Our Research

Speaker: Gilles Privat, senior research scientist at Orange Labs, Meylan, France


The transformative novelty of the Internet of Things has, for all the hype that surrounds it, been widely misunderstood and clouded by a surfeit of ill-informed interpretations, whether blinkered or catch-all. We try to bring out its distinctive underpinnings and broader scientific relevance as a mapping between physical environments and graph-based informational representations.

The first key idea is to abstract away the constraints, protocols and identifiers originating from network connectivity, placing IoT representations on a plane where relationships between IoT "things" become independent of underlying networks (of the radio/fibre/cable kind) and their protocols of whatever layer. From this viewpoint, things need not even be connected through a network to get integrated in the Web of Things (WoT), defined as a directed graph, extending and overlaying the internet of devices (i.e. networked transducers), down to which it gets all too often demoted. This quantitatively (~trillion-nodes!) and qualitatively different Web of Things may draw inspiration from social networks, which have also abstracted away the networks which they distantly rely upon. From there upwards, the social web has become the graph par excellence, the crucible of graph-based information systems and a potential inspiration for the architecture of an overarching Web of Things platform.

Yet the Web of Things is, for all intents and purposes, a much bolder proposition than the social web, if only because "things" are so widely different in nature, capabilities and reach. Providing the interoperable representations and platforms that may support information mediation for WoT applications across the board requires a huge leap from the current situation of watertight silos and stovepipe applications that dominate the IoT landscape. Just categorizing "things" properly, across all relevant application domains, independently of their legacy identifiers, is a momentous undertaking... The original web and its expansion towards a knowledge graph and "linked open data" point in a direction whereby a proper semantics of things may emerge from the structure of the graphs they make up, as it gets integrated into the "Giant-Global-Graph" envisioned by Tim Berners-Lee.