Ideas that strain the imagination about the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) have intrigued the public mind for years: the refrigerator, for example, that orders its own foodstuffs when supplies are low, or the tablet computer that offers recipes for leftovers. ‘The smartphone with its networking capacities is only scratching the surface here, says Thomas Kubitza, a doctoral candidate at the University of Stuttgart’s Institute for Visualization and Interactive Systems (VIS). ‘Our vision is to have hundreds of networked devices around us, each with its own individual abilities. If we can combine them, it will open up completely new vistas for organizing our daily life.’
Shortend the time of development
Up to now, developers have needed weeks to teach different items of technical equipment to communicate with one another. That has impelled Kubitza and his group during the last three years to concentrate on developing their ‘meSchup’ platform, that can bring such devices into line with each other in only minutes. The respective software is located in a housing that is only a little larger than a carbonated beverage can. But once it is connected to an electric power source, it becomes a hub that uses its own standard radio and cable connections to create its own WLAN and needs only an Internet browser to access the user interface.
Four Master’s Degree dissertations and a load of ideas
All of this, however, is only window dressing. In practice, the system knows practically no limits in carrying out a complex networking of things. What makes it different from today’s typical IoT applications is that the software need be entered only once into ‘meSchup’ for each type of device. That represents an enormous relief from stress in using IoT networks in the offi ce and industry or just simply at home, since it is unnecessary to re-adjust the unit every time a change is made on location. And when a user connects the hub to an existing network, it automatically makes use of that network’s infrastructure.
‘meSchup’ is the brainchild not only of Kubitza, but also of four Master’s Degree dissertations. A large community of student helpers also assisted in the creation of this platform - like Norman Pohl, a colleague who helped to develop the mobile sensor hardware. Kubitza’s own dissertation took up the question of how end users who have little or no programming experience can install IoT applications on their own. Even though still young as a VIS-researcher, Kubitza has been in charge of the Stuttgart contribution to the EU project ‘Material EncounterS with Digital Cultural Heritage’ (meSch) since 2013. He originally followed his thesis advisor, Institute Director Prof. Albrecht Schmidt, from the University of Duisburg-Essen to Stuttgart, the State Capital of Baden-Württemberg, after the completion of his Master’s Degree program.
For its part, ‘meSch’ was a joint project in which scientifi c research institutes and museums from six European countries developed interactive techniques for exhibitions. VIS was commissioned to provide both the software and hardware for this. ‘meSchup’ then proceeded to demonstrate its usefulness in everyday life at ‘Museon’, the popular science museum in Den Haag: at the Atlantic Wall exhibit there, visitors were able to select their own perspective on a ‘smart’ object, that is, one with digital technology, and then start their own individual interactive viewing programs.