Challenges of Building an Internet of Things Product

Recently we attended an event run by the Technology Strategy Board entitled Kickstarting the Internet of Things ecosystem. It was an interesting day, exploring the possibilities and opportunities and trying to pin down what the Internet of Things really is.

We didn't draw any firm conclusions, and there tended to be a split between those favouring a top-down, plan it out and build a platform for it all to run on, and those of us advocating an agile, bottom-up, we can start building (and benefitting from) it right now approach.

Part of the reason for the event was for the TSB to gain a better understanding of the whole area, and as a result the day followed a pretty fluid and changing format. Initially they asked for people to volunteer to talk, but when it became clear there were more talks being proposed than could be accommodated they suggested something nearer to a barcamp-style wall of proposals, which were voted on by the attendees.

Having not attended any TSB events before, it was tricky to know the composition of the audience and therefore pitch a talk. I figured that explaining some of the challenges and lessons I've learned in actually getting hands-on with building a part of the Internet of Things would be useful.

On the day, my talk didn't quite garner enough votes (a blessing as it wouldn't have fit well into the pared-down 2-minute slots we ended up with to give more time for group work) but it seems a shame not to share it.

Here it is, it's best to click through and view it on slideshare directly as then you'll be able to see the notes that accompany each slide.

In addition to the talks, we'd also been asked to take along an object (or a picture of an object) that represents the Internet of Things. Naturally, Bubblino had accompanied me down to London but I was rather surprised at the lack of other examples. Fiddian had brought along an Arduino board (which was handy to help explain what powers Bubblino) and Usman, of Pachube fame, had the original 'Live Wire' network monitor (a real piece of ubicomp and Internet of Things history), but that was it. Duncan summed it up nicely in this tweet:

hello to @Bubblino the lone thing at the internet of things event #tsbiot

When you spend all your time surrounded by others who are getting on and making this stuff a reality it's easy to forget that we're leading the way.

Adrian, Great blog and

Adrian,
Great blog and thanks for participating! Glad you found it useful.
On May 11th we have formally announced the intention to invest in this space.
Please see here fyi
http://www.innovateuk.org/content/news/technology-strategy-board-to-invest-5m-into-the-in.ashx
I d love to meet for coffee sometimes you are in London.
Best
M.

Hi Adrian, Interesting post.

Hi Adrian,

Interesting post. Totally agree on favoring DIY over IBM/Cisco. Concerning the configuration of Internet-connected devices, one approach would be to serve up a configuration Web page right from the device itself (accessed e.g. via QR Code / mobile phone browser). This does work for all parameters not directly related to the Internet connection itself (e.g. Twitter credentials, but not Wifi Keys). Of course, then you have the problem of being behind a NAT/firewall. Because setting up port forwarding is too much hassle for many customers, we developed Yaler - a simple, open and scalable relay infrastructure hosted in the cloud. It's available including full source for non-commercial use. We're working on offering Yaler as a hosted service at affordable per-connection rates to allow a seamless transition between device prototype, small-scale deployment and successful product. For more information please see http://yaler.org/

Cheers,
tamberg

Hi Adrian, Interesting post.

Hi Adrian,

Interesting post. Totally agree on favoring DIY over IBM/Cisco. Concerning the configuration of Internet-connected devices, one approach would be to serve up a configuration Web page right from the device itself (accessed e.g. via QR Code / mobile phone browser). This does work for all parameters not directly related to the Internet connection itself (e.g. Twitter credentials, but not Wifi Keys). Of course, then you have the problem of being behind a NAT/firewall. Because setting up port forwarding is too much hassle for many customers, we developed Yaler - a simple, open and scalable relay infrastructure hosted in the cloud. It's available including full source for non-commercial use. We're working on offering Yaler as a hosted service at affordable per-connection rates to allow a seamless transition between device prototype, small-scale deployment and successful product. For more information please see http://yaler.org/

Cheers,
tamberg