The Object Network

The Object Network

Identifying everything

The Object Network would like everything, both physical and digital, to have a unique identifier to find it by.

Each of your photos, your home lights, your virtual reality avatar, each air quality sensor or street sign, each contact in your address book, your address book, each friend, each item of news, every newsfeed, each comment or chat message, every form you fill in, each car, every location, your house in Minecraft, the kitchen and the fridge, even your cat or dog at home - and your pigs in Minecraft.

Everything that can have a digital presence should have a unique identifier.

Each of these items is called an "object" in the Object Network. Objects are just small chunks of data.

The objects' identifiers are called "Universal IDs" or UIDs.

They could, in fact, be web addresses or URLs. They could be addresses on the internet (IPv6). They could be UUIDs.

Any short line of text can be used to identify an object, as long as there's a way to look it up. Anything that can be used to identify and track down an object can be a UID. All that matters is that the UID can be "cashed in" for a copy of the object's data - whichever machine or device is hosting it.

Linking everything up

So everything, every object, has a UID, but each object is not isolated: the Object Network would also like to be a global mesh, a fabric of objects linked up around the planet.

Any object can point to or link to any other object simply by keeping that object's UID within itself.

The Minecraft pig can link to the block it's standing on; a virtual reality region can link to the next region, which links to the next, and so-on. The address book can link to each address, which can in turn link back. The car can link to the road it's on, which can link back. You, or your digital representation, can link to the virtual reality room you're in, or the photo you're looking at. There will be two-way links between you and the person you're chatting to, as well as to and from the actual chat messages between you. Your light can hold the UID of the room it's in, which can link in turn to the house, which can link to the street...

It's a lot like that other global mesh: the web; only now we really want everything to be identified and linked up into the global digital fabric, not just web documents.

Reacting to things

Once you (or your digital self) have a link to something or someone, you can watch them change, and they can watch you change in turn. Anything can watch anything else and change when it changes.

You can watch a share price crash or a virtual pig fly. A physical light can link to that flying virtual pig and set the colour of your dining room to reflect its speed and height. Or link to the weather report and go blue when it's going to be icy. You can link a virtual reality door to a physical door so they open and close in sync. Drop a virtual dog at a physical/digital location and have it welcome your family in Augmented Reality when they (i.e., their digital selves) come near.

All this interaction, all this watching of each other changing, happens between computers, devices, mobiles, etc, directly or "peer-to-peer" over various networks under the Object Network.

Obviously you can decide who has permission to see your own stuff: an individual, a group, or everyone.

What it is

The Object Network is an open standard/open source platform for building and programming networked systems. It can be accessed via a smartphone app or via a full Object Network operating system for a small device.

It includes a programming language that makes it easy for non-techies to animate their digital property - similar in some ways to spreadsheet programming.

It's especially useful for Augmented and Virtual Reality and for the Internet of Things. Its interface can be 2D but it blends into reality better if in 3D. It blends into reality better still when it picks up device UIDs simply by being near them.

What's different about it

The Object Network is like the web, except it gives an address or identifier to all our physical and digital stuff (objects), not just web documents. Further, it deals with updates to those objects, so no more hitting "refresh". Finally, these objects can be created and published by everyone, from their PCs, mobiles, and devices. In other words, objects are dynamic, two-way data, not static, one-way documents.

There are no sealed applications or centralised services in the Object Network, it's just a continuous, seamless "fabric" of everyone's live stuff interacting, including everyone themselves. And you can program those interactions yourself.

Why that's better

Anything you can think of to do with your digital stuff, and how it depends on other's stuff, is within your grasp. Everything's visible and watchable at the end of a link or chain of links and everything you create is under your control and can be animated with simple rules.

It's better because there are no limits to the linked-up virtual worlds we can co-create, or to the ways we can link up, watch and control our networks of smart devices. Or both, linked together.

You can point a virtual sheep on your PC at your grannie's room light switch and write a rule to make it jump when the light's turned on. All without central services and multiple app logins and learning several different ways of doing the same thing.

Read on...

Read this Object Network walk-through scenario to see in more detail how this would work.

Or go here for more articles.

If you're a techie who simply wants to get right to the details of what this is, go here.

Duncan Cragg, 2016

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