Rob van Kranenburg: The first Internet of Things Meetup in Ghent

About 26.000 people have organized themselves loosely in Internet of Things Meetups. The London Meetup (organizing number 28 in January) is  among the most active and biggest. It is run by Arduino veteran and ex Tinker London CEO Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino  - @iotwatch.
The most catching feature of a Meetup on IoT is the huge diversity of the attendants. Like in the early January Meetup in Tapei where there were people working as/in VC, Real Estate, Pharma, starting up a Bitcoin venture in Taiwan, front end web development, online gaming, educational technologies, aqua phonics, IT consultancy, automotive, supply chain management, and many other professions and professional interests, we keep wondering what on earth brings all these people together over something as elusive as ‚Internet of Things’. Clearly it is the internet, but there is more to it then that. 
In Ghent the about 45 attendants are mainly from technical backgrounds working in all kinds of domains from graphic design to health, from urban farming and keeping bees in cities, electronics to design and art, telecom and embedded system, usability, education and design and health. In terms of professions there are professors, developers, artists, entrepreneurs, consultants, hackers, researchers, startups and industry.
The second feature is the format. Very few people have to focus or the time to read papers or keep up with the trends beyond twitter and quick updates. Youtube tutorials are a growing source of information. Conferences also suffer from the lack of participation and interactivity from an audience that is nowadays as savvy as the speakers on stage. The format of the Meetups is tuned to the times: short welcomes, three 15 minute presentations, no questions in plenary and after an hour we move to the bar for a beer and a chat. A chat, yes, more then networking. It really is that informal although a lot of high quality ideas and knowledge is shared.
This was immediately apparent with the reception of Walter Colitti’s talk on CoAP and the Web of Things:
  • Open standards eliminate vendor lock-in 
  • 6LoWPAN brings IPv6 in the IoT 
  • CoAP brings the Web in the IoT Integration with Web applications Interoperability 
  • Scalability 
His presentation is online here.
As Dave Ragget  - dsr at - says: „Some people think the Web of Things is just the idea of using http to expose sensors and perhaps hide the details of the communications technology used by the sensor device. But I frame it more broadly, including rich descriptions of the sensors, actuators and tags, and the context in which they are used (e.g. Semantic Web and linked data).
In addition, the Web of Things includes the web of services where the services are defined as scripts and metadata (JavaScript + JSON-LD) and execute either in gateways at the network edge or in the cloud. This addition is essential to the vision of a new generation of web developers for value added services, and something we are exploring in the EU project "Compose". You can see more here.
This context was extremely visible to all the web developers present who realized that Walter’s presentation showed that without having to invest in deep knowledge of underlying protocols they can immediately start to work on programming objects as they program websites.
There are four main groups of stakeholders in Internet of Things that we have identified in the project:
  • a technical ecology of Ipv6, RFID, Sensors, QR codes, barcodes, preferably open source hardware and software and interoperability as a key issue so as to get an internet, not intranets of things
  • a create eco-system: local academia, corporate business and SME, makers and geeks, hackers, designers and artists, local, national and regional policy makers
  • developer communites able to build services and pull more citizens into the eco-system through attractive services
  • citizens that co-create.
We want to investigate with each of them: the main barriers to adoption of IoT devices and tools, the main enablers of uptake of IoT devices & tools and incentive mechanisms to facilitate and accelerate the uptake. Within each of these groups we want to investigate how IoT can facilitate and assist the categories of collaboration by Ezio Manzini: 
“As citizens’ active involvement is the necessary precondition of possible success, therefore, to take in account why and how people collaborate is a fundamental component: collaborative economies, collaborative services, collaborative consumption, collaborative innovation spaces, collaborative events are very diverse initiatives, with a common denominator: they all ask for collaboration. We can recognize these typologies:
  • Vertical collaboration (individual citizens collaborating with solution promoters). Example: Fix my street.
  • Vertical and horizontal collaboration (individual citizens collaborating with solution promoters and then, collaborating among them in a p2p way). Example: Carpooling.
  • Horizontal collaboration (p-2-p collaboration among citizens). Example: Circle of care and Collaborative housing

In the new Activity Chain Societal we will try to push the above to the use cases/scenario building of the new Horizon 2020 IoT projects:

  • - realistic use cases: the crisis, youth unemployment, depression, multicultural tension, inner city collapse (Greece, Spain, Italy…
  • - legacy as a barrier to adoption: move way from the project after project model, build sustainable platforms with local partners: this means that business models become a societal issue
  • - pushing for a public IoT
The key enabler to make this real, and not a paper vision, is co-creation. This process is not new, but making it into an actionable tool to use in projects is quite difficult. Marc Godon, Research Engineer at Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs, was one of the drivers of one of the more successful recent attempts in DiYSE: Do-it-Yourself Smart Experiences, a project that „aimed at enabling ordinary people to easily create, setup and control applications in their smart living environments as well as in the public internet-of-things space.”  This research included 30 users who engaged in several data collection exercises over a period of eight months (September 2010 - April 2011), and „resulted in a collection of highly qualitative, very rich data such as stories from the diaries, answers to interview questions, observations, ideas for IoT applications (including motivations and explanations), etc.”
Like many research projects it was too early but it is totally timely now. Marc’s presentation clearly showed that without real enthusiasm and deep understanding of social process in IoT and IoT as social processes the ultimate step towards not just a receptive citizen but an enduser who embraces the potentialities offered by IoT will not happen.
See the project here.
His presenation is below.
The third presentation was by Jelle Monstrey, Member of the e-Strategy team in the Department of Strategy and Co-ordination, City of Ghent, Belgium. @JelleMonstrey, put IoT in the context of a ‚wise’ city, more then a ‚smart city’ as Ghent does not believe in tech push or applications that have no real added value for its citizens.
He believes in projects like ZWERM, „a city intervention that uses a mobilization system to reach the goal of consolidating and activating social capital. By interacting with ZWERM, people should get to know each other and undertake action together that is beneficial for the collective. It is through these actions that self-organization can be supported. The ZWERM city intervention took place in two neigborhoods (called ‘Papegaai’ and ‘Ekkergem’) in the city of Ghent in Belgium. The ZWERM concept was developed in collaboration with multiple stakeholders including personnel from the City of Ghent and city’s inhabitants. More than 250 people from the selected neighborhoods ‘Papegaai’ and ‘Ekkergem’ actively participated in ZWERM. Preliminary evaluation results show that ZWERM was greatly appreciated by the players. More than 80% of the players stated that ZWERM helped them to get to know the people in their neighborhood better, while more than 75% stated that ZWERM induced a sense of community and improved neighborhood cohesion.”
 If Smart means: sustainable, ict and co-creation then Ghent is on a smart city trajectory. Another project that testifies to this vision is iMinds’ GreenWeCan project that investigates „the development of a “green” dual wireless city network infrastructure—a wireless sensor network and a cooperative Wi-Fi access network. These support advanced communications services and aim towards a smart sustainable city.” For the City of Ghent it is not so much about a smart city as it is about smart citizens.

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