Friday, December 7, 2012

These are some fun Internet of Things projects

The "Internet of Things" is the notion that now the internet is made up mostly of computers, but soon there will be many more gadgets than computers.  You see currently, each of us uses a computer or mobile device to connect to the internet, so there is roughly one device per person.  There are also servers who serve many people, so there are fewer of those than there are people.  As more and more other types of devices are connected to the internet - cars, dishwashers, clothing, keychains - the Internet of Things will emerge.  The number of these devices will swamp the numer of things currently connected to the internet because each of us will have many of these devices.  I've been working in related areas for some time from wireless sensor networks to connected Maker projects.

The folks at Postscapes have announced the nominees for their second annual Internet of Things awards to recognize projects that are moving us closer to the Internet of Things.  In particular, I'm interested in the DIY category.  It is the place where the hobbyists, Makers and Do It Yourselfers get recognized for creating projects that you or I could should have done.  I don't know how much these predict our future world full of connected gadgets, but I find them inspirational.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Tworse Key

The Tworse Key is a morsecode key that lets you send messages to Twitter by tapping out dits and dahs.  The combination of old and new technology is appealing somehow.  This one reminds me very much of a project that I did some time ago... I may have to pull that one out to make a blog post about it some time.

Descriptive Camera

Another is the Descriptive Camera which allows you to take a picture like a normal camera, but instead of getting an image out of the camera you get a text description of the scene.  The way it works is rather ingenious.  The camera takes a picture and submits it to Amazon's Mechanical Turk API.  This system provides a mechanism for Human Intelligence Tasks (HITs) where people from around the world can submit answers to problems posed to them... in this case describing a scene.  Essentially, in 3-6 minutes of "developing" time the image will get transcribed by a human being somewhere on the internet and the result will be sent back to the system and printed out.


Tempescope is an ambient weather display.  It tells you tomorrows weather forecast by actually reproducing the conditions in a clear container for you to see.  It can reproduce rain, clouds, lightning and several other conditions.  Through an interface, you can ask it to step you through the weather for a remote location as well.  Watch the video and see it in action.

Personal Energy Orb

The Personal Energy Orb charges up as you ride your bike.  Once charged, you connect it to your computer.  As you use your computer, the orb runs out of energy (as shown by the color of the orb) and starts to slow down your mouse movements and generally make your computer more sluggish.  If you want it to speed up again, you need to go out for a bike ride to charge it up again.  It is there to remind you not to spend all your time parked at the keyboard.

There are several other great projects, including an aquaponics system, an umbrella stand that reminds you that it is raining outside, an energy monitoring system and several more.  You can read about all of them at the Postscapes site.

Thanks for the pointer Pete!