The Web of Nouns

Web of Things is all the rage, where your smart phone starts your car and schedules servicing, or the refrigerator reminds you to pick up milk on the way home. In the near future things will connect to the web in vast numbers, many times greater than the number of people on Earth.

Consider your networked printer as an example. The printer is a familiar thing that is already connected to the network. When you decide to print your boarding pass or an invoice you send a file to the printer’s IP address. The printer prints the file. It will print as many files as you send to it. It also alerts you when it is out of sorts (low ink, out of paper). You can address or ignore the alerts when and as you choose, the printer will print your file when it is able to.

What happens when you take action to print your file? Verbs are the type of word that imply action. Yet when you look at what is passing through the network you do not see any verbs, you see a bunch of nouns. The print file is a noun together with the definition of that noun; the text, images, and fonts that define how the printed pages should appear. The alerts are nouns, with their definitions as printer features (paper, ink) and current status. The nouns travel between your IP address and the printer’s IP address. Nouns are the only things communicated. Nouns are not actions, yet your file was printed. What happened to the verbs? The printer itself is the verb. You provide a noun by sending the print file to the printer queue. The printer checks the queue and acts, it is the verb print. Nothing happens until you complete a sentence by linking a noun (the print file) to the verb (the printer).

Thus nouns connect the Web of Things. Like the printer, each thing connected to the web has a queue at its IP address plus the ability to send alerts to your IP address. From your phone you could send a show (channel, start & stop time) to a DVR, it will record that show. In the factory, one sensor counts units produced while another sends an alert if material runs out or a quality measurement drifts from specifications. In every instance the thing is a verb: record, count, measure. People complete sentences by linking nouns to the verbs of their choice.

Nouns perform the same role on the software side of the web. Modern Transaction Architecture is all about nouns, the various robots are the verbs, and people control it all by linking them. This is a big change from traditional transaction architectures which communicate via predefined verbs. Service Oriented Architecture is one example of a verb based architecture. In verb based architectures all noun-verb links must be predefined and preprogrammed. A big drawback is that each new thing must be engineered to participate in the transaction system – at substantial costs in integration and overhead for each individual communication in each direction. In the modern noun based architectures connections are linked and then mapped, not engineered. This greatly reduces integration costs and overhead. Transaction processing becomes as simple as clicking on links, bookmarking links for easy access, and searching links to find the best one to use.

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