To see the power of the the Internet of Things, with its capability of linking high quality sensors cheaply and interactively, you don't have to wait for the big supplier companies and traditional business to show the way forward.
Just go to meet-up groups and join the social media groups to see how the Internet of Things is catching the imagination of fast growing numbers of younger technically-oriented people who have been growing up in the sharing co-operative environment of Open Source software.
Cheap sensor devices are beginning to be increasingly deployed in international collaborative networked projects to produce low cost, acurate measurements of environmental data. This new transparency is likely to throw up data that organisations, municipalities and governments might traditionally prefer to conceal.
Open Source Culture Encourages Free Thinkers
The Open Source movement has generated a counter culture of technically clever people, some within traditional business and others not, but who are at the least the equals of those in many corporations. This movement did not go away, as many predicted in the 1980s but has produced a couple of generations of freer thinkers than many corporate environments would like.
That is shifting to Open Hardware. And to the clever application of interlinked sensor devices to take applications like technically robust environmental monitoring down to the citizen level.
It is embryonic but the current recession is certainly stimulating the younger generation of technologists to be very inventive, evidenced in the loosely interlinked Internet meet-ups around the world.
Independent Radiation measurements following 2011 Japanese nuclear meltdown
A far reaching example of the new capabilities- and the sheer speed and scale that is now possible - occurred after the Japanese tsunami in 2011 and the resulting radiation leakage. Japanese individuals were monitoring radiation by Geiger counters and streaming the real time data to Cosm (then Pachube) where it was publicly displayed. As they were running low on Geiger counters, Marcelino Alvarez an individual from Oregon raised over $33,000 on the crowdfunding site Kickstart.com to get a few hundred more Geiger counters to Japan - and from concept to launch took just 72 hours. With hordes of independent individuals taking radiation readings and sending the real time data streams the true scale and intensities of the damage were published immediately for all to see, completely upstaging the authorities (see report here).
Many of these groups are using Cosm's open API platform for sharing real time data streams from sensors. The scale and range of measurements publicly available for all to see is large and growing - see for yourself here. Cosm - formerly Pachube - is a case of a great British idea that ended up going to a US company.
Bottom Up Environmental Measurement Initiatives
Meet-up groups in Madrid, Amsterdam and New York, for example, are currently taking environmental measurements using low cost sensor devices that they have adopted and adapted. The difference with what municipalities are doing is that they are not taking “tick-box” measurements but socially relevant ones.
So, for example, such groups are taking measurements in multiple locations, for example, not at tree height, but at the height of a baby's head in a pram, to build the real time monitoring that municipalities themselves are either unable or unwilling to provide.
Open Hardware development and measurement is capturing the imagination of the best and brightest young engineering minds and technically oriented people and that is spreading very fast. For example, the London Internet of Things Meet-up groups have expanded 10-fold in the past year and are continuing to expand fast.