Several times we've predicted the future world will be one where everything is networked to everything, and now IBM's revealed it has the same goal. It's releasing new software to enable "the internet of things" so that sensors can hook to the Net.
Big Blue will be revealing all at the 2010 Sensors Expo and Conference today, but we already know some of the essentials. The package is free, it's called Mote Runner, and it's an IBM Research product that's designed to be ultra-connectable, so it can link PC environments to apps running on wirelessly connected sensor-equipped pieces of hardware. There's a simulation environment in the software for development and evaluation, a Web dashboard based on Eclipse, and Mote Runner is simple enough to run on the tiniest of 8-bit processors and a dab of memory (just 64k).
But this all makes Mote Runner sound very dry. It's not. Intel and other companies have revealed they have plans to release chips that can basically connect every gadget that you can imagine to the Net—everything from your coffee machine upwards. Networking gadgets like this only makes sense if you can "talk to" them, that is, find out what they're doing and tell them what to do. Mote Runner's sensor and "low profile" code will allow it to run on small, cheap chips and, as a result, with devices you might not expect.
Some applications include basic things like traffic sensors or building maintenance units—so that remote operators can see what's going on in a particular location and tweak the operation in real time so it works more efficiently. But Mote Sensor could take over simple low-grade monitoring tasks, with the right kind of app running, like checking on the status of elderly people at home, monitoring agricultural processes, basic climate monitoring systems and so on. Though devices that do this sort of status monitoring already exist, they tend to be proprietary, and hence not the best at cross-compatibility. But IBM's free, standard code may end up being so ubiquitous that everything in your entire house is networked up, from the solar panels on your roof to the watering system in your lawn to the emergency button in Grandma's apartment annex. It's basically sci-fi come true and could reduce costs and environmental impact.