If hungry Then pizza

For some time I’ve been thinking about a device that silently measures my growing hunger pangs and, when they reach a pre-defined threshold, automatically orders a hot veggie pizza from our local delivery shop. Pizza would be on the office doorstep just as my brain is deciding it’s time for lunch.

This of course is part of the vision for the Internet of Things. Perhaps not the pizza scenario per se, but the idea that ordinary, every day appliances and gadgets will be hooked up to the Internet and start communicating with each other. So far, one of the obstacles has been how to connect devices with software services, which in turn communicate with other devices.

Thanks to a heads-up from a friend I’ve been playing with one possible solution. If This Then That (or ‘IfTTT’, pronounced as ‘lift’ without the ‘l’) is a website that allows the user to build Web service ‘recipes’ in which online tasks are triggered by actions. So, for example, I’ve just created a recipe that will send me an e-mail when the weather forecast starts to warn of rain. Other examples include an SMS alert when someone uploads a photo to Facebook that has been tagged with your name.

The data that initiate these triggers and actions come from ‘channels’ and at the moment these are the usual Web 2.0 suspects – Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, weather services etc. So far it’s fairly basic stuff but hopefully you can see the potential. The number of channels could be expanded to include the kind of Internet-enabled devices that would re-categorise the Internet of Things from pipe dream to killer app. We could have fridges co-ordinating electricity consumption with kettles, or even responding to an external service that triggers switch on/switch off actions in response to the load on the National Grid. Indeed, another website, Pachube, already provides some of the software infrastructure to do aspects of this.

Surely this is a marvellous time to be one of those cubicle jockeys who toil away for Internet start-ups? Any day now that age-old techie conditional statement will be automated:

IF hungry THEN order pizza ELSE carry on programming.


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