walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

Acronyms! But not TLAs

I was surfing the web post book group (note to self: should post review of book as it was Fantastic) last night and ran across this.


It is not often the case that I run across something in tech space that R. and I know absolutely nothing whatsoever about. Well, obvs we know about IPv4 and IPv6, and we know about mesh networks and we know about the idea of Personal Area Networks and low power networks and that there's a general category of gadgetry that monitors what you are doing/your vital signs/etc. and then talks to an app on your phone or can be decanted onto a computer or wtf. None of that was a surprise.

The summary nicely encapsulates the surprise: "companies seeking ways to connect devices directly to the cloud instead of through a smartphone or a computer, are adding support for 6LoWPAN"

So, what does "directly to the cloud" mean? I may have a frame problem -- that happens a lot. It's not that I _try_ to think out of the box; it's that I quite frequently cannot identify the box the conversation is occurring in. I'm just out in the wilderness being confused. I think this may be the answer:

"Right now, most wireless devices connect to another device — your phone, a hub or a corporate gateway — but for a true internet of things to emerge, these sensors or connected doodads should have the ability to connect directly to a web service."

That is, if you go for a run and on your cool-down you decide to stop at a Starbucks, the device you wear on your upper arm or around your torso or on your shoe or all of the above could connect to Starbucks wi-fi and download your stats to your DropBox account, or to your AFitterYou (<-- I think that's fictional, because the only business with that name seems to be a personal trainer and I intend to convey a web based service.) account or whatever, without you needing to have a phone, tablet, laptop, wtf with you.

Fortunately, 6LoWPAN does include at least some security, in the form of a Secure Mode with an Access Control List (thank you, wikipedia). Otherwise, you could sort of see this might be a problem, because you might pass That Guy Who You Think Is Stalking You and he could download your heart rate and how long you'd been running and how many aerobic steps you've taken today and calculate when to attack you based on when you are most exhausted/least able to fight him off. Where attack could be asking to have coffee with you, follow you home or jump out from the bushes and drag you off somewhere horrible -- unwanted interaction, regardless.

But you do kind of have to wonder how on earth anyone is going to make low power devices that also have the ability to poll the area for connection points. That tends to be a ... hog.

There's also a question in my mind about who is paying for the connectivity. It's one thing to imagine a world in which everyone who is running a network has tons of money for infinite bandwidth and is happy to share it with random joggers passing through -- it's another to realize that in fact most people and corporations lock down their network access points because they don't want someone hijacking their bandwidth, after all, I'm Paying A Lot of Money for That! Starbucks (and McDonald's) offer wi-fi because you're buying food from them and they know perfectly well you'll come back more often and buy more of their crap if they given you something to do while you are there. If your IPv6LoWPAN system is going to reliably connect to anything meaningful, you're going to have to pony up for an account and pay: either by buying a cup of coffee, or by having your heart rate monitor access the internet through your phone, or through your home network.

But at least if your laptop is not powered up and running, your heart rate monitor can still upload to AFitterYou through your router. That's not Nothing.

And if it outcompetes Bluetooth, I am all for it.
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