The Internet of Things will overtake you only if you let it

Blog written by Intel Labs Research Scientist, Brian Murphy. He presented his work today at Intel Developer Forum 2014 Shenzhen. Please visit for more information.

By 2020, billions of smart things will be connected to the internet and each of us will have at least 6 smart, connected things. This things may have ability to easily monitor and learn about us. But this information about us can be used to make our lives better if devices can work together to give us what we want when we want it. For example, if informed by my calendar, my coffee pot can start preparing coffee when and how strong I need it. Already smart devices can act independently on our behalf when they sense our presence, turning on and off lights or adjusting heating and cooling systems, but to go beyond such basic needs and energy savings and into the realm of what each of us wants, we must each participate in designing the ways in which our devices should work together, and how gathered and sensed information can trigger actions to benefit us.

There are barriers to getting our devices to collaborate, even when they are all smart and connected. Devices from different manufacturers often have incompatible software platforms and getting them all programmed to talk to each other is overly complicated by competitive differentiation and incompatibilities. As the HTML5 framework has grown from its origins in web site building and into mobile application building, it is becoming increasingly popular and powerful as a common application programming environment that is available on more and more platforms. Intel Labs is researching what is needed beyond already common HTML5 features to build components that can be distributed across connected things and easily discover and talk to each other, forming the foundation of a distributed programming environment that can span varied and disparate smart devices that may already be in our lives: phones, cameras, PCs, smart coffee pots, and more. As makers and innovators create more smart devices and controllers they can easily be added to this framework, and programmers can easily build and publish reusable software components to utilize each device in useful ways.

To allow end users to experience the device behavior they choose, our experimental framework supports a component-based application architecture, where components are connected into complete systems by the end users themselves. A simple graphical tool can make it easy for a user to browse his available devices, add software components, and link them together to form the patterns and rules he chooses. To make this even easier, we envision that experts can create reusable patterns which users can find and customize for their own environments.

In the longer term, the set of smart devices and components will become even larger. When every light and appliance in our homes is smart, and an increasing variety of sensors detect more and more about ourselves and our environments, and more external information is available—about the weather, the world, our friends—the possible ways to customize each person’s world will become huge and difficult to navigate. It will become crucial to leverage similarly huge external information sources for help in finding and selecting the most relevant patterns and devices for our interests, our moods, and our life and family situations. Intel labs is studying ways to represent, organize, and prioritize information about our devices and activities, as well as openly shared experiences of others, to help make our devices work better together: a cloud-hosted “device social network” which can help our devices to connect with each other just as cloud-based social networks help us connect with other people.

By using a unified programming environment across varied smart things, simplifying device collaborations using a component-based design, and using cloud-hosted device social network to provide rich information sources for assisting users in finding and using patterns of interaction among their devices, we can keep end users in the driver seat. With such tools we hope we can welcome the Internet of Things into our lives without losing control of our information while gaining even more control over and benefit from the things around us.

Stay tuned for a video that shows the programming interface…

Divya Kolar

About Divya Kolar

Divya Kolar holds a M.S in Computer Science conferred in 2006 from Portland State University. She joined Intel in 2005 and has previously worked as a Software Engineer where she was an active researcher in various security and manageability technologies like Intel® Active Management Technology. Today she is a Vision Strategist in the Intel’s largest research group and is responsible to promote Intel technologies to external media partners besides performing ecosystem enabling and competitive technology analysis for Intel Labs’ microprocessor research. Besides her responsibilities at Intel she has always been enthusiastic in promoting and encouraging young adults to stay in computing. She is an active board member for the largest women employee group at Intel and has been an active member in Anita Borg Institute and local SWE chapters since 2007 and has conducted multiple presentations at these conferences for over 5 years.

2 Responses to The Internet of Things will overtake you only if you let it

  1. Negin Owliaei says:

    Hi Divya, I work with Al Jazeera America where we’re covering the maker movement. Would love to include your input. Can you email me ASAP at negin.owliaei@aljazeera.net if you’re interested in discussing? Thanks!

  2. gk-edv says:

    Interesting read, and i can only imagine the huge task of putting it all together.
    I hope you can solve the Problem that nearly all Meetings take longer than scheduled
    and keep my coffee maker up to date…