• Internet of Things

last modified July 6, 2014 by tomlowenhaupt

New York should have an Internet domain name for every object in the public sphere: every billboard, building, buss, buss schedule, database, fire hydrant, park, street, tree... Here we focus on how the .nyc TLD can facilitate the identification, networking, and development of a City of Things. 

My Friend GreenE


City Things

What types of 'things' promise positive impacts on the public interest and warrant reserved domain names?

The following suggested 'things' are mostly located in public space, but some are private resources that directly impact the public sphere, e.g., toilets and sinks.

  • ambulances
  • basketball courts
  • benches
  • billboards
  • blocks
  • buildings (with access information for the disabled)
  • buses
  • bus routes
  • bus stops
  • cars 
  • cemeteries
  • CSOs / combined sewer overflows
  • data­bases
  • dropcurbs
  • fire alarm boxes
  • fire hydrants
  • fire trucks 
  • litter baskets
  • mailboxes
  • monuments
  • parking meters
  • parks
  • police cars
  • sewers
  • sinks
  • street lights
  • street signs
  • streets
  • taxis­
  • tennis courts
  • track
  • traffic lights 
  • traffic signs
  • ­toilets
  • ­trees
  • treebeds
  • utility holes
  • utility poles
  • vacant lots­
  • voters
  • zoos
The Flushing Community


 See the impact a single second level domain name, toilets.nyc, can have on our city - The Flushing Community.

The ­City of Things
and Universal Tagging


(From the CnI Collection. See detail view)  

Internet of Things Bill of Rights
  1. People own the data they (or their “things”) create.
  2. People own the data someone else creates about them.
  3. People have the right to access data gathered from public space.  
  4. People have the right to access their data in full resolution in real-time.
  5. People have the right to access their data in a standard format.
  6. People have the right to delete or backup their data.
  7. People have the right to use and share their data however they want.
  8. People have the right to keep their data private.

  More on IoT governance.

Internet of Things Events











































Digital Things

To get a handle on the variety of things that might benefit from having a domain name, let's look at one category of things, databases, and see how assigning a domain name changes them. So think of a database as a thing, similar to a bench, a tree, a light post, or fire hydrant. And imagine giving that database a domain name, let's use the police department's crimes database as our example, and let's follow Mayor Bloomberg's lead and name the database crimes.data.nyc.

The great advantage of giving a domain ­name to each database (or thing) is that you essentially breathe life into it. Then you can have a public conversation about that thing and even create a marketplace for it.

So think about the mayor's crimes.data.nyc­­ (or http://crimes.data.nyc) page, there you might expect to find URIs to: ­

    • a detailed description of the content and format of the crimes data,
    • a link to download the raw data,
    • a conversation of how it might be used if only this or that was changed or added,
    • comments and a discussion by people who object to it containing too much info,
    • a suggestion about fields that should require privacy access­,

    • notations as to the different apps in which the data has been used,
    • a civic advocate / entrepreneur / web developer matching program for locating people with  a desire to jointly develop apps based on the crimes.data.nyc ­data set, and

    • heck, you can even empower the page to participate in the conversation (RSS-like ) letting you know about changes.
And by giving the database a human readable intuitive name, you gain points with pro­grammers who can more easily use it in creating applications. 

The Inanimate

Today, trees, benches, fire hydrants, light posts, parking meters, and databases are not tightly linked into the Internet. But the future holds for a much closer relationship between human and and things. Here's a story about a relationship  between a Jackson Heights resident and a 'future friend,' GreenE, pictured at right.

GreenE is the post office storage box in front of 35-35 75th Street in Jackson Heights. Due to the graffiti coat he frequently wears, neighbors have had a difficult time with him over the years. With .nyc's arrival, there's reason to hope for improved relations between the human and the inanimate through the creation of a civic Internet of Things. Local residents are looking forward to an improved relationship with GreenE as life is breathed into him via his domain name and webpage. Here's a story about a human-thing relationship a year after GreenE's anticipated digital "birth" - perhaps in 2014.

My Friend GreenE#1

(  ...a developing friendship...  )

Meet GreenE, a very spimey fellow. And a very proud one also: He traces his lineage to 1775 and Ben Franklyn. His full name is GreenE#1.POB.nyc. Joseph, a nearby resident of Jackson Heights, got to name him as part of the adoption process.

What he liked first about the new, more lively GreenE#1 was the way his digital existence helped the local graffiti-killers group keep him clean. They linked to GreenE#1's webpage with its periodic photo, courtesy of the adjacent building's security camera, and are now able to readily identify when his coat needs cleaning and to coordinate the change, sometimes before anyone takes note. It's said the local taggers haven't even bothered him in months.

What Joseph has found interesting is that just by knowing GreenE#1's name, he's been empowered to do a bunch of new things locally. Here are the ways:

­ ­­­­GreenE#1 helps me in many ways...

He's part of the POB.nyc family of names.

 To learn about mail pickup times.
 Connect with the Post Office about the box, to complain, commend, etc.
 Learn about a nearby address
  Learn what it is made of and how to process it at its end of life. Recycle.GreenE#1.POB.nyc
 Get a physical description
 Find about when he arrived, was last painted...
 Meet other people who are POBox keepers.
 Learn if people get mugged or killed near it. How may? When?
 Arrange to meet people near it.
 Learn the last time the box last painted by the Post office.
 Learn of others who met their wives near this mailbox.
  I point my movie buff friends to his 'shot-nearby' database.
 Find details about GreenE's manufacturer.
 Learn about the designer of GreenE and of aternate designs.
 What did this box cost?
 Who lived near-by?
 What materials am I made of? (a spimey question)

By giving names and URIs to POBs (and other city things), people will be able to adopt a POB (or a street light post, public bench, or monument) in their  neighborhood and bind socially with that small part of the city- keep it clean, or maybe just add to it's digital archive.


In computing, the Internet of Things refers to a, usually wireless and self-configuring, wireless network between objects, such as household appliance...

The idea is as simple as its application is difficult. If all cans, books, shoes or parts of cars are equipped with minuscule identifying devices, daily life on our planet will undergo a transformation. Things like running out of stock or wasted products will no longer exist as we will know exactly what is being consumed on the other side of the globe. Theft will be a thing of the past as we will know where a product is at all times. The same applies to parcels lost in the post.

If all objects of daily life, from yogurt to an airplane, are equipped with radio tags, they can be identified and managed by computers in the same way humans can. The next generation of Internet applications (IPv6 protocol) would be able to identify more objects than IPv4 which is currently in use. This system would therefore be able to instantaneously identify any kind of object.[2]

The Internet of objects should encode 50 to 100,000 billion objects and follow the movement of those objects. Every human being is surrounded by 1,000 to 5,000 objects.[3]

A complementary view, from the world of the Semantic Web focuses instead on making all "things" (not just those electronic, smart, or RFID-enabled) addressable by the existing naming protocols, such as URI. The objects themselves do not converse, but they may now be referred to by other agents, such as powerful centralized servers acting for their human owners.

Obviously these two approaches converge as more objects become progressively addressable and more intelligent. This is unlikely to happen in any situation short of spime, and the two views have significantly different implications in the interim. In particular, the universal addressability approach rapidly includes things that cannot have communication behaviours of their own, such as abstract data documents.

"The inventor of the World Wide Web could be forgiven for resting on his laurels, but instead Tim Berners-Lee told the audience that it's already time to reimagine the Web. As a young computer scientist in 1989, he sent his manager a memo outlining the idea of hypertext and how it could help researchers share information. His manager scribbled "vague but exciting" and gave him the time to develop the idea.

Mr. Berners-Lee now advocates what he calls "linked data," to go beyond today's hypertext and make readily accessible digital information stored in any format from any source. There's a huge amount of data now in various digital formats, but it's hard to find new relationships or correlations. He said the Web could be reorganized so that well-tagged tables of structured information can easily be linked to others. For example, scientists could link data about proteins and genomics to tackle Alzheimer's. Mr. Berners-Lee led the TED crowd in a chant of "Raw data, now!"

Asked about the benefits of what's called the semantic Web, compared with today's less sophisticated Web, Mr. Berners-Lee told me "It's . . . as hard to explain as my original idea for the Web." The raw-data revolution would be "a paradigm shift as important as the Web was at its time. . . . imagine if you could access all the data from previously unconnected sources and ask any question of the data that you like." People in different disciplines could access the same information from different vantage points. "We'd quickly find new relationships among data and new answers to problems in ways we haven't been able to imagine."

For a few days at TED, this kind of rethinking makes the credit bubble look like a pebble along the path of progress. Futurist Ray Kurzweil reminded the group that exponential growth in the power of computers is just the latest example of more than a century of exponential growth in communication and information technologies, beginning with electromechanical power and continuing through vacuum tubes and transistors. This growth has occurred "through all economies, including the Depression." He announced that Google and NASA agreed to fund his new Singularity University, named for his prediction that computers will soon match humans in key areas of intelligence...

The pressure on financial engineers, in contrast, has been to compete to get new products out the door quickly, with their firms showing little patience for multiyear research and development. It's too bad these new products could not be labeled "beta," as technologists do when they need to warn that products are not fully tested and still need work.

Mr. Berners-Lee said his new approach could revolutionize financial markets, which are in dire need of better access to information. The continued lack of transparency about which banks own how much bad debt still paralyzes the system.

A challenge worthy even of the inventor of the Web is to reorganize information more creatively to help Wall Street better understand the data that drive markets up and down. The fastest way to economic recovery just might be a financial system rebuilt along the innovative lines of today's digital technology." 

Related Resources

  • Privacy & Security - While IoT proponents market "SECURITY" benefits, there are privacy challenges.
  • Pachube - A network for connecting people, places, and things.

Key .nyc Pages