This blog first appeared on Linkedin.

As you may have seen in my recent posts about City Infrastructure for the Digital Age or Building the Digital Enterprise, I am passionate about creating open, horizontal IoT infrastructure to empower developers and unleash creativity to solve problems.

To enable all of the developers in the world, we need to deploy multi-function, standards-based digital infrastructure that can be shared, reducing the need for each project to install new digital infrastructure. The CEO of an IoT company used to tell me,“The hardest part of the Internet of Things… is the Things.”  While I’m sure all of us could debate what the hardest part is, I bet we would agree that having things available for most developers is more difficult than writing code.

So I’ve been on a mission to evangelize the creation of broad-based intelligent lighting as the foundation for that digital infrastructure. It certainly won’t be the only part of that infrastructure long term, but in general, indoor and outdoor lights have power, connectivity, and a great vantage point to collect data that all of us can use to make our world and our businesses more enjoyable and more productive.

One question that comes up a lot is:

“How can we provide information to developers while protecting the privacy and security of the individuals who are walking through the environments?”

The short answer: with metadata.

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In order to produce useful and scalable metadata for developers, you have to be able to process the raw data “on the edge” or in the device that is capturing data.

What is metadata?

Think of it as information ABOUT the real data, that isn’t the real data itself. For example, a camera may take a picture. The real data is the pixels and their colors. The metadata might say there is a car, a person or a dog in the picture. I can give you metadata by telling you I have a picture of a car, a person or a dog without ever showing you the picture.

This type of data can provide a significant value to developers who can string the metadata together to see patterns. For example, they can see how the speed or direction of vehicles change, which intersections are more congested or how people utilize office space in a building. Yet to do this, they never have to see the actual image. In fact, once we have collected the metadata, we don’t even need to save the actual image. 

In order to produce useful and scalable metadata for developers, you have to be able to process the raw data “on the edge” or in the device that is capturing data. This is where partnerships like ours with Intel come in. At IDF today, the GE team is demonstrating its intelligent streetlights that contain Intel Atom processors. With those processors embedded into the devices, we can quickly convert raw data into the metadata that developers need without having to make all of the raw data available. 

We are already seeing a very good response from developers who have experimented with the metadata from intelligent lights. In the first few hackathons, we’ve seen nearly 1,000 developers building solutions to everything from life threatening topics like first response to medical emergencies, to much more mundane (yet possibly more impactful on a daily basis), like how to find a food truck serving tacos.

What’s clear to me is that there are a LOT of great ideas out there. Our job is to empower them by making more data available. Edge analytics and metadata are key to making this vision a reality and driving the scale, speed and security needed for broad IoT adoption.

Can’t wait to see what’s in store at the rest of IDF!

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