies that don't work well for connecting home and city objects. You need to recharge your smartphone almost every night. A long battery life is obviously a prerequisite for the Internet of Things. Europe is ahead in developing the exact opposite: narrow-band low-power long-range radio networks. Broadband means short waves, narrow-band means long waves. The Internet of Things for "smart city" solutions uses the longest waves. Furthermore, the communication needs to be secure and bi-directional. Finally, it has to be capable of tracking moving objects: mobility and localization. Europe has several well-established leaders in this kind of "ultra-narrow band" (UNB) technology with power levels that are thousands of times lower than in cellular communications: Telensa (Britain, 2005), Sigfox (France, 2009) and Actility (France, 2010). Some of their radio technologies have been developed since the 1990s. Telensa has connected LED-based street lights in several cities, and has a "smart parking" solution: magnetic sensors to detect the presence of a vehicle and to alert drivers when the parking space becomes available. Shenzhen is one of the cities that uses Telensa technology. Actility is the brain behind the LoRa Alliance, established in 2015 with Cisco, IBM, Eolane, Kerlink, IMST, MultiTech, Sagemcom, Semtech, Microchip Technology, etc.

South Korea is ahead of everybody else in the field of "smart cities". For example, the Songdo International Business District is a a 6 square kms "smart city" developed jointly with Cisco, LG CNS and ADT Caps.

There is general consensus that the potential of the technology is colossal. In the 1950s the USA built cities around cars. The USA created the first network of "freeways" in the world. The center of the city became a place for poor people while the richer families moved out, in the suburbs. The suburbs came to symbolize the great economic boom of the USA during the 1950s and 1960s. The dwelling in the suburbs was a single-family detached home with a room for each child, a garage, a backyard and a lawn. The lifestyle of the average family and the economy of the following decades were largely determined by that type of dwelling. In the next decade we will start redesigning cities around smart networks. This new approach is likely to change cities as much as the car changed cities in the 1950s. The US government started thinking about the smart city of the future in 2015 when it launched the "Smart City Challenge" ( ), promoting the adoption of intelligent technologies in cities across the nation. The city that comes up with the best plan will get funding from the government to implement that plan. India followed suite with its "Smart Cities Challenge" These programs encourage bureaucrats to look into the new technologies and imagine how those technologies can improve their cities, particularly the relationship between transportation and construction (a connection discovered in California in 1901 when Henry Huntington founded the Pacific Electric Railroad to create a network of trolley cars and a network of new suburbs around Los Angeles, thus becoming the richest man in the city). Startups look at the "smart city" in a slightly different way, bottom-up instead of top-down. They look at the smart city and see an I.T. platform into which you can plug applications/services. Urban-X is a New York incubator founded in 2016 by BMW's Mini division and Cyril Ebersweller's incubator HAX (which is based in Shenzen and San Francisco) dedicated to startups working on the city of the future.

Narnia: who is going to win the battle for the standard?


It is always unpredictable who the winner will be because the competition is ferocious. Major corporations have formed consortia such as the Industrial Internet Consortium (AT&T, Cisco, IBM, GE, Intel) and the Open InterConnect Consortium (Broadcom, Samsung, Dell). But there is certainly a company that has a big advantage: in 2014 there were already 120 million smart home devices shipped with Qualcomm chips and 20 million cars equipped with Qualcomm chips, and Qualcomm chips are used in dozens of wearable devices. Qualcomm's "standard" is AllJoyn, whose objects can broadcast what they could do to all other nearby AllJoyn objects (via WiFi or Bluetooth). Apple has introduced HomeKit to connect smart home appliances via Bluetooth and WiFi to the iPhone. In 2015 the Wi-Fi Alliance, that includes Apple, Microsoft and Intel, launched Wi-Fi Aware, a technology that allowed Aware-enabled devices to discover and communicate directly with nearby Aware-enabled devices. Once enabled, apps on one Aware devices can exchange information with apps on other Aware devices. In 2016 the Wi-Fi Alliance introduced the HaLow standard.

It is not even certain that bluetooth and WiFi will be the right way to connect objects. The Internet of Things is for low-power devices, devices that have to survive a long time with a battery. LTE (Long-Term Evolution), originally introduced in Scandinavia in 2009 by TeliaSonera, uses the existing 4G wireless network. There are companies specialized in making chips for LTE communications, like Israeli-based Altair Semiconductor (acquired by Sony in 2016) and the Paris-based Sequans. In 2015 two standards were proposed: Narrow Band-LTE (NB-LTE) from Intel, Ericsson and Nokia; and Narrow-Band Cellular IoT (NB-CIoT) from Huawei and Vodafone.

Narnia: Which startups should we watch?


The companies that will make money in the short term are the ones that will provide the platform for things to communicate and for users to control them; but, after we have connected all those billions of things, we will need apps to do useful things with them. So i am interested in startups like Neura, founded by Israeli engineers in Silicon Valley in 2013, that applies a bit of Artificial Intelligence to the Internet of Things to figure out what the user does with those interconnected "things" and create personalized behaviors. Neura's technology learns the habits of the user so the "thing" is not just a thing but part of a behavior. I think this is an interesting improvement over simply connecting things.

Narnia: What's happening specifically in Silicon Valley?


It is always difficult to estimate what is going on in the world of startups, because the media start talking about a startup only when it gets acquired for a lot of money. First of all, there is no startup that is towering over the others in this field. There are old companies that are investing a lot in IoT startups: Intel, Cisco, and Google. Intel has invested in Arrayant, WebAction/Striim and Ossia. Cisco has invested in: Ayla, Jasper, ParStream, Evrythng, iControl, Worldsensing and Sensity Systems.

Evrythng, in particular, has signed one of the biggest contracts so far: it is collaborating with Avery Dennison (a big corporation that is mostly known for its self-adhesive labels) to create "smart" clothes and shoes that can communicate with the "cloud" and therefore with smartphones. For example, you will be able to ask your shirt "where are you?" whenever you can't find it.

Google, of course, has invested in Nest, the most famous of all. The only investment company that can compete with Intel and Cisco is General Electric Ventures (not based in Silicon Valley) that has invested in OnRamp Wireless, Mocana, Quirky, APX Labs, Clearpath Robotics, and FlexGen Power Systems. In 2015 Autodesk allocated $100 million to a special fund, Forge, for Internet-of-Things startups. However, they don't necessarily invest in Silicon Valley startups. The most well-funded IoT company over the past 5 years is Sigfox, which is based in France, followed by Telogis, based in the Los Angeles area, and then Tendril in Colorado. The only major success story in Silicon Valley ("success" as in "receiving a huge amount of money") is Jasper Technologies, acquired by Cisco. Silicon Valley certainly has a lot of "early adopters". Palo Alto is now home to the first 'Internet of Things' brick-and-mortar store that specializes in IoT products. It is called b8ta and located at 516 Bryant St.

Narnia: Where is the real innovation coming from, startups or big coporations ?


Neither. Open source. I think there is exciting work that is happening at the intersection between "open source" and home automation.

First, the hardware. Arduino Uno, that came out of Italy in 2005, has no operating system so it can only run one app at a time, but is the ideal microcontroller for "smart" objects that only do one thing. The Raspberry Pi, introduced in Britain in 2012 and originally conceived for schoolchildren by a charitable organization based around Cambridge University, is a cheap computer that fits in the space of a credit card. In 2015 TL Lim and Johnson Jeng launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a single-board computer called Pine64, slightly bigger than a smartphone that will come equipped with the most powerful ARM processor (more powerful than the most powerful laptops) and cost just $15. And it is designed to work with the OpenHAB standard. In 2016 Next Thing, an Oakland company that had introduced the first camera powered by a Raspberry Pi, unveiled its own computer on a board, the Chip Pro, sold for $16.

Second, the interconnection. OpenHAB (Open Home Automation Bus) was designed by by Kai Kreuzer in Germany in 2010 specifically to let "smart" devices talk to each other It is open source and it is written in Java. You can use it to set up a sequence of operations like "At 7 AM turn on the heating in the bathroom unless the outside temperature is already warm enough, at 7:15AM turn on the lights in the house unless there is enough daylight already." Or: "When someone rings the bell, show the security camera on the computer monitor, turn on the front lights and pause the DVD player". Or: "If everybody leaves the house and the tv is still on, send a text message". Or: "Shut off the lights of the house when the last person has left but keep the lights outside on if it is still dark and turn them on when there is enough daylight and turn them on again when it gets dark". Kreuzer now leads Eclipse IoT, an association of companies and independent engineers

Many of the open-source stories link back with Ubuntu, a Linux variant introduced in 2004 which is entirely based on free software and has become popular for personal computers and smartphones. It a descendant of Debian, invented in 1996 by a German student at Purdue University (in Indiana), Ian Murdock, who, by the way, who later moved to the Bay Area to work for SUN and died just recently in San Francisco at the young age of 42. OpenHAB is typically deployed on Ubuntu. There is a very large community of software and hardware engineers that are contributing to this story.

OpenHAB is also compatible with ROS, the Robot Operating System invented at Stanford by Andrew Ng's group in 2005 and perfected at Willow Garage. ROS is, again, open source, and provides a set of software tools to build robot applications ROS was the descendant of the STanford AI Robot (STAIR) that was conceived from the very beginning with "home" robotics in mind. The home assistant robot is very much a part of the Internet of Things. For example, you could have a motion-detecting device in the front porch of your house that automatically dispatches a robot to check who is outside; and then ROS recognizes the face of the person at the door, turns on the light and opens the door and asks "at what time would you like your soup?" It then recognizes the answer and programs the microwave oven to heat the soup at that time. The motion detector, the robot and the oven communicate via OpenHAB, the same way that you and I communicate in English.

Narnia: People (at least rich people) used to have maids, chefs and chaffeurs. Now we will have "smart objects" helping us live our lives. How will this change our society? What happens when we interact mostly with machines instead of people?


I think that initially these "smart objects" will just be appliances with sensors. They will do very little for you that truly changes your attitude towards life. At some point, though, these objects will become "smart" enough that the distinction between robots and "smart objects" will only that robots move and "smart objects" don't move, but that doesn't mean that these objects are less intelligent than robots. In fact, i view domestic robots as a special case of "smart objects": when you connect the robots of your house via WiFi or Bluetooth or some other network, your domestic robot becomes a smart object that moves; and, viceversa, a smart object that moves is a robot. Today some robots already behave like pets, and are treated like pets by their owners. Children routinely treat the iRobot (the robot that vacuum cleans floors) like they treat cats and dogs. Robots become pets. Smart objects become robots that don't move. You are surrounded by machines that increasingly seem to have a "personality". Our brains are programmed to "socialize" with people, animals and even objects. Draw a circle, two lines and two dots: you see a smiling face. We attribute human qualities and emotions to animals that live with us, especially the ones that work for us (for example, the horse used in a farm). This will be true also of the "smart" objects We are going to be living with smart objects. Eventually speech recognition will be so good that we will be able to talk to machines. Inevitably, we will react emotionally to them. We will start treating them like family members, the same way that some people treat their old car like a good friend. In fact, there are scientist (like inventor Alex Reben) who intentionally design machines to elicit "social" feelings, the same way that animals, for example "pets", elicit social feelings in us. In 2012 Kate Darling of the MIT Media Lab wrote a paper titled "Extending Legal Rights to Social Robots". Maybe she can extend legal rights to all smart objects.

The problem is how this will affect our behavior towards other humans. When we use machines, we tend to get nicer towards the machines, and less kind towards fellow humans. Think of drivers: very nice men can behave like really mean men when they are driving. The same man who is so nice when he is walking in the street can become really rude and arrogant when he is driving. When you remove the direct interaction with other humans, you literally change the way humans perceive other humans.

Narnia: what's the next step?


Two directions. The first direction is the Internet of Things without the Internet. Why do we need the Internet in order to connect two things? Because little or no processing at all is done on the "things" themselves. Things like sensors send data to the cloud. The processing happens in the cloud. But it is just a matter of time before someone realizes that the Internet is sometimes a problem, not a solution. For example, it is more vulnerable that a specialized, dedicated network could be. It is also slower than such a network would be. Technological progress will give us sensors that can do a lot of processing before sending their data to the cloud. Then it will become obvious to ask: why do we need to send data to the cloud instead of sending them directly to the other "things" that need them?

The second direction (exactly opposite) is the "Internet of Everything". Facebook (, SpaceX, Google (Project Loon), Qualcomm and Virgin (OneWeb) are planning to provide global Internet connectivity to every person on the planet. Facebook's will use drones and a satellite constellation, Google's Project Loon will use helium balloons, Qualcomm's OneWeb will use a satellite constellation (to be launched in 2018). The 2015 report titled "Measuring the Information Society Report" by the United Nations' International Telecommunication Union agency shows how far behind the developing world still is: only 7% of the households in the developing world have access to the Internet (compared with 80% in the "rich" world); but that could be the reason that the Internet of Things takes off sooner: there are countless services that don't exist and need to be created from zero, whereas the developed world already has many of those services and it is harder to replace them with interconnected things. I wouldn't be surprised if the developing countries are the first ones to adopt the Internet of Things on a massive scale, just like Africa was first to adopt smartphone payment. In 2014 a study by GSMA estimated that 52% of cellular M2M connections were in the developing world. In 2015 a study by McKinsey ("Unlocking the Potential of the Internet of Things") estimated that 40% of the value of the Internet of Things between 2015 and 2025 will be generated in developing countries. The cities of the developing world have the most pressing problems. They are polluted, congested, unhealthy. The developing world needs the Internet of Things more than the developed world to create sustainable cities. The Internet of Things can help the developing world provide health care to its citizens and to provide aid in cases of disaster emergencies. The Internet of Everything is a global village in which things create better societies than the societies built by people.

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