The Things Network Climbing: The Power Of A Decentralized Community

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The Things Network (TTN) is a Dutch startup that uses low power devices to create a long range data network for users with the users. TTN is now spreading its vision and its project all over the world, growing day by day.

The journey of The Things Network started in July 2015, when the technology LoRaWAN became available and the two founders (Wienke Giezeman and Johan Stokking) decided that it was too interesting and has too high of a potential to not explore it. LoRaWAN is a very low cost, low energy, and long range technology, specifically designed for Internet of Things (IoT) applications. It allows the creation of a friendly user network without the support of WiFi, 3G or 4G networks.

The network that the LoRaWAN technology allows to build, permits users to create any kind of services and projects connected to the IoT world. Internet of Things is, in fact, one of the major technological trends: this phenomenon is becoming a daily experience and more people are experiencing it directly. Moreover, the economic potential is incredible: the IoT has a total possible economic impact of $3.9 trillion to $11.1 trillion a year by 2025.

The founders and the initial core team started thinking how to use this technology to develop an open, global and decentralized network from the bottom up, just through the collaboration of users and local groups. “Everything that carries power will be connected to the Internet eventually. Controlling the network that makes this possible means controlling the world. We believe that this power should not be restricted to a few people, companies or nations. Instead, this should be distributed to as many people as possible without the possibility to be taken away by anyone. We, therefore, founded “The Things Network”, explains Wienke Giezeman.

As stated in the Community Manifesto, The Things Network is proposing the mission of building an open, fully crowdsourced, decentralized IoT Data Network, operated by the users for the users. In order to accomplish this, all the codes, the firmware, the drawings, and the knowledge of the production of the network as well as necessary physical devices are open source.

A Quick Start – With Big Potential

The founders were so convinced about the project that they decided to launch and develop the first pilot along with its first application in Amsterdam in just six weeks, gathering a large group of co-workers and supporters, among which was the Amsterdam City Council which was favorable to the project.

In one word, The Things Network is a vision. A vision of a shared network, wherein users can work on every component of the project, to improve it or to develop its ideas. The founders and the core team developed the architecture and the structure of the network and projected the devices necessary to physically build the network. They created different types of devices (with different prices) for different kind of users (citizens, associations, companies,…) that can also be freely modified and personalized to respond to the different needs.

The first experience in Amsterdam involved many people and subjects of the startup ecosystem and the innovative technologies field: with these supporters, the TTN reached the first goal to cover the city with their IoT network. The Dutch capital has been entirely covered with an investment of only 10.000 Euro.

At this point TTN is a global community of 15.455 people from over 84 countries, building a global Internet of Things data network. Furthermore, TTN is establishing a growing number of partnerships with several companies in the tech, to develop and carry its services and products.

The Things Network In Daily Life

The technology can be applied to a very large range of projects. TTN are involved in a lot of bottom-up citizens’ initiatives and projects to get data and information themselves and not rely on governments, but it’s increasing also the number of collaborations with public actors. For example, the services that can be developed through this network are systems for security, air quality measurement, water leakage measurement, earthquake monitoring and pet tracking or plant sensoring!

Citizens who decide to join the network can download the free app, access the network and contribute to its expansion, as well as have an interface to control their own sensors or IoT devices. Differently, as said above, the devices that compose the network aren’t free, but they are extremely cheap and there are different kinds of them, based on the different kinds of users (from less than 200 Euro for the Uno or the node).

The project has a peer-to-peer mode, whereby every citizen creates a “node” that participates in covering a city. This creates an urban wireless connection, collecting information and converting it to a platform capable of processing the collected data in real-time, providing a vision of the objects connected. Unlike other top-down Smart City projects this one entirely based on citizen collaboration, according to a participatory model, focusing on the role of the so-called “smart citizens”.

It’s possible to find more information and contacts about the numerous and vibrant TTN communities in the World on The Things Network’s website.



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