Open Data and the Internet of Things [video]

Internet of Things: there is no data ownership, only data access

“In the Internet of Things, you don’t know who’s going to use the data that’s generated by your devices, and you don’t know who is going to help you unlock the value from the data that’s being generated by all these devices.”

Pachube (now Cosm) was founded to aggregate data from sensors of all sorts, globally, including:

  • Energy monitors
  • Bio sensors
  • Ship and vehicle trackers
  • Pollution monitors.

Some say that the ‘Internet of Things’ is about sensors going online. For over fifteen years, we’ve had machine to machine (M to M) communication using various sensors. When a company stores data from M to M communication, that data generally has a single purpose and the company keeps the data in a ‘data silo.’ The movement now is to open the data, let other entities use the data for research and development.

For example, Vodafone was tracking what phone IDs were using each cellphone tower, effectively tracking movement. When this information was passed on to TomTom, they were able to process the information, and use it to better track traffic patterns and give people better real-time information.

In the Internet of Things, we’re seeing a lot of devices that push data to the internet, but often devices cannot talk to each other. For example, a FitBit user cannot compare data to a Nike Fuel user. In the future, all devices will aggregate data together, data will be open by default. Instead of the user paying the device manufacturer for the device, they will pay less for devices, and pay for the internet service, which will, in turn, share revenues with the device manufacturer.

Cosm is a generalized data broker. One of the early feeds is a Geiger counter in Kyoto. In the hours and days after the Japan earthquake, people focused on this feed, but realized that it was not giving an accurate accounting of the situation. Immediately, members of the Cosm community began giving instructions for connecting Geiger counters to the Cosm feed, so that in a few days, there were 2,000 feeds throughout Japan, with some updating several times each minute.

People built applications that could show the health implications of the radiation, and that could track the wind and predict where radiation would be worse. With this sort of crowd-sourced data set, you’re looking for anomalies and public visibility and accountability not accounted for by official data. In the aftermath, many Geiger counters have gone online all over the world.

The Internet of Things ‘Bill of Rights:’


  1. People own the data they (or their “things”) create
  2. People own the data someone else creates about them
  3. People have the right to access data gathered from public space
  4. People have the right to access their data in full resolution in real-time
  5. People have the right to access their data in a standard format
  6. People have the right to delete or backup their data
  7. People have the right to use and share their data however they want
  8. People have the right to keep their data private

Owning data is a logical conflict. The bill of rights will soon focus more on access than on ownership.