The Scope of Things

There’s an idea that in the future all ‘smart’ things will have their own addresses… that all of these types of things will be connected to the internet. However I think this idea is flawed… it’s the equivalent of writing an application with all global variables… Things need scope too.

What does it mean for things to have scope and how does this affect how our mobile devices can interact with these things? One level of scope is the micro-cloud in which a service provider enables people to connect sensors and actuators to their cloud. Cosm/Pachube is a good example. In this model, anyone can then access the data streams of these things through APIs exposed by the service provider. If you join the service then you can create web applications using data from things in the micro-cloud scope. However you’d need to join another micro-cloud to access additional things and so on. While the micro-cloud model is helpful in establishing APIs for a variety of connected things, especially if you are interested in aggregate data from many things or specific things that you don’t encounter on a regular basis… it doesn’t help you connect to the everyday things around you. This is why we need to consider things with local scope.

A thing with local scope is something you can connect to directly from your mobile device or it may be a thing that is available only within your home, office or car. It may be on a local network or even no network at all. There are many smart things that are currently locally scoped and you may already own and regularly use some of them. BT devices are the prime example. BT Low Energy (BT 4.0) in particular was designed specifically to address the needs of the Internet of¬†Things. The issue however is that BT devices can only be connected to mobile devices via native applications. You need to buy a BT device, install an app and then you can only use that device with on app. Imagine however that your mobile browser could detect and connect to BT devices and provide an API to access them. And not only BT, what about things connected to your local wi-fi network or simple wi-fi devices that don’t require an internet connection. What is the advantage of enabling the mobile browser to connect to locally scoped things?