Sending data into the Cloud, but what about getting it back?

So I've been thinking a lot about cloud computing recently and wanted to share a couple of interesting uses of sensor to cloud to visualisation application.

While at BarCampBrighton3, Tom Morris showed me Rescue Time. I originally poopoo'ed it because Miles had showed me about a year ago something exactly the same but it only worked on OSX. But after a little research, I had found the community driven Linux version and was up and running shortly afterwards. My main reason for doing this was to track what I'm doing for work and myself. So I'm now generating tons of data and have to find ways to filter/transform it automaticlly into our BBC time tracking system. Of course I wouldn't have signed up if there wasn't plans to allow you to take your data away later. There's already widgets which are useful but a API is being planned along with other developer tools.

Generally my computer has a little sensor (application in this case) which it uses to work out what application your using and for how long. The real number crunching is then done in the crowd along with the other stacks of data from you and other users. The data is then turned into information which in much more digestable. Don't get me wrong this isn't new, much talked about Fitbit does the exactly the same thing. The little sensor will track how much activity you have been up to while walking, running, working out or even sleeping. This is then sync'ed with a computer and made sense of in the cloud. I think the Nike+iPod thing also does roughly the same but also like Fitbit, I wonder how much of the data will be available to reuse, share and takeaway?

Your creating the data and although they are doing the analysis and processing, is it really a fair swap? I mean once they have the data its entirely possible for them to find trends across multiple users and offer advertising, discounts, etc to those users. So revenue shouldn't be a problem. But if these guys were to make the data available again, you could just imagine the kind of services and applications 3rd parties will make. Something I was alerted to a while back was the amount of services which are offered off the back of Basecamp's API and Data.

Cloud/Utility computing is powerful and with good portability and interoperability it can work to form a good ecosystem for both the user and the provider. Unfortunately this is all being over looked or considered at a much later stage. No wonder people are very edgy about cloud computing.

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Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser. Can be found at, and