The Internet of Things and smart cities through open source models

Jigsaw globe with optical cables and fibre optics surrounding it.

The Internet of Things and smart cities concepts have been around for some time. They are often treated differently, but, instead, they have a strong link. Smart city revolves around the development of intelligent spaces in which we live. We interact with these spaces through sensors and connected objects that disappear around us becoming part of the environment. This uncountable collection of intelligent and connected objects is also at the base of the Internet of Things vision. These sensors and objects can be programmed to take actions and interact among them and with humans. Thus, software becomes fundamental into the development of the Internet of Things. All this traces its roots in theories like ubiquitous computing and calm computing. But what software development model is most appropriate for the Internet of Things? Certainly, open source software is a good candidate. There are two fundamental reasons for that.

1. We envisage a scenario made of billions of connected objects, too many for proprietary software solutions, too many for compatibility and interoperability issues. This will be a world in which each object wants to draw intelligence for open data and operate on that data, take action, and communicate with other sensors and objects. Open source makes this world free, flexible, adaptable and low cost.

2. Because of point 1), our role as citizens and individuals can be part of this development at any level from identifying needs, contributing to designs and being a source of data through a network of sensors that we carry with us. Smartphones are sensors. Wearable devices are sensors.

In this open source-based inclusive scenario, the path of innovation can be diverse. The model of accelerator programmes and incubators, so popular today in the Silicon Valley and other technological hubs in the World like London, can be used to stimulate new ideas around the Internet of Things using open source models. Solutions and platforms such as Arduino, Waspmote, Raspberry Pi, Contiki, AspireRFID and many others can become the development tools of the Internet of Things start-ups. Certainly, the story is not so fluid as it appears. There are a number of critical issues to face in the Internet of Things such as security, privacy, horizontal complex architectures, use of big data analytics and many others. But, software will have a central role in the evolution of the Internet of Things and smart cities. Current models of incubation and acceleration, adjusted to the challenges of the Internet of Things, could potentially become a tremendous source of innovation.