Posts Tagged ‘Internet of Things’

If hungry Then pizza

December 12, 2011

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.

Silence of the Chips

July 9, 2009

If you’re thinking deep-fried slithers of Maris Pipers and a monastic vow of silence, or a cheap re-make of the Anthony Hopkins/Jodie Foster blockbuster, then this piece is not for you.

The chips in question are RFID chips, which the EU wants to sprinkle liberally in our urban environment in order to kick-start a world-leading tech industry (a very rough summary). However, there’s been such a kafuffle over the potential for privacy invasion that the EU now wants to start a debate about whether or not people should have the right to ‘disconnect’ from this networked environment.

The problem is that in this vision of the future there will be perhaps 70 billion Internet-enabled, computer-like devices plus countless other everyday physical objects and consumables that have been tagged with RFID. In effect we will be surrounded by a kind of permanent, ‘always-on’ computational fabric woven into our physical surroundings. In a recently announced action plan, the EU poses the question of what rights we should have to be able to disconnect from this networked environment, which they call the ‘right to silence of the chips’.

The action plan is very sketchy on details of what such a right might consist of. Would it, for example, apply permanently or just for certain periods of time? How will we be reassured that we have genuinely been ‘disconnected’? When the chips are down, what do you think they’ll put first – big business or the right to privacy?