UK tech consortium delivers HyperCat – a new way for machines to work together.
A consortium of more than 40 UK-based technology companies funded by the UK’s innovation agency, Technology Strategy Board, has delivered on the first phase of its initiative to accelerate the widespread move to the Internet of Things (IoT). HyperCat is a new open IoT specification that allows machines to work together over the Internet and for applications to discover and make sense of data automatically without human intervention.
In just 12 months and with £6.4 million funding from the Technology Strategy Board, development teams from major companies including ARM, BT and IBM have worked alongside UK start-ups and UK University Departments to break down vertical data silos and find a foundation for connected products and applications to interoperate.
The HyperCat specification is an extremely simple yet powerful, thin interoperability layer for the IoT, which allows applications to explore what data and resources are available on a specific data hub, or search for particular types of resource across the Internet. For example, if an application only understands temperature measurements, HyperCat provide a means to search for and discover this type of data – buried amongst other data that the application may not understand.
“HyperCat has been designed to move us from the Internet of Silos to the Internet of Things,” explains Pilgrim Beart, CEO of IoT start-up 1248.
“Previously, applications were vertically-integrated, working only with specific services, which confines data to narrow vertical silos. HyperCat enables apps to discover data across all services, freeing machines from the human programmer bottleneck and allowing a many-to-many relationship to develop, which is the key to IoT.”
“The forces for the modularisation of IoT are creating a ground swell that will bring radical changes to the computer industry”, said Justin Anderson, CEO and Founder of IoT company Flexeye. “As new entrants to the IoT market strive to deliver revolutionary solutions at an extraordinary pace, HyperCat will help ensure that these players can securely speak a common language. I’m confident that the Technology Strategy Board’s investment in this interoperability initiative has helped put the UK in a global leadership position and will in turn support the UK economy by creating new jobs and attracting foreign investment to our shores.”
“We are using HyperCat at our Cambridge headquarters to share data such as office occupancy, energy use and even car park lighting between different applications,” said Amyas Phillips, IoT Research Entrepreneur at ARM. “By linking our infrastructure in real-time we are reducing our energy costs and generating other information including external temperature data that others can use. This is a research project but it has proven tangible benefits that consumers and Enterprises can gain from a more connected world.”
“While there is still the need for applications and services to agree on standard ways to describe data – so called ontologies – HyperCat offers a common approach to describing the information held on data hubs, thereby allowing people to find data relevant to their specific needs more quickly and easily. This will drive commercial use of the hubs and lowers the barrier to participation, particularly for SMEs,” added John Davies, Head of Semantic Technology at BT.
“We’ve been able to create whole new applications very quickly,” commented Andy Stanford-Clark, Master Inventor at IBM UK. “For example, we can take illumination data from streetlights belonging to another project cluster and display it on our own application. Being able to explore the HyperCat metadata in human and machine readable formats makes it easy to mash-up new applications.”
“Over the past few years the Technology Strategy Board has brought people together in workshops and competitions to work out what the barriers to IoT really are, which proved an excellent foundation for this work,” said Andrew Tyrer, Digital Lead Specialist at the Technology Strategy Board. “We’re delighted that so many companies managed to co-operate so successfully and are excited by the potential for HyperCat in the future to put the UK at the forefront of IoT development and deployment.”
The Eight Technology Strategy Board Clusters
The Technology Strategy Board project involved large brand names, IoT start-ups and Universities. They formed into eight clusters, each focussed on a particular application. Each cluster used the HyperCat specification to create interoperability within their cluster and then between clusters:
- Distance (Internet of Schools Things) includes: ScienceScope, Intel, Xively, Explorer HQ, Stakeholder Design, University of Birmingham’s Urban Climate Laboratory, UCL Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, and The Open University Department of Computing
- EyeHub includes: Flexeye, Open Data Institute, Surrey University, IBM UK, Guildford Borough Council
- IoT-Bay (an Interoperability Hub for IoT Services) includes: SH&BA, EDF Energy, IBM UK, Westminster City Council, BRE and University of Bristol
- i-MOVE (Internet of Moving Objects and Vehicles Ecosystem) includes: Aimes Grid Services, BT, Traak, Avanti, Placr, Merseyside Transport
- International Airport includes: LivingPlanIT, London City Airport, Milligan Retail, Critical Software, AppSherpas, HWC, CrowdVision, and ECM
- OpenIoT includes: 1248.io, ARM, AlertMe, Enlight, Intellisense.io and Badger Pass
- Smart Streets includes:InTouch, Carillion, BalfourBeatty, Amey, Lancaster University
- Stride (Smart Transport IoT Data Ecosystem) includes: BT, Aimes, Ctrl-Shift, University of Cambridge, Dartt Ltd