Smart Home Automation with #Python

There are many home automation systems that put python as a support for the extension. Being a dynamic language, python makes it very easy to extend and control the systems. The flexibility offered by python is what java developers can only imagine. With the introduction of micro python recently, the language can be integrated to all levels, from sensors to automation, integration to third party services.

Among the most important home automation systems that use python stands home assistant, which places the programming language on a significant position. The home assistant offers mobile and desktop browsers to a client who can control their home appliances remotely. It is quite different from commercial products as it has no hub appliance, no cloud components. This allows for better security, privacy, and flexibility. The greatest benefit to people is that they are no longer dependent on a cloud provider, if in case the internet goes down, home appliances still work while the private data stays in your home.

Home assistant is an open source platform and runs on Python 3. Installation takes less than a few minutes and it works great. There are many things you can control at home with this unique device, whether you want to turn on the lights in the morning, turn them off at night, dim them when you’re watching your favorite movie or generally know how many appliances are on so you can keep a check on the electricity bill, home automation is perfect for it all.

There is a list of devices that home assistant can interface with, such as the wireless routers, lights, switches, sensors, TV, Amazon, iTunes, thermostats, Raspberry Pi, and Modbus. It can integrate data from Bitcoin network, meteorological data, forecasts, transmissions and a myriad of other supported devices. Home assistant works great with Raspberry Pi which can also be programmed easily with python.

raspberry-pi-logo

Another cool home automation system that uses python as the programming language is the Raspberry pi. The ability of devices in our houses being able to communicate with one another has recently become a very famous concept. These devices can keep in touch using the Internet and pass data from one to another. For example sensors in the garden can download temperature details from weather forecasts and adjust accordingly. This data can be visible to you anywhere around the world. Creating this device, such as the raspberry pi is relatively easy and can incorporate simple programming python language.

raspberry_pi_-_model_a

In both these tools, the system is composed of two parts, the server, and the client. The server is normally the web interface that will allow you turn off or on the device of your choice. This consists of files to store data.  The home assistant can also easily run from a Raspberry Pi to a NAS device and ships with docker container to make transport on other systems easy.

Raspberry Pi ships with IDLE, which is a python development environment and gives you the leverage to add commands. It also includes a help feature that helps you with your syntax and comes with an inbuilt text editor with the automatic placing of indents in order to facilitate you with your programming. IDLE is just one example of a text editor, there are many others that can be used, such as Leafpad that comes with Pi. Geany is another well-liked choice among python programmers.

There are other home automation toolkits that can be operated with the help of python, for example, lighting, heating and security devices. Python is a strong and powerful programming language that is user-friendly and can easily be used with systems such as Raspberry Pi and lets you connect your developments with the world. The syntax is clean and uses Standard English keywords. Soon, a lot of home automation appliances will rely on this wonderful language and it will become easier to operate devices at home, even when you are sitting a million miles away. The best part about these devices is that they do not rely on cloud applications and hence, can still run without the internet. With a standard coding language that is easily implementable, more devices will be up in the future, automating the entire home, from lighting to heating sensors, our houses will all be covered.

 

Artificial Phenomenology: An approach in modern #AI

Artificial intelligence celebrates its 50th year this year and it is only advancing at a more rapid pace than ever before. From its very first task, which was to represent reasoning by a rule-based system, it has evolved into the professional field, the corporate environment, and even in the homes of many people. In the past it could never be compared to the reasoning of a human being, but even that has been improved during the course of the past half century. Descartes’ logical belief that man is not machine may be a rewritten as the machine is now man.

Some of the important artificial intelligence advancements have shown that intelligence can be created out of nothing. A machine is becoming more and more likely to think like a human being. The term artificial consciousness was given to this phenomenon, but many people do not realise what this means and how it could affect their lives. It refers to a consciousness that literally has to be created for its body to function properly. This concept has undergone serious scrutiny from the fields of philosophy. Some of the popular questions that are asked are things like would this intelligence be able to think on different mental levels? Would it be subject to higher thinking and reasoning? Would it be able to remember what it has learned?

These questions are still undergoing heated debate by experts in the field, but this does not stop the artificial intelligence field to blossom in its own right. Researchers have noted that artificial intelligence might even change the way we live in 15 years’ time. It is said that in 2030 our urban lifestyles will be unrecognisable. One of the things that was most talked about was self-driving cars, which is already happening in major car brands like Hyundai and Toyota. Another popular one was the fact that robots would be working as service people inside of houses and taking care of tasks such as cleaning. A more important aspect that was raised was education. There are already things like interactive tutoring systems that help students study, but this might evolve so that it requires no input from humans at all. Could artificial intelligence be the solution to the concerning education rates seen in third world countries?

Some of the other areas that had been covered were the evolution of entertainment and how we would be able to access it anywhere, better public and safety measures that could easily be implemented, rapid rates of change in the workplace, and low-resource communities that would be uplifted with new technologies. The problem with these ideas is that they are still pretty far away in the future while we have already created artificial intelligence projects in our current lifetime. Here is a look at what has already been achieved in the field of artificial intelligence by experts in the field.

Virtual personal assistants

Obviously this is not a hologram that walks around in your office, bringing you tea and typing out your every command. It is much smaller. Virtual personal assistants can be found in almost every smart phone. Some of the popular names are Siri and Cortana who can both help you find useful information if you need it. All you do is speak into the phone with a command and the virtual assistant will send the information to the relevant apps. If you want to do a Google search, you will receive your information within seconds. Looking for a route? Simply speak and see the route open up on your Maps app.

Video games

This is probably the first place where artificial intelligence took is position in the residential lives of people. The artificial intelligence in video games has become to evolve that characters in the video game can analyse your behaviour, respond to stimuli and react in unpredictable ways. Even though it is a very simple form of artificial intelligence, it is one that has been useful nonetheless. Games like Far Cry put you in a position where the character has to use certain tactics in order to survive. In other games, NPCs are able to remember things or story lines that you followed along your journey.

Smart cars

We have said that self-driving cars are not so far from the future as we think it is. Smart cars are on the rise and some have already been placed on the highways. Some companies are experimenting in traffic analysis along with auto pilot features. This would allow the car to make decisions for you, whilst you perhaps sit back, relax and enjoy the Sunday paper. Things like cruise control in a car are already one step towards creating cars that can drive on their own.

Purchase prediction

Artificial intelligence has already been used by corporate companies as part of their marketing strategies. This is why companies such as Amazon or Target get it right to analyse your purchases and suggest similar products to complement it. The sending of coupons, advertisements, and newsletters saying that you haven’t been spending at their stores in a while are all part of intelligent marketing schemes – and these tools can all be found online in the form of SEO. However, this has raised concerns as people feel that their privacy might be threatened during the rise of artificial intelligences.

Fraud detection

One of the most useful artificial intelligences is the concept of fraud detection which has already been initiated by banks all over the world. Many people receive letters from their banks asking if they have made a certain purchase, especially if it is a large amount. Artificial intelligence is often applied to this type of technology to ensure that you are safe. This has helped banks to tackle fraudsters who scam people with their credit cards.

#APIs, #SmartCities, #IoT and more on @APIlama

Today I wanted to do some research on the topics that I like to post more about. Don’t get too alarmed, this is not an academic essay about the pros and cons of technology and stuff. I just “googled” the most hot topics of tech and the results can be found below.

To summarize this a little bit, those topics are:

Mainly I wanted to look out how those topics are discussed throughout the Internet and see if my personal gut is right on following after those areas.

It is pretty obvious from the graphic below that APIs, Web and Programming in general are pretty popular topics while Smart Cities and IoT only now start to pick up. Those were more or less what I was expecting to see. I was a little bit surprised with the peak of WWW the last year. This is something I did not see coming and I am not totally sure on why this happened.

I was also expecting to see more traffic on Smart Cities and IoT but maybe this means that Google needs more time to understand a new topic that people search and discuss about.

Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 21.52.46

For this research I used Google Trends. This is a really nice tool to provide an overview of various topics across time and regions. You can find this specific research directly on Google Trends.

Regional Interest

Another area of interest apart from how those article perform over time, is how those perform over regions. Some of the results were surprising.

For example, I did not expect so many people from Sri Lanka or Tunisia to be interested on APIs. Mainly because I don’t know any developers over there 😛

Some other of the results were expected more or less one could say. For example it was no surprise that South Korea is so interested in IoT. Or Germany is searching a lot for World Wide Web, which is somewhat expected since they are trying to become the Silicon Valley of Europe.

What amazed me a lot, was the increased “googling” of Malta about Smart Cities. I did expect this for United Arab Emirates, Singapore and India who are considered pioneers on the area, but Malta was a surprise to me.With a little bit of searching I found out that Malta is deep on the Smart City game with their SmartCity project which btw, looks awesome!

Top Interests and Queries

Another interesting information that Trends show are the top topics regarding the overall category you are searching for and the most prominent queries.

I am only attaching the information about APIs, because the rest were not that interesting mostly cause either they are not that populated yet or they were not that relevant to a technical site.

Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 21.53.52

Looking at the results, it totally makes sense that REST is there, and also JSON and Javascript. But Java???

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I am not a big fan of Java, but it is definitely not a term to attach with APIs. On the other hand, Java was the first to coin the term, but since then we’ve gone a loooong way.

In any case, it is definitely a good thing that people are looking for better programming paradigms and this is the whole thing about APIs.

APIS: Better programming, Better software quality

Create your Own Trend Graphics

This article is part of my research on the topics that I find “hot”. I would like to see what you also think about those trends and play with your own graphics.

Feel free to contact me with your ideas and I would love to share them in a next post!! As I have quoted many times in the past, this site is a collaborative effort and my posts are only a trigger for further discussion.

 

On Smart Cities, Artificial Intelligence and other brainy matters

Sonny: 2880 steps, Detective.
Detective Del Spooner: Do me a favor, keep that kind o’ shit to yourself
I, Robot (2004)

It looks that Artificial Intelligence was one of the major issues to talk about and research in 2015 (and probably onwards). As a Christmas present to start off the year with something to feed our still organic brains, here we are the Future of Life Institute showing up with this open letter warning of the dangers of Artificial Intelligence. The text is backed up by as important names in this field as Stephen Hawking, Jaan Tallinn(co-founder of Skype) and Elon Musk (Space x, Paypal…) among many others.

AI will be a hot discussion topic for 2016 as it is already been recently. But this description of human creations categorized as intelligent/smart/clever is also well known to us, urban planners of any kind. We have these “intelligent” buildings and the not-so-brainy and invasive “smart” cities.

Madrid Skyline and People with Smart Phones CS5

Just to point out a couple of recent relevant mind-moving contributions, there we have Adam greenfield and Rem Koolhaas rubbing salt in the wound. Mr. Remment Koolhaas, taking the leading intellectual role as it is expected from him, drops self-enquiries and short jewels in his Benjamin-like style:

A new trinity is at work: traditional European values of liberty, equality, and fraternity have been replaced in the 21st century by comfort, security, and sustainability

Rem Koolhaas, talk given at the High Level Group meeting on Smart Cities, Brussels, 24 September 2014

And Adam Greenfield, loyal to his style of defending the human side of technology, yet not rejecting its proper use at all, questions if smaller scale adventures in sorting out city problems like the humble but effective Campo de Cebada in Madrid or Occupy Sandy in NYC couldn’t be valid as a complementary/alternative approach to civic/civilian smartness.

I ́m not talking against Smart Cities, I think that at least part of the concept, accepting it ́s still inherently vague, is necessary to build a proper future. I have the great luck of experimenting everyday the commodities and good life of one of the most advanced and smart places in the world, which is the paradisiac tropical Singapore. Actually, the first driverless cars are already being tested at Jurong Lake District. This project has come to life as a result of the research of IDA (Infocomm Development Authority), NUS (National University of Singapore) and SMART (Singapore-MIT alliance for Research and Technology), an important step in the exciting field of Smart/Intelligent mobility.

Singapore Driverless Cars project

But yes, there is an ongoing discussion about the good and the downsides of the Smart Cities. A struggle between control/efficiency and humanity/freedom, the eternal fight between Chance and Necessity. And here we come back to our friend the Robot, to Artificial Intelligence.

As part of these contributions coming out of the Future of Life Institute, there is this document: Research priorities for robust and beneficial Artificial Intelligence in which, jut to extract a relevant paragraph says:

4. Privacy: How should the ability of AI systems to interpret the data obtained from surveillance cameras, phone lines, emails, etc., interact with the right to privacy? How will privacy risks interact with cyberwarfare? Our ability to take full advantage of the synergy between AI and big data will depend in part on our ability to manage and preserve privacy [47, 1]

Yes, repeat with me: “…will depend in part on our ability to manage…”. Machines are already, today, way faster than us in processing data. Match lost. But we have something they don ́t have and we don ́t know if they would ever achieve, which is transversal thinking, emotions… Emotional Intelligence. Maybe, just maybe, in the future they will be able to apply so many organic style sensors and random parameters as us, but they still have a long way to go to win that match.

So… why surrender so soon? why talk about technology, about Information Technology if you want me more precise, as if it was more than a tool, a hand tool. We need it, but let ́s apply it from a human point of view, let ́s recover Emotional Intelligence as our team leader. And now, it ́s time to put in the equation, the currently so demanded “Innovation”.

The world of innovation, or what today is understood formally as innovation, is dominated by code writers, a field of work that can be creative sometimes but, due to its own nature, operates in a linear, algorithmical way. When I was invited in 2010 to a creative industries’ forum in Amsterdam and I realized that it was absolutely dominated by code people but also they looked at the other with a sort of feeling of superiority, I felt amazed, I didn’t expect that.

Boston Dynamics' Robotic Dog

This is understandable, currently these are the guys ruling the most profitable businesses in the world but I think that you have to be aware of your gifts and lacks. It ́s true that I always quote this case, but for me it was quite enlightening: working on an interactive urban space solution with both designers/architects and IT people, with the client already kneeling with admiration for the App developer, this guy happened to state pretty self-assured: “the important thing is to develop the code, anyone can design, that ́s not important” (!). Too long to explain him what design is about, not about colors and shapes as he probably could think, but… sterile discussion in such a dominant situation from his side. This is a problem. It would be a problem too if the balance would be broken by the other side.

Emotional intelligence has to be our weapon and our main strategy. Better than Intelligent/Smart cities, let ́s create Emotionally Intelligent cities. In the short term, efficiency is ok, in the long one, people (us, the only human beings in the galaxy so far) need fun, uncertainty, emotion, anonymity… Let ́s use technologies, let ́s take advantage of artificial intelligence, absolutely. But let ́s not forget we are working for humans, for ourselves, let ́s not betray our own team. This will make the difference in the future. Everyone will have the technology, but the success will depend on how well each of us, cities, governments, countries, companies… dealt with it and how human and livable we made it.

An article by Juan Sadaba – director of nerei emotional intelligent

What is a “Smart City”?

It’s a fair question, but a hard one to answer.

Many larger municipalities have embraced the “smart city” concept in recent years, but definitions of the term — and examples of the ways technology is being used to make cities “smart” — run the gamut. Mayors and city CIOs usually talk about using sensors to, say, wirelessly manage streetlights and traffic signals to lower energy costs, and they can provide specific returns on investment for such initiatives — x millions of dollars saved over y amount of time, for example.

Other examples include using sensors to monitor water mains for leaks (and thereby reduce repair costs), or to monitor air quality for high pollution levels (which would yield information that would help people with asthma plan their days). Police can use video sensors to manage crowds or spot crimes. Or sensors might determine that a parking lot is full, and then trigger variable-message street signs to direct drivers to other lots.

Smart cities as places for fun

Those are some of the countless practical examples. But smart cities can also be fun. In Bristol, England, a custom-built infrared sensor system was added to street lamps for a few weeks in late 2014 to record the shadows of pedestrians walking by. The shadows were then projected back through the streetlights for others walking by later to see.

Called “Shadowing” and developed by Jonathan Chomko and Matthew Rosier, the initiative was intended as a public art installation. A winner of a Playable City Award, “Shadowing” helps illustrate how broad and elusive the definition of “smart city” has become.

That’s a good thing.

“A smart city shouldn’t just save money, but should also be attractive and fun to live in,” said Carl Piva, vice president of strategic programs at TM Forum, a global nonprofit association with 950 member organizations whose aim is to guide research into digital business transformation, including smart city initiatives.

“Being a smart city is more than being efficient and involves turning it around to make it fun,” Piva said.
In Kansas City, officials are working with Cisco to install various sensors, including controls from Sensity Systems, for new LED streetlights to improve operating efficiency. Other smart city sensors could be added later.

The Bristol “Shadowing” project was discussed at a recent forum in Yinchuan, China, attended by politicians and technology experts from around the world, Piva said. It was introduced by Paul Wilson, managing director of Bristol Is Open, a joint venture of the Bristol City Council and the University of Bristol that’s devoted to creating an “open, programmable city region” made possible by fast telecom networks and the latest software and hardware.

“Many smart city projects don’t have immediate ROI attached,” Piva said. “My personal reflection is that technology of the future will become more and more invisible to individuals, and the best success criteria will be people not really even noticing the technology. For the time being, that means seeing a lot of technology trying to talk to us or engage with us in various ways. Every city mayor and everybody running for election is now invested in making his city smart. You sort of need to attract businesses and want to attract individuals with talent and make it a prosperous place, to make it livable and workable.”

Piva said he has noticed that some cities want to focus on building technology communities, which seems to be a significant part of what Kansas City, Mo., is doing with an innovation corridor coming to an area with a new 2.2-mile streetcar line.

Other cities, especially in Brazil, are using technology to focus on fostering tourism, Piva said. “The common element of smart cities is the citizen and the need to have citizens involved and feel at home,” he explained.

Over and over, city officials talk about the smart city as needing to provide “citizen engagement.”

China’s focus on smart cities

China, which has multiple cities with more than 10 million residents each, has pushed forward with a variety of smart technologies, some that might rankle Americans because of the potential privacy risks they raise.

Piva said there are nearly 300 pilot smart city projects going on in a group of municipalities in the middle of the vast nation. “If you jump on a bus, you may encounter facial recognition, which will be used to determine whether you have a bus permit,” he said.

The city of Yinchuan has reduced the size of its permitting work force from 600 employees to 50 by using a common online process accessible to citizens who need anything from a house-building permit to a driver’s license, Piva said.

While Yinchuan’s payback on new permitting technology is easy to determine, “a lot of these ROIs are really hard to calculate,” Piva admitted.

A stark contrast to Yinchuan’s smart city initiative, which has a concrete monetary ROI, is in Dubai. Officials in that United Arab Emirates city are building a “happiness meter,” which will collect digital inputs from ordinary citizens on their reactions to various things. It could be used to evaluate the combined impact of the cleanliness of streets and the effectiveness of security checkpoints with an assortment of other measures. In some cities, citizen inputs regarding happiness may come from smartphones. But they also could come from digital polling stations. For example, users of airport bathrooms might click a happy face button at a kiosk if they thought the bathrooms were clean.

The theory behind happiness meters is that, if municipal officials can capture data from citizens about what it’s like to live in a city, “people will be more successful and take care of the community better,” Piva said. However, he acknowledged, “it’s a hard ROI to measure and takes lots of different touchpoints.”

A working definition of smart city

Ask just about any city official or technologist working for a city, and you are likely to get many different examples of a smart city. A strict definition is even harder to nail down.

Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates, took a stab at a comprehensive definition but only after first jabbing at the broad ways the concept is used. “‘Smart city’ is one of those all-encompassing terms that everyone defines however they want,” he said.

But then, he added, “Really, a smart city is about having sensor data that then gets used to create actions. You can define a smart city as a city with better managed infrastructure that is variable, based on input of data and adjustments of the results to best utilize resources or improve safety.”

Piva and others might add that a city could use the data to improve the happiness of its visitors, residents and workers.

Gold added, “The ultimate goals of smart cities are power management, reducing pollution footprints, increasing public safety, or offering improved services to residents. The downside is that it takes investment infrastructure, and most cities don’t have a lot of extra dollars to invest. But it’s coming in small steps in many places.”

Vendors are lining up

In addition to big tech companies like IBM, Cisco, GE, Intel and others, there are hundreds of smaller vendors of hardware, software and apps that want to cash in on the smart city phenomenon, for example SmartCitiesSolutions.

In Kansas City, Cisco partner Sensity System, a provider of high-tech outdoor lighting, is installing LED streetlights equipped with sensors that can be dimmed automatically for precise ambient light conditions. While city officials haven’t said what they expect to spend on the expensive new LED lighting, Sensity has stated the city stands to save $4 million a year with the new approach.

KC station signMatt Hamblen
Kansas City’s 2.2-mile streetcar line, coming next year, sits in the center of an innovation district that will include smart city elements like free Wi-Fi, station interactive kiosks and sensors to guide traffic and control streetlights.

Sensity has big ambitions for the world’s billions of streetlights and has created technology called Light Sensory Networks that turns an LED streetlight into a platform for data and video for blossoming Internet of Things networks. Each LED street lamp can become a sensor-equipped smart device with a unique IP address to serve as a node in a broadband network, often wirelessly. That smart device can power other smart devices, like video sensors or Wi-Fi access points, to support parking, surveillance or industrial applications, such as systems that tell city snowplows when and where to salt or plow snow.

At CTIA Super Mobility Week 2015 in Las Vegas recently, Verizon showed a smart street lamp that was built by its partner Illuminating Concepts and is similar to those installed for a smart lighting project in Lansing, Mich. The streetlights are connected wirelessly to the cloud and can provide public announcements over audio speakers or via digital signs. They can also handle air pollution analysis and other functions. Each pole costs nearly $6,000, although pricing depends on the sensors installed and the functions the pole is used for.

In addition to Verizon, AT&T and other large U.S. wireless carriers have jumped on board the smart city movement. In Kansas City, Sprint recently invested $7 million for a free Wi-Fi zone around the coming 2.2-mile streetcar route.

Social scientists ponder the downside of the ‘smart city’

While the technology industry and city officials all over the world are promoting the various benefits that smart cities are expected to bring, at least two social scientists have recently raised concerns about the ways smart city technologies can be used to manipulate people with things like facial recognition systems and automated policing tools.

In a paper titled “The Spectrum of Control: A Social Theory of the Smart City,” Jathan Sadowski and Frank Pasquale called attention to some of the negative aspects of cities filled with networks of smart sensors.

“At present, smart city boosters are far too prone to assume that a benevolentintelligence animates the networks of sensors and control mechanisms they plan to install,” they wrote.

Both researchers are concerned that smart cities may feature networks that provide “little escape from a seamless web of surveillance.” That “web of surveillance” could clearly include facial recognition systems, but Sadowski and Pasquale argue that the potential to use technology to track people’s movements goes deeper — smartphones might be tracked via GPS or beacons, for example. Depending on the person using the technology, the collection of such information could be seen as beneficial or insidious.

“It is against [the] democratic egalitarian goal — of fair benefit- and burden-sharing — that alleged ‘smartenings’ of the city must be measured,” they conclude. Sadowski is a Ph.D. candidate at Arizona State University, and Pasquale is a law professor at the University of Maryland.

Other social scientists have raised similar red flags about smart city technologies, and officials in some cities have addressed citizens’ concerns that sensors and other smart systems could be used in a way that invades people’s privacy.

In Kansas City, the city council recently passed a resolution committing to follow data privacy best practices. The mayor also created a panel known as the Smart City Advisory Board to offer guidance on privacy concerns.

The nebulous smart city label

While Sadowski and Pasquale have joined a number of social commentators questioning where the smart city phenomenon is headed, they also condemned the broad way the term “smart city” has been defined.

“Major corporate players work hard to push smartness as an ideal and to pull city leaders and investors into the smartness orbit,” they state in their paper. “[They] have worked hard to create this market and to shape it in certain ways. Yet, with this massive growth and capital investment, the label ‘smart city’ is nebulous…. This ambiguity does a lot of work for smart city proponents and purveyors. The label…. [gives] them discursive cover in case they need to distance themselves if something goes wrong or doesn’t deliver on a promise.”

Smart city proponents, naturally, see things differently. They say it’s a little like the early days of the PC or the way that people first envisioned social networks like Facebook. A desktop computer was originally seen as a better tool for typing reports than an electric typewriter, but the machine later became the all-important, expansive portal to the Internet. And before Facebook exploded to global prominence, few could envision how important intimate mobile connections would one day be to millions of people.

“The exciting part is that we don’t know what we don’t know” about smart city technology, said Rick Usher, assistant city manager for Kansas City. Notice, he called it “exciting.”

 

You can find more at the original resource here.

Centaurs used to teach Hercules. Today they teach about the Internet of Things!

On Wednesday the 11th of November 2015 we hosted a super interesting event at the API Athens Meetup about  APIs, IoT and a bit of Business.

APIs, IoT and a bit of business

Wednesday, Nov 11, 2015, 7:00 PM

The CUBE Athens
Kleisovis 8. Kaniggos Square Athens, GR

67 API Artisans Went

DescriptionHey to all,For this meetup, we have prepared a session with APIs, IoT and a bit of business.We are hosting Sotiris Bantas founder of Centaur Technologies. Sotiris kindly accepted our invitation and will arrive from Volos for our meetup.Wednesday, November 11th at 19:00 – At The Cube Athens…The plan:1. APIs, IoT and a bit of busin…

Check out this Meetup →


The keynote speaker is a friend and mentor of mine, Sotiris Bantas. Sotiris is a technologist and entrepreneur with diverse background in semiconductors, microelectronics systems and all aspects of software. Excellent problem solver and conduit among business stakeholders and technology teams in a broad spectrum of disciplines, ranging from wireless systems design, to chip design, to cloud applications. Former co-founder and CTO of Helic, now a proud founder of Centaur Technologies. This is a company that develops and markets end-to-end solutions for the Internet of Things, focused on the Industrial and Enterprise sectors.


IMG_20151111_191620

Sotiris kickstarting his presentation

The meetup was a success, as the room was full of people! We even had people standing, just waiting to listen Sotiris discussing about Internet of Things applications, business models and relevant API technologies.

IMG_20151111_191555 IMG_20151111_191551


Below you can browser his presentation and you can always interacting with him on twitter. He is super friendly, always online and ALWAYS ready to engage interesting Tech conversations.

In Sotiri’s Words

Centaur Technologies designs for the Industrial IoT. Our sensors typically go inside cargo containers and connect to the cloud wirelessly, often through an API.  We aim to go “where no sensor has gone before”, and quite often an API is providing the breadcrumbs for this journey…

Why did we have to develop an API? There is usually a pragmatic aspect to this. An API forces a certain modularity to the design, so that multiple apps may access the same database in an orderly fashion. This becomes important in the context of databases for the IoT where data streams may flow in from numerous Things, while data consumers (human or machine) should be allowed access through some formal authentication mechanism (e.g. we use JWT for now). Moreover, an API provides ideal test fixtures for making the code testable (e.g. we use SuperAgent for that).

But there is often a strategic aspect to an API. It paves the way for onboarding others (especially 3rd party developers) to your service. In an ideal scenario, your customers may use the API to develop their own toolsets and apps over your product (or its underlying database and engines).

But is everyone open to this sort of APIxploitation (to coin a term…)? Not always. Some services will only implement the ‘R’ in CRUD, that is provide read access to the underlying database but not necessarily allow one to add to it in any meaningful way (outside their own UI). That’s not the only bottleneck with APIs; sparse documentation and lack of standardization, especially for the IoT, are some of the typical shortfalls. By the way, we like what iotdb.org is aiming to accomplish by offering some standard semantics in the way IoT APIs could be built one day.

So is the API part of the product? Is it monetizable? Some people go as far as advocating that the API is the product. This is especially true in the case of tiered or freemium services such as Mailchimp and Google Maps, where most commercial usage may originate via the supplied API. Transactional APIs such as PayPal’s or Stripe’s will implement charges per each transaction (digital payments in their case). Affiliate business models such as AdSense and the bulk of the business network comprising today’s travel industry will also rely exclusively on APIs to channel commissions between agents, platforms and providers. 

Will these business models pan out well in the IoT? Maybe so.

Most IoT products today, especially those in the consumer space, come with an API. Think of a wearable fitness device allowing third parties to develop apps for its users. Access to such an API may typically be free (to promote sales of the appliance) but tiered pay models are also possible – especially when advanced analytics are added to the offering. Regarding IoT infrastructure, platforms and middleware offerings are invariably offered to IoT developers in the form of a tiered API or via a freemium access model.

Interestingly, transactional APIs may also be envisioned especially if Things are to start transacting business with each other. A micro-payments model could be considered where Things may initiate monetary transactions and clear them using some form of blockchain-based currency. Think of your car paying the proximal parking meter using pre-stored Bitcoin.

Finally, affiliate business models should appear at some point. In the context of Smart Cities, one of the ways to enable service aggregation in what is currently a very fragmented ecosystem, could be over the development of API-driven affiliate networks. Municipalities, utility companies, telecom operators and specialized solutions developers could participate in a common marketplace, each one of them enabling partners to offer commercial services over its proprietary database and fleet of Things. In this fashion, a filling station could advertise an off-peak-hour offer for cheap electricity, by pushing it to the autonomous vehicles roaming in its vicinity. Anything could flow, as long as the proper plumbing (= API) is in place…

Final Thoughts

Some interesting discussion that were raised during the Meetup where mostly focused about the semantics of APIs and how some of those good practices can be transferred to the world of IoT and Smart Cities.

A lot of discussion about  IOTDB: The Internet of Things Database took place engaging more and more people to express their feeling about common shared practices. I am a great fun and follower of the Schema.Org paradigm, but everyone seems as comfortable by following guidelines from Google, Yahoo and Microsoft.


In order to summarise this post, it is important to notice that Greece has an active community of developers that investigate the latest technology trends and want to be part of the changes to come.

Greece could benefit from the current crisis by opening more business opportunities and enabling the creation of a european silicon valley in the way that Barcelona tries to create one.

APIs are actually opportunities for innovation, integration, new business models. New revenue streams could be created in a way that developers could be stated in Greece and work with the rest of the world. In a way, there many companies now within Greece doing exactly this.
To finalise this short article, I would like to say that Greece is not only a place for holidays. It can be a place for opportunities and developers around the world should seek this lucky chance and visit our country both for business as well some nice vacation time.

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The API Manifesto

APIs are important tools for the software community. No matter if we are talking about huge enterprises or about small start-ups the case is always the same:
Companies are struggling to create more revenue to survive in the business (super-competitive) world.

APIs do just that.API Design Simply Put

Each API is a collaborative tool that help businesses, wanna-become-businesses and hobbyists to share their information or consume others information in order to create relevant business models where each ones survival is dependent on the other ones surviving the business world.

Why do Enterprises use APIs?

A huge trend has been surrounding the Enterprise Area where now some of the biggest “players” have started organising API conferences, Meetups and even sustain dedicated twitter accounts around the subject.

Why all this fuss? Why is it so important to have an API strategy and to promote it so hardly? What happened to WADL and BPML, some of the most compact enterprise technologies already there?

I will only try to scratch the surface of those answers (since those can only be personal – heavily debatable opinions).

Since the era of mobile marketing rose, there has been an immediate need to support easier integration mechanisms that would sustain lighter transactions. There is a general disagreement about APIs that are indeed a new term and not just a rebranding for services that already exist for a long time. The key difference is that APIs aim on developer adoption. They try to be friendly, easy to understand and they tend to change more often according to the market needs. In a word, APIs aim to be attractive for the customers. On the other hand, traditional web services aim on long term contracts and general cost in mind. That is why this was mainly designed for enterprise processes and for agile mobile development. A nice analogy would be that APIs are a nice fancy expensive smartphone that provides a lot of functionality  but needs updates and may crash from time to time, while on the other hand services are the cheap reliable phone that will continue to work for many years without any update, and with no extra cost.

What is the difference between APIs and the Internet of Things?

It is more than clear that #IoT is a hot topic where the biggest enterprises in the area are now focusing on. For example Amazon now has officially launched their core IoT product, which is mainly a rebranding and a mashup of some of their existing #AWS stack. Oracle on the other hand has also launched their IoT platform which is  based on their existing cloud infrastructure as well.

IBM is approaching the industry in also a competitive way by participating in #IoT standards, creating an Internet of Things foundation and obviously also launching its own #IoT focused cloud-based platform, which has been trending for a while as the newly introduced PaaS: Bluemix.

Other companies have also been launching #IoT specific products, for example Golgi is one of them. Most of those products are based on existing cloud infrastructure with all the updates of the #API era. In my opinion, Internet of Things is the evolution of APIs for businesses to APIs for Everything.

What is expected from the API world?

Now I am taking a step further by discussing a little bit on what I expect to see over the next couple of decades in the area of #APIs. Why we even stay on that domain?

This is a discussion that happens over a round of beers with API friends after a #Meetup or a conference. The obvious answer, is that the Internet of Things is the next best thing which we expect to experience in our pro-careers or in our lifetime in general. I definitely agree that Internet of Things will be a great revolution which is going to change the way we live, and for this we need to heavily brainstorm on several aspects of this.

Smart Cities, A revolution that is just knocking on our door

Apart from the #IoT, Smart Cities is the next best thing in my personal opinion. It is going to be much bigger than API revolution, even bigger than #IoT, maybe even greater than the Computer Revolution itself.

Smart City

There are already huge efforts to standardise Smart Cities and #IoT. An important effort driven by IEEE, tries to create a community of people interested in Smart Cities with the ultimate goal to conclude in a Standard, Specification or even a set of best practices. Another similar approach more Specification oriented leaded by manufacturing and enterprises is the HyperCat. There are even more approaches that I do not mention here, because I just want to show that there is a community and a lot of effort around Smart Cities but I am not making an exhaustive SotA here.

Some related material I have been studying recently around the subject:

All the discussions, the material I’ve been studying or the various tweets on the subject having been giving me various ideas and future directions that I would like to discuss in future articles and webinars (or beer sessions).

More Stuff to Read

If you read this article and you think that API is what you are looking for, you can always read more in my Education Section or go directly to the ultimate API source provided by the API Evangelist. Another source that I like to consult quite often, is the blog of the API Handyman, where he writes about API best practices.

Obviously there are more API blogs, websites, whitepapers out there where I can not mention all of them here. Either contact me directly if you need anything or tweet to me.

Obviously no such blog post could ever exist without mentioning the ProgrammableWeb which is a website dedicated on news and information about APIs and there exists for a long time, before most of us even started working on the area.