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Report on the Second Personal Cloud Meetup

The second Personal Cloud Community Meetup sponsored by the Personal Data Ecosystem Consortium (PDEC) was held February 26 in San Francisco. Hosted by Orange Silicon Valley, it featured seven short talks on key topics in the emerging personal cloud space.

Guests were welcomed by Mark Plakias, VP Knowledge Transfer at Orange Silicon Valley. As one of the first in the industry to promote the term “personal clouds”, Mark said that Orange been actively working on the personal cloud area for several years and was glad to host the meeting because, “Operators love code that drives the network.” He then introduced the lineup of seven speakers:

  1. Johannes Ernst, Cloudstore, What Makes it a Personal Cloud? (video)
  2. Miten Sampat, Neustar, Networked Personal Clouds: Enabling Choice and Transparency in a Digital World (video)
  3. Joe Johnston, Respect Network & Zephyr Project, (video)
  4. Kaliya “Identitywoman”, Personal Data Ecosystem Consortium, NSTIC, Identity and Personal Clouds (video)
  5. T.Rob Wyatt, IBM, How Personal is your Personal Cloud? (video)
  6. Estee Solomon Grey, MMINDD Labs, What if You Could Look at your ‘Calendar’ and Smile? (video)
  7. David Beckenmeyer, Imagine a Social Network Where You Control the Data Store (video)

Johannes set the stage for the evening with a concise summary of what defines the personal cloud space, using just three slides to convey this. The first is a simple matrix:


The second captures the 3 essential requirements of the personal cloud quadrant:


The third proposes the central shift in point-of-view in the personal cloud space—both semantically and from a user-experience standpoint.


Miten Sampat of Neustar followed with a talk about Networked Personal Clouds: Enabling Choice and Transparency in a Digital World. After introducing Neustar (NYSE:NSR) as the world leader in telephone number portability, Miten explained that from a network perspective, identity = addressability. When it comes to online identity for individuals, digital identity = permanence and portability, where portability will promote increased competition just as it has in the wired and wireless telephone industry.

For networked personal clouds, Miten suggested that permanance and portability could be solved with identifiers based on the emerging XDI semantic data interchange protocol from OASIS . Miten closed with this high-level picture of infrastructure for networked personal clouds:


Next was Joe Johnston of Respect Network and leader of the Zephyr personal cloud project (initially known as Cloud Fabric). He started with a survey of the major open source personal cloud projects that are already on the market.


Joe explained some of the differences between the projects, such as how the Unhosted apps and the RemoteStorage API work. He closed with a roadmap of the core elements that will be needed to create a truly interoperable personal cloud network, similar to today’s interoperable email network.


Kaliya (better known as Identitywoman), Executive Director of the Personal Data Ecosystem Consortium, talked about personal clouds and NSTIC (the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace).


Kaliya explained that the weaknesses of passwords online has become a U.S. national security issues. A primary goal of NSTIC is to overcome this problem by leveraging credentials already issued by private industry and public agencies. Personal clouds fit into this solution space as a way for individuals to do stronger and more privacy-protected online authentication as well as to aggregate and share their own sets of identity attributes and personas with relying parties.

Next was  T.Rob Wyatt from IBM WebSphere Connectivity & Integration Security, who his own words “moved to IBM in order to improve the state of middleware security and to help the instrumented, networked, interactive world of pervasive, embedded computing”. T.Rob’s talk, How Personal is Your Personal Cloud?, dealt with the fundamental issue with today’s smart devices for individuals or their homes: in most cases, the data they produce is shared only directly with the vendor of the device via an encrypted tunnel between the device and the vendor. While this is a simple way to solve the security problem with the data, it nonetheless leaves the actual user (and his/her personal cloud) out of the loop.


T.Rob explained the basic architecture of a new approach that would put both the user and his/her personal cloud in the center of the picture.


While T.Rob’s short talk was only able to touch on the high-level architecture, his slides posted on Slideshare include much more detail, and his blog goes even more deeply into this rich new topic of how the Internet of Things can truly become the Interent of Your Things.

Estee Solomon Grey then gave a short summary of the new visual user experience paradigm MMINDD Labs has been developing—a UX that is to time and task management what personal clouds are to data management. “It’s like Cue meets Pinterest,” said Ms. Grey, and she predicted this new form of “minding” vs. today’s “tasking” would be available by the time personal cloud infrastructure goes mainstream.

The final speaker was David Beckenmeyer, the developer of ReInsta, which is essentially a “personal Instagram implemented on top of Dropbox”.


David explained that his goal was not to develop an Instagram competitor, or a hot new mobile app, but a proof of concept of the radical new notion of “Bring your Own Cloud Storage” (BYOCS). He simply wanted to show how existing social media functionality could be implemented entirely with the user’s own choice of personal back-end—in this case Dropbox. He said what users liked most about ReInsta so far was that it gave them more leverage with their service provider, because if the service provider didn’t fulfill the user’s needs, the user had the data and was free to go elsewhere for better service.

The evening concluded with another hour of networking between the attendees, who were eager for the series to continue in early April. More info and links are available on the Personal Clouds wiki.