Monday, September 30, 2013

Internet of Things #2 Paris Meetup summary

A few days ago I attended the second Internet of Things meetup in Paris. The meting took place at KissKissBankBank, a crowdfunding platform company. A big thank you to them and the organizers: Marc Chareyron, Olivier Mével, and Pierre-Rudolf Gerlach, for organizing the meet-up, those things are always a challenge to set up and animate. Once again they pulled it off. 

They were three talks of equal interest but with different flavors:

First Romain  whom I mentioned here before, presented with some of his colleagues from Smiirl(Gauthier Nadaud) his first product: Fliike, a physical counter that resembles those you find in airports and train stations which provides real time information on the number of Likes featured on a Facebook page. It is a way to make more lively the actual connection between a physical business (a bar,....) and the actual number of "likes" on the business' Facebook page. The object is sleek and aims at being displayed inside the establishment. It was interesting that they had put much thought on the user experience. For instance, they noticed the very short latency between somebody hitting a Facebook like on their smartphones and the actual display moving as a result. To make the experience more playful, they had to add a time delay so that if customers were to hit "like" button inside the establishment, they would also have the satisfaction seeing the counter moving as a result. This is smart thinking. My question revolved around drinking games in bars. While those are probably not that common in France, I foresee much fun to be had in countries were bars are more central to your social life. More precisely it could in fact be disruptive to the gaming-in-bars industry. The object is not for bars only and one imagine a large number of different implementations....

The second talk was by Rafi HaladjianRafi is a well known geek in France mostly because of his very early involvement with connected objects in the late 1990s. His current company provides support for communities around internet connected objects.The talk was about a mystery product to be unveiled on October 11th. Since the meeting took place earlier than that, we were served with general ideas about what that product might look like and the reasoning as to why it should exist in the first palce. On personal note, I liked the fact that one of the key concept of that thing is to be forgettable by the person who wears it. Indeed, there will be no ubiquitous computing if people have to think about dealing with sensors. In compressive sensing for instance, one the goals is to have dumb sensors so that they can be very low power while still producing worthwhile and even actionable data. It looks like the product of will have this notion of not requiring much power. I am curious on how they will make sense of that data.They also communicated that current communication infrastructures could not handle the type of data they were transferring and that they were developing a proprietary solution that could allow them to taylor their bandwidth requirements to their traffic. We'll see. 

The third talk went into a somewhat different direction. Uros Petrevski et Drasko Draskovic, qui presented WeIO by the company. From what I understood WeIO is moving server allowing conversation between multiple connected objects. What was fascinating is that they hit the sweet spot in terms of programming languages: HTML, Javascript and Python and the use of the navigator for the IDE. Instead of a general loops like Arduino, different scripts can talk to each other. They showed a demo where, through different wifi connections and different objects (iPad and an Android phone), people could use web interfaces on their android and ipads to communicate with js/html andpython scripts with that server. The server could then who broadcast to all the connected objects some relevant information. For instance, they used the accelerometers of an ipad to send the signal to the server which then converted the data into a color scheme which was then sent back to all the connected objects. The connected objects, in turn, took that information to display that color in their background. In short, moving the iPad around produced very rapid series of changing colors on tablet/smartphone displays. It was pretty impressive as one could foresee kids playing with this and enjoying it. The product will only cost $69, much lower than a Lego Mindstorm set and potentially more fun. The server uses Tornado and essentially removes much of Linux hacking from the uerds' hand (yes, my Linux hacking skills are pretty rusty).

In all a very lively set of presentations and questions. 

Side conversations included trying to have a sensor that can sense mood. I noted that one of the reference in that area, at least for me, is Seth Roberts who seems to have a found a connection between watching faces and his mood 36 hours later. I think Seth's experiments are very englihting in as much as they provide a larger view of how much data needs to be used to make sense of them. An electronic scale provides you your weight right now and does not need too much thinking. In fact, it makes the user quite powerless. A 36 hours delay requires a combination of machine learning and how the "thing" communicate with its owner. This remind me of an aspect of robotics that is sometimes missing. Back when we were building an autonomous car to be fielded in DARPA's grand challenge, we needed to have a rapid operational feedback between the algorithm being trained and what the driver was doing. Since the driver couldn't watch the computer monitor at the same time as the road, we enabled the algorithm to "talk" to the driver. Then something peculiar happened: Forget the large number of hours spent designing a tracker and a real time trajectory computation engine or calibrating sensors, with two lines of Python code, one of our teammate's sister went from totally being oblivious to this somewhat bulky 1.5 ton of piece of autonomous machinery (it's just a car) to a "Wow! this thing talks!"...

Pierre Metivier, a french blogger, wrote a summary (in French) of the meeting. It's here at: Highlights de la 2ème édition du Meetup de Paris dédié à l’Internet des Objets

I also mentioned to a few attendees the next Paris Machine Learning Applications Meet-up on October 16th.  

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