The story of kc claffy and measuring the Internet – 2017 Jonathan B. Postel Service Award winner

Appreciated by some, taken for granted by many, the Internet is understood by few who use it. Underneath the ability to communicate instantaneously with people across the globe, conduct major business transactions with a click of a button and have the latest news and entertainment at our fingertips lies a vast landscape of data, unfettered by regulation, and spurred by competitive growth.

kc claffy, this year’s Jonathan B. Postel Service Award winner, has been with the Internet from nearly its very beginnings. She’s watched its evolution from military project to government-funded point-to-point communication to its current iteration as a private sector behemoth.

claffy is one of the few brave scientists who measure the Internet. She’s leading the way to the future by opening our eyes to the layers of data beneath the surface along with the Center for Applied Internet Data Analysis (CAIDA), a group she founded in 1996.

“The work that we do isn’t easy to get funded because the Internet itself isn’t yet its own subject,” claffy said. “It’s even a struggle for the agencies to get funding, since infrastructure isn’t very sexy.”

Sexy or not, claffy has been measuring the Internet since the early 90s. The year she finished graduate school was the year the government decided to officially pull out of the Internet, which until that point had been a government funded project. It was 1994.

“That was the end of the data, so I started a corporation to try to have a place for Internet data sharing and data analysis, thinking maybe some people would want to share their numbers,” she said. “I was really interested in a field of science for the Internet when all the doors were closing. I wanted a clearinghouse for data.”

Two years later she wrote the CAIDA proposal, and now, more than 20 years after that, they’re still at it.

“Frankly, I did not think I would still be here,” claffy said. “We just cobble this together from grants. It’s so hard to keep the money going, even for one body let alone 15 bodies.”

Of course, as the Internet has grown and changed, so have CAIDA’s measurements and responsibilities.

“The first question is what do we have? What have we built?” claffy said. “We can’t answer that because the private sector took over, and they don’t want to give up that data due to the competitive landscape. Of course, with the Internet’s usage today, it’s really like providing water competitively, but back in the 90s, letting it go private was a reasonable decision.”

As the Internet grew and shifted its shape, the ways to measure, organize and regulate it have changed. In fact, there’s been very little of any of that. The Internet has been allowed to grow unmeasured and organically since the government relinquished control. Up to this point, this has been good for innovation and progress.

“The Internet is so good today because of the competition in the market,” claffy said. “This is really just a lab experiment that escaped a little early, and we knew there were going to be problems but thought we handle them when we get there. Now we’re there.”

Through it all, claffy is working toward mapping and measuring the data, most of which is currently splintered between companies and countries throughout the world. The past few decades of Internet development are miniscule when compared to where we are going, claffy said. With the Internet of Things, the proliferation of fake news and media messaging, national security threats, and privacy violations, these measurements will be of vital importance in the near future.

“I want to make the world safe for Internet science,” claffy said. “The American people need better data—to understand what the Internet is, how it’s connected, and how the data is being used.”

Jonathan B. Postel was one of claffy’s heroes throughout her life, and, as such, she says this award is one of the highlights of her career.

“He was kind of the social conscience of the place. He was all about integrity and honesty, so winning this award is a huge honor.”

As for what claffy wants to be best known for?

“I hope what I’m remembered for, I haven’t done yet.”

Find out more about Jonathan B. Postel Service Award and who are past winners


Image credit: Stonehouse Photographic / Internet Society

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Pitney Bowes wins Business Transformation Award for SmartLink™ retrofit

The oldest things – brownfield industrial and commercial machines and infrastructure that may have been in the field for years – are the hottest “news” when it comes to IoT.

So it’s not surprising that SmartLink™, a new product from Pitney Bowes, just won the Best Business Transformation Solution Award at the 2016 IoT Solutions World Congress in Barcelona. SmartLink leverages the Electric Imp secure connectivity and application enablement platform on a private cloud to become a hot retrofit for Pitney Bowes’ postage meters.

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The journey from good idea to innovative product that customers love is core to Pitney Bowes transformation.

In a recent Forbes article, Roger Pilc, Pitney Bowes Chief Innovation Officer, describes how the $ 3.5 billion technology services company has focused on innovation to reinvent certain aspects of a 100 year old business.

“For us, innovation holistically is a marriage of technology, invention, business insight, and, ultimately, to create value for clients,” said Pilc. “They are all wrestling with the same thing, which is how to succeed in an increasingly complex digital and physical world, an increasingly global world, and they are wrestling with multiple technologies.”

SmartLink makes it easy to connect customers’ mailstation2™ digital postage meters to the Pitney Bowes Commerce Cloud.

“With Electric Imp, we were able to provide a more robust connectivity solution that was easy to install and lower cost,” said Rick Ryan, security and IoT fellow for Pitney Bowes Strategic Technology and Innovation Center.

The customer simply connects the SmartLink device via USB cable to the postage machines. The SmartLink, with an impDevice™ inside, connects securely to the internet via an ethernet cable or WiFi and our impCloud™. At install, the devices are securely commissioned and activated with a web app using our patented BlinkUp™. Once connected to the internet, the meters can sync with the Pitney Bowes Data Center any time of day or night to download postal rate updates, refill postage, update software, order ink,and tap other Connected Commerce services in the future.

Ryan adds that connecting to the Internet of Things (IoT) isn’t just about creating highly-trusted downloads of more postage and software updates, it paves the way for new commerce services based on ongoing communication with the meters.

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We’re very pleased to be part of the SmartLink solution, being recognized with the award and helping Pitney Bowes make their vision for business transformation possible.

Oliver Hutaff
CFO/COO
Electric Imp

Electric Imp Blog