Vint Cerf and the Good Fight for the IoT

At the 2nd IEEE World Forum on Internet of Things we had the honour and privilege to hear Vint Cerf, a true role model and one of the fathers of the Internet, present a keynote on the IoT. More than that, we had the opportunity to snap the photo above as we shook his hand and thanked him for continuing to fight the good fight for the Internet (of Things). In this blog post, we’ll conclude on that comment, after we first discuss Dr. Cerf’s three pillars for the IoT and his three-pronged call to action.

The three pillars of IoT

Pillars of the IoT

In short, (1) the IoT will be predicated on novel security and privacy mechanisms that facilitate rather than hinder the exchange of information, (2) will use open standards (much like the Internet itself), and, (3) will be experienced through more natural, human user interfaces. The following are our comments for each point:

  1. This pillar has been top of mind in every decision we’ve made since the outset, and is the reason we’ve ensured that the core of our platform processes anonymous device identifiers in real-time only (no storage). Hence all secure and private exchange of information can employ the emerging best practices on top of this core layer.
  2. Our firm belief in open standards is indeed what encouraged us to pursue science over patents early in our history, clearly an unconventional choice, as we were probably the only non-academic startup to present a paper at the conference!
  3. We’ll go as far to say that the IoT should be about No UI rather than New UI. Since Accelerator Day One we’ve championed presence-based user experiences through what we’d later refer to as invisible buttons, and we feel this is just one of the various means for humans to be seamlessly understood and engaged by technology without any conscious action required on their part.

The three-pronged call to action

Call to Action for IoT

First, we feel that the term permissionless innovation beautifully articulates what will make the IoT as dynamic, inclusive and pervasive as the Internet that Dr. Cerf himself was instrumental in animating. It’s not unlike the quote by George Whitesides that we feel is a simple mantra for the IoT:

“How do we make things as simple as we can, as cheap as we can, as functional as we can and as freely interconnectable as we can? If we make that kind of simplicity in our technology and then give it to you guys, you can go off and do all kinds of fabulous things with it.”

We made a conscious decision to keep our platform as simple yet versatile as possible, and it is one of the reasons that today we have clients and partners around the world innovating in everything from retail to parking to next-generation social networking.

Second, after an extended but patient wait, we feel that the open standards necessary to spark our arena of the IoT are finally in place. Specifically, Bluetooth Smart has emerged as the first global standard for connectionless identification, and the JSON-LD & duo has finally (in 2015) been championed by Google, where Dr. Cerf serves as VP and Chief Internet Evangelist. These open standards facilitate the interoperability of devices and structured data, respectively, and now enable us to fully pursue our own vision in 2016.

Third, we agree that identity, access control and data management is an essential new ingredient that should be baked in to the IoT early on. Perhaps we’ll soon see the emergence of The Bank of Personal Data? Without such a mechanism, how could we in fact achieve our mission to unlock the value of the data you choose to share?

Call to Action for IoT

Why did we thank Vint Cerf for continuing to fight the good fight? In our opinion, he is one of the few individuals applying a long-term vision to balance what’s optimal and what’s profitable for the still nascent Internet of Things, and, critically, continues to have one foot firmly planted in each academia and industry. And, from our experience, it’s an essential stance that turns out to be neither an easy position nor balance to hold!

As 2015 draws to a close, we salute all those who will fight the good fight for the Internet of Things in the New Year and beyond!