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The future of IoT, shown today at IoT World…

May 13, 2015 1 comment

The first day at IoT World in San Francisco was a very big success. The press is loving apps on any smart device (drones, robots, network switches, mobile base stations, industrial gateways, home appliances and IoT home hubs). Good examples are the General Electric Smart Fridge, Erle-Copter – the first drone with apps, Acer’s aBeing One smart hub, predictive maintenance with Dataart and Microsoft, etc. However these were only the headlines. The real revolution is not a single demo of a smart device but the fact that apps can make smart devices work together and completely redefine them. Think about the possibilities of industries being changed through apps.

Let’s start with drones

Attach a camera and put an app and If you thought the “selfie stick” was the ultimate narcissism, think again. Drones can follow you around and make videos and picture from way above. But that same camera can be used to look for crop diseases or inspect an oil drilling platform for danger. Each time the app will be different but the drone can stay the same. Now take it a step further. Attach an Oculus Rift and use some gesture based joystick and you will be able to remotely control your drone. Use some of the software defined radio wonders from Lime Micro and Nuand and you can invent your own wireless protocols. Add the DigitalChaos app and your communication will no longer be traceable. Drones will be able to be flown without knowing who controls them. Scary! However both the army and the anarchists will love this idea.

The home hub

Anything with bluetooth, usb or wifi is able to be connected. At the booth we have the Wowwee Mip, lots of Spheros, the Neurosky scanning your brainwaves, the leap motion being gesture controlled, bluetooth speakers, Play-i’s Bo Xylophone robot, USB cameras connected to Spreed webRTC conference server, bluetooth oximeters, etc. The guys from The Hybrid Group and Dataart are showing how all these things can work together. Think about creating lie detectors with the Neurosky, heart monitors and oximeters. Or using them to create the ultimate learn-to-relax machine that learns what things relax you (different music can be streamed from the cloud via your bluetooth speakers, light intensity, coffee smells, etc). Add IP cameras, computer vision and a sprinkler system and you can scare neighbourhood cats by turning on the sprinklers when they enter your garden. However humans and dogs are allowed. Based on the results from the outdoor weather station, weather predictions from the web, etc. can not only control your sprinkler system but could reprogramme your alarm clock to wake up 15 minutes earlier when it rains or 30 minutes when it snows.

Networking equipment

Putting apps on networking equipment, like the Penguin Computing switch we have at the booth, allows a switch to become a firewall [Zope], a load balancer [F5], a virtual router [Midokura], an anti-virus, an intrusion detection monitor, and be remotely provisioned [MAAS & ONIE] and monitored [Zabbix]. Since the switch has a USB slot you can still put in a bluetooth dongle and use it to control a swarm of Spheros [thanks to The Hybrid Group]. Several LTE gateways (netcom wireless, ADLink, etc.) are at display as well. allowing for the future of LTE networking to be app driven. Now imagine the capabilities for creating optimised networking apps for telecom, media, big data – genome processing, and connect them to a series of devices that are driven via ethernet or LTE. There are several ethernet-driven I/O and sensor controllers and even a sprinkler controller.

Robots

There are several robots on the stand. RTI is doing industrial control & distributed communication via a robotic arm. Sunfounder has some a very cool build-your-own robot car and even a robot spider. However think about controlling robots with unexpected controllers, e.g. a bar code scanner, mind-control, gesture control, etc. Add computer vision as an app, an autopilot app, some motors to control the car and an Uber app into your car and you can rent it to others without getting up from the sofa. Take a Trasibot – environmental research robot boat – and have scientists share the costs of sending the boat to the middle of the ocean between many research projects.

At work

ms_snoga

The NetcommWireless CPE and Patton VoIP gateway are examples of what can be done with software defined appliances at work. If you have to have a VoIP gateway running the whole day, why not have it talk to your bluetooth bar code scanner and credit card reader. You can make your own POS by adding a standard tablet and a SaaS service. Use a bluetooth headset or speakers to make calls, no need for fixed telephones any more. Voice control will assure you don’t have to remember any telephone number any more. You can stream music to the shop while the telephone is not in use. Have a 3D printer in the basement. Your bluetooth speakes will notify you when it finished printing. If you put the Uber app on the 3D printer then DHL will be at your door to pick up the object that was just printed by somebody else. Why invest in a lot of extra servers when your VoIP server can also control your iBeacons inside the store. As well as LED publicity panel in your shop window. Forgerock will make sure your identity is checked when it detects that your Nymi is approaching the shop’s door and will automatically open the door lock for you and can bring up the blinds.

Smart appliances

The GE smart fridge is an amazing appliance. Why do you need apps on your fridge? The USB powered Milky Weigh measures how much milk you have in your fridge so if you forgot to check, a mobile app will visually tell you. However since the fridge has an API, our bluetooth speaker can let you know if the fridge was opened. Temperature can be shared so if it becomes more than 50C the fire truck can be called automatically. What if home appliances could be software defined? LCD displays could show you the score of your favourite team while not doing the dishes or washing your cloths. Touch control could turn your washing machine in an alarm controller and as such you don’t need to install another appliance. Put an accelerometer on the compressor and motors and GE will be able to send an expert to service your appliances before they break.

Industrial IoT

Several industrial gateways are being shown. SCADA-controlling platforms from Emutex. PLC-controlling solutions from Cloudplugs. The Energy Detective electricity monitor can show you in detail how your energy usage is and get it under control. Predictive maintenance is demonstrated with accelerometers on top of two ventilators of which one has duct tape on one of the blades. It is remarkable how much that ventilator vibrates. DeviceHive will make the lights go red when it vibrates too much so if you want a green light, just stop it from shaking. However the future of industrial IoT is all about connecting everything to everything and using Big Data analytics to reduce costs and sell more. Any industrial IoT gateway has a USB or other standard port, hence making custom cables to USB let’s you hook up to everything. Big data scale out in the Microsoft cloud is just a Juju Charm away.

Snappy Ubuntu Core

It is amazing how one technology can change so many things. Check out Snappy Ubuntu Core

The Dinovator Movement is better than the Bitpipe Accelerator Den…

March 26, 2015 1 comment

Summary: Help companies with dinosaur IT systems survive the ice age of innovation. Become a Dinovator…

Before reading this blog post, you should have read: how the cheapest X86 became the smartest switch on MWC, how the cheapest X86 can solve the 4 biggest telecom industry problems and the telco innovator’s den.

If you thought that we were waiting by the phone to get calls from telecom CEOs for the telco innovator’s den then you don’t know us. From the start, we did not think they were going to call. However we were surprised that one of the top 10 telecom CEOs actually got our blog post, read it and considered calling. This is a clear signal that our base message: “The telecom sector needs to innovate or things will get messy” was spot on. There are three things that sell in this world: sex, gossip and controversy. If you want to deliver a message to a large audience that does not want to listen, pick at least one as your theme and build a guerrilla marketing campaign around it.

If you think that we are now organising the Bitpipe Accelerator Den, then you are also wrong. Yes we would be able to assist in supplanting inefficient telecoms with efficient Google Mobile and Fiber. However would that serve a lot of people? Do you really want lawyers to start calling you with offers to help you with your divorce because  Google detected that your partner is looking into it but hasn’t told you yet? Do we really want to see large 300.000 employees companies reduced to 3000 because they are now bit pipes? Telecom downsizing is not pleasant. So please if you are working in the telecom industry, or in any industry that is the victim of disruptive innovations, then please keep on reading and become a Dinovator…

Dinovators are people that wake up one morning and find that the company in which they have been working for many years has been converted into an IT dinosaur. Not because the employees have been doing something wrong but because the outside world just went too fast and out innovated them. You now have two options: 1) Jump ship 2) Show dinosaurs how to innovate. If you are a Dinovator you prefer option two.

So how can you innovate in a traditionally minded company? You can go and show slides. You can go and tell everybody that the wolf is coming. However we tried those approaches years ago and you will fail. Majorities and laggards don’t want the status quo to change because they have a vested interest in it and they don’t know if they will have so in the new reality.

What works however is seeing magic with your own eyes. Anybody that has seen and touched the future can’t deny it any more. Now how can you show the future to people? First of all you need to understand their problems. If in the telecom industry the problem is revenue generation, then don’t go and show them a new proposal for a better protocol or faster network. Show them how new revenue can be generated, churn reduced, cost reduced, OTT revenue generated, etc.

So if you are technical then you can use the cheapest X86 server with 6 ports or any other device you can get your hands on and put an open source operating system like Snappy Ubuntu Core and you can create some Snappy Apps to show  that there is a better future and can convert it into the smartest switch that solves the 4 biggest telecom industry problems. You can use the open source Juju charms and some cloud to show how complex telecom software can be abstracted and how for instance an open source SMSC can have a rest API with three parameters [to, from & message] and still deliver the same SMS service as that very expensive box that has all types of SMPP and other useless APIs and takes months to integrate with. If you are in financial services, retail, logistics, industrial, energy, etc. then you can probably find some other cheap box that can be Snappyfied or open source software that can be charmed so you can show your magic.

If you are not technical but have access to suppliers then you just ask them to surprise you with what they can come up with if they would apply disruptive innovations like Snappy and Juju. If you promise them that you will arrange a meeting with the boss of your boss if they surprise you, then they will be happy and surprise you for sure.

However to accelerate “dinovation” and to be inspired with what a community of dinovators can do, our proposal is to use Twitter. Just tweet a 1 minute video or a short blog post about your “dinovation” and include #dinovator and @telruptive. If you see tweets with great “dinovations” then you retweet them and share them with colleagues, customers, partners and bosses. This way you can become part of the the Dinovator  Movement. The Dinovator Movement is not accepting that companies that have been around for many years are useless and need to be substituted. The Dinovator Movement is about showing that even in the most traditional companies there are Dinovators at work that show how that company needs to adapt to the new reality. The Dinovators explain to management that what is needed is Innovator’s Dens in which partners, customers, suppliers, etc. are invited to participate and innovation can be accelerated without RFPs and wasting everybody’s time. A Dinovator wants their company to embrace the new reality and thrive on it. Open Source has made becoming a Dinovator super easy. Nobody will put a critical system in production without paid support so even business people will be happy with open source Dinovations. However open source has a magical power, it does not get stopped by RFPs. So use its power. Have a Dinovator Day…

Given legacy networking software another life

In lots of networking and telecom software companies you can find many great networking and telecom software that has been in production for 5 to 10 years. Normally this software is sold on top of an appliance that gets bought from another company or another department. The bad thing about this is that each software takes up a at least one unit in a data centre rack and when the box vendor declares end of life, the software vendor needs to phone its customers and bring the unhappy news.

Telecom operators have told the market that they want to see NFV. The market had interpreted NFV in two ways. Either we take a costly operating system like Windriver, we put a costly VMWare hypervisor on top, a costly RedHat and then we put our legacy networking software. The word costly is repeated many times on purpose. The visionaries have interpreted NFV as networking logic running on OpenStack. The visionaries are right that this is the way to go. However today’s product managers can’t take a magic wand and convert a legacy solution written to run on a box into a scale out cloud enabled solution. Data plane virtualization is still a skill that is more of an art than a science.

What if there would be a cheap (Snappy Ubuntu Core is open source), innovative alternative that will give your legacy networking stack another three to five years of life. Just enough for your R&D to master the art of data plane virtualization and get a next-generation product on the market. However the same solution will also give network board manufacturers a chance to make money on the software that runs on top of their silicon and as such they would be crazy to declare end of life on a box that makes the cashier ring every month. Finally if your company is lucky and your legacy solution runs on Ubuntu then you will get bare metal performance with NFV flexibility.

So how does this magic work. Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, released Snappy Ubuntu Core which is the smallest Ubuntu ever. It incorporates innovations from the Ubuntu Phone that allow software to be packaged like a mobile app, called Snappy App or Snap, and sold through a Snap Store. This Snap can either contain third-party executables directly or boot a KVM in which a third-party solution can be booted. Executables give your bare-metal speed, especially if network acceleration cards are present. KVM gives legacy solution an extended life and makes it run a lot faster than running Windriver+VMWare+RedHat. Both Snaps and KVMs can be assigned to one or multiple ports and technically network chaining solutions are possible.

So if you are responsible for a legacy networking or telecom software product, if you are a vendor of networking acceleration boards [although chances are high somebody in your organisation is already working with us] , or if you are a customer that still does not belief the slideware on data plane on OpenStack but needs to put multiple networking functions into one unit, then you should contact Canonical now because our open source solutions can solve your problems. If you don’t have this problem but do know somebody that does, why don’t you forward this blog post. If anything they might pay your drink next time you meet…

How the cheapest X86 with 6 ports became the smartest switch on MWC15!

March 6, 2015 3 comments

Two weeks before mobile world congress the Canonical offices received from Amazon one of the cheapest Intel servers with 6 Ethernet ports. It contains no hardware acceleration. Two weeks later employees from Ericsson, Cisco, Huawei, ZTE, HP Networking had to admit that they could not take us to see a smarter switch in the whole of MWC. This blog post is about what made this switch the smartest switch. The next blog post explains how this smart switch can solve the four biggest problems in the telecom industry (I.e. new revenue, churn reduction, cost reduction and OTT revenues).

So what made this switch so smart. First of all when we got it, it was an Intel server with an i5 processor and we had to go and buy 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD and put Ubuntu Core on it. The next thing our brilliant engineer Loic created was a Snapp App or Snap that made port 1 into WAN and the others into LAN. Now we actually had a switch. He and our equally brilliant head of R&D, Alex, also worked with F5 on a Snap that can boot up a KVM in which you run another operating system. This allowed us to put F5 Linerate in the switch. The end result is that we have the only Switch that very easily can support any exotic operating system to run on top. Via our Docker framework we could also run Docker based networking logic. However if you run the networking logic inside a Snap then this would give bare-metal performance with the flexibility of completely reconfiguring the switch by just deploying a different snap or adding multiple. If the engineers of the companies, that had to admit we had the smartest switch, want to win tomorrow then they just need to take a box with accelerated networking hardware and put a Snappy Framework that mediates between different Snaps that use network hardware acceleration. It would be the most flexible software defined networking appliance or SDNA out there. We also worked with the super engineers from Balabit that delivered a Firewall Snap in three days. So now we can assign Linerate to port 2 till 4 and Zorp to port 5 and 6. Making it a very flexible SDNA and Ubuntu Core the perfect NFV or SDNA operating system.

Zabbix already made one of our best written Juju Charms and they made a Snap of the Zabbix agent for ARM and Intel in no time. This means that our SDNA was now being monitored.

When telling the public that we called Microsoft to ask if they could write some software for our SNDA and open source it, everybody was surprised they said yes. The truth is that Microsoft is one of our best partners for quite some time now. Two days later we had a Snap that worked both on Intel and ARM and put a nice graph of the real-time load of our SDNA onto Azure. They even documented everything hence any programmer can connect Ubuntu Core to Azure super easy. Impressive work and thank you Microsoft because it made for a very surprising element in our story.

microsoftsnap

Even more surprising was the fact that we had ARM software running on Intel. Thanks to Forgerock and ARM we had an ARM mbed coap snap and mbed device server running in the cloud. Forgerock and ARM helped to put our SDNA inside a complete device management solution with identity and access management being seamlessly resolved.

snaps

However none of these solutions made us have the smartest switch of MWC. That was reserved to our amazing IoT partners Dataart and Cybervision. A simple €5 bluetooth low energy dongle integrated our switch with light and temperature sensors. Devicehive made our switch magically into a light controller. What was event more amazing was that via a Snap our switch became AllJoyn compliant and was the first switch to be able to talk to a television, dishwasher or fridge. The open source Devicehive will shortly be extended with Snaps for all possible IoT standards solving one of the biggest IoT problems for IoT developers instantly: interoperability. This will be the easiest way for any industrial gateway to become compliant with all types of standards. Also the cool open source IoT platform Kaa made our switch magical. Imagine how a shop can easily buy a Snap from a Snap Store that would be able to project Tweets onto a large LED display in the shop’s window. If only one Tweet every ten seconds would be randomly selected, it could start a new trend of Tweesplaying. The store that started it could potentially have millions of Tweets competing to be on the display and become an instant social network celebrity.

The last part was my most personal contribution. If you work with the most brilliant engineers you have to be able to ask intelligent questions. Nothing better than actually trying out the technology they just created. Thanks to a discount in Maplin, we were able to buy a robot arm for £35. Three hours later it was build. However there were no Linux drivers. I have been looking for an excuse to learn Golang and build something with Ajax. The end result is on github and you can now control the Maplin robot and make it do amazing demos via a Json script or some buttons.

All this would not have been possible without the contributions of all these amazing partners and colleagues, so thank you very much. So without any delay here is the smartest switch and the first software define network appliance, or SDNA. We hope somebody soon makes a smarter one because the hardware specs was embarrassingly low-end compared to what was available on the show.

smartestswitchSee it move here.

10 world changing technology trends

February 13, 2015 Leave a comment

1. Block chain
The block chain is the heart of digital currencies like Bitcoin. What most don’t realise yet is that the block chain will be used for managing everything from domain names, artist royalties, escrow contracts, auctions, lotteries, etc. You can do away with middlemen whose only reason of being is making sure they keep on getting a large cut in the value chain. Unless a middlemen or governmental institution adds real value, they are in danger of being block chained into the past.
2. Biometric security
A good example is the Nymi, a wearable that listens to your unique heart beat patterns and creates a unique identity. Even if people steal your Nymi, it is of no use since they need your heart to go with it.
3. Deep belief networks
Deep belief networks are the reason why Google’s voice recognition is surprisingly accurate, Facebook can tag photos automagically, self-driven cars, etc.
4. Smart labels
They are 1 to 3 millimetres small. They harvest electricity from their environment. They can detect people approaching within half a metre, sometimes even identify them and each product you will buy. Your microwave will not longer have to be told how to warm up a frozen meal.
5. Micro-servers
A $35 Raspberry Pi 2 or Odroid is many multiples more powerful than the first Google server but the size of a credit card. Parallella is $99, same size, and almost ten times more coresP then the first Google server.
6. Apps and App Stores for Smart Devices
Snappy Ubuntu Core allows developers to create apps like mobile apps but to put them on any smart device from robots & drones to wifi, hubs, industrial gateways, switches, dishwashers, sprinkler controls, etc. Software developers will be able to innovate faster and hardware can be totally repurposed in seconds. A switch can become a robot controller.
7. Edge/proximity/fog clouds
Public clouds often have too much latency for certain use cases. Often connectivity loss is not tolerable. Think about security cameras. In a world where 4K quality IP cameras will become extremely cheap, you want machine learning imagine recognition to be done locally and not on the other side of the world.
8. Containers and micro-services orchestration
Docker is not new but orchestrating millions of containers and handling super small micro services is still on the bleeding edge.
9. Cheap personalised robots and drones
£35 buys you a robot arm in Maplin in the UK. Not really useful for major things except for educating the next generation robot makers. Robots and drones will have apps (point 6) for which personalised robots and drones are happening this year.
10. Smart watches and hubs
Smart hubs know who is in the house, where they are (if you wear a phone, health wearable or smart watch), what their physical state is (heartbeat via smart watch), what your face looks like and your voice. Your smart watch will know more about you then you want relatives to know. Today Google knows a husband is getting a divorce before they do [wife searches and uses google maps]. Tomorrow your smart watch will know you are going to have a divorce before you do [heart jumped when you looked at that girl, her heartbeat went wild when you came closer].

The Micro-Server Revolution

January 27, 2015 Leave a comment

A new revolution is in the making: the micro – server revolution. When Google started, its first server was four to five times less powerful then an Odroid-C1. The Odroid is just one of many small boards that retail for $35 and host a gigabyte of RAM and a 1Ghz processor and are no larger than a credit card. The $99 Parallella even has 18 cores on a credit card sized board. This combined with the new Snappy Ubuntu Core allows makers to create super smart devices that fit in the palm of your hand and developers to make millions of apps for them. Kickstarter and Indiegogo are likely going to see an avalanche of new smart devices and apps for them. Imagine your vacuum cleaner with apps. Your WiFi with apps. Your alarm, HVAC, coffee maker, sprinkler, set top box, etc. will all be app enabled. Now let’s look further to what new type of devices and apps are likely to come? In the health industry there are lots of doctor visits that could be diagnosed remotely. If people could buy some kind of $99 appliance that could measure all type of regular things like heart beat, oxygen level, temperature, sugar level, look in ears and mouth, etc. Connect this device to a tablet and any health care professional could see lots more patients each day and involve doctors and patients that live in remote areas. An app example could be investment banking. Flood sensors, wind sensors, rain sensors, seismic sensors, etc. can all predict disasters minutes or seconds before they happen.  Micro – seconds high frequency trading could go global and make use of billions of sensor data to make trades just before problems occur and warn the rest of the world seconds or minutes earlier than before. There are many more devices and apps possible, just make sure you check out crowdfunding websites regularly…

IoT Revolution: SnApp Stores for any THINGS

January 20, 2015 Leave a comment

Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, just announced the biggest IoT innovation in history: SnApp Stores for any THINGS. Any THING can run apps from an associated Snapp Store. It is just like having apps on a mobile phone but instead apps run on any THING.

What does this mean?

Developers will be able to create apps with Snappy Ubuntu Core – Snappy Apps or Snapps – and run them on any THING. The list of THINGS is only limited by people’s imagination. It can be vacuum cleaners, fridges, dishwashers, coffee machines, alarm systems, robots, drones, set top boxes, HVAC, WiFi, switches, routers, telecom mobile base stations, agricultural irrigation controllers, swimming pool controllers, industrial appliances, medical equipment, digital signage, POS, ATMs, smart energy meters, cars, radios, TVs, IP cameras, clouds, 3D printers, virtual reality wearables, smart hubs and any next-generation device that can run Ubuntu Core and still needs to be invented. If it has an ARMv7 or X86 chip and 256MB or better then you can put a Snapp Store on it.

Apps made mobile phones go from stupid calling devices to personalised smart super computers many of us would not be able to live without. New industries were born. Complete industries revolutionized. The app revolution is about to be repeated but this time any THING is a target.

Imagine what will happen if all devices in your home, at work, in your city, on holidays, etc. go from stupid to smart and personalised.  Your house will know if you are stressed before you enter the door. It will play the music it knows relaxes you, the coffee smell you prefer, the ideal temperature & light intensity, block calls you don’t want, have the house cleaned, your favourite food just minutes away from being delivered, grocery shopping done, that interesting TV series just waiting to entertain you, etc. Your energy bill will be lower, your car will adapt to you, your hover will collaborate with the alarm system, your pet will be fed the right diet, your children will have personalised parental control, your mail packages delivered where you are, etc.

Snapps will only be limited by your imagination so start dreaming now about what the Snapp Store should bring you an make your dreams come true at ubuntu.com/things.

 

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