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IoT @ UoT – How the University of Toronto is the gem in Canada’s tech innovation crown

The-Internet-of-Things-Infographic-512x315Like most of the tech world I recently shifted my core focus to be headlined around the Next Big Thing, the “IoT” – Internet of Things.

Why? For the same reasons I specialized in Cloud, and before that SaaS and before that ASPs and web hosting. Ie. a continuing evolution of the original ‘Network is the Computer’ vision of Sun Microsystems – All technology becoming a network-based utility, rather than a buy, build and install model.

Since then the volume of devices, information flows and bandwidth has exploded exponentially, but the principles of distributed computing are still if not more valid, and we’ll see continued innovation and opportunities in areas like distributed operating systems and app development platforms for those scenarios.

hal-ai3The Smart Wave

Furthermore we’ll see the ‘Smart Wave’ drive a focus on the use of AI as part of these IoT networks.

The Internet and mobile revolutions have delivered the ubiquitous, high-speed networks and ‘smart’ devices, however really we can still look on this stage being one of a ‘complex interface to a simple network’ – The apps we have to use for online shopping or e-banking are all still fairly crude.

It is impressive that we can access them remotely while walking down the high street sure, but still the app mode itself is still kinda “clunky”. This will smooth out as we evolve to a scenario of ‘simple interfaces to a complex network’. The interface will become simpler as you can interact with ‘smart agents’ rather than type it all in yourself, and the network will become smarter as these agents inter-operate, to book your travel, car insurance, … etc.

For some context check out this article I wrote, just over ten years ago now, where I suggest the ongoing evolution of the Cloud will lead to the emergence of the technological Singularity, the single ‘root intelligence’ of this overall system.

Given Google employed the man in question to work on it, not necessarily as sci-fi as you might think, and in more immediate terms offers a tremendously powerful metaphor for addressing what are still the most common issues in software design today: Poor business process integration due to a lack of adaptive smarts.

In the article I talked about how XML Web services will be enhanced through AI capability, enabling them to become more dynamic and better able to integrate across domains.

In general we are seeing the start of the “Smart Wave”, the industry cycle that is focused on bringing to market the technologies that will drive this particular trend.

smartweek2SmartWeek 2014 – IoT Showcase week at the University of Toronto

With this in mind and as per the article title one of our goals of this focus is to showcase the University of Toronto.

Like the Ryerson example one simple but key goal of this web site is to act as a “showcase directory”, to internationally publicize the world-class innovations occurring relevant to Canada’s tech commercialization goals and challenges.

Furthermore with the UoT we are going much further, to include co-development and promotion of the first ‘IoT Smart Week‘ event – A week long format of workshops, seminars, hackathons (hackathings!) and so on.

This will be headlined by a symposium at the uber cool Bahen Centre, and for a quick introduction to and general flavour of the calibre and depth of what the UoT brings to the potential role Canada could play in this global phenomenon here is the start of what will be an ongoing ‘IoT @ UoT’ showcase blog series, introducing some of the key research individuals in this field:

Geoffrey Hinton

Geoffrey Hinton is a Distinguished Professor at the Computer Science department, and recently started a new AI company incubated at the university that was acquired before even leaving this first phase.

As the university press team explain here, Hinton was recently covered in Wired magazine as part of profiling this trend.

Steve Mann

If you over-simplify the IoT to two main moving parts: Smart devices aka ‘Wearable Computing’ and then AI, for the smart network that connects them to other users and services, then it’s an extremely potent combination that a companion to Geoffrey in this showcase is Steve Mann, who has an equally powerful resume in this other half of the equation – Read more here on Wikipedia on how Steve has been pioneering Wearable Computing innovations for many years now.

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