A Citizen IoT Network for Makers has Formed in San Francisco

Internet of Things Technology
A Citizen IoT Network for Makers has Formed in San Francisco

A new kind of wireless network is emerging on the streets of San Francisco. Made for people and their smartphones, Noodle! Coins uses low power Bluetooth to crowdsource connectivity for maker devices. This delay tolerant network enables radically cheap data upload. You can become part of this Citizen Network by simply installing an app.

A Heatmap of what your Citizen Network looks like. Areas with less foot traffic have a higher latency to cloud.

In the past, connectivity for makers has been expensive. A cellular modem can cost $5-$10 per month, and requires a lot of energy from a device’s power system. LoRa modules are also expensive and have severe limitations on how much data they can transport. It’s too expensive and inefficient for Makers to scale their projects, and covering a city or a country with sensors is prohibitively expensive.

That’s where Noodle! Coins comes in.

For the past few years, I’ve been working on bringing connectivity to people at a lower cost. I helped launch FireChat, an app that uses Bluetooth to send messages over a peer-to-peer network without internet connectivity. For the past two years I’ve traveled India, building hardware for the country’s largest Wi-Fi hotspot network (see Ola Play). I’ve seen first hand how anyone can build internet. Students are hacking together microwave links in the Himalayas (See Airjaldi) and whispering dreams of Google Loon and subsidized LTE in Bangalorean cafes. We are now in an age where building networks is simpler, easier, and faster than ever before. Most importantly, anyone can now contribute to making the internet better.

Together with Micha Benoliel and Kyude Karyan, we founded Nodle.io to build the first citizen IoT network for makers. This September, we launched the Noodle! Coins app to test our network in San Francisco. We’re calling out to other makers in hopes they’ll help scale the Citizen Network and bring more maker projects online.

Making the Noodle Network

The Noodle! Coins app uses our Nodle.io SDK to crowdsource a network. The app uses anonymized Bluetooth and coarse location to provide delay tolerant data upload. Each time a Bluetooth beacon is detected, the user earns a Noodle! Coin.

To make this even more fun, we’re launching a competition in San Francisco. Whoever collects the most coins in SF during the month of December, can trade their coins in for an iPhone X. We’re also donating $1 to the SF Marin Food Bank for every install in the city. That translates into two meals for every Noodle! Coins install.  

Our vision is to build a maker network that anyone can use to move data from their hardware projects to the cloud. Because we can leverage delay tolerant Wi-Fi offloading, data costs can be 1/10th of any competing connectivity service. Our dream is to have people mine a meaningful cryptocurrency on their phone without impacting battery life or CPU performance. Our tests show millions of Noodle! Coins mined with less <1% impact on battery life. The distributed computing power of smartphones is a truly awesome force that has yet to be tapped. Noodle! Coins enable affordable connectivity for makers, while helping to pay citizens for the privilege of using their idle Bluetooth radios.

Bringing Maker Devices Online

App developers have already integrated the Nodle.io SDK into their apps. This is what gives us our global network. The history of the internet is built upon advertising. We provide a way for app developers to monetize their install base without intrusive AD tracking. The advertising economy is over; welcome to the beginning of the connectivity economy! I personally want makers to decide what goes online first.  

Screenshot of our dashboard, where Makers can view their hardware devices in near-realtime, and send deployed sensor data to their own servers.

Noodle works with any Bluetooth 4.0+ device already in the wild. Makers open an account with us, create a product in our dashboard, and add a device profile. Data transmitted by an IoT device will transport through the Citizen Network to your own servers. Noodle is designed to upload small amounts of delay tolerant data, at the lowest possible cost.

We envision a new age of flexible and affordable connectivity that piggybacks on low-cost Bluetooth ecosystems with cheap power supplies. In this age, sensors can be deployed at a lower cost and items can be more easily tracked and located. Applications which were once too expensive will now become possible. I want to see Noodle gathering all sorts of new information about our world; Pollution data, solar or background radiation, weather, even astronomical data.

The citizen network represents a new way to learn about our Earth, and connect devices to its nervous system. It’s up to all of us Makers to build cool projects that connect through Noodle! You can also help out the network by installing Noodle! Coins on Android. Each install will have us donate 2 meals to the SF Food Bank, and will help bring a new generation of devices online.

The Citizen Network is alive today globally, and scaling in San Francisco. We want you to be a part of it. Join us!

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!
Garrett Kinsman

Garrett helped launch FireChat, and led the design of GreenStone, a low power wearable enabling anyone to build wireless infrastructure. He has spent two years working/playing in India, building Internet in villages, learning about wireless. He launched Ola Play, which is currently the largest connected car infrastructure on Earth. He now Co-Found Nodle.io, deploying wide area, software defined IoT networks.

View more articles by Garrett Kinsman


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