Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

New EFF whitepaper on responsible sensing technology

Friday, August 7th, 2009

Randall Lucas brings to our attention a new whitepaper over at EFF that will sound familiar to readers of this site:

We can’t stop the cascade of new location-based digital services. Nor would we want to — the benefits they offer are impressive. What urgently needs to change is that these systems need to be built with privacy as part of their original design. We can’t afford to have pervasive surveillance technology built into our electronic civic infrastructure by accident. We have the opportunity now to ensure that these dangers are averted.

Authors Andrew Blumberg of Stanford and EFF’s Peter Eckersley make specific suggestions on how to do this, without giving up the benefits widespread sensing will bring. Great to see EFF stepping up on sensing! —Chris Peterson

Sense Networks: You should own your data

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

Intel Capital has just invested $6 million in Sense Networks, co-founded by MIT prof Sandy Pentland. On their website “Principles” page, he takes a strong “you own your data” stance:

Sense Networks has deeply rooted principles that drive every business and technology decision. The company has built its systems from scratch to introduce the following new paradigm of data ownership and privacy.

People should own their own data
People should have full control over the use of any data that they generate. All data collection should be “opt-in,” and users should be able to easily remove themselves and their data from the system without questions or hassle. The system doesn’t “remember” a user for later, but completely deletes data at the user’s discretion.

People have a right to privacy
Sense Networks respects the privacy and anonymity of its users and requires no personally identifiable information to access its consumer applications. We never share specific user data with anyone. And we use best practices to ensure the safekeeping of the data we receive.

People should receive a meaningful benefit in exchange for sharing data
Meaningful benefits include compelling applications to help manage life better, or personalized services based on anonymous learning from “users like me.” People should be able to enjoy the benefits of these services simply in exchange for their data.

Aggregate anonymous location data should be used for common good
Sense Networks is working with thought leaders at institutions such as MIT and Columbia University to explore ways of leveraging aggregate, anonymous data for the common good. For example, we’re forging innovative partnerships with recycling companies that can use the data to more efficiently direct recycling resources to high activity locations in a given city.

This is about as strong a stance on this issue that a private company has taken, to my knowledge. Are some of these principles that Open Source Sensing should use as well? How do they interact with individuals’ “right to sense”? (Credit: Carnival of the Mobilists) —Chris Peterson

Slashdot discusses Open Source Sensing

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

Jeff Ubois brings our attention to a discussion over at Slashdot of our project, including this response to a comment that open source hardware is much more expensive than open source software:

Your point is valid, in that hardware has a higher cost of entry than software (and the relative levels of maturity of OSS vs. Open Hardware reflect this); but I’m not sure that it applies as much as you suggest.

Designing, fabbing and installing specialized sensors is one aspect of “sensor technology” and one that OSS is, as you say, arguably of limited use as a model. However, co-ordination of sensor values, turning the data points into some meaningful picture of the world, is more or less completely a software problem.

Also of note is the idea of building distributed sensor networks out of what already exists, which is largely a problem of software, creativity, and social structuring. For instance, consider the sheer number of cameras, accelerometers, and RF receivers, all connected to programmable computers and radio modems, that are running around the streets in the form of cell phones. For that matter, think of the giant crowds of happy-snapping tourists in most tourist destinations as constituting a sort of camera network.

The business of actually putting hardware into the field will, as you say, likely remain a more or less closed commercial enterprise, with some open source/DIY projects here and there (just as most software, even OSS, runs on commercial hardware); but there is a lot of room for OSS models in the systems and software that tie the sensors together, and make something useful of their output.

Welcome, Slashdotters, to the debate and (ideally) the project! —Chris Peterson

Vancouver moves to Open Data…but what data should be open?

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

Jennifer Kavur of Infoworld brings great news from Vancouver:

Open source activists are praising the Open Data, Open Standards and Open Source motion passed by the City of Vancouver last month.

Proposed by City Councillor Andrea Reimer, the motion encourages the adoption of open standards, promotes distribution of open data and places open source on equal footing with commercial software during procurement cycles.

Vancouver is the first municipality in Canada to pass a motion that embraces the “open” city concept. But “we took some of our lead from Toronto, who did a 1.0 version of a motion last fall and is looking at rolling some stuff out,” said Reimer.

There is no question but that this is the right direction to go. Next, we need to help visionary cities and other governments think clearly about Open Data: what should be open, and what shouldn’t. Given that they are still struggling with the concept of open source software, this is going to take some serious work. (Credit: Open Source Technology) —Chris Peterson

Closed-source sensors: how good are the best ones today?

Friday, June 19th, 2009

For Open Source Sensing to succeed, we need to be familiar with the best proprietary sensors available today. Check out the “Best of Sensors Expo” Award Winners. Examples:

Gold Awards

Category: Sensors
DTS’ 6DX rugged, ultra-small 6 degrees of freedom sensor
Category: Data Acquisition Products
MicroStrain Inc.’s HS-LINK high-speed wireless sensor node
Category: Sensor Components
PowerCast Corp.’s P2100 Powerharvester energy harvesting module
Category: Sensors
SBG Systems’ IG-500N miniature Attitude and Heading Reference System (AHRS)

How can open source sensing interact with proprietary sensors? Should we focus instead on data-handling, from any sensor? Or start there, and then expand to software, and then hardware? —Chris Peterson

Monitoring the rainforest: pluses and minuses

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

Rodney Gedda of ComputerWorld in Australia brings news of rainforest monitoring:

The CSIRO will install some 200 solar-powered, sensor network nodes over the next two years to helping rehabilitate rainforest in the Springbrook World Heritage precinct in south-east Queensland, the research group announced today…

They can measure biodiversity indicators, like bird and frog calls, and physical characteristics like leaf wetness, soil moisture and temperature.

Since May 2008 a network of 10 wireless sensor nodes has been sampling physical parameters, including soil moisture and the amount of available light inside the forest, every five minutes…

CSIRO’s Sensor Network Technologies research director, Dr Michael Bruenig, said the Springbrook project demonstrates that real-time data can be streamed back from open and covered rainforest using a low-bandwidth, wireless sensor network.

From an environmental perspective, this is absolutely wonderful; let’s get these deployed ASAP. From a political perspective, it makes clear that the day is rapidly approaching when there will be no place to go to talk about forbidden matters. Australia is a democratic nation, but what does this mean for less-free countries? (And even good countries can go bad.) Let’s design environmental sensors that provably don’t record, say, human conversations.

Open source personal robot platform with sensors

Monday, June 15th, 2009

I will be out of the country when this talk happens: can someone go and ask whether the sensor suite is open source? —Chris Peterson (Info forwarded by Ravi Mistry)

“An open platform for robotics research”

Personal Robotics research and development are accelerating. A
growing community of Open Source developers is creating a platform
called ROS that anyone can build on to make the breakthroughs that
will lead to new applications. Willow Garage is building a personal
robot platform, PR2, which has two arms, a mobile base, and a rich
sensor suite. This talk will review the current status of ROS and
PR2, and discuss opportunities to join the ROS Open Source community. (more…)