Friday, March 6, 2009

The Web of Things, Wireless Sensor Networks, Embedded Systems, and (Everyware) Health Care

What is the Web of Things?

I just came across the blog of the same name. The concept is similar to the "Internet of Things", but in my opinion, Vlad and Dominique, the guys behind the blog, have wrapped the concept into a more "user-friendly" package. They have found a way to articulate this concept far better than my feeble attempts, and for this, I am very thankful.

Web of Things: Architecting the Web of Things, for techies and thinkers!

Here is what I lifted from the "About" Section of this blog, plus a few other quotes:

"What is

It is a web page founded by Vlad Trifa and Dominique Guinard, two researchers/geeks working at ETH Zurich and SAP Research Zurich. It is more a scrap book that is here to dump our thoughts ideas on our research and work topic, which is the Web of Things. Unlike most Web 2.0 sites that are about advanced powerpoint engineering, we talk about real things that’s under the hood.

There are three main topics in here. First technologies, this section is only for geeks, simply put. It’s about coding, developing toys, plugging kettles on the web (and we actually did that!). The second part is about new ideas, new technologies that are in the lab. It’s about research papers, and software philosophy, and about researchers worldwide. The third part is about end-users and products. You, me, but especially my grand-ma. It’s about products that exist, or at least should exist (or should not!). It’s about marketing and new ideas out there.

Thanks, but it doesn’t help. What is the Web of Things then?

It is an alternative vision to what the Web of tomorrow will look like. It’s about taking the Web as we know it and extending it so that anyone can plug devices to it. It’s basically about giving eyes, ears, and all kinds of sensory appendixes located worldwide to it. It’s about seamlessly connecting the physical world with the virtual.

Why do you want to change the Internet? What’s wrong with it?

Not much really. It’s just a little boring. It only contains data published by other humans, but it’s not enough linked with our physical reality, not real time / real world enough for our taste!

Why should I read this blog?

Well depends how much you care about technology. It’s both for geeks/hackers who need a playground to develop and try ideas. But it’s also for the security expert who wants to take part to make the Web a safer place to hang out. It’s also for people who want to find new ideas.

Cool! SAP has a blog!

Actually, not really. All what we write here is only our own opinions and thoughts, and doesn’t reflect the views of any of our employers. "

"One things that I don’t understand, is that most people in our field do not really like our approach, or maybe they simply don’t get it. Indeed, we’re kind of stuck between several worlds: wireless sensor networks (WSN) people that find our approach too esoteric, and HCI people that find it not enough sexy. It is a bit annoying, as people don’t take us very seriously, especially not WSN researcher. I overheard comments like “What? You want to use the Web to connect devices? hahaha! I can’t stop laughing, haha it hurts me! Come on, be serious dude! Using the Web for that!! Man, you’re great, I gotta call my colleagues to tell them your idea, they’re gonna *love* it“. Jeez! -Vlad Trifa"

"Let’s do something concrete with WSN, that works, and that’s usable, and that people will really need.

Note: When you visit the Web of Things blog, make sure you visit their links!

Why do I think this is important?

First of all, I'm someone who would love to take a class about embedded systems and wireless sensor networks. I got a taste of some of this in a ubiquitous computing class I took a couple of years ago, and I'm still fascinated with these concepts. Imagine a web-browser that could support all sorts of data streaming in from all sorts of things and places, an intelligent web browser that could make perfect sense of he wealth of information that is potentially "out in the wild".

I think that the Web of Things is a concept that will have numerous applications in the very near future. The arena that is foremost in my mind is health care.

I've spent hours hanging around hospitals and health care facilities since my father's health took a down-turn a couple of years ago. If you've been in my shoes, you know what I mean.

I'm writing this from the family waiting room of the cardiac ICU at the Cleveland Clinic, where I've spent the better part of the week with my father, who had surgery and a few complications. I've had plenty of time to spend listening and observing.

Earlier today, as I was visiting my father in the ICU, I had a chance to chat with a nurse who was an IT guy in his previous life. I rarely have a chance to engage in "geek speak" in my day job as a school psychologist, so I welcomed the chance to talk about the concept technology and health care.

I asked the guy if he'd heard of the "Internet of Things", and we discussed how a cross platform web browser, linked to all of the various devices and patient monitors in the ICU could potentially solve many of the problems faced by nurses and related health professionals in their day-to-day tasks. T
he nurse pointed out that wireless technologies would eliminate the need for a number of the wires connected to my dad's body. That was a good point!

We had a good discussion about how software needs to be user-focused and user-friendly. In health care, as in many domains, it is not. Usable, intuitive software, at least in the health care setting, would decrease medical errors, increase efficiency, save time, save lives, and in the mid-to-long run, save lots of money.

Somewhat Related

(Previous post)
Everyware Health Care: Microsoft Health's Common User Interface, website, usable health care applications, pervasive health games.....

Wireless Sensor Networks for In-Home Healthcare: Potential and Challenges (pdf)

ALARM-Net: Wireless Sensor Networks for Assisted Living and Residential Monitoring

(Crossbow Blog, 9/28/08)

"Wireless Nodes Dynamically Link to Build Intelligent Sensing Networks"
John Suh, RTC 6/2005

Wireless sensor and data transmission needs and technologies for patient monitoring in the operating room and intensive care unit
Paksuniemi, M., Sorvaja, H,; Alasaarela, E.' Mylyla, R. Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, 2005, IEEE-EMBS 2005

Healthcare Service with Ubiquitous Sensor Networks for the Disabled and Elderly People

Yung Bok Kim & Daeyoung Kim, Computers Helping People with Special Needs 7/2006


Malignant Spaghetti: A Symposium on Wireless Technologies in Hospital Health Care
(A must-read if this topic is of interest)

S-CUBE 2009

The first international conference on Sensor System and Software

"The widespread acceptance of these new services can be improved by the definition of frameworks and architectures that have the potential to radically simplify software development for wireless sensor network based applications. The aim of these new architectures is to support flexible, scalable programming of applications based on adaptive middleware. As a consequence, WSNs require novel programming paradigms and technologies. Moreover the design of new complex systems, characterized by the interaction of different and heterogeneous resources, will allow the development of innovative applications that meet high performance goals. Hence, WSNs require contributions from many fields such as embedded systems, distributed systems, data management, system security and applications. The conference places emphasis on layers well above the traditional MAC and routing, and transport layer protocols."

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