Watch the video of Tim O'Reilly, founder and CEO of O'Reilly Media, and Jim Stogdill, who leads O'Reilly Solid discuss the current state of the convergence of hardware + software—what this means beyond the Internet of Things, the promises and pitfalls, and a vision for the future.
A few years ago at OSCON one of the tutorials demonstrated how to click a virtual light switch in Second Life and have a real desk lamp light up in the room. Looking back it was rather trivial, but it was striking at the time to see software people taking an interest in the "real world." And what better metaphor for the collision of virtual and real than a connection between Second Life and the Portland Convention Center?
In December 2012 our Radar team was meeting in Sebastopol and we were talking about trends in robotics, Maker DIY, Internet of Things, wearables, smart grid, industrial internet, advanced manufacturing, frictionless supply chain and etc. We were trying to figure out where to put our focus among all of these trends when suddenly it was obvious (at least to Mike Loukides, who pointed it out). They are all more alike than different, and we could focus on all of them by looking at the relationships among them. The Solid program was conceived that day. Read more
Physical things—machines, devices, components—are about to experience a profound transformation. The Internet fundamentally changed how software is developed and deployed, and now hardware is on the brink of a similar disruption. Consumers, already carrying smart phones and driving cars that park themselves, have come to demand more from their objects than ever before. They expect their belongings to “know” them, to interact with them, and to adapt to their needs. Industry is realizing that smart, networked machines can bring them the efficiencies and new capabilities to do more, faster and cheaper. Devices from thermostats to jet engines that were once strictly mechanical are now seamless blends of hardware and software—packages of microcontrollers, sensors, and, above all, networked software that can ingest lots of data, understand context, and make intelligent decisions. Hardware and software are fusing into a single fluid entity.
This collision of software and hardware is fueling the creation of a software-enhanced, networked physical world.
The impact of this phenomenon goes far beyond the development of intelligent new consumer products. A few of the changes this new world will entail:
Manufacturing made frictionless. 3D printers, developer boards like Arduino and Raspberry Pi, advanced sensors, and crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter have lowered the barrier of entry to manufacturing. New manufacturing-as-a-service frameworks make factory work fast and capital-light. Development costs are plunging, and it’s becoming easier to serve niches with specialized hardware that’s designed for a single purpose.
APIs for the physical world. The characteristics that make the Web accessible and robust—abstraction, modularity, and loosely-coupled services—are coming to the physical world. Open source libraries for sensors and microcontrollers are bringing easy-to-use and easy-to-integrate software interfaces to everything from weather stations to cars.
Software intelligence above the level of a single machine. Machine learning and data-driven optimization have revolutionized the way companies work with the Web, but the kind of sophisticated knowledge that Amazon and Netflix have accumulated has been elusive in the offline world. We can now gather data through networked sensors and exert real-time control to optimize complicated systems. Many of the machines around us can become more efficient simply through intelligent control: a furnace saves oil when software, aware that the homeowners are away, turns down the thermostat; a car saves gas when Google Maps, polling its users’ smartphones, discovers a traffic jam and suggests an alternative route.
Every company is a software company. As physical assets take on software interfaces, operating them will increasingly become a software undertaking. A software startup with promising technology might just as easily be bought by a big industrial company as by a Silicon Valley software firm. This new world creates significant impacts on organizations, cultures, and competency requirements.
Data-driven things as a service. Anything from an Uber car to a railroad locomotive can be sold as a service, provided that it’s adequately instrumented and dispatched by intelligent software. Good data from the physical world brings about efficient markets, makes cheating difficult, and improves quality of service. And it will revolutionize business models in every industry as service contracts replace straightforward equipment sales. Instead of owning an air conditioner and buying electricity from a utility to run it, a homeowner might let the utility own the air conditioner and just buy a contract to keep her house at 72°, giving the utility an incentive to invest in more efficient equipment, while creating economies of scale.
Designing the post-screen world. Until a few years ago, we interacted with computers largely through keyboards and monitors. The software interface is now a dispersed collection of conventional computers, mobile phones, embedded sensors, and networked microcontrollers. Computing happens everywhere, with data flowing in through multiple inputs outside of human awareness and ambient software intuiting our preferences.
What’s it called? You’ve heard these ideas bubbling up among innovators and alpha geeks under a myriad of tags: the Internet of Things, the Programmable World, the Industrial Internet, Maker-Pro, generative things, or the integration of software and machines (to name just a few). These are not a mish-mash of ideas--they are different perspectives of the same exciting evolution: a perfect storm of opportunity for intelligent things. But none of these phrases fully captures the depth and breadth of this disruption. Attend Solid and help us explore—and maybe name—this place where software and the physical world collide.
The inaugural O’Reilly Solid Conference is where the new multi-disciplinary community forming around the convergence of software and hardware—engineers, researchers, roboticists, artists, founders of startups, and innovators—will gather to explore what lies ahead as software increasingly interacts with the physical world. This includes:
This isn't your typical industry, and Solid is not your typical conference. For one thing, it won't be taking place in a typical conference venue, it'll be at Fort Mason—a unique art, performance, and meeting space on San Francisco's waterfront.
And you won't be spending all of your time listening to speaker after speaker after speaker. Solid will be two jam-packed days of intense conversation, interactive experiences, thought-provoking presentations and demos, and plenty of networking opportunities.