Crowd-Sourcing the Internet of Things (Data Driven Digest for January 19, 2016)

The Internet of Things is getting a lot of press these days. The potential use cases are endless, as colleague Noelia Llorente has pointed out:

Refrigerators that keep track of the food inside and order more milk or lettuce whenever you’re running low. Mirrors that can determine if you have symptoms of illness and make health recommendations for you. Automated plantations, smart city lighting, autonomous cars that pick you up anywhere in the city…

So in this week’s Data Driven Digest, we’re looking at real-world instances of the Internet of Things that do a good job of sharing and visualizing data. As always, we welcome your comments and suggestions for topics in the field of data visualization and analysis.  Enjoy!

The Journey of a Million Miles Starts with a Single Step

Fitness tracking has long been a popular use for the Internet of Things. Your correspondent was an early adopter, having bought Nike+ running shoes, with a special pocket for a small Internet-enabled sensor, back in 2007.  (Nike+ is now an app using customers’ smartphones, smart watches, and so forth as trackers.)

These sensors track where you go and how fast, and your runs can be uploaded and displayed on the Nike+ online forum, along with user-generated commentary – “trash talk” to motivate your running buddies, describing and rating routes, and so forth.

Nike is hardly the only online run-sharing provider, but its site is popular enough to have generated years of activity patterns by millions of users worldwide. Here’s one example, a heat map of workouts in the beautiful waterfront parks near San Francisco’s upscale Presidio and Marina neighborhoods.  (You can see which streets are most popular – and, probably, which corners have the best coffeehouses…)

Running trails around Crissy Field, San Francisco
Map courtesy of

The Air That I Breathe

Running makes people more aware of the quality of the air that they breathe., an “environmental justice” nonprofit in Brooklyn, N.Y., is trying to make people more conscious of the invisible problem of air pollution through palm-sized sensors called AirBeams.

These handheld sensors can measure levels of microparticulate pollution, ozone, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen dioxide (which can be blamed for everything from asthma to heart disease and lung cancer) as well as temperature, humidity, ambient noise, and other conditions.

So far so good – buy an AirBeam for $250 and get a personal air-quality meter, whose findings may surprise you. (For example, cooking on a range that doesn’t have an effective air vent subjects you to more grease, soot, and other pollution than the worst smog day in Beijing.)

But the Internet of Things is what really makes the device valuable. Just like with the Nike+ activity trackers, AirBeam users upload their sensor data to create collaborative maps of air quality in their neighborhoods.

Here, a user demonstrates how his bicycle commute across the Manhattan Bridge subjects him to a lot of truck exhaust and other pollution – a peak of about 80 micrograms of particulate per cubic meter (µg/m3), over twice the Environmental Protection Agency’s 24-hour limit of 35 µg/m3.

Screenshot of, courtesy of GigaOm
Screenshot of, courtesy of GigaOm

And here’s a realtime aggregation of hundreds of users’ data about the air quality over Manhattan and Brooklyn.  (Curiously, some of the worst air quality is over the Ozone Park neighborhood…)

Screenshot from
Screenshot from

Clearly, the network effect applies with these and many other crowd-sourced Internet of Things applications – the more data points users are willing to share, the more valuable the overall solution becomes.

OpenText Named a Leader in the Internet of Things

Speaking of sharing data points, OpenText was honored recently in the area of Internet of Things by Dresner Advisory Services, a leading analyst firm in the field of business intelligence, with its first-ever Technical Innovation Awards.

You can view an infographic on Dresner’s Wisdom of Crowds research.

Stannie Holt

Stannie Holt is a Marketing Content Writer at OpenText. She has over 20 years' experience as a journalist, market research analyst, and content marketing expert in the fields of enterprise business software, machine learning, e-discovery, and analytics.

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