Carnegie Mellon University’s campus could soon transform into a living laboratory for testing how Internet-connected sensors, gadgets, and buildings might change our daily life. Google has awarded half a million dollars to Carnegie Mellon and a broader university coalition to develop the technologies needed to make that vision a reality.
Google’s funding comes from the tech giant’s Open Web of Things initiative aimed at creating a “research and open innovation expedition… to enable easy development of smart and secure Internet of Things applications and services.” The $500,000 awarded to the university coalition will help create an Internet of Things (IoT) platform called GloTTO that aims to create a complete interoperable system of IoT technologies. The platform would also allow researchers to figure out how to create a secure system that protects personal privacy in a sensor-filled environment.
“The goal of our project will be nothing less than to radically enhance human-to-human and human-to-computer interaction through a large-scale deployment of the Internet of Things (IoT) that ensures privacy, accommodates new features over time, and enables people to readily design applications for their own use,” said Anind Dey, director of CMU’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute and lead investigator of the GloTTO project, in a press release.
The university coalition consists of Carnegie Mellon, Cornell University, Stanford University, and the University of Illinois. Carnegie Mellon’s campus will act as the main testing ground, but the other universities will tackle issues related to privacy and security, systems and protocols, and human-computer interaction.
One of Carnegie Mellon’s initial goals includes demonstrating “personalized privacy assistants” aimed at helping users control access to their personal data. A separate goal involves development of an IoT appstore that allows both campus members and the broader research community to create and share IoT apps.
“Because many novel IoT applications require a critical mass of sensors, CMU will use inexpensive sensors to add IoT capability to ‘dumb’ appliances and environments across the campus,” Dey said.
Carnegie Mellon researchers have already created representative systems such as Snap2It, an app that allows people to connect their mobile devices with printers or projectors by simply taking a smartphone photo of the device. Another system called Impromptu accesses shared apps only when needed, such as tapping a public transit app when near a bus stop or a retailer app when stepping into a store.
The idea of all our mobile and wearable devices talking seamlessly with sensors in buildings and vehicles has technologists excited. Last year, the Pew Research Internet Project found that 83 percent of 1800 experts surveyed believed that the Internet of Things would bring benefits to everyday life by 2025. But the security vulnerabilities evident in existing smart appliances and other Internet-connected systems mean that researchers face a huge challenge in building an Internet of Things experience that feels safe and secure.
Jeremy Hsu has been working as a science and technology journalist in New York City since 2008. He has written on subjects as diverse as supercomputing and wearable electronics for IEEE Spectrum. When he’s not trying to wrap his head around the latest quantum computing news for Spectrum, he also contributes to a variety of publications such as Scientific American, Discover, Popular Science, and others. He is a graduate of New York University’s Science, Health & Environmental Reporting Program.