The data on exactly how many Internet of Things devices will be online by the end of the decade is a matter of debate. Cisco famously put the number at 50 billion by 2020, though Morgan Stanley thinks it could be as high as 75 billion. The analyst firm IDC estimates the number at 50 billion. But others have put the number lower. Gartner puts the number of connected things at around 30 billion by 2020.
We might all be better off taking a cue from McDonald’s and just start using the phrase “billions and billions” by the end of the decade. As with McDonald’s hamburgers – the exact number doesn’t really matter, so long as everyone agrees that it’s going to be big. Really big.
But all those devices – and the near-limitless IPV6 address space that will accommodate them – do present a management and governance problem: how do you find the specific device you’re looking for in a sea of similar devices? What the world needs is a Google or, better yet, a Facebook for Internet of Things devices, and that’s what the folks over at the UK-based firm Umbrellium introduced on Friday with thingful.net, a search engine that scours the Internet for smart devices.
The web-based service is described as a “discoverability engine for The Public Internet of Things,” providing a visual map of Internet connected “things” including data about who owns them and how and why they are used, Umbrellium said.
Devices are organized roughly based on type, with categories like “Energy,” “Home,” “Health,” “Flora and Fauna” and “Transport.” Clicking an item on the Thingful.net map brings up a description of the device and allows you to link to more details, including the Twitter account the device is associated and any other descriptive information provided by the device’s owner.
Unlike Google or hardware focused search engines like Shodan, Thingful operates more like a social network for IoT devices. Organizations and individuals that wish to share their smart devices with others have to sign up to its service using their Twitter profile, then identify and categorize the smart devices they own and indicate how they are being used. “The ‘who’, ‘why’ and ‘where’ are ultimately far more important in The Public Internet of Things than the ‘what’,” Umbrellium said. (Umbrellium did not respond to an e-mail request for comment from The Security Ledger. )
Thingful users can search for others nearby who own and operate smart devices and “follow” them, or network with other individuals who own specific types of smart infrastructure via Thingful. Developers can use Thingful to browse for Internet of Things data sources Umbrellium said that Thingful currently aggregates public data from connected devices. In large part that is through indexing IoT platforms like Xively, Smart Citizen (open source environmental monitoring), Weather Underground and Air Quality Egg.
Thingful has indexed tens of thousands of devices globally, ranging from home thermostats and simple sensors, to wired ocean monitoring buoys in the mid-Atlantic and tanker ships plying the Mediterranean. The goal is to make the Internet of Things more transparent and, thereby, to foster interactions within the connected community.
“In order for the Internet of Things to be truly transformative we believe that people need the tools to discuss, make sense of and share the data that their connected devices are generating,” the company said. By breaking down device- or industry based silos, Thingful will create a “truly citizen-oriented IoT that functions as a real public resource.