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Internet of Things – more than just connected gadgets

The Internet of Things is already a hot topic, even though it’s barely off the ground. So says RISE researcher Claus Popp Larsen, who is calling for a common technical platform and open data.

“We aren’t there yet.” These are the words of RISE researcher Claus Popp Larsen, referring to the fact that the Internet of Things (IoT), while it may be a buzzword, is still very much in its infancy. While the term Internet of Things is largely associated with smart watches, connected gadgets and appliances, or lamps that you can turn on and off with an app, in reality it is not about products but rather how we use and manage data.

“The companies behind these gadgets lack an open, common IoT platform. They want control of the data that their sensors collect and are reluctant to share it; however, it is only when the data becomes available and we begin to share it that we can really talk about an Internet of Things,” believes Claus Popp Larsen.

Companies need to relax their control

One example of this is where we have an intruder alarm service, with motion detectors that collect data. A motion detector can also be used to control lighting or be linked to a passive alarm that alerts social services if an elderly person has been motionless at home for a given period of time; however, sharing data from motion detectors with other services will only work if the alarm company relaxes their control.

Although the IoT appears to be dragging its feet, Claus Popp Larsen believes that we are seeing steps in the right direction, and he mentions SMHI, the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute, as an example. SMHI provides real-time meteorological observations as open data. Anyone is free to use these data, either for informational purposes or in another service that requires weather data. As an example, maritime transports can use the data to calculate times of arrival.

“This should also work in a similar way in the home or other areas of society,” says Claus Popp Larsen.

More benefits of the Internet of Things

Industry offers many examples of how connected devices can streamline production and lead to new types of services. Claus Popp Larsen believes that, among other things, we are seeing an increasing ‘servicification’; where once companies offered their customers complete systems, now they simply offer a service that meets their customer’s specific needs. That said, data is still locked in a supplier’s system, possibly to be shared with subcontractors or partners.

With regard to the public sector, the situation is somewhat different; here, there is a multi-stakeholder environment with multiple data sources and a wide range of service providers. In the case of smart cities, it is important that a municipality chooses a common platform that all of its administrations can use and that grants third-party access to data for the development of new types of services. The alternative is to keep data locked up with each administration, out of reach of the city’s other functions, or locked in suppliers’ systems, thus inhibiting the innovative energy of the city.

Healthcare and welfare provides another example of a multi-stakeholder environment that can be improved by the Internet of Things. When it comes to healthcare-related data however, Claus Popp Larsen believes that new legislation is required.

“It should be you, the patient, who owns your healthcare data and can thereby decide who will be allowed to share it and for what purposes.

RISE has an important role to play

Claus Popp Larsen sees an important role for RISE in the development of the Internet of Things.

“We have a technical role in everything from developing sensors and communication protocols that use less energy than WiFi and Bluetooth to studying new business models. We also have a pedagogical role in making organisations understand how they should use the Internet of Things. The technology is the least of our problems; the difficult thing is changing organisations to benefit from the technology,” concludes Claus Popp Larsen.