29 January 2009

Pachube: connecting environments, patching the planet

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Pachube
Pachube is a web service that enables you to connect, tag and share real time sensor data from objects, devices, buildings and environments around the world.

The key aim is to facilitate interaction between remote environments, both physical and virtual. Apart from enabling direct connections between any two environments, it can also be used to facilitate many-to-many connections: just like a physical “patch bay” (or telephone switchboard) Pachube enables any participating project to “plug-in” to any other participating project in real time so that, for example, buildings, interactive installations or blogs can “talk” and “respond” to each other.

Pachube is a little like YouTube, except that, rather than sharing videos, Pachube enables people to monitor and share real time environmental data from sensors that are connected to the internet. Pachube acts between environments, able both to capture input data (from remote sensors) and serve output data (to remote actuators). Connections can be made between any two environments, facilitating even spontaneous or previously unplanned connections. Apart from being used in physical environments, it also enables people to embed this data in web-pages, in effect to “blog” sensor data.

Tish Shute of Ugotrade has been conducting a lengthy interview with Pachube founder, Usman Haque, which just got published. The interview describes how Haque was influenced by Dutch architect Constant Nieuwenhuys and thinkers such as Adam Greenfield and Bruce Sterling, how Pachube was founded in response to current predicaments within the field of ubiquitous computing and how “an ethically driven business model [will] allow a diverse group of companies and individuals to transition to the internet of things”.

Sensor/actuator integrations are a part of what Pachube is about, and an interest in home automation and energy management is giving a lot of early momentum to Pachube.

But Usman makes clear Pachube is about “environments” rather than “sensors.” “An ‘environment’ has dynamic frames of reference, all of which are excluded when simply focusing on devices, objects or mere sensors”. A central part of Pachube is the development of the Extended Environments Markup Language. […]

Pachube is here to make it easier to participate in what I expect to be a vast ‘eco-system’ of conversant devices, buildings & environments.

Pachube will facilitate the development of a huge range of new products and services that will arise from extreme connectivity. It’s relatively easy for large technology companies like Nike and Apple to transition into the Internet of Things, but Pachube will be particularly helpful for that huge portion of smaller scale industry players that *want* to become part of it, but which are only now waking up to the potentials of the internet — small and medium scale designers, manufacturers and developers who are very good at developing their products but don’t have the resources to develop in-house a massive infrastructure for their newly web-enabled offerings.

Basically, having built a generalized data-brokering backend to connect physical (and virtual) entities to the web, others can now start to build the applications that make the connections really useful.

And here is the phrase I think is most important of all:

“It’s relatively easy for large technology companies like Nike and Apple to transition into the Internet of Things, but Pachube will be particularly helpful for that huge portion of smaller scale industry players that *want* to become part of it, but which are only now waking up to the potentials of the internet — small and medium scale designers, manufacturers and developers who are very good at developing their products but don’t have the resources to develop in-house a massive infrastructure for their newly web-enabled offerings.”

Read full interview

(via Bruce Sterling)

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