OpenSensorHub, FunTimes, and the Future of the Internet of Things

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have probably seen that Internet of Things (IoT) is all aflutter.  Everyone and his brother are connecting THINGS to the Internet, and connecting things to each other via the Internet!  Some of these things are sensors.  Some of them are actuators.  Some of them are processes.  Others are combinations of these three, which together some call robots.  It is all very cool.  But, it has a long way to go.

Interestingly, the Internet truly caught on when the World Wide Web (WWW) emerged in the early 1990s.  So, when will the Web of Things (WoT) emerge?  Some would say that it already has!  There are plenty of sensors, actuators and related processes that are accessible via web applications and protocols.  But, to date, the web apps driving IoT solutions seem have little in the way of web standards that can drive the kind of explosive “network effects” that the WWW standards enabled.  What would be the web standards that democratizes the IoT the way the WWW democratized the Internet?  The W3C is not promulgating WoT standards, because the WoT is different.  The WoT is about Things (e.g., sensors, actuators, and processes) that live out in the world, observe the world, and affect the world.  They have to understand where they are, and geometry and geography of the world around them that they are observing.  They have to understand how they are traversing and navigating the complex an continuously evolving world in which they are unleashed.  That requires a very different kind of standards from a very different kind of standards organization.

As it turns out, the international technical standards organization that does all that is the Open Geospatial Consortium (, which long ago pioneered what they called the SensorWebEnablement architecture – “OGC SWE” for short.  This long, but fruitful architectural journey began some 16 years ago this month, when Dr. Michael Botts first brought SensorML in to the OGC standards process.  SensorML contemplated the future of a location-enabled, geographically aware web of sensors, actuators and processes that are all discoverable, accessible, taskable, and otherwise manipulable over time across the world’s actual geography.  In other words, the standards for a WoT have been out there for a while.  With the recent completion of the OGC SWE 2.0 architecture, it has gotten much easier.

And, so, as stalwarts of the OGC SWE community, we decided to take our open source reference implementations for this architecture, and enable everyone on Earth to design, construct, deploy and enjoy their own SensorWebs.  And, frankly, the name SensorWeb unfairly masks the fact that this architecture lets you work with sensors, actuators and processes in concert – orchestrating all manner of really smart workflows and dynamic, autonomous (or semi-autonomous) interactions between these Things.  With a little bit of effort, and the abundant talent of Chief Architect Alex Robin, our open source reference implementations for the OGC SWE standards resulted in the creation of OpenSensorHub, which now can be deployed across Androids, ARM devices, Arduinos, and in the Cloud, to support all manner of sensors, actuators and processes.  As a community open source project, we invite you to adapt OSH to any other emerging computing platform that interests you, and to help build SensorML bindings and drivers for any sensors, actuators or processes that interest you!

With OpenSensorHub, we hope to equip the world to help build a global location-enabled, and geographically aware Web of Things atop the Internet of Things, just as we together built the WWW atop the Internet.  We may not end up calling it the WoT.  We have always called it the SensorWeb.  But, perhaps we can collectively (re)name it as we bring together every sensor, actuator and process on Earth and create an entirely new world together.

We look forward to hearing from you in this New Year.  And, we look forward to meeting anyone and everyone who is interested in having a ton of fun while extending the OpenSensorHub project in ways that help make this vision a reality.  So, drop us a line!

Here’s to having fun working together in 2016!

1 comment

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