Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) prototype for the planned city of Masdar

Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) prototype for the planned city of Masdar

A link to Hammersmith’s latest thought piece exploring the opportunities of embedding logic and sensors into vehicles, as well as using social media to enhance the driving experience – from Trapster’s wiki geotagging of speed traps, to the potential to embed sensors in public parking spaces so that drivers can scan for open spaces, to combining DPW and police news feeds into GPS devices so that they provide useful, real-time route information:

This piece focused more on personal vehicles rather than commercial ones – that would be a piece on its own.

Feel free to share thoughts, as always.

The good folks at the digital agency 360i came up with a clever hack to make a beer tap that twitters. The tap is connected to an electronic Keg-Meter, which determines flow, and sends tweets whenever a beer is drawn. Awesome proof of concept, and an idea that lends itself to considerable punning:

This is the sort of cleverness that we need to see more of – embedding logic, sensors, and transmitters into different objects to see how this transforms our relationship with them.

Nine thoughts about the Internet of Things

1. The concept of ‘computers’ is moving away from the traditional model of desktops, laptops, and PDAs towards converged networks where processing power is embedded in all manner of objects and devices.

2. As a result of embedding computing power into these objects, we will move from keyboards and mice to a number of different input devices, including gestural controls (such as Wii wands and touch screens) and voice recognition. The conventional metaphor of the ‘desktop’ may need to shift to accommodate this.

3. Because many of these objects will have wireless sensors, they will be context-aware and can respond to changes in their environment. The possibilities for this have not yet begun to be explored in a significant way.

4. There will increasingly be a digital overlay of information for the physical world. First,
associating an IP address with these objects enables thing-to-person (T2P) and thing-to-thing (T2T) communications. This has been referred to as ‘the Internet of things.’ Second, innovations such as QR codes on posters, billboards, and television enable us to create direct ‘hotlinks’ from the real world to the Internet. Third, mobile phones or PDAs equipped with GPS enables locative media. The possibilities for this, too, have not yet begun to be explored in a significant way.

5. Digital widgets may replace some physical devices. As has become common with Web 2.0, independent developers will create apps for this platform, enabling functionalities that were never conceived of by the original creators. Adding features to your networked home or smart object may be as simple as downloading upgraded software to your iPhone.

6. These technologies will be as transformative as the Internet for a number of industries. In particular, the industries which have resisted change and innovation will be the ones most profoundly affected. It will be very difficult to ignore these innovations and still remain competitive.

7. There is significant market potential for these innovations. Many of these concepts will
follow the conventional diffusion of innovation, and will likely begin in industrial sectors
before filtering out to more commercial and entertainment applications. The adoption of
these technologies will be driven in part by market forces (technologies that entertain or
which enhance the quality of life) and in part by policy change (especially for technologies
regarding green buildings, energy efficiency, and alternate energies).

8. Networked objects create and record significant amounts of real-time data. Having this granular level of data allows us to create much more sophisticated analytics around how objects and devices are actually used.

9. Industry groups, corporations, and individual products will need significant advertising
and public relations support for their launch and ongoing marketing efforts.

10. Marketing firms which establish an early understanding of and dominance in these sectors will have an competitive advantage. These firms will not only understand how these
technologies can be used as platforms for new marketing strategies, but can also use that
knowledge to sell conventional marketing and PR services. The next generation of technology will be mostly marketed using social media.

There are presently slightly under 1.5 billion PCs connected to the Internet, and just over 1 billion net-enabled phones. Mike Nelson (former director of Internet Technology at IBM, the former director of Technology Policy with the FCC, and a professor at Georgetown’s Communications, Culture & Technology program) estimates that as we move from an “internet of PCs” to an Internet of Things, that there will be roughly 100 billion net-enabled devices within the next 5-10 years.

More on this in Hammersmith’s upcoming Networked Objects and The Internet of Things report.

According to the Gartner Group, “By year end 2012, physical sensors will create 20% of non-video internet traffic … The extent and diversity of real-time environmental sensing is growing rapidly as our ability to act on and interpret the growing volumes of data to capture valuable information increases.”

The Nabaztag, the WiFi rabbit by Violet

The Nabaztag, the WiFi rabbit by Violet

This research report from Hammersmith explores how the convergence of smart devices, intelligent buildings, converged systems, and smart grids is laying the foundation for the Internet of Things:

Most of the discussion around technology and real estate has focused on energy-efficiency or property management applications. These uses of technology are essentially invisible to the residents of a space.

This research report from Hammersmith explores how pioneering projects are incorporating technology to address lifestyle issues and enhance the experience of being in a space for residents.

While most of these examples are drawn from hospitality and senior housing sectors, it is critical to remember that each of these are critical vectors for disseminating innovations: each hotel room exposes hundreds of guests per year to the technologies, and senior housing can demonstrate the value of certain innovations to the extended family. In each case, the asset class serves as viral marketing.

Let me know what you think:

Jeff Jarvis, in his recent book What would Google do? asked how different industries could make themselves more “googly.”

As buildings become more intelligent, several things will happen to make real estate more googly:

* Individual systems will be converged on an IP network, which allows them to interact.
* The performance of individual systems can be measured in real time.
* Devices can increasingly communicate with users (appliances such as washing machines can now text users when their load is done).
* Remote control is a side effect of converging networks, as owners, managers and residents can adjust conditions remotely through a web-based interface.
* Buildings will increasingly have the ability to interact with each other and with the power grid.

One of the most interesting byproducts of measuring performance in real time will be the massive amounts of data that will be generated.

In a recent interview with Jarvis, he said, “Google loves data, data and more data.” Intelligent buildings are going to generate massive amounts of data during the course of their everyday performance. Not only will this help build a compelling business case for the adoption of new technologies that drive energy-efficiency, but it will also create avenues for exploring unforeseen relationships between data sets.

For example, Wal-Mart launched a series of Ecomart stores that explored the costs and benefits of green features. One of these early stores featured skylights, but because of the high materials cost of these skylights, they only used them in half of the store. Managers of departments located beneath the skylights reported significantly higher sales per square foot in the areas that were lit by sunlight, as compared to other stores.

“It’s a more complicated equation, one that’s more visible in hindsight,” said Barry Katz of Katz Home Builders, a sustainable developer in Westport, CT and author of Practical Green Remodeling (Taunton Press, 2009). “You have higher first costs because of the skylights require more materials and labor. The daylighting will offset the need for some artificial lighting, so some energy costs may be lower. They skylights have a lower R value than the ceiling itself, so you will lose more heat, which means higher costs on that front. But going in, it would not be typical to correlate construction and design features to per-square-foot sales figures.”

The Hotel 1000 in Seattle is regarded as a technology pioneer (and it is described in greater detail in Hammersmith’s report on using technology to enhance the experience of being in a space). Among the hotel’s many connected features, even the minibar is connected to the Internet.

“Let’s say we have a repeat guest, and we’d like to do something nice for them,” said Matt Hagerman, general manager of the H1K. “We can easily check the records and see that the guest likes Jack Daniels and Toblerone. We can have a bottle of Jack and a large Toblerone waiting for them in their room when they check in.”

Hagerman emphasized that it would not have been feasible to enter this data manually. “It would have been too time-intensive to manually enter this data in a database. But this is a beneficial side effect of converging systems, and it allows us to provide a personalized, value-added experience for our guests. That becomes a competitive advantage”

Intelligent building features make green buildings greener, by equipping them with sensors to monitor performance and essentially functioning as constant commissioning. They also help identify problems quickly, and can identify unexpected relationships between performance and other factors.

One green school (and I can’t recall which one so if anyone out there knows, please comment) discovered that the water usage in its bathrooms depended less on fixtures but more on the age of the students using them. This in turn helped them switch to a different system which helped them conserve more water.

Buildings as a massive source of data. Who would’ve thought?

Real estate and technology aren’t two terms typically used in the same sentence. Real estate isn’t an early adopter of technologies, and construction is even less so. But the industry is facing extraordinary pressures to catch up to the leaps of innovation found in other industries – and to remain relevant to the changing preferences of consumers.

Much of the general conversation on real estate and technology focuses on green buildings, and the next step will likely be on intelligent buildings. Green systems typically use resources more efficiently; intelligent building features help make green buildings greener by allowing them to be responsive to their environment.

The next step beyond this is to add wireless sensors to individual components and systems. This will not only enable owners to monitor a building’s performance in real time, but (to simplify greatly) it will also generate a massive amount of data … data that will be analyzed, anonymized, Googlified and correlated for some very interesting results. And you thought Google Analytics for your website was interesting? Just wait until the equivalent is available for the building and the surrounding street activity.

We wanted to use this blog to share some of Hammersmith’s research and engage in a dialogue over this emerging trend in real estate. For the first time, it looks like the next phase of the web – the Internet of Things –  may emerge from the real estate sector.

This is going to have very interesting opportunities and possibilities. We’ll try to explore some here, but one thing is certain – some the most interesting will be user-generated hacks that take advantage of converged systems and connected buildings. (It’s like trying to extrapolate call waiting, 900 numbers, and booty calls from Alexander Graham Bell’s first phone call. Which happened in my hometown, by the way, but that’s a different story).

We look forward to your thoughts on this forum.