Imagine controlling the lights in your home through your smartphone or mobile device?
… Or watering your plants from the beach while on vacation?
… Or perhaps even monitoring the performance of your wind generator to ensure better functionality, safety, and performance?
Sounds futuristic, doesn’t it? And yet, it is now!
Welcome to “The Internet of Things” where you can connect any device to the Web, control and monitor them, all done remotely.
In 2009, The Cluster of European Research Projects named the Internet of Things part of its Strategic Research Agenda and agreed that:
The Internet of Things could be defined as a dynamic global network infrastructure with self configuring capabilities based on standard and interoperable communication protocols where physical and virtual ‘things’ have identities, physical attributes, and virtual personalities and use intelligent interfaces, and are seamlessly integrated into the information network. In the Internet of Things, ‘things’ are expected to become active participants in business, information and social processes where they are enabled to interact and communicate among themselves and with the environment by exchanging data and information ‘sensed’ about the environment, while reacting autonomously to the ‘real/physical world’ events and influencing it by running processes that trigger actions and create services with or without direct human intervention. Interfaces in the form of services facilitate interactions with these ‘smart things’ over the Internet, query and change their state and any information associated with them, taking into account security and privacy issues.
Today, there are economic open-source microcontrollers based on flexible and easy-to-use hardware and software that allow you easily to build a successful project for monitoring and closed-loop controlling. Whether for household or industrial projects the idea is to log data from digital and analog sensors to somewhere in the cloud. This data then can be accessed from any web or mobile application to monitor and apply changes to the actuators of the process in question.
Real profitable application
Umoya, which means “spirit wind” in Isizulu, is a South African startup company that manufactures Vertical Axis Wind Turbines (VAWT). In addition to providing energy from renewable resources, Umoya also pioneered the sharing of data such as energy production, wind speed, and temperature to facilitate communication between the company, investors, and the growing renewable energy community.
To track the VAWT data set, Umoya staff initially planned to build their own data service. However, given the time and effort necessary to accomplish the task, they ultimately found that it was cost prohibitive and opted to run their data on Cosm.com.
A free online database service capable of holding all kinds of data, Cosm.com allows developers to connect sensors and actuators to the Web. It’s a secure, scalable platform that connects devices and products with applications to provide real-time control and data storage.
Cosm became popular during the nuclear accidents of 2011 in Japan where volunteers interlinked Geiger counters (radiation sensors) across the country to monitor the fallout and map radiation and hazard levels during the disaster. With little to no cost, for commercial applications, you are able to leverage this kind of online database, freeing yourself up from the challenges of building a data server.
The technology that allows developers to link anything to internet to be monitored and controlled already exists. The costs are minimal. It’s up to you to imagine and design the next project or application to take advantage of that availability and produce that next highly profitable software development effort to utilize the technology.