The sensor cloud comes home

We thought the advent of smart power meters would be the killer app for building the sensor cloud in the home.  But, this week Honeywell announced a new smart thermostat that attaches to the Internet and uses Opower’s cloud service to record and analyze home heating and cooling demand.  Looks to be an even better bet.

9/11 Memorial renderings, aerial view (c) 9/11 (from their website)
9/11 Memorial renderings, aerial view (c) 9/11 (from their website)

Just this past week, on a NPR NOVA telecast: Engineering Ground Zero on building the 9/11 memorial in NYC, it was mentioned that all the trees planted in the memorial had individual sensors to measure soil chemistry, dampness, and other tree health indicators. Yes, even trees are getting on the sensor cloud.

And of course the buildings going up at Ground Zero are all smart buildings as well, containing sensors embedded in the structure, the infrastructure, and anywhere else that matters.

But what does this mean in terms of data

Data requirements will explode as the smart home and other sensor clouds build out.  For example, even if a smart thermostat only issues a message every 15 minutes and the message is only 256 bytes, the data from the 130 million households in the US alone would be an additional ~3.2TB/day.  And that’s just one sensor per household.

If you add the smart power meter, lawn sensor, intrusion/fire/chemical sensor, and god forbid, the refrigerator and freezer product sensors to the mix that’s another another 16TB/day of incoming data.

And that’s just assuming a 256 byte payload per sensor every 15 minutes.  The intrusion sensors could easily be a combination of multiple, real time exterior video feeds as well as multi-point intrusion/motion/fire/chemical sensors which would generate much, much more data.

But we have smart roads/bridges, smart cars/trucks, smart skyscrapers, smart port facilities, smart railroads, smart boats/ferries, etc. to come.   I could go on but the list seems long enouch already.  Each of these could generate another ~19TB/day data stream, if not more.  Some of these infrastructure entities/devices are much more complex than a house and there are a lot more cars on the road than houses in the US.

It’s great to be in the (cloud) storage business

All that data has to be stored somewhere and that place is going to be the cloud.  The Honeywell smart thermostat uses Opower’s cloud storage and computing infrastructure specifically designed to support better power management for heating and cooling the home.  Following this approach, it’s certainly feasible that more cloud services would come online to support each of the smart entities discussed above.

Naturally, using this data to provide real time understanding of the infrastructure they monitor will require big data analytics. Hadoop, and it’s counterparts are the only platforms around today that are up to this task.


So cloud computing, cloud storage, and big data analytics have yet another part to play. This time in the upcoming sensor cloud that will envelope the world and all of it’s infrastructure.

Welcome to the future, it’s almost here already.