The Friend Unifying Platform and Connected Technologies

The Friend Unifying Platform (FriendUP) has been designed to work with and enable a distributed network of computers, technologies and users. This review article outlines where it sits in terms of the Internet of Things (IoT), as well as the Symbiotic Web of Web 4.0. The Infrastructure of Things — which was defined through an industrial revolution — is also considered. It is used to explore the social and cultural changes that occur via information and communication technologies (ICT).

The diagram above was produced by IDTechEx for Internet of Things Europe / IoT Applications. It shows how applications help shape the relationship between people and networked technologies. People, networks and infrastructure are essential to FriendUP, IoT applications and a Symbiotic Web or Web 4.0.

Introduction

FriendUP and IoT are both tethered to information and communication technologies (ICT), as well as how ICT is shaped by a given application. They represent a move away from centralised approaches to computing — which became more common as standalone hardware became more powerful — and feed into a decentralised model for efficient computing. This model is one based on networks, infrastructures and a streamlined approach to collaboration in information cycles and management.

The Internet of Things (IoT) stemmed from Bruno Latour’s idea of a Parliament of Things, as outlined in We Have Never Been Modern. It has been adopted to better understand and explain developments in the way ICT is being used since 2009.

It is important to consider FriendUP in relation to IoT because they are interlinked. They both seek to improve the way people and machines interact in an evolved Infrastructure of Things, where clear and efficient collaboration nodes or points of connection makes everything work. Basing IoT on infrastructure and economy was first outlined in an action plan for Europe in 2009. A consolidated document brought all strands of this plan together. It also enabled EU partners to work together through the Internet of Things Europe, and spawned similar projects in the United Kingdom through InnovateUK. The Internet of Everything from Cisco was a slightly later repackaging of IoT, with “Every” added to “Thing” based on the US economy and infrastructure.

Though Kevin Ashton coined the term Internet of Things (IoT), its foundations were built on the Parliament of Things described by Bruno Latour. Where human — human, object — object and human — object interactions are defined by networks / infrastructures. The latter getting built through communication, interaction and resulting collaborative processes between humans and objects. For example, watch the video above called Imagine Everything Was Connected. It focuses on the connection between people and technologies in day to day life via a network built on ICT. In the early decades of the 21st century, IoT has become a user-friendly way of explaining a move toward collaborative forms of information management. FriendUP is putting IoT into practice through the user-friendly environment it provides.

Friend Unifying Platform (FriendUP) provides an infrastructure than enables the user to actively interact with and navigate all points within a distributed network of computers / technologies. The platform is designed to act like middleware, which enables any user to work on or across any device / operating system. For example, the FriendUP browser environment brings all information together in one place.

FriendUP

FriendUP has been developed to work with the internet / World Wide Web in both current and future forms. It sprung up around the same ICT infrastructures and networks as IoT — both are defined by technologies geared toward connectivity between people and machines. For example, the FriendUP browser interface is more closely related to an operating system than it is that of a traditional internet browser. It is as much a totem for creative computing as it is that of productivity computing online, where applications are now geared toward paperless workflows and the industrial web. The browser can act as a programming environment where computer programmers can build their own applications or evolve its open source code. There is a graphical user interface for general ease of use; support for applications like FriendChat; as well as the ability to connect to other applications in Linux, MacOS and Windows environments. Information is now mobile at a code level because of developments like liquid computing, as outlined in the Distributed Computing part of this article. It can move between devices — via a network or infrastructure enabled for Web 4.0 and up.

FriendUP applications feed into existing and emerging pathways of connectivity. They are geared toward more efficient ways to collaborate and flexibility of use.

Dan Wood gives a clear overview of FriendUP on the YouTube channel Kookytech.net. His video, which can be viewed below, demonstrates the graphical user interface, applications and feature sets contained within the FriendUP browser. It also discusses future developments specific to an operating system designed to exist online. Included is the ability to share resources or process a given task across a network of computers or devices running FriendUP.

FriendUP currently uses HTML5 and Javascript as its primary construction kit. Visual scripting is, however, also part of its roadmap and will be implemented in future releases. Adding visual programming to its functionality will allow for elements of a program to be manipulated graphically, and will make otherwise specialist aspects of FriendUP easier to work with. This is especially the case for beginner or novice level programmers and tinkerers. The visual programming system shown below is called Blueprint and is taken from Unreal Engine — a game engine developed by Epic Games. It adopts a node based interface to create gameplay elements inside the game engine.

HTML5 and JavaScript are two of the text based languages preferred as part of the FriendUP construction kit in 2017. Future developments include visual scripting which, like its graphical user interface, will be designed to make all aspects of the platform accessible to everyone.

Web 4.0

Both FriendUP and IoT are geared toward an emerging phase of the internet labelled the Symbiotic Web or Web 4.0. These terms describe a time where connectivity — typically via the internet — is used to crowdsource or network data. Core features of Web 4.0 include better communication between machines; an increased symbiotic relationship between humans and machines; as well as information distribution across a network of computers. FriendUP was developed to work with the distributed computing conditions made possible by the networks and infrastructures that support Web 4.0. It is designed to be lightweight; easy to use as an online platform; open to development by anyone as an operating system; and efficient in terms of information management and use. Intelligent, responsive and crowdsourced code is essential to all future iterations of FriendUP.

Evolution of the World Wide Web

The first Friend UPdate video is featured below and discusses Web 4.0 in more depth. Humans and objects are explored in terms of their roles as independent agents — in the distribution and communication of knowledge. In other words, how people interpret, synthesise and communicate their perceptions of the world through technologies like smartphone, tablets or a connected community of sensors. The importance of nodes — points of connection — in a network or infrastructure is also emphasised.

Infrastructure of Things

The Infrastructure of Things refers to the physical signs of networks and infrastructures that developed out of the Industrial Revolution, from the 18th century to the 1940s. Examples include railways and technologies like the telegraph and telephone. Aging infrastructures and networks of travel and communication that still exist in some form or another in the 21st century.

Though the focus of the Industrial Revolution is largely considered in terms of production, it is also important to consider advancements made in communication. For example, railways connected entire landscapes in ways that had not been experienced previously. They increased the speed at which people could travel from place to place, as well as connect with other people. Immediate reactions are summed up by 19th century commentators like Dionysius Lardner: ‘Distances practically diminish in the exact ratio of the speed of personal locomotion.’

The “Tube Map” was published by The Evening News in 1907. It was the first map to clearly show all the stations that made up the London Underground network at that time. Prior to schematic representations passengers were confused by geographical maps like this, which were complicated further due to the rail line networks being divided up based on ownership. Navigating the stations of the London Underground was only made simple when a Tube Map was design around topology of nodes in 1931. It focused on the display of information based on connecting points of activity and communication. That is, instead of accurate representations of features on a landscape.
The schematic design developed by Harry Beck for the Tube Map of the London Underground is a good example of how the Infrastructure of Things lay the foundation for FriendUP, IoT and Web 4.0. His node based approach — which focused on areas of activity and communication — simplified the otherwise complex networks and infrastructures in place. It presented those parts of London altered by industrial processes within the context of traveler needs and passenger flow. That is, as opposed to the previous compromise (an otherwise static layout made complicated by the physical layout in place). Networks and infrastructures built on ICT provide a modern amorphic equivalent to rail networks like the London Underground. FriendUP simplifies the process of navigating them in the same way Harry Beck had realised in his designs — through nodes of activity and communication.

FriendUP takes this idea of personal physical locomotion as a means of communication and frames it within the context of current ICT infrastructures, such as the internet. Early developments in railway based travel represented the physical transportation of people and objects, and mental travel through the more limited means of post, telegraph and telephone (restricted through speed, cost, time and range of expression). Whereas, the changes that are taking place in ICT are more in line with Doug Engelbart’s notion of augmenting collective human intelligence. How effectively a group concurrently develops, integrates and applies its knowledge (CoDIAK), as well as how well it captures, organises and exploits the emerging knowledge in dynamic knowledge repositories (DKRs). Whether it is FriendUP, IoT or Web 4.0 being discuss, each one involves the transportation and adaptation of information, thoughts and ideas. The intentional and organic collaboration that occurs is customised to the needs of the user or application.

Another way to consider FriendUP is within the context of what Doug Engelbart called boosting Collective IQ. Instead of the circle above, imagine the points of interaction and connection that make up the internet or World Wide Web as operating in an amorphic infrastructure. A network that’s shape and pattern of growth is constant and determined organically. FriendUP makes its users and applications the central focus of any point within that network — relatively navigating, shaping and reshaping based on purpose or application. It is an always online operating system, which replaces the symbiotic relationship between hardware and software with mobile code and connectivity. It is an active and interactive platform.

Distributed Computing

Infrastructures built on nodes and networks are fundamental to distributed computing. The relationship between them is used to transmit, receive and process information. FriendUP enables its users to connect nodes of any network. It is designed to do this in a coherent and secure way. For example, see the video below. It was produced by the Institute for the Future to explain blockchain technology, and how it makes information secure across a network. FriendUP also has its own blockchain.

The FriendUP user interface can be customised to cater to individual or group needs in a collaborative environment across a network. At the same time, it can be used to bring nodes or blocks of information together. This includes files, documents or applications that may otherwise be siloed based on proprietary code or operating systems. For example, Microsoft Windows applications can run alongside MacOS applications.

This aspect of FriendUP is referred to as liquid computing. It involves the use of computer code that is mobile and that can flow between technologies. Liquid computing gives its user the ability to run tasks and operations across a network or ICT based infrastructure, and is not tethered to or restricted by specific technologies. It makes FriendUP an agnostic operating system — one that is designed for connectivity and decentralised information flow.

Summary

It is now possible to spread the burden of working with complex amounts of information across a network of devices or users. In ways that are affordable, efficient and increasingly more power (in terms of processing) as ICT evolves. The infrastructures that make this possible are based on distributed computing. They enable FriendUP — as well as ways to better explain change like IoT or Web 4.0 — to be defined by nonexclusive but secure communication based applications. Between people and machines, as well as media production and nodes within a network. These fundamental elements keep all flows of information active, as well as sustainable within any distributed network of computers or devices.

FriendUP is designed to leverage the increased connectivity that has emerged out of technologies driving change. It is a platform driven by ease of use, customisation and integration into preexisting information flows and systems. It is about working with and for users, communities, infrastructures and networks — in open or closed environments shaped by application and collaboration. Intelligent and creative computing is as important to the development of FriendUP as distributed computing or decentralised information flows. The platform is, overall, connected to technologies via people, which is the main agent of change in any ICT driven information cycle.

Further Reading

Aghaei, S., Nematbakhsh, M. A., & Farsani, H. K. (2012). Evolution of the world-wide web: From WEB 1.0 TO WEB 4.0. International Journal of Web & Semantic Technology, 3(1), 1.

Ashton, K. (June 22nd 2009). That ‘Internet of Things’ Thing,” RFID J., Retrieved from www.rfidjournal.com/article/view/4986

Benito-Osorio, D., Peris-Ortiz, M., Armengot, C. R., & Colino, A. (2013). Web 5.0: the future of emotional competences in higher education. Global Business Perspectives, 1(3), 274–287.

Cisco Systems. (August 25th 2017). Internet of Things (IoT). Retrieved from https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/solutions/internet-of-things/overview.html?stickynav=3

Ducheneaut, N., Yee, N., Nickell, E., & Moore, R. J. (2006, April). Alone together?: exploring the social dynamics of massively multiplayer online games. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human Factors in computing systems (pp. 407–416). ACM.

Engelbart, D. C. (1962). Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework. Summary Report AFOSR-3223 under Contract AF 49 (638)-1024, SRI Project 3578 for Air Force Office of Scientific Research. Stanford Research Institute.

Epic Games. (August 25th 2017). Blueprints Visual Scripting. Retrieved from https://docs.unrealengine.com/latest/INT/Engine/Blueprints/index.html

Hartman, J., Manber, U., Peterson, L., & Proebsting, T. (1996). Liquid software: A new paradigm for networked systems (Vol. 11). Technical Report 96.

Lardner, D. (1850). Railway Economics. London: Taylor, Walton & Maberly.

Latour, B. (2012). We Have Never Been Modern. Harvard University Press.

Peters, C., & Spring, A. P. (2016). 11 Digital Heritage, Industrial Memory and Memorialisation. Reanimating Industrial Spaces: Conducting Memory Work in Post-industrial Societies, 66, 212.

Schivelbusch, W. (2014). The railway journey: The industrialization of time and space in the nineteenth century. University of California Press.

Spring, A. P. (2015). Creating Substance from a Cloud: Low-Cost Product Generation. Computer, 48(2), 67–74.

Turkle, S. (2012). Alone together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other. Basic books.