Building Blocks for a Participatory Web of Things: Devices, Infrastructures, and Programming Frameworks

Folks, I (Dom as well) *finally* submitted the final version of my PhD thesis last friday to ETH Zurich, so I can now be officially called Dr. Vlad Trifa. You can download the final version here (16MB, 190 pages). Feedback is welcome, typos less (freshly submitted so give a little time to worry less!

Here’s an excerpt from the abstract:

Our research bridges the fields of Web technologies and embedded sensing into a unified vision called the \emph{Web of Things} — where the Web’s well-known standards and tools are leveraged to seamlessly blend NEDs (Networked Embedded Devices) with the existing Web infrastructure. By drawing upon tools and techniques from both domains, we define the fundamental building blocks of the Web of Things as an extension of the current Web paradigms. After evaluating the limitations of current Web technologies with respect to the requirements of NED applications, we propose practical solutions to alleviate these difficulties to enable the development of efficient, event-driven, and scalable DSAs (Distributed Sensing Applications). Finally, we propose an end-to-end, fully Web-based framework that fosters fast prototyping of distributed sensing applications that run on top of heterogeneous NEDs.

In contrast to existing research in sensor networks, the central question explored in this thesis is how much of the existing Web infrastructure can be reused to accommodate embedded devices. We further examine the common belief that Web standards are inappropriate for building efficient DSAs. Experimental results and prototypes are provided to support the hypothesis that using Web standards for NEDs is possible. Our results further show that the Web is not only a suitable, but actually a desirable medium to build distributed sensing applications that match the requirements for future large-scale sensing systems.

We provide a comprehensive — conceptual and empirical — investigation of the usage of Web standards to exchange information with embedded devices, and the contributions of our work are multiple. First, our results are relevant to the sensor network and pervasive computing communities, as they support the hypothesis that the existing Web ecosystem is sufficient \textit{as is} to build a new generation of scalable and flexible participatory applications on top of heterogeneous NEDs. Second, the Web community at large can build upon our set of guidelines to push the Web into the physical world by integrating devices in the Web fabric, thus making the idea of a Web API for the real world realistic. Third, we explore the practical usage of Web technologies in various contexts, from smart spaces to smart cities, and show that a fully Web-based infrastructure is an excellent basis to build an ecosystem of reconfigurable cyber-physical systems. Finally, we hope the work presented here will serve as inspiration for future Web developers and sensor network researchers. Bridging the gap between these two worlds will very likely shed light upon an unexplored design space to create more potent solutions for important societal problems, from energy-efficient buildings, to catastrophe detection and response systems, to more livable and enjoyable cities.

And here are the slides that I used for my final defense:

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions, remarks, etc. Looking forward to your feedback!

Vlad Trifa

  • Enrico Costanza

    Well done Dr Trifa!!