MAYA Design, a Pittsburgh design consultancy and tech research lab, is expanding its focus into the Internet of Things, a platform that wants to connect every aspect of our lives from home security to our coffee makers.

Calling it pervasive computing, the Internet of Things is the future and will work to connect specific embedded computing devices within the already existing Internet, says Dutch MacDonald, president and CEO.

“What people mean by “the Internet of Things” is a method for using centralized servers (like web servers or “cloud” services) to act as the clearinghouse for data and communications,” he says. “We don’t think that is scalable and our research and approach focuses on how to scale to a world of a trillion connected devices. We don’t believe this will happen through the existing Internet.”

Instead, MAYA is pushing to incorporate the Internet of Things as not only a way to communicate with the Internet, but also a utilization of peer-to-peer communication, and even computations between “things” and people with mobile or wearable devices.

Another project, called Interstacks, aims to make that peer-to-peer (or device-to-device) communication all the more seamless.

MacDonald explains that, “Typically, if you want to do something useful, like say, turn on your thermostat from your office, or display patient recovery information in a waiting room in a hospital, you have to put a generic, powerful and rather complicated PC into the equation.”

Interstacks is the “glue” that would help to hold the Internet of Things together. Instead of a complicated operating system, Interstacks modules are small, square, interlocking pieces that perform just the processing that is needed for the task.

Interstacks also bridge a “language” gap between devices. MacDonald uses the example of a home heating and cooling system. “If you wanted to tie that thermostat, to an outdoor weather station, and to the shading devices, it is unlikely those “things” would speak the same language. Interstacks acts as the “mortar between the bricks”  of various communications technologies so that you could easily create your own energy-saving house control system.”

“At a large scale, you could use Interstacks to link and control the systems in an apartment building, a hospital, a campus, or a community,” says MacDonald.

Another important internal development at MAYA relates to a new position the firm is creating called a practice leader of strategy. John Crowley is the company’s first practice leader, or specialized consultant.

“Consultants at MAYA have a pretty broad view. Practice Leaders can go much deeper. They provide domain expertise in a particular area.

MAYA is hoping to expand their Practice Leader offerings based on client needs, and hire subject experts in areas such as pervasive computing and health care. MacDonald hopes this willingness to adapt is what will allow MAYA to achieve global success. “It’s through our ability to remain fluid in the way that we learn, build and predict the future.”

This November marks MAYA Design’s 25th birthday. Starting Friday, November 14th, the company’s social media spots will be remembering past projects and notable technology milestones that have made its past 25 years memorable. Follow @MAYA_Design.

Rebekah Zook

Rebekah Zook is a Duquesne grad and all-around story-telling enthusiast. A former fellow at WESA, she worked as a production assistant for their daily talk show. Most recently, she taught in the Propel Charter School system as a visiting artist. When she isn’t writing, Rebekah is a trip leader for the local non-profit organization Venture Outdoors. You can usually find her in a bright yellow kayak.