Tag Archives: smarter planet

What a week for MQTT!

Part of my role as WebSphere Messaging Community Lead involves IBM’s MQ Telemetry Transport protocol. I spend a chunk of my time talking about how MQTT relates to building a Smarter Planet, and explaining how it can be used to build some very cool new applications and solutions.

MQTT logoFolks from IBM and Eurotech may have jointly authored MQTT, but it has been published online with terms enabling royalty-free use and implementation of the protocol. The next stage is to put it forward for standardisation. Last Friday, the call for participation in a standards discussion was published on mqtt.org. It’s open to anyone to join, and given the excitement I’ve personally seen in the developer community, I’m hopeful that we’ll see plenty of interest.

Friday saw even more big news, from an entirely unexpected source. As I stood chatting to people arriving at the OggCamp party that evening, my Twitter alerts and email went crazy with MQTT chatter… Facebook announced that their new Facebook Messenger application (a result of their acquisition of the Beluga team earlier in the year) uses MQTT! I’d been aware of different mobile app developers using MQTT for a while now – in fact we recently highlighted what a great match the protocol is for Android applications, on the mqtt.org blog – but had not known about Facebook’s interest or usage. In their post talking about how Facebook Messenger works, they call out the characteristics that make it a strong protocol for a mobile group messaging application – low bandwidth, low overheads, low power cost… all of the things that have made MQTT successful in sensor networks and solutions, make it ideal for these kind of applications as well.

Well… as I said, a big week, with some exciting news. So it seemed only right that I should give a talk about MQTT and all of these latest developments at OggCamp this past weekend – the event which three years ago, resulted in Roger Light creating his mosquitto broker.

You may recognise the slides as a remix of the talk I gave at LinuxConf in January, but I’ve updated them to highlight the OggCamp dimension and to talk about the recent news. There will be more to come during the coming weeks, so join the chat in channel #mqtt on Freenode IRC, and keep an eye on mqtt.org!

 

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IMPACT 2011 – and the Unconference

This week is the last before I hop on a plane a head over to The Venetian in Las Vegas for this year’s IBM IMPACT conference. I’ve been privileged to attend the last few of these customer and user conferences, and I’m always happy to have the opportunity to meet users and techies, as well as to talk to new folks about what is happening in the WebSphere Messaging portfolio.

IMPACT 2011 banner

This year I’ve been given the task of talking about what’s new in WebSphere MQ (hint: if you look at the whole WMQ family, there is a lot going on); and to talk about our Smarter Planet protocol, also known as MQ Telemetry Transport.

As before, we have a social aggregator where you can follow the conference. One particularly exciting addition this year is the idea that we’ll run an unconference within IMPACT itself, and we’ve carved out the Thursday in order to do so. If you’ve never been to an unconference before, the concept is that the organisers put up the venue, framework, and support, and the attendees build up the actual agenda. The call for participation is open now… if you are really a techie or an architect and don’t want to be bored by the business-oriented stuff, you need to be at the unconference. It’s for developers, by developers (actually – that’s YOU).

WebSphere Unconference

The ideas will be posted at Impact 2011 April 11-13 using the wall grid posted onsite, where you can continue to submit and vote on ideas. The Unconference is held on April 14th from morning through afternoon. Sessions will run about 1 hour with several rooms open during each time block. The kick-off is at 8:30AM with a special guest speaker. The format of sessions is up to speaker(s) to decide – go solo, pair up or make a roundtable with a group. Make it your own.

There’s a slightly different way of doing things here, as instead of only having folks nominate themselves to present on the day, we’ve got a forum where you can suggest and vote on topics right now.

If you don’t believe that this thing is going to be “the place to be” on the Thursday of IMPACT, here’s what I actually consider the second best part (apart from the conversations with developers themselves): RedMonk. The guys are going to be all over the Unconference, including a keynote by James Governor, and a breakout session with Stephen O’Grady. Listen to @monkchips:

James Governor: Developers should be excited. The pendulum is swinging back… you are the new kingmakers, so what are you going to do about it?

For more on the unconference, you need to be following Ryan Boyles and Kathleen Holm. Oh, and if you’re coming to IMPACT, and you use Twitter, give Lanyrd a try – it’s a great way of sharing what you’re up to.

A Smarter Planet needs lightweight messaging

One of the primary things I’ve been working on this year has been IBM’s new WebSphere MQ Telemetry product. I say “new”, of course, but the underlying technologies – WebSphere MQ itself, and the MQTT protocol which takes the messaging infrastructure down to the edge of the network and into embedded devices – have both been around, and totally solid, for a number of years already, but they have only recently formally been brought together into a single package. MQTT is short for MQ Telemetry Transport, and I wrote about it a couple of months ago in a post where I referred to it as a Smarter Planet protocol.

I’ve done quite a bit of travelling and talking to IBM customers and communities this year, and that’s recently been recognised and formalised into (part of) my new role in Hursley where I’m the WebSphere Messaging Community Lead. What does that mean? Well, the product part is in the first two words – I’m looking at the MQ family of products (something I’ll be writing about a bit more in the near future). The most important part, though is that third word – Community. My primary focus is working with, listening to, and helping to develop the community – and linking that back in to what we do in our labs. Community, for me, means people: developers, administrators, architects, partners, and the overall ecosystem that surrounds WebSphere MQ. We’ve got some great third-party sites out there, some brilliant content that gets published through IBM Redbooks and developerWorks, and our support teams blog about the topic, but we can always do better and I’m looking forward to finding ways of socialising our content and the materials produced by others.

A great first step towards that is our new IBM Expert network on Slideshare, which Adam Christensen wrote about recently, enabling us to share content as IBMers in a more “social” manner. I had a bunch of presentations up there already, but it was high time that I contributed some material more from my specialist technical subject area. I’ve now done so 🙂

This was a quick presentation I gave at an Apache Retreat that was held at IBM Hursley a couple of months ago. It’s a cut-down version of the full talk I’d usually give on the topic, tailored to the audience to keep it relevant to that community rather than diving into the enterprise part of the story and listing out case studies etc.. This is an important point, as the MQTT ecosystem is very much about the developer community and the opportunity to embed a reliable and lightweight messaging protocol into devices like smartphones, sensors, routers and edge-of-network boxes. It’s one of the reasons why IBM has published the specification for royalty-free implementation, and we’re seeing some exciting (and sometimes unexpected!) things happening as folks build their own client APIs. If your application or library is implementing that specification then your devices or applicaitons could, ultimately, bridge up into an Enterprise Service Bus running on the MQ infrastructure, and all the backend power that exists in clouds and enterprise datacentres today can start to do clever things with the data. Predictive analytics, visualisations, better prioritisation of resources… the reliability of transport for the data and the ability to get down to the smallest devices is vital.

[ related aside – shout-out to Nick for the lovely visual on slide 18 of this deck which I failed to credit within the presentation where I originally put it together in a bit of a rush. It’s from his page for the Arduino library for MQTT ]

There’s always more to say in this space, but I hope the presentation provides an overview of how the Smarter Planet story bridges the ideas of Service Oriented Architecture and The Internet of Things, and the part that MQTT plays within that. In the future you can expect to hear me talking more in this space, and I should be giving talks at Home Camp 3 in London in a couple of weeks’ time, as well as at LinuxConf Australia in Brisbane in January. I look forward to meeting more people and discussing the whole messaging story in more detail!

Awards season, and good causes

Awards, part one

I’ve been asked to present an award at the Computer Weekly IT Blog Awards 2010 which IBM is supporting this evening in central London. I speak regularly about my experience of using social tools, particularly blogs, within and outside of a large company, so I’m excited to have been asked to be involved in this event. Now that I’ve looked through the impressive list of nominees I’m clearly put to shame in my own use of the medium. It’s great to see such useful content being generated out there… although my own blogging has tailed off slightly in favour of the instant gratification of microupdates, I’m a strong believer that blogging is not being killed off by Twitter, Facebook at the like, and events like this really emphasise the quality of writing that is out there.

A good cause

One aspect of the IT Blog Awards that I’m particularly impressed and excited by is that they have added a challenge category to encourage charitable giving to a good cause. In this case, they are asking bloggers, twitterers and anyone interested to support Computer Aid International’s Computers for Schools Kenya project.

It costs just £50 to get a refurbished PC onto a Kenyan school desk. There is a chronic shortage of PCs in the Kenyan school system and many Kenyan children complete school never having a seen a PC. Without simple IT literacy these children will be denied basic life chances such as equal access to employment opportunities.

All we are asking you to do is encourage your readers or followers to make a donation by directing them to a JustGiving page, and stating it was your blog or tweet that encouraged them to donate.

The person whose followers fund the most PCs for the project will win a prize and we will also put each blogger’s name on a sticker that we can attach to the PCs they fund.

I want to be absolutely clear that I’m not angling to be part of this award category at all (it’s far too late to garner the kind of support I’d need, anyway!) – but I would very much like to encourage you, my blog readers and followers, to donate to the cause if you are able. As with all of these kinds of things, “every little helps” and I think the cause of computer literacy in less well-off countries is tremendously important and worth supporting. I don’t usually use my blog to suggest causes to support, but on this occasion through my involvement with the Computer Weekly IT Blog Awards I’m doing so (just this once). Thanks!

Awards, part two (and more good causes)

From one set of awards, to another. IBM has been running an event called SmartCamp, a global programme bringing startups and entrepreneurs into contact with investors and mentors, all around the theme of building a Smarter Planet. It has literally just been announced that Streetline have been named the winners, with their innovative systems for bringing real-time parking information to drivers in cities using smart sensors.

IBM helping startups? That seems a little bit unusual, doesn’t it…? Surely IBM is big slow company all about doing “enterprise” software, hardware and consulting?

Not so fast! 🙂 IBM actually has a Global Entrepreneur programme which is all about teaming with entrepreneurs who are interested in developing startups to help build a Smarter Planet. A few weeks ago I had lunch with Kevin Farrar, one of the leaders of the initiative, and he got me really excited about some of the things IBM is doing. We’re able to provide enterprise-grade software free-of-charge, support, mentoring, and (for example) visits to labs with Innovation Centres like IBM Hursley. Check out some of the benefits. I’ve spent the past couple of years working on some extremely exciting Smarter Planet-related technology like MQTT and it’s thrilling to see the ways in which startups can begin to take advantage of IBM’s capabilities in these spaces.

I’d honestly missed some of this stuff – it’s so easy in a large organisation sometimes not to pay attention to everything that’s going on – so I really appreciated that Kevin took the time out to explain it to me. Once again, it changes my own perceptions of the sorts of spaces that IBM is operating in. Do get in touch with the Global Entrepreneur folks if you are interested in applying to work with them.

CityOne takes serious gaming mainstream

One of the topics I’ve been talking about as a sideline at work for several years since the early days of eightbar, and as one of the core topics on the weekly Dogear Nation podcast, is the idea of “serious games”: using gaming technology and immersive environments, combined with the web and emerging tools, to teach business skills and build awareness of social issues. We embraced environments like Second Life and middleware like Unity early on as we recognised their potential to add new dimensions to the learning experience. IBM’s Global Innovation Outlook gaming study was talking about Virtual Worlds, Real Leaders in 2007, and last year we published Lessons from Online Gaming. It has been something of a slow-burner, but it has continued to be an interesting field to watch.

I’m pretty excited to see that today, IBM’s CityOne game has been launched. This is strongly tied in with the Smarter Planet initiative and aims to provide an environment which can teach the player about the challenges faced by cities today, as well as what IBM does, and how technology solutions can be applied to improve energy, finance, retail and water in urban scenarios.

my city - Uberville :-)

my city, "Uberville", in action!

The game is accessible right on the IBM website and despite the “download” links and mentions in other news articles I’ve seen, it needs nothing more than a web browser to play (oh, and Flash – so I won’t be playing it on my iPhone, but then I’m happier seeing the graphics on a larger display!). Works just fine in Chrome on Ubuntu 🙂

The aim is to balance a city’s resources and the happiness of the citizens, whilst attempting to triage problems and provide longer-term solutions through technology. I’ve had a brief play and found it really easy to get started, but within a few turns things start to get more tricky as funds may run lower. I liked the music, which was ambient enough not to be too annoying, and I also liked the way in which the image of the city gains colour as various tasks are completed – you’ll see the watercolour-ish appearance in the screenshot from my game, above. Another thing that the game has is an achievements system with badges that can be earned as aspects of the city’s environment are brought under control – this means it instantly feels familiar to gamers used to these kind of rewards systems, and constantly draws you in for another turn to see what you can unlock next time around.

This isn’t the first such serious game that IBM has produced, of course – INNOV8 and INNOV8 2.0 have been successful over the past couple of years in teaching the principles of Business Process Management. However, CityOne does a nice job of connecting technology with an environment (a city) that many of us will be more than familiar with, and making the ideas inherent in a Smarter Planet become apparent. Well done to my friend Phaedra Boinidiris and her great team for creating another compelling experience.