Some call it the Internet of Things, others call it Ambient Intelligence. I call it our increasingly connected future. As online and offline worlds collapse, innovation is happening at warp speed. All of a sudden, we have plants that tweet when they’re thirsty, door handles that can be opened with a text message, bracelets that tell you how well you slept and many things in between. What does this mean for society? What does this mean for people’s expectations about products and services?
It’s hard to predict the future, but we know the Web is no longer viewed through rectangular screens; it is now something that can be felt, touched, engaged with, and enjoyed via the interconnectedness of everyday objects. Here we share a few of our favorites.
Go ahead: engage with the the ambient network at your fingertips!
In Your Home:
With Lockitron you can replace your keys with your phone. Their tech networks your home locks, allowing you to lock and unlock your doors from anywhere in the world. Not only offering the convenience of being able to unlock doors while you’re not physically proximate, Lockitron allows you to offer and revoke virtual keys, providing greater flexibility and control over who can access what, when.
[Full Disclosure, I’m an investor.]
The plants in the Undercurrent office tweet when they’re ready for water. Yours can too. Botanicalls (recently acquired by MoMA for the permanent collection) is a simple set of sensors that registers the moisture of plants and lets you know when they’re running dry. Not only does it help those lacking a green thumb keep plants alive, Botanicalls also works to “open up a new channel of communication between plants and humans, in an effort to promote successful inter-species understanding.” Better yet, the sensor kits are DIY.
With Your Body:
Despite some early quality control issues, we’re still huge fans of the UP bracelet. A new health product from the creators of Jawbone, our UP bracelets wake us at the optimal time in the morning, track our sleep on our iPhones, count our steps, and remind us to stay active.
The UP bracelet is just one venture into the networking of health devices. In a similar vein, the Wi-Fi Body scales from Withings graphs out your weight, BMI and fat mass so you can access it from your smartphone or web browser anytime. (Check out their iOS integrated Blood Pressure Monitor, too).
With Your Car:
A crowd-sourced traffic-fighting application, Waze is a great demonstration of the innovative solutions to problems (traffic jams) coming not from the incumbents (GPS companies, car manufacturers) but from the startup community. Download the application and you get plugged into a mesh network that provides navigation and real-time traffic updates, harnessing the power of the crowd to improve your journey.
On Your Bike:
The Copenhagen Wheel transforms your regular bike into a hybrid “e-bike” that acts like a mobile sensing unit. A project from MIT’s SENSEable City Lab, this simple bicycle wheel captures pollution levels, traffic congestion details and information about road conditions in real-time. This data can be shared privately or with communities — the more people using it, the better the information about your town or city gets.
The Web is no longer bound by the screen, but something to be touched, engaged with, and enjoyed via the interconnectedness of everyday objects.
Each of these projects demonstrate some of the potential and possibility of a networked future. What remains unclear is what happens when the collapse between offline and online worlds is complete. Will the proverbial dust ever settle? Will robots named Siri make us coffee and take our temperature when we’re sick? Will the next generation of youth carry keys? We love asking those questions, but even more, we love participating in the future as it unfolds — and we encourage you to join us.