New language aims to ensure your microwave and TV are always on speaking terms


A newly formed committee aims to define a universal language for the ‘Internet of Things' that will help computers talk to smartphones and for tablets to talk to thermostats, fridges and even cats and dogs.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is taking a step closer to reality with the formation of the Message Queuing Telemetry Transport (MQTT) Technical Committee.

Scheduled to meet for the first time on March 24 at an IBM-hosted event, MQTT's raison d'être will be to define and implement a universal form of connection and communication between objects in the physical world.

As MQTT explains in a statement: "Many industries are seeing rapid demand for products and solutions which map physical world events into digital events for enterprise and Web applications, bringing an inherent need to integrate sensors, actuators and other types of devices with a wide range of application middleware and Web programming models.

These applications need to connect and communicate with devices ranging from simple sensors, actuators and complex embedded edge-of-network controllers, to mobile devices, often over wireless networks."

Currently, ‘smart' objects such as lights, or in the case of LG's refrigerators and Samsung's ovens, 'smart' appliances, are connected via WiFi and a bespoke smartphone or tablet app.

Implementing a universal language protocol would enable products, features and services from competing manufacturers to talk to each other as well as to their owner and would facilitate the adoption of ‘smart city' technologies such as sensors in public spaces that record noise and foot traffic or on public transport that record and communicate overcrowding or tardiness.

One of technology's biggest current buzz terms, The Internet of Things uses sensors to link everything from buildings to buses, to cars and even shoes to a searchable network.

The first steps being taken towards this future can be seen in automated home technologies, such as the Next smart thermostat and Philips Hew lighting systems that are internet-connected and so can automatically react to data such as weather forecasts, available light and temperature, but can also be operated remotely via a smartphone or be calibrated to perform tasks when the homeowner is in close proximity.

However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. A project underway at the University of Texas called Gander aims to make the length of a line in a coffee shop or the time between buses as easy to search and verify as any term typed into Google.

As Jonas Michel, one of Gander's founders explains: "The Internet of Things envisions this concept of putting everything online and it is a concept that is really exploding to the point where even your dog or your cat or your shoes...everything is accessible digitally in some way."

"Gander draws a parallel between this concept and what happened with the internet 20 or 30 years ago. Before search engines existed on the internet it was just a bunch of random webpages and it was very difficult for people to find the information that they were looking for.

"Then voilà, search engines were born and all of a sudden you could find very specific information very quickly. So the motivation for Gander is that while in the future, if our physical spaces are accessible in the same kind of way - digitally, either through our computers or through our mobile phones - then people will probably want to search that space for relevant and specific information as they walk around and go about their daily lives."

At this year's International CES, the subject was also a major topic with one of the internet's true pioneers, Vint Cerf, eulogizing its possibilities: "What would happen if our clothes were Internet-enabled?

"Can you imagine if you lost a sock? You could send out a search and sock No. 3117 would respond that it's under the couch in the living room," he also jokingly noted his awareness of the privacy issues that the Internet of Things is bound to raise: "But maybe that's not a good idea because you could tell your wife you're at work but then she texts you to say your shirt says it's down at the bar."

The MQTT is part of OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards) a group of over 600 technology companies dedicated to driving the development and adoption of open standards for the global information society. - Relaxnews 2013

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