What is HyperCat? Exploring the interoperable 'Internet of Things' specification

TRP: What parties were involved in its creation?

JA: There were 50 companies that were involved, both large and small. They included ARM and BT, and small companies and startups that you might not have heard of. There was also half a dozen different universities. We also had local authorities in Westminster City Council and Guildford Borough Council. We had also had the Government - public and private sector - and technology companies like IBM. Flexeye, as a UK SME, was one the key players at leading the standard and taking it forward.

But the key was that they all had to agree on something, and trying to get 50 different companies to agree on something is much more difficult than it sounds because ultimately, if you use one company's system, then everybody will be happy and it will work well. But everybody puts forward their own system, so that doesn't work and you have to agree on a way of doing it.

Connected society

TRP: Who will HyperCat benefit?

JA: One of those people is the everyday citizen who is living in a world that will one day see tens of billions of sensors on this planet. Over the next decade, as those sensors are connected, the world's order will change.

There is something fundamentally critical that's happening to how our connected society will unfold. It could be that as that happens, there are some very large companies that will connect all these devices together and provide you with a way of controlling those.

There are some efficiencies in doing that, and they have a lot of resources that they could apply to doing that, but we could also look forward and imagine the world controlled by a small number of very large companies that could control everything that's going on. George Orwell springs to mind - that's not the way to foster innovation.

There's another way it could work, which is that these 50 billion plus sensors are able to be controlled and monitored by lots of different technologies that collectively combine to allow us as citizens to control, manage and monitor our environment. That would allow our governments to have a level of governance over our environment without putting control into the hands of a small number of commercially-driven organisations that have the power to control the world.

As an SME, I'm for the little guy, and I'm a believer that we have an opportunity to modularise IoT and allow different players to do their best bits within this system, and HyperCat allows that.

It allows the small guys to compete with organisations with $100 billion on their balance sheets, and come up with solutions that tie together information for your car and house and deliver it as a citizen without you being tied to paying a higher cost to a large international company that controls what you do.

UK advantage

TRP: How will HyperCat drive innovation and potentially boost the UK's tech potential against overseas rivals?

JA: First of all, it's not in the America's interest to drive standards when they've got such an embedded base of very large corporations that are very powerful in themselves and also very powerful at lobbying governments.

On the other hand, the Brits have a very highly innovative set of citizens who have always done a great job of innovating as individuals or as small companies, and that's what has fed our economy.

We're very well positioned to be able to tie together an awful lot of information that collectively will allow us to compete with an organisation that has $100 billion dollars on its balance sheet. And it's only by creating this collaborative, innovative environment that we can genuinely compete against other nations, but at the moment we're very well positioned to do that.

We can take this next step and lead the world. What does that mean? If we can drive more than our fair share of value-add over this next period and achieve that $100 billion, that would be a great boost for British industry, jobs, taxes and UK exports.

Privacy issues

TRP: Are there any privacy and security issues related to everybody's data being accessible by every other system?

JA: It's an important point. Who should decide how people's data is used? Fundamentally, if it's data that's associated with me as an individual, I should be in control of how that data is used.

There are times where I also believe that a society requires its government to be able to have access to certain information to be able to protect its citizens, which is one of the first roles of government. It needs to be able to use information, but getting that balance right is really important.

Let's look at the corporation: at what point should it have responsibility for owning, managing and controlling data about me? Clearly there are places where that should be allowed, but we need to make sure that they're the appropriate places.

If it's easier for me to get hold of an insurance policy, I might be happy for a number of insurance companies to get information that they might use in certain circumstances to be able to make that process easier for me. I might give it to them myself over the phone, but being able to automatically provide it to them has some benefit.

This ownership of data cross the public sector, private sector and individual is critically important.

Kane Fulton
Kane has been fascinated by the endless possibilities of computers since first getting his hands on an Amiga 500+ back in 1991. These days he mostly lives in realm of VR, where he's working his way into the world Paddleball rankings in Rec Room.