The Internet of Things, from a User Perspective

A Brief History of the Internet of Things

The term "Internet of Things" refers to the concept of connecting environmental sensors and everyday objects to networks, as well as computers and user devices.

This concept was originally known as "ubiquitous computing," a term coined by Mark Weiser in 1991. "Pervasive computing" is more or less the same thing. In the 1990s the progress of both was limited by the fact that it was difficult and expensive to connect an object to a computer.

The term "Internet of Things" appeared around 1999. There is a current surge of interest because network interfaces are cheap, cellular and WiFi coverage is extensive, and there is a huge amount of ongoing research on low-power devices. Many devices that could not support a wireless Internet connection by themselves are permanently located near devices that can, in a home, a car, or on a person's body. These devices can use ZigBee or Bluetooth for low-power, short-distance, reliable communication with an Internet host. Thus many of the basic connectivity problems have been solved, and new network-enabled consumer devices come out every year (in 2014, it was toothbrushes, tennis rackets, and slippers).

In business circles, this technology also goes by the name of "M2M," for "machine-to-machine" communication. It has many industrial uses, for example in manufacturing and transportation.

The popularity of the Internet of Things (as a concept) is also fed by the rage for Machine Learning, which has recently replaced the rage for Big Data, as much of the data is expected to come from sensors everywhere. Around 2015 the constantly-repeated prediction was that by 2020 there will be 50 billion Internet devices, up from 10 billion (so we had better be using IPv6).

A User Perspective

But first, a toaster perspective: The Story of Brad the Toaster.

We are concerned about feature interaction in the Internet of Things. These papers have two very different kinds of results, a formal feature-composition mechanism and a user study.

I really liked these papers about the human side of home automation.

AUTHOR = "Leila Takayama and Caroline Pantofaru and David Robson and Bianca Soto and Michael Barry",
TITLE = "Making technology homey: Finding sources of satisfaction and meaning in home automation",
BOOKTITLE = "Proceedings of UbiComp",
YEAR = "2012"}

AUTHOR = "W. Keith Edwards and Rebecca E. Grinter",
TITLE = "At home with ubiquitous computing: Seven challenges",
BOOKTITLE = "Proceedings of UbiComp",
YEAR = "2001"}

AUTHOR = "Allison Woodruff and Sally Augustin and Brooke Foucault",
TITLE = "Sabbath day home automation: {``}It's like mixing technology and religion{''}",
BOOKTITLE = "Proceedings of the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI)",
YEAR = "2007",

A Brief Bibliography, for Researchers in Computer Science

I have done a lot of reading about the Internet of Things. Fluffy overviews and reports on very specific projects are plentiful and easy to find. These are a few papers that I actually learned from.

The Internet of Things Comic Book

AUTHOR = "Ram\'{o}n C\'{a}ceres and Adrian Friday",
TITLE = "Ubicomp systems at 20: Progress, opportunities, and challenges",
JOURNAL = "IEEE Pervasive Computing",
VOLUME = "11", NUMBER = "1",
MONTH = "January", YEAR = "2012",
PAGES = "14-21"}

AUTHOR = "Dennis Pfisterer and Kay R{\"{o}}mer and Daniel Bimschas and Henning Hasemann and Manfred Hauswirth and Marcel Karnstedt and Oliver Kleine and Alexander Kr{\"{o}}ller and Myriam Leggieri and Richard Mietz and Max Pagel and Alexandre Passant and Ray Richardson and Cuong Truong",
TITLE = "{SPITFIRE}: Towards a {S}emantic {W}eb of {T}hings",
JOURNAL = "{IEEE} Communications",
VOLUME = "49", NUMBER = "11",
MONTH = "November", YEAR = "2011",
PAGES = "40-48"}

AUTHOR = "Fabio A. Schreiber and Romolo Camplani and Marco Fortunato and Marco Marelli and Guido Rota",
TITLE = "Perla: A language and middleware architecture for data management and integration in pervasive information systems",
JOURNAL = "IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering",
VOLUME = "38", NUMBER = "2",
MONTH = "March", YEAR = "2011",
PAGES = "478-496"}

AUTHOR = "Colin Dixon and Ratul Mahajan and Sharad Agarwal and A. J. Brush and Bongshin Lee and Stefan Saroiu and Paramvir Bahl",
TITLE = "An operating system for the home",
BOOKTITLE = "Proceedings of the 9th USENIX/ACM Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation (NSDI '12)",
YEAR = "2012"}