Top technology blog Read/Write Web has been one of the most proactive and prolific sources of information about “the Internet of Things”, which (broadly defined) describes the increasing proliferation of network-connected devices and sensors.
Today, editor Richard MacManus published a piece titled “Three Sensor Data Platforms to Watch.” The post (and the rest of R/WW’s coverage in this area) is recommended reading for any technology enthusiast or industry watcher.
(Update 9/14/10: GigaOM adds to the conversation in "Sensor Networks Top Social Networks for Big Data")
Richard rightly notes that much work in the space is “experimentation”, adding, “it’s still very early in this area.” However, HP’s collaboration with Shell is worth bringing to the discussion because it is a particularly large-scale commercialization of the broad portfolio of technologies required to bring this vision to life.
If you’re unfamiliar with this collaboration, here’s a quick FAQ and some video to get you up to speed:
What are HP and Shell doing together?
HP and Shell will use their complementary knowledge and experience to produce a groundbreaking solution to sense, collect and store geophysical data. The solution promises to help the oil company avoid the environmental impact of drilling unnecessary wells thanks to previously unattainble high-resolution data gleaned from a wireless seismic imaging network.
What’s unique about the technology?
The Shell system underscores the uniqueness and importance of HP’s broad portfolio. The new sensing technology represents a breakthrough in nano-sensing research and uses the fluidic MEMS technology codeveloped over the past 25 years by HP Labs - the company’s central research arm - and the company’s Imaging and Print Group.
It will be delivered by HP Enterprise Services and uses HP ProCurve networking products along with HP storage, computation and software products.
The system also encompasses a one-million node wireless network.
What does this collaboration mean for future sensor network applications?
Dr. Peter Hartwell, HP Labs (excerpted from the video below):
“…we’ve been able to use [this opportunity] to kind of pull the technology out of the lab, get involved with our business units, create this whole new system around CeNSE, which, as we develop this and you push things forward, and you work on the cost and size and power requirements, we’ll be able to…get towards actually doing a trillion sensors a lot of applications that are much more important to measuring our impact on the Earth.”
Why hasn’t this been done before?
HP Senior Fellow and nanotechnology pioneer Stan Williams (excerpted from the video below):
“The problem is that in this area there are no standards…when you get a bunch of [suppliers] in the room talking about the system, first of all everyone’s worried about intellectual property. They don’t want to share. So the fact of the matter is when somebody tries to bolt a system like that together it turns out to be a pretty unworkable Frankenstein’s monster.”
“Whereas at HP, we’re actually doing this soup to nuts. We’re vertically integrated throughout the entire stack in terms of being able to deliver this solution.”
What about privacy and security?
Read this post about HP's research into the privacy and security challenges of sensor networks.
Where can I get more information?
Try this post focused on HP Labs accelerometer sensor or read the presentation below