Mayo, Spam, and the Coming ‘Internet of Things’ Arms Race

Mmmmm. Creamy.

A Horrifying Vision

I’m back in the office today after two days at an Internet of Things Expo in Manhattan. We’re clearly at a weird state where everyone in the world knows that something big is about to happen, but no one has any idea where or how. Lots of people were expressing frustration that there are no clear standards yet. COAP? MQTT? Turns out that there are already startups doing their best to sell services that will abstract away pesky details like underlying wire protocols. I even brought home a brochure from a company that’s claiming that they’ll be able to implement your entire IoT product vision without any software development effort at all! I think I’ve posted here before about how many times in my career as a developer I’ve seen this wave of ‘Programming without Programmers’ snake oil come back to life.

One panelist commented that it felt a lot like the early days of the internet all over again.

During another presentation, I saw how right he was. (more…) – Twitter for Social Machines

Last week I came across which looks like a great way for simple internet connected devices to publish and share data with interested people, systems, and devices. Sharing publicly is free, and privately is just 99 cents per month, per thing. It’s Twitter for the Internet of Things.

Image of Internet of Things by antjeverena

You can "dweet" up to 2000 characters of data using a HAPI style web API that’s incredibly simple, and in turn get some easily readable JSON that looks something like:

  "this": "succeeded",
  "by": "dweeting",
  "the": "dweet",
  "with": {
    "thing": "{thing_name}",
    "created": "2014-01-15T17:28:42.556Z",
    "content": {
      "hello": "world",
      "foo": "bar"

The last 500 dweets from any thing are stored for up to 24 hours. If it hasn’t dweeted in 24 hours, its history is removed.

For connecting simple devices or services that need to periodically share some data, this is such a fantastic service.

Image from antjeverena

Smarter Things

A few months ago I took a look at some projects and apps that look to connect everyday devices to the Internet – part of the growing Internet of Things or IoT. In just a few months a lot has happened and there are some exciting new projects and events taking place.

hero-detailThe SmartThings project on Kickstarter has received a lot of attention recently. The project consists of a hub device that communicates wirelessly with various “Things” that can be sensors (motion, light, temperature) or devices (thermostats, power outlets, smoke alarms) to communicate with apps for your mobile device or help automate tasks around the house. Maybe I’ll be able to get that text message or push notification when one of my kids leave the lights on in the basement without having to install a bunch of X-10 or Insteon gear?

Some other exciting Kickstarter projects are looking to integrate with SmartThings as well:

  • Instacube – a interactive digital picture frame for your Instagram feed can also serve as a display for notifications or a touch screen for interacting with your things.
  • The second generation Wattvision energy sensor (I’ve got the original version – it’s awesome) will also offer SmartThings integration

The SmartThings hub will also offer integration with Arduino hardware which I’m sure will result in some really creative uses. I’ve been looking for a reason to order an Arduino board and this might just be it.

A great example of an Arduino based Kickstarter project is #AirQualityEgg, which I linked to in my original post. The #AirQualityEgg community recently held a meetup in Chicago to install one of the first network of sensors. As part of the meetup the #AirQualityEgg team imported data into (formerly Pachube) which is an online home for IoT devices, apps, and developers to come together. You can view live data from an EPA sensor at Cosm and get JSON, XML, or CSV feeds of the data to work with in your own apps. They also built some cool visualizations of the data too.

The Arduino project has a tutorial that makes it easy for for an Arduino board with an ethernet shield to upload data to Cosm for your own IoT project.

For now I’m following @smartthings on Twitter to keep up with new developments and integration partners and am looking for an excuse to use some of the great features Cosm has to offer. What would I love to see on the IoT? Our pair of Neato robot vacuums so I can get a push notification when the dust bin is full or the brush is stuck on some obstacle my kids left lying around the house. Need any beta testers Neato?

SmartThings image from

The Internet of Things and Big Data

I’ve been following the developments in the “Internet of Things” and Big Data / Open Data markets as new apps and tools are released and they look to be two exciting technologies on a collision course. With the advent of internet connected home appliances like Wattvision and Nest that provide real utility to the average home owner at reasonable prices along with crowd funded projects like Air Quality Egg or Twine we should see an explosion in the kinds and amount of useful and real-time or near real-time data that is available to anyone with a smartphone. Health metric or “quantitative self” tracking devices such as Fitbit, Jawbone Up, and the Pebble watch will fuel this data explosion as well.

Racing to manage and make sense of this new information are some exciting startups and tools like BuzzDataSilk, and Wolfram Alpha Pro. I’d expect to see an increasing number of smartphone and tablet apps developed to help mobile users make sense of and to also generate more data.

Will these internet connected devices rapidly supplant  our current range of “dumb” belongings just as smartphones quickly are dumb feature phones? Will the tools to manage it all be able to keep up? Interesting times ahead for sure.