lift@hackerspace – UrbanIOT

A little while ago took place the lift@hackerspace workshop, which was the second part of the Urban-IoT 2010 workshop that took place on November 29, in Tokyo, Japan. The Urban-IoT workshop aimed to bring together experts from various areas related to smart cities to present and discuss their research in a formal, academic context. As a follow-up, the lift@hackerspace event served to deepen the conversations in a more relaxed environment context, where the various participants could explore some of the main topics and challenges that emerged during the formal session, in an open discussion format among a couple of focus groups.

The beer and barbecue certainly helped for richer interactions.


Context: Open source hardware

Akiba who kindly provided us the space (and was the grill chef for the evening, thanks for everything buddy!), briefly described what a hackerspace is, how it works, who hackerspatians are and what they do. Just like fablabs, hackerspaces enable people interested in doing stuff to do just that, in a shared and collaborative environment which provides various tools for people to start experimenting with electronics and hack around different projects. He has presented us some of the work he has been doing with open source arduino-like devices that use various wireless communication interfaces, with a maximal range of up to 10 km. They are using these devices to provide farmers in rural areas in Japan a way to monitor in real-time environmental conditions in their rice fields. Beyond a funky problem, the important aspect was that a low access barrier to such devices (cheap, easy to code) is a central enabler for the internet of things. In the near future, such platforms could directly be used anywhere (using Wi-Fi, 3G, or satellite communication), and just like arduinos, could be easy to hack, and new sensors added so they could be used in various contexts.


Group 1 – LIVE Singapore! (Kristian Kloeckl, Vlad Trifa)

What if non sensitive real-time data feeds from city infrastructures and networks (transportation, telecommunication, commercial systems, sensor networks,…) are provided on one common platform. And what if this platform is made publicly available to developer communities to write applications on top? LIVE Singapore! is a five year research initiative between the city-state of Singapore and MIT’s SENSEable City Lab pursuing this goal and exploring opportunities and challenges involved with such an undertaking. In this group we discussed about possibilities as well as risks that such a platform poses. Since the LIVE Singapore! platform will be opened up to a larger community in the future, discussions such as this are valuable input for the development process. Some of the topics the encouraging outcome touched upon regarded bidding modalities to match dynamic supply and demand of services, dynamically emerging locations generated by ad-hoc people density, as well as reflecting and awareness creation of appropriation of public space by people.

Group 2 – Policies and interoperability (Dominique Guinard)

Among the participants of this focus group were Rudi Ball (Imperial College, specialized in mobile apps), Simon Mayer (ETH Zurich, working with us on the WoT), Till Riedel (from Teco, master of IoT middleware), Rodger Lea (University of British Columbia, Canada, master of IoT middleware as well), Ron Harris (Washington DC, Harris Firm, attorney specialized in patents around RFID and IoT), Ralph Barthel (UCL, UK, tales of things developer).


According to people actually implementing the WoT/UrbanIoT The discussion addressed three essential challenges:

a) discovery and search: how to find sensors in an UrbanIoT? How to find the relevant ones? How do we describe things? How do we link them efficiently?

b) centralization and decentralization: finding the tradeoff between centralizing data and decentralizing computation is a challenge, just as is the question of infrastructure vs ad-hoc (e.g. how much infrastructure is needed, can we do without, by enabling peer to peer, ad-hoc interactions).

c) incentive for sharing: how do we foster sharing, how do we make people share the sensors’ out-there? How do we makes companies and institutions publish their data? Beyond technological challenges, having people, companies and industries share their data seem to be the biggest barrier to the urban iot.

Group 3 – Etoy and life after death in a digital world (Hannes Gassert)

The bravest group at Hackerspace Tokyo explored digital afterlife, embodied interaction with the dead and hacking urban memory spaces and totems (monuments, graveyards, street names) within the framework of etoy‘s Mission Eternity Tamatar project.

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