Nodel: Art Meets The Internet of Things

I’ve always been an art lover and fancied myself quite the comic book artist back in the day; I spent many of my college days exploring Classical Archaeology, Ancient Numismatics, and Egyptian Ushabtis, and saw myself one day working in museums with precious works of art and ancient artifacts (until I realized I needed a PhD… ouch). In fact, one of my favorite experiences is exploring new museums in new places.

On the other side of my brain exists a passion for science and tech of all kinds, which gives way to thoughts of our connected future in this Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Combining my love of museums and my passion for IOT technologies, Nodel enters the picture set on enhancing museum productivity and connectivity via device control, monitoring, and automation.

Technology connects the world in new and interesting ways every year, and museums haven’t been left out of the picture. In the age of everything internet, everything connected, and everything always on, one trend that has my interest is the speed with which museums are adopting digital media control systems.

And, in this niche-area, Nodel is clearly forward thinking…

Who is Nodel and what do they do?

Nodel is a joint venture established between Museum Victoria and Lumicom. It was imagined as the future of gallery control systems, allowing for the automation of essential museum functions, the reduction of costs associated with a large staff, and prolonging the life of other resources.

Nodel was developed as a bespoke system with the following core functions:

  • Device control
  • Monitoring
  • Scheduling

According to Nodel, these functions need to be enabled by a robust architecture that distributes points of failure so that, in the event that one component fails, others continue to function. Once deployed, the system is expected to operate with little or no direct intervention.

The project was developed under the title ‘Nodel’ to reflect the modular and nodal architecture of the system.

The architecture of Nodel is based on individual “nodes” that each perform a specific task. Nodes themselves communicate using a common, open language and may be programmed to act as a translator between other protocols. For example, a node may control a device such as a projector that uses the PJLink protocol, or a display that uses the RS232 protocol. Equipment can range from a simple I/O device such as a push-button to a very complex device such as a video matrix switcher.

“Effectively, a node may be programmed to control any piece of digital equipment that provides an external communication interface.”

A node may also control other nodes on the network: For example, one node may be programmed to poll a node to retrieve its status or instruct a number of other nodes to perform a series of actions at a specific time. Each node in the network is capable of operating independently of others, self-managing connections to other nodes on the network and automatically re-establishing communications in the event of a disruption.

Nodes present their own web-based user interface for configuration, control and diagnostics: The Nodel control system is based on protocols and formats that are commonly available and openly documented. It is designed to be self-announcing, self-configuring, and both network and platform independent.

Open license: The adoption of Nodel by other institutions under an open license has the potential to generate a community of users where the development of new nodes can be shared, as can the function of error checking and quality assurance

Compatible and Cost Effective: A node can run on any platform capable of executing Java run-time binaries, including OS X, Windows and Linux based devices. As such, no proprietary hardware is required to install and run the system, allowing a wide range of devices to be used in a gallery design, including the cost-effective Raspberry Pi.

Implementation: The node handles all basic communications tasks automatically, freeing up a programmer to concentrate on core functionality. For example, whenever a node is removed or reappears on the network, re-connection to the node is managed without any intervention from the programmer. All nodes are addressed using node names only, so knowledge of the configuration of the network, such as IP address and port, is not required when programming.

The Nodel gallery control system was developed in response to an identified need for a tailored control solution specific to the needs of digital media exhibits in museums and galleries.

The modular and distributed design of the product makes Nodel adaptable in the event of infrastructure failure. Nodes can be developed to respond to a wide variety of design requirements, while the use of open source development tools and protocols makes the system simple to customize without the need for specialist training.

Nodel was initially deployed in the First Peoples exhibition at Melbourne Museum in September 2013. This was the most ambitious and technically challenging exhibition developed by Museum Victoria to date with more than 40 digital media exhibits. It has subsequently been installed in other permanent and temporary exhibitions across the organization, increasing the number of exhibits under Nodel control to more than 120.

“Nodel has proven itself to be reliable and adaptable, putting the control of gallery infrastructure in the hands of museum staff.”

Final Thoughts:

Through connecting museums and art galleries, Nodel becomes more than just a logical next step in the evolution of the IOT. In keeping with my investment thesis based on an unfortunately dystopian future, Nodel also represents a next step in industrial disruption based on the “equation” all our past Industrial Revolutions have followed:

Tech Innovation –> yields –> Industrial Disruption –> yields –> Economic Unrest –> yields –> warfare.

Nodel brings automation and connectivity innovation to museums, yielding lower requirements for staffing and very skilled employees. Surely, this will yield some sort of economic unrest, at least for the families involved.

It’s a stretch to say Nodel will bring warfare… however, the connectivity of everything in the IOT, in which Nodel is participating, is a MAJOR concern for global information security. The more connected we become, the more frequently we hear about cyber security breaches and hacks. Almost daily now, isn’t it? The Fourth Industrial Revolution is here, and it’s warfare is asymmetrical.

It seems to me that, at some point, museums will have to place their works of art on a blockchain, and I’m wondering if Nodel would be able to intergrate with or create a museum-specific chain.

What are your thoughts on the disruption Nodel could potentially yield?

Resources: Nodel Whitepaper and website

Thanks for reading!

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