Ray Ozzie and IoT

April 9th is IoT Day, with virtual conferences, lunches, and events being held around the world.  In commemoration we wanted to share the segment titled called “Ray’s Big Reveal” from the Safecast 10 global livestream held on March 13, 2021.  In it, Safecast senior advisor Ray Ozzie showcases his design thinking and how that led to the networked sensors he’s designed for Safecast, including a game-changing new one called Airnote, which is a very compact and inexpensive networked air quality sensor now being deployed worldwide. Ray was recently named to the Computer History Museum Hall of Fellows, a resounding confirmation of his pioneering influence on computing and the tech industry. The many moving testimonies heard from Ray’s colleagues at the CHM event attest to his focus on building tools that help us communicate better and more freely. 


Ray was instrumental in helping Safecast get up and running in 2011, even providing our name. He has engineered an unprecedented series of networked sensors for Safecast, including the original Solarcast, the Solarcast Nano, and a slew of skunk works projects, at each step making them more compact and reliable, particularly in how they connect to the internet. Ray’s designs are a convincing demonstration that web-connected devices — the Internet of Things — can empower citizens to better monitor their environment and share the data openly. 

Safecast’s fixed radiation and air quality sensors provide continuous data over time from a single location, which is complimentary to the mobile mapping data gathered by bGeigies. A major challenge has been to deploy totally self-contained “drop and forget” realtime devices which are rugged, self-powered, and connect to the internet wirelessly even in harsh and inaccessible locations like the Fukushima exclusion zone. Ray’s designs have incrementally pushed the envelope in this regard, and the Airnote is astoundingly simple in setup and operation. Ray has solved one of the biggest connectivity issues — the need to maintain cellular data accounts over years of unattended operation — by developing the Notecard, a compact cellular modem which comes with 12 years of prepaid connectivity. With Airnote and Notecard, Safecast is poised to rapidly expand our air quality sensor network around the world over the coming months. A radiation-detecting cousin of the Airnote is now in late prototyping and testing.

Since the phrase ‘Internet of Things’ was coined in 1999, IoT has become many things to many people, but primarily it’s about networks, devices, and data. As IoT devices and ecosystems have proliferated, society has gained sometimes painful experience regarding their security and privacy, and the IoT community itself is actively engaged in establishing globally applicable standards to address these issues. We think openness should be built in from the start, and often joke that an over-emphasis on closed IoT systems has resulted in quite a few devices that once looked promising but soon became bricks — what Safecast co-founder Pieter Franken dubbed “The Internet of Nothing.”  

As we celebrate IoT day, we want to celebrate Ray and his achievements as well. Thanks to him, Safecast has greater reach and impact than we ever thought possible. Watch and enjoy!

UPDATE APRIL 10, 2021:

Blues Wireless has published a detailed teardown and walkthrough of the Airnote at Hackster.io

It will probably answer all of your questions!

Blues has also announced an intriguing contest, “Show Us Your Air, Get an Airnote.” We urge everyone to enter!