A “Cloud Atlas” for the Internet of Things
As the Internet of Things continues its rapid expansion, the resulting data is playing an ever more critical role in how the world works. Sensors are seemingly everywhere and a part of just about everything, yet it seems that the true value of all that information has only started to be fully utilized.
Part of the reason for that is that we aren’t always aware of the data which is being gathered around us. The sensors are there, but finding them and tapping into their store of information isn’t exactly straightforward.
Enter Thingful, a site which has the ambitious mission of becoming the Google of the Internet of Things. Thingful allows people to locate and tap into the data produced by IoT devices in their area. From transportation networks to environmental sensors, Thingful allows people to monitor the public information which is of particular interest to them.
Browsing through the site, it’s clear that not all of what the Internet of Things produces is particularly useful or interesting to the lay person. Yet there are nuggets of data which, if processed and connected, can turn into an incredibly powerful tool for even the average user.
Data on environmental conditions can morph into a hyperlocal weather forecast. Shipping information (which actually constitutes a large amount of the site’s available data) can help identify what’s on the barge passing by. Transportation beacons can be combed for a localized traffic report. As the number of accessible IoT devices grows, so will the possibilities.
Privacy and accessibility are an inevitable concern – much of the IoT data in the world can be found in homes. As a way to mitigate those concerns, Thingful allows owners to “claim” their devices and restrict the information they provide to the public. Information from already public sources such as water quality monitors, weather stations, and navigation stations is readily accessible to everyone, although it is unclear whether it will remain so once Thingful makes it easy to find.
Thingful also gives users the ability to create dashboards of their IoT devices, allowing for monitoring of multiple data sets at once. That is a useful way to put IoT information in context, which is the first step towards making it meaningful. Consider all of the potential embedded in the connected devices in your home – thermostats, refrigerators, solar panels, home security systems, furnaces and air conditioners. The combined data from these sources gives a comprehensive picture of things like energy consumption – something which can make a big difference in the quality of our lives.
Alerts are a feature of Thingful which have the potential to be incredibly useful. Want to know if the air pollution outside is at an unhealthy level? Has the traffic on your way to work deteriorated noticeably in the last five minutes, making an alternative route more attractive? Did you feel an earthquake, and want to know how strong it was? IoT devices are monitoring these things constantly, and can provide up-to-date information as it happens.
The potential here is significant, and will only grow as the Internet of Things provides an ever richer portrait of what is going on around us. Having the “Cloud Atlas” of Thingful will not only help us know what information is being collected, but it will help us harness and use it as well.