Everyday Objects getting “smart” and starting to communicate between each other will make all kinds of services to possible and make our lives easier and more comfortable. This is the promise made by the Internet of Things.
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Everything will be connected. This sums up the main idea behind the internet of things, a concept that has become more and more popular over the last few years, which tries to get us prepared for a future where mobiles and computers will be little more than supporting actors. In this future scenario, sensors of all kind — we looked at some of them when we talked about iBeacon — will detect our presence as well as the events taking place around them and respond to them. Custom made advertising, relevant information depending on the user location (for example, in museums), or calls for emergency assistance in events that make it necessary.
To begin with, there is a huge market for these new solutions. If today we are taking about billions of connected devices, in the future this number could multiply by a thousand or even a million. Maybe even more. At IDC they recently conducted a study which highlighted its relevance: In 2012 only, while its concept was still widely unknown, this industry generated 4.800 million dollars in revenues.
But that is not, what is most surprising: According to that same consulting firm, this market will reach 8,9 “long scale” billions (meaning billions as they are understood here in continental Europe , which on the american “short scale” are actually trillions!) by 2020, a dazzling figure that shows how connected devices will enter all areas: cars, homes, urban space, everything will become part of an immense network of interconnected sensors and devices.
Many different technologies will be used within this gigantic digital grid, and of course the new wireless standards will play an important role, but among the cornerstones of this new era we may find a participant we did not expect: This 2.0 virtuoso which is able to do little wonders with just a few electronic components. The so-called ‘makers’ which are supported by devices like Arduino and Raspberry Pi will play an important role in this segment.
One of the most fervent believers in the relevance of these new creators is Chris Anderson, who has written the book “Makers: The new industrial revolution” and who makes his point about the fundamental role hackers, thinkers and developers will play in this future very clear:
“The Maker movement has a long way to go before it can really be said to have come of age. But that doesn’t mean it should be ignored or regarded solely as a hobbyist’s or niche manufacturer’s paradise. It represents the first steps in a different way of doing business.
Rather than top-down innovation by some of the biggest companies in the world, we’re starting to see bottom-up innovation by countless individuals, including amateurs, entrepreneurs and professionals.
We’ve already seen it work before, in bits, from the original PC hobbyists to the web’s citizen army. Now the conditions have arrived for it to work again, at even greater, broader scale, in atoms. If the Second Industrial Revolution was the Information Age, then I would argue that a Third Industrial Age is on its way: the age of the Makers.”
A Pi for the Internet of Things
Eben Upton, co-founder of the Raspberry Pi Foundation behind the popular minicomputer, recently talked about the potential of the concept of the Internet of Things. Even though this minicomputer which costs only about 35 euros was conceived to promote education in the programming field in the United Kingdom, it soon attracted the interest of a multitude of hackers who saw in it the perfect medium to connect devices in new and interesting ways.
Close to a year and a half after the project’s launch, the foundation’s figures indicate that around the world there are already 2 million working Raspberry Pi. And it seems this success has only caused their appetite to grow.
In fact, Upton confessed their intention is to ramify this development into different formats making the platform more versatile for corporate and industrial users. The new format with its reduced size and, as he states, modular design, could become a cornerstone for the ambitious project of the Internet of Things.
The versatility of Arduino in the limelight
Another clear protagonist of the ‘maker’ movement is Arduino, a micro-controller that can be used as a base for very ambitious robotics and electronics projects and which just like in the case of Raspberry Pi has benefitted greatly from its open-source philosophy and the possibilities this platform has to offer.
In fact, a book already exists on the subject: “Building Internet of Things with the Arduino”, written by Charalampos Doukas, which explains how various open platforms like –Cosm, Nimbits or ThingSpeak, among others — already permit remote and transparent control and visualization of sensor data… and Arduino is compatible to all of them.
Just like Raspberry Pi, Arduino will be one the cornerstones of this grid of connected devices which continually send and receive data or wait for a response (or not). Arduino’s versatility has already become legendary in the “digital creators” community, and there can be no doubt about its potential to help the Internet of Things become reality.