Microsoft has a new platform that can collect data from connected devices in homes for research and analysis.
The new platform, Lab of Things (LoT), can be used to collect data from a device such as a camera or temperature monitor, upload the data to the cloud, then gather that data alongside similar data from many other remote sites for analysis.
The information is collected using Microsoft’s HomeOS. This is Microsoft Research’s home automation operating system. It lets you connect hardware such as lights and surveillance cameras as well as more traditional hardware such as TVs, printers, PCs and routers to the HomeOS network. When you look at HomeOS, the connected devices show up as though they are peripherals connected to a single PC. You’re not limited to traditional devices; anything that collects data can be connected using the new platform thanks to the ability to write your own drivers for it.
So far, the HomeOS prototype has been available for non-commercial use to academic institutions, and Microsoft researchers have been testing it in selected homes.
The new LoT platform was released in beta at Microsoft Research’s Faculty Summit. The intention for LoT is that you’ll run a HomeOS machine as a HomeHub. This collects the data, which is then uploaded to Windows Azure where it is available for analysis. The main intended audience is researchers who want to be able to monitor and update test results on remote devices.
In a blog post about the new platform, the Research Connections Team says:
The LoT also comes with a set of cloud services that support deployment of experiments at scale. One of the services is the LoT monitoring portal, which provides near real-time status of all the sites in your study. The update service allows you to configure your experiments so that you receive all of your field-study data in one convenient location in the cloud. It also facilitates on-the-fly updates to experiments, drivers, and any other component of the infrastructure, without your having to visit the site physically.
As you can tell from the video, LoT seems to be aimed at researchers working with human subjects, but it looks an interesting option for more everyday use. The ??Getting Started document says:
Lab of Things provides a common framework to write applications and has a set of capabilities beneficial to field deployments including logging application data from houses in cloud storage, remote monitoring of system health, and remote updating of applications if needed (e.g. to change to a new phase of the study by enabling new software, or to fix bugs).
One nice aspect is its open-driver model so if you need to connect a device that isn’t supported, you can write a driver to connect the device. It’s also possible to share new drivers with the research community.