The Internet of Things and the issues of IP rights (Part 2)

Introduction

As was discussed in Part 1 of this article, "The Internet of Things" describes the growing number of everyday objects that have been embedded with unique identifiers and technology that enables them to sense and communicate. Power-efficient chips, manufactured by companies like Intel, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments, are making it cheaper than ever for these objects to connect to the Internet. And thanks to the latest version of Internet Protocol (IP), IPv6, it is now possible for each of these things to obtain its own IP address. Thus, the Internet of Things essentially represents a union of wireless technologies, the internet and micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) - such as those developed by Bosch.

Many of these innovations are proving to be of great benefit, not the least of which is the average smartphone, which can be equipped with multiple sensors, including a GPS, an accelerometer or an altimeter. More importantly, smartphones can be loaded with apps that enable them serve as a wireless hub or a remote control for other "connected" objects. However, visionaries believe that the Internet of Things will progress beyond individual "smart" gadgets to become broad-based systems of interconnected people, places and products. And the city that is most likely to be the first to make such a vision a reality is the Songdo International Business District.

A model for the Internet of Things to come

Songdo is a $35 billion real-estate venture that is being built from scratch on 1,500 acres of reclaimed land along the Yellow Sea in Incheon, South Korea. Spearheaded by New York-based development company Gale International, Songdo is one of the largest public/private real estate ventures in the world. When this project is completed in 2018-2020, it will boast 40 million square feet of office space, 35 million square feet of residential space, 10 million square feet of public space, 10 million square feet of retail space and five million square feet of hospitality space. It will be home to 65,000 residents, and 300,000 people will commute in daily. Already, more than 32,000 people call Songdo their home.

Songdo's master plan draws on some of the world's greatest architectural elements, including New York City's Central Park, and the canals of Venice. It is also a model for sustainable city-scale development, with more than 13.7 million square feet of LEED-certified space, including the first LEED-certified convention center (called Convensia) in Asia and the first LEED-certified residential tower in Korea. Rain and wastewater are collected for irrigation and use in cooling towers, and trash is sucked directly from residences into a network of underground pneumatic pipes.

Songdo's most distinctive characteristic, however, is the fact that wireless technologies are part of this city's DNA. A fiber-optic broadband infrastructure covers virtually every square inch of real estate, linking all of Songdo's social and information systems. Integrated and immersive technologies are provided to all of Songdo's residences, offices, schools, hospitals and retail locations. And the fact that companies like Cisco, 3M, LG and other major corporations have been cooperating to bring this project to life demonstrates that competing firms can work together toward a common goal. But it is one thing to develop a smart city from scratch, it is quite another to transform a major metropolis into a unified, interconnected system.

The challenges that lie ahead

For the Internet of Things to be integrated into a densely populated borough like Manhattan, or a sprawling municipality like Los Angeles, a complex technical architecture must be built that allows for universal wireless connectivity and the ability to process information streaming from a multitude of sources - including millions of sensors and connected devices located throughout the city. Protocols that can manage vast amounts of competing data will also be needed. This level of electronic interactivity will require the standardization of the system's technology.