Google has awarded an endowment worth half a million dollars to Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) to build a “living lab” for the search engine giant’s Open Web of Things (OWT) expedition. OWT envisions a world in which access to networked technology is mediated through internet-connected buildings and everyday objects—beyond the screen of a smartphone or computer device.
“A future where we work seamlessly with connected systems, services, devices, and ‘things’ to support work practices, education and daily interactions.” -in a statement by Google’s Open Web of Things.Carnegie Mellon’s enviable task is to become a testing ground for the cheap, ubiquitous sensors, integrated apps, and user-developed tools which Google sees as the key to an integrated machine future. If that sounds like mystical marketing copy, a recent project by CMU’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute sheds light on what a sensor-saturated “smart” city is capable of. The team headed by Anind K. Dey has created apps like Snap2It, which lets users connect to printers and other shared resources by taking photos of the device. Another application, Impromptu, offers relevant, temporary shared apps. For instance, if a sensor detects that you are waiting at a bus stop, you’ll likely be referred to a scheduling app. “The goal of our project will be nothing less than to radically enhance human-to-human and human-to-computer interaction through a large-scale deployment of the Internet of Things (IoT) that ensures privacy, accommodates new features over time, and enables people to readily design applications for their own use,” said Dey, lead investigator of the expedition and director of HCII. To create the living lab, the expedition will saturate the CMU campus with sensors and infrastructure, and recruit students and other campus members to create and use novel IoT apps. Dey plans on building tools that allow users to easily create their own IoT scripts. “An early milestone will include the development of our IoT app store, where any campus member and the larger research community will be able to develop and share an IoT script, action, multiple-sensor feed, or application easily and widely,” Dey said. “Because many novel IoT applications require a critical mass of sensors, CMU will use inexpensive sensors to add IoT capability to ‘dumb’ appliances and environments across the campus.” Researchers at CMU will work with Cornell, Stanford, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to develop the project, code-named GIoTTo. The premise is that embedded sensors in buildings and everyday objects can be interwoven to create “smart” environments controlled and experienced through interoperable technologies.