Technologies that are changing the world, one step at a time!

There are a number of products/technology areas that interest me right now. As a gadget lover there are many more things you can engage with and utilize. I thought I would share the top three projects/products that interest me right now.

The very first is the Seek Thermal imaging system. It plugs into your phone or they also offer a handheld thermal imaging system. I used the iPhone plug in version for ages. One of the things it made me realize was I was trying to reduce the impact of my home and trying to reduce my heating and cooling bills. Solar cut a huge amount out of my cooling bills. But when I wandered around my house with the seek thermal I notice my windows were not by any stretch of the imagination holding any cool in or for that matter any heat out (and the reverse in winter). Great tool, really nice software to boot. They do also have a standalone camera that is quite effective.

My next technology that I am thinking is game changing technology is a new video weather system. It is live on Kickstarter for today (August 30th 2016) and is fully funded. It offers a new capability for weather systems that I find interesting. Yes, I am an acknowledged weather geek. But the ability to have time lapse video of a storm is really cool. Particularly if I don’t have to expose my DSLR or me to the weather to get the time lapse. A really exciting a new idea. Add to that the pre-built mounting system. I cannot wait for this product to arrive.

Growing up in a hosue that focused on science I love scientific instruments. I have a digital Microscope for seeing small things, up close and personal. I have a telescope that allows me to take images of the moon, and other objects clearly seen from earth. Imagine my delight as I wandered across the project. A Seismograph using a Raspberry PI system. Wow! The project is fully funded, but I suspect they will begin accepting pre-orders soon for the second wave of the product. Now you can tell if the shaking was just your house settling or an earthquake!

There is a poem I recall The Clod and the Pebble by William Blake. In that poem the clod speaks of love and the Pebble speaks well, not of love. The team at the Pebble Smart watch picked the wrong name from the poem! They should have gone with clod because this is a device I love. Now that I think about it Pebble is a cooler name. “What smart watch do you wear?” I wear a clod. Yeah, the Pebble remains one of the smartest projects I’ve backed, ever. The newest version provides many more upgrades, updates and continued cool factor. I backed the very first Pebble watch more than 3 years ago. It arrived and hasn’t been off my wrist since then. The only reason I have a different Pebble now, is that I am wearing the new Time from Pebble rather than the original (my wife has the original and she loves it). The device is simply amazing. The software just works.

Another interesting and intriguing technology is translation. The reality of translation is availability. When you are wandering the streets of Copenhagen, and need to translate a Danish word, Google Translate works, but it costs you money. You don’t pay Google; they are providing a free service. You pay your cellular provider for the data you use. Frankly what you pay for cellular data is painful when you are roaming outside your normal country. That brings up the next interesting project, also well-funded and heading towards design/build. Not in hands yet, like the upcoming seismograph and the video weather station these are not on the market yet. But the ability to have an off-line translation device is very cool. The universal translator of Star Trek! Can you imagine the conversation? “Yes my ear piece does automatic translation of languages and things spoken to me.” “That is very cool. But why Klingon?” “Because it can!”

I’ve embedded links to the sites of most of the technologies listed in this blog. Seek Thermal you can find by simply doing a Bing or Google search (Seek Thermal). The others all include links. Some of iterations of previous products (Pebble) others are new capabilities or enhanced capabilities that I find intriguing. It is a great time to be a gadget geek.

.doc

Technologist

Connecting the Things of the Internet

The closest point and the furthest point. Between the two of them there is the concept of distance and the reality of connection. Connecting the two points together becomes the answer to the question why do we have the two points. It also becomes the quest for the best way to connect devices.

For years’ people have been pushing Wi-Fi further and further. Get wireless devices we have been told. To a degree that is one of the key components of connection. But there are limits to the amount of data and the speed of which you can move that data between two points wirelessly.

A mix of Wireless and Wired connections is optimal. Most businesses have server rooms where they hard wire their servers connections to the world beyond. They tend to terminate the company connection to the Internet in a single place. That to reduce cost and reduce the security risk of the outside connection. The mix of wired and wireless connections is then spread throughout the building, buildings or campus.

I have advocated for many years the distribution of traffic across multiple segments even at home. Even lower end routers provided by Internet service Providers, can handle creating a netted network. (NAT or Network Address Translation is where the IP addresses on the other side of your router (home) are different than the addresses provided by your ISP). The number of devices that seek, request and utilize IP addresses continues to increase. From tablets, cellular phones, Televisions and many other smart appliances the ask for bandwidth is growing.

First off, the term “Smart” appliances are really a misnomer. They aren’t smart by any means. A smart appliance would do more than stop consuming power when it wasn’t on. A smart appliance would learn the pattern of your day and be available when the time for it to be consumed arrived. Smart appliances are simply at this point a marketing term. Really smart appliances would look at your network and look at your other devices and prioritize information flow. They would be aware of unusual activity and either band together to repel the invader or notify the devices that repel invaders of the invader. Smart appliances, like the information age, today are more Hype than substance. The potential is there, the possible near future is on the horizon but for now neither is real.

So you break your home network or your small business network up. Provide segments that are managed and routed within the location. The connections within your small business or home then become more flexible. As these devices actually move from being named smart to actually being smart you will find value in the segmentation.

There will be a growing number of devices deployed over the next five years. Depending on your personal preferences and interests you may have a weather station. The weather station would bring together data from sensors such as wind speed and direction, temperature inside and outside your home and rain gauge. You may even add things such as air quality. You can then present that information on a mobile device or via your computer and a web page.

You may add devices that offer home security and video feeds. Or you can log in and watch your dogs sleep (mine only wake up when there is someone on or near our front porch). Or perhaps you will have a system that automates your lights (no it is NOT SMART LIGHTING).

The pre- Internet of Things (IoT) network management will benefit you greatly when the Smart Devices actually do arrive. You can have devices with the name Smart on one segment of your network and actually smart devices on another. That way the smart devices won’t make fun of the devices just marketing named smart. The reduced taunting chatter will benefit your network.

Two wireless routers and as many wired network devices as you can make logical sense. The IoT is generating a lot of information, a lot of network traffic and the sooner you prepare for the eventual onslaught the better you will be able to handle all those cool new devices!

.doc

Weather nut

(PS, a weather gauge that is outdoors and buried in snow will register 32 degrees as the temperature until the snow melts. I’ve tested that!)

The injustice of slights. Or the worst mistake I’ve ever made as a manager.

There are times as people we carry slights. They, the slights, are often unintended but they happen. We, as people, carry them, remember them far longer than they deserve. I wonder sometimes, why we let the slight dig in so deeply. I suspect deep inside this issue there is a communication pattern and communication anti-pattern just waiting to be expressed.

Just let it go.

Some of the best advice that all of us give. Just let it go. We tell our children that, our friends that and our often our co-workers that. Just let it go. But the thing is, do we? Now I am not talking about injustice here. If someone has truly wronged you, you have to deal with that. I am talking instead about a perceived wrong. Not a real wrong. Please don’t email me or comment about real wrongs done to you. Those are things you have to deal with.

Rather it is the perception of being wronged when in reality you weren’t wronged. I have a former boss that frankly I have nothing to do with, that once promised me in front of the entire team “if you win this deal with this customer I will get you an award.” We did win the deal with the customer. But the award never happened. Nor was it ever acknowledged. That is a real wrong. So I have nothing to do with that person, period.

Over the years though there are times when I’ve thought I heard someone say something they actually didn’t say. That perceived injustice is the one that gnaws at you. Keeps you from considering that you didn’t hear those words. I find that many times simply stopping and asking the person resolves the issue.

That said, systemic issues also exist. If someone feels slighted and they address that by approaching their boss. It is critical as a boss that you deal with the issue. As a boss I once dealt with a situation that I know I should have handled differently.

The team was bringing in a new manager. The new manager was a great person and a great fit for the role of team lead. There was a person on the team who felt they should be the leader of the team. They however, never expressed that feeling directly. Bringing in this new manager onto my team without knowing the person in question felt that way ultimately undercut the new manager completely.

First off, the person on the team that ultimately wanted the manager’s job wasn’t qualified. The person also wasn’t either fair to the new person or to me. The person undercut me with my boss and undercut the new manager with my boss. Eventually the new manager couldn’t take the political games played and ended up leaving the company. I still to this day feel horrible about the way that was handled. I feel like, I know actually I let the new manager down. I also feel like I know there was an injustice done by the employee. Twice in fact that person did their best to completely destroy the team we were trying to build. In the end that person completed one of the worst acts of team destruction I’ve ever seen or been a part of. Sad in the end.

I will forever feel bad about how that happened.

Balancing the knowledge that you slighted someone accidentally or on purpose is part of being human. We all make mistakes. When you do, don’t compound the mistake by making a worse one. Go first the first one. Talk to everyone involved. Don’t compound everything by making that team weaker.

As the line from the song goes “you have to live with yourself.”

.doc

Still sad, but trying to learn…

My VCR stopped flashing 12 because I unplugged it. The same isn’t true for the long proclaimed flashing 12 of the information age.

Do you remember the VCR? Not the actual hardware but the change that made? Once upon a time we were locked to the schedules of the TV networks. If you missed a show you had to hope it would come around again, later. There were many fewer stations and ultimately there were many fewer time slots and some things never really came around again. Then the VCR came and you were freed from the TV networks schedule. You could watch shows, replay shows and start recording shows in the middle to finish them later. The VCR changed home entertainment.

That change is nearly here in relation to information and information devices now. If you wander around Kickstarter or Indiegogo there are a number of projects that are trying to get the concept of universal translation off the ground. There are a number more trying to create secure home data shares. Google, Apple, Microsoft, Dropbox and Box all have interesting products that provide both cloud storage but also a means to an end. Enterprise sharing of data and cross group sharing handled by cloud based information stores.

I’ve complained for the past couple of years that in fact the information age isn’t here yet. My case is built around the reality of information. Once upon a time, 400 or so years ago, most people didn’t know or weren’t given the opportunity to learn how to read. The explosion of reading came right after the invention by Gutenberg of the printing press. More books available meant it was advantageous for more people to be able to read. The same is true today in the information world. The ability to deliver more information to more devices and in a rapid manner makes ubiquitous information possible. That is the darkness right before the dawn of the information age.

The VCR changed television viewing by taking control out of the hands of the networks and into the hands of users. The result is the creation of on-demand television services. The addition of the Internet and an easy to connect home viewing system made the on-demand services possible and they took off from there. Digital Video Recording or DVR’s changed viewing even further. You could now easily watch part of a show you recorded or live, and pause at any point. You not only controlled the time of playback but the playback rate. Channels went from local stations to all-sports and all-nature channels. 100’s of channels. On-demand services added even more viewing choices.

Information is in that incubation stage now, the one that television experienced with the VCR. The pupa of the future information butterfly is now formed. As the butterfly of information matures and prepares to leap forth into the brave new world, what does it need to succeed? It is beyond search. It is beyond information stores.

We need the VCR of information to launch the information age. Those Kickstarter and Indiegogo projects along with universal translation applications are a start but none of the translation systems are the VCR. The ability to capture information quickly and change control of the information. Today we remain in the expert system. Where a portion of the critical information needed to solve problems remains locked in the Locked PDF file, and tacit knowledge stores of experts.

How do we effectively record experts? To date the value of an expert has been the new ideas and new ways to solve problems. We’ve built an economy around the expert system. Experts and analysts are the one’s running around calling this the information age. Not the dawn, but the information age. Without actually considering the concepts of information flow.

What and how do we record experts? How do we quickly get good information from the napkin to the data store of the world? Over the past 50 years there have been many programs aimed at doing just that. Peace Corps (begun by John Kennedy) sent experts to places with the intent of building new systems and new experts. (thank you to all who served in the Peace Corps). But that was one to few or possibly one to quite a few, but not one to all.

We need to figure out the VCR of information. The game changer that forces the way things are, into the way things could be. A system that captures all information and shares it. Not at the schedule of the expert, nor in a locked PDF File, but freely and for all.

Until the door opens there is no light. Until the window opens there is no air. Until the VCR of knowledge there is not information age.

.doc

Information age decrier

IoT and the ever growing question of my personal privacy…

As a devoted fan of Peter Sellers I loved his Pink Panther movies. However, the one movie of his that always comes to mind for me is Dr. Strangelove. The reason in part for that is the sheer talent of the actors in the movie. It is an amazing story of both corruption and ultimately comedy. It is, as some comedies are a very dark comedy. One of the things that interests me about the movie is the plot within the plot, and the number of characters played by Peter Sellers.

The concept of the plot within the plot is my focus for today’s Internet of Things blog. I saw a demonstration yesterday (August 25th 2016) of an interest array of sensors. Combining a number of sensors to increase data captured while at the same time reduce the cost of capturing that data. A single array with sensors that cover a number of interesting systems.

Within the concept of data collected is the need for the data collected. What data do we urgently need to capture and then the other question raised over what area do we need to capture it. The examples I would use have to do with two things. The first traffic. We’ve talked about that before here on my blog. The capture of information about traffic flow is something cities do now. The other side of this remains a concern of mine. Who owns my image?

Estimates today put between 20,000 and up to as high as 40,000 or more video cameras deployed in New York City and its suburbs. The average person commuting from the ‘burbs into the city will encounter upwards to 200 cameras every day. Some of that is good. You would think that the more cameras there are the less crime there is. That isn’t always true. But it would reduce the number of places crimes of opportunity could occur.

When I was first in IT we talked about the Wide Area Network (WAN) philosophy. There were two camps the WAN is always up, or the WAN is always down. You built your systems based on the camp you were in (off-line able if the WAN is always down, On-line if the WAN is always up). The same now is true for criminals. You either assume the video camera is a decoration (and doesn’t work or transmit) or the camera is always on and you don’t care.

But the other side of that is the privacy issue. I’ve talked about this before the ownership issue of my image. While I understand the need for security cameras I do not accept that I don’t own my image if I commit no crime. As more and more arrays are deployed with sensors to capture data about not only the atmosphere and weather, but the traffic flow and congestion points, the number of cameras taking my picture is going to climb. At some point to make it 20 miles from my house in Maryland to Washington DC I may encounter 400 or 500 cameras. That is 400 or 500 pictures of me that I was:

1. Unaware were being taken

2. Not sure of how long they are kept

Again I do not intend to commit crimes on my way to work. I accept if I speed in an area with a speed camera that I deserve the letter from the State of Virginia or the state of Maryland (or even the District of Columbia if I wander across the river too fast). In that case I have committed a crime. Yes, a misdemeanor but the entities in question have right to keep the picture of me, or me and the license plate of my car.

I do not and will not accept keeping my picture when I don’t speed or turn right on red (red light cameras remain stupid. That is something that needs to be fixed. If it is legal to turn right on red, and I stop look both ways there is not traffic and I proceed I shouldn’t get a letter in the mail).

It is an argument of personal privacy that needs to be had now. No camera should be deployed without a privacy statement. Those statements should be published by the company, city, regional or national government entity. Organizations with cameras in front should also. Publishing the privacy rules, they adhere to is critical.

1. We keep all video for x time period.

2. We do, with a warrant, release all video to the police

3. We do, without a warrant releases all video to the police

We need these! It is after all my image! How can I have a virtual wall around me, Please!

.doc

No, that picture is not me.

IoT and the story of getting the right information to the right people at the RIGHT time!

One of the things that I find interesting is the concept of a Maginot line for data. Where there is data on both sides of the line, but without proper authorization one set of data remains separate from the other. The concept is one that many US Government, and other countries Governments are considering. They, government, doesn’t really care how many miles you’ve driven between hard breaking events. They do, care, when your airbags deploy. Or who is flying the drone into restricted air space. You get the idea. There is data that lives in the vast ocean of information and frankly governments and people only want to have some of that data available.

What would such a line look like. It would have to be better than the original Maginot line (it kind of didn’t stop anything in the end). But the concept is true. A single point of egress for information moving from the mass (IoT) to the consumer (user, system or company/government).

First you have to ask why would you want that?

110 Zettabytes of produced data. The issue of course is that much of that data gets filtered. But the other side from the perspective of a government agency is additional filtering. The concept of a connected car is a great example.

1. Regional Level DOT wants to know the following:

a. Your car hits a pothole

b. Traffic information on all roads other than country of municipal roads.

I. Volume of traffic

1. Number of vehicles per day

2. Number of vehicles per hour maximum (and time)

3. Number of vehicles per hour minimum (and time)

ii. Type of vehicles

1. Total volume of trucks

2. Total volume of cars

3. Total volume of Motorcycles

4. Then each per hour

c. An accident this occurred

2. National Government Level

a. Traffic information on major national roads

I. Volume of traffic (numbers only per day)

ii. Type of traffic

So the connected car sends information to the state but not to the top level. The top level would receive traffic information as part of proposals for national level money to improve specific roadways. They would however get data related to national roads or major thoroughfares. There would even be a layer below the regional government say large cities such as New York or Amsterdam would have a local department of transportation that would focus only on the roads of the municipality.

So the line is simple to draw but harder to implement. The first line would be the ownership and management of traffic cameras along the national level roads. The national level of the Department of Transportation (DOT) wouldn’t care about the visual information about traffic. They would care about volume of traffic and type of traffic on the road. But the fact that traffic slows down when it rains or increases when it is sunny, but the sun isn’t directly head of the road path (the road doesn’t have an East/West directionality).

So the data gets controlled as it passes up the system. Less data shared as it goes up with a consolidation of the information provided. That is the function of a Maginot line of data. Filter information so that we don’t flood any level of the system.

Giving us an interesting view of who gets information and why.

.doc

IoT futurist

Integration is the bane of the Internet of Things…

As a technologist I have broad interest. From the reality of Transactive Energy, Micro grids and how will power be produced to the ever evolving technology landscape of my various hobbies. My interests in gadgets range from personal communication gadgets to personal productivity gadgets. It’s because that my interests are so broad that I am an early sufferer of IoT integration issues.

Let’s start out with integration of car and drivers. Today I can press a single button in my car, connect to a service and the service will let me ask questions. If I need directions, they can send directions directly to the GPS of the car. That is great step one integration. Now, I can also add a device like the Automatic system that will also upload information about my driving to a site where I can then review and evaluate. That ability helps change my driving habits to be more safe. Other integrated systems that exist include predictive driving (once a route is entered, evaluate the route for traffic issues). Weather alerts also appear on the screen as weather is also a predictive process that impacts the driving experience. But the services work in the car. They work with the car acting as a sensor and sending data to me. Like, temperature in the car is now 100 degrees so as I am walking to the car go ahead and start the car, turning on the ac. That predictive integration isn’t there yet. I can do the remote start, but the automated process isn’t there yet.

I can do that predictive analysis in my house, but I cannot today control the furnace to the point where I am on evenings where the outside temperature is cooler than the house, turn off the AC and suck in enough outside air to keep the house cooler than the set summer temperature. The same is true when the heat is on. That balanced energy system doesn’t quite exist today. We are close but not quite to that integrated point.

The last day of the Rio Olympics was the day for the Gold Medal game in men’s basketball. I watched the US Women’s team dismantle their opponent in the Woman’s game on Saturday and wanted to see if the Men’s game would be close (the two teams had played once in the tournament a 3-point game won by the US with a 3-point shot in the air as time expired so nearly a tie). I ended up because of various things I was doing, watching the event on three different TV’s (I had recorded it). With the integration now of DVR functionality, I could resume the game on any TV in the house without having to start over. I can take TV and push it to any device connected via Wi-Fi in my house. I can rebroadcast TV anywhere my device is live or recorded. The integration is much better now, then it ever has been. There are a few things that could be better but overall the experience of television can be had anywhere.

There are many integration points of weakness now. The problem isn’t the many points of weakness the problem is that the size of the pool is greater than before. I talked about the concept of continuation over a year ago. Where one device knows about the other devices you use. Transferring calls form the car phone to the home audio system seamlessly. That is just one step in the broader integration pattern of IoT devices. Today we have devices that exist as physical objects. Eventually that one physical object may actually be two or three visual objects along with the physical. Sensors continue to get smaller and smaller. But the integration needs are what we should focus on for the next couple of years.

Today we have systems that using analytics reduce the clutter produced by IoT devices. By clutter I mean all the information (110 Zettabytes or more) produced by IoT devices that we don’t need. By don’t need it is information that isn’t going to impact the decision we have to make. Basically applying Boyd’s OODA Loop process, it is information that does not impact the orientation of the observer thus information we can discard. We however need a system to go back and see if in fact the orientation needs to be modified for the system evaluating the information presented to the observer. IE today video is monitored for new events. Eventually you will also want to monitor for patterns that are recently established but outside the new time boundary. New patterns would often be discarded as noise when in fact they may be a precursor to something else.

All of this integration built around sensors, data and devices. Where the goal is to produce information and quickly provide it to the observer in a manner the observer can consume quickly. The integration framework for IoT devices is critical for this to happen smoothly.

Otherwise you will spend a day reviewing yesterday’s video feed to find what happened this morning while you were reviewing yesterday’s security footage.

.Doc

Boyd Fan, gadget freak