ActingWeb – Bringing Internet of Things to People

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Remember the visions of the future where smart services on the Internet would know everything about you and advice you real time and do things for you automatically?!

Technology is no longer the limitation. The limitation is how comfortable you, and other people, are with sharing sensitive and important information about yourself and your life and with whom.  Yes, it would be über-cool if the Google location information your phone continuously tracks could make the door to your house unlock automatically when you got close, or lock the door for you when you left your home and nobody else is at home. But to make it happen, who do you need to trust? And what can go wrong?

In fact, Google hasn’t even deared to make this information available to anybody else except you.  There are just too many privacy issues (you can download it though).

faucet-actingweb-smallThink about the physical key to your house. If you give that key to somebody, they can access your entire house, whenever they want. But what if you could give the plumber a special key that only allows access to the sink, the pipes, and the master valve for the water? He wouldn’t even see what else you have in the room. If he does a great job, maybe you want him to just keep the key, so he can take responsibility for any maintenance needed? In a digital world where the plumber can “service your sink and pipes” remotely, it opens up for entirely new services.

This is exactly the core idea behind ActingWeb. Tiny applications that work for you and only you, and that can give very tailored access only to other tiny applications you trust. And you can at any time stop that access. Going back to the Google location and door lock example, a tiny ActingWeb app could give access ONLY to information about whether you are close by your home or not (and how close maybe), and a tiny ActingWeb door lock app could allow access to unlocking and locking your door. Those two apps, working only for you (your location and your door) can connect to each other, exchange information and make it happen. The two apps could live anywhere, at the door lock company, at Google, or at your home security company. The “I’m at home” app can be used by any other service you trust to know this specific information: “I’m at home, turn up the heat.” “I’m at home and it’s day time, redirect all calls to my mobile.” If you want to understand more in-depth how it works, read the More In-depth article.

Acting Web is a project Greger has been working on since 2007.  It is an approach to Internet of Things that ties things together with people.  Back in 2007, it didn’t really fly, too many technical things were immature. Since then, services like IFTTT, Zapier, and others have created connectors to tie together services and things. ActingWeb is not a service like these, but rather something that could have powered IFTTT and Zapier, i.e. a framework and a protocol for developers to tie things and people together. (Read more about the history of ActingWeb.)

The Acting Web specification has all the details of the REST protocol needed for the app to app communication, as well as the application model that enables the extreme focus on a specific user or “thing”.

The specification is backed by working code in the form of a reference implementation in python. It is also in itself an ActingWeb mini-app. The reference implementation is at all times running at http://actingwebdemo.appspot.com (you can even use it to test your own apps).