Dave Allen

The Internet of things

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Nest Learning Thermostat Internet of Things

The digital savvy amongst us led online sales to a record this year – $1.25 billion, up 22% over last year. And no doubt, during this holiday season online sales will continue to accrue, with mobile purchases adding a sizable amount into the mix too. But buying online just leads to more “stuff.” This is about different kinds of “things.”

If we’re not using the Internet to find a great deal on Grandpa’s slippers this year, we are probably wallowing in Facebook, that other Internet. Just kidding. Meanwhile, as always, the Internet continues to disrupt while expanding upon its offerings. Online shopping and self-gratification will always be at our fingertips, but now with the advance of clever software and the low price of simple sensors, the Internet of Things has arrived, according to Steve Lohr in his article, The Internet Gets Physical. He says, referring to the clever software and cheap sensors.. “The consumer Internet can be seen as the warm-up act for these technologies.” Lohr also points to Larry Smarr’s essay, An Evolution Toward a Programmable Universe, that opens with “Over the next 10 years, the physical world will become ever more overlaid with devices for sending and receiving information.

And here’s more – “We’re going to put the digital ‘smarts’ into everything,” said Edward D. Lazowska, a computer scientist at the University of Washington. These abundant smart devices, Dr. Lazowska added, will “interact intelligently with people and with the physical world.

We’re going to be gizmo-ed out..! It’s going to be fun and worthwhile though. Just take the Nest Learning Thermostat for example:

Its product, introduced in late October, is a digital thermostat, combining sensors, machine learning and Web technology. It senses not just air temperature, but the movements of people in a house, their comings and goings, and adjusts room temperatures accordingly to save energy.

At the Nest offices in Palo Alto, Calif., there is a lot of talk of helping the planet, as well as the thrill of creating cool technology. Yoky Matsuoka, a former Google computer scientist and winner of a MacArthur “genius” grant, said, “This is the next wave for me.”

Matt Rogers, 28, a Nest co-founder, led a team of engineers at Apple that wrote software for iPods. He loved his job and working for Apple, he said. But he added: “In essence, we were building toys. I wanted to build a product that could really make a huge impact on a big problem.”

Russell Davies, who I have admired from afar for some time – he lives in London and works at R/GA – has been “fiddling around” (my quotes as that phrase reminds me of how he writes and speaks..) with Internet-related gadgets. Check out his Soup blog, especially made by machines for people, and this too #RGAMakeDay. I get the sense that #RGAMakeDay is what Russell gets up to most days. This is also a great read – again with the post-digital. And he turned me on to Little Printer. That’s a lot of homework there, but if you’re inquisitive and curious those links will open up to some great thinking around just where ‘digital’ could take us. There’s some great stuff about screens too.

Anyway, back to Steve Lohr. He tells us what IBM has been working on since 2008 (these things take time:)

In 2008, I.B.M. declared that it was going to make a big push into the industrial Internet, using computing intelligence to create more efficient systems for utility grids, traffic management, food distribution, water conservation and health care. Smarter Planet was the label the company tacked on to the initiative, and industry analysts wondered if it was more than a sales campaign.

In a recent interview, Samuel J. Palmisano, chief executive of I.B.M., emphasized that the program’s origins were in the company’s research labs rather than its marketing department. “The timing was right because we had the technology,” he said.

Today, I.B.M. says it is working on more than 2,000 projects worldwide that fit in the Smarter Planet category.

There you have it – the Internet of Things is not a marketing “idea.”

[Update] I forgot to mention Twine.

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