WebSummit report: the Internet of Things

Oh goody! We love the Internet of Things. So here is a panel incorporating Smart Things and the makers of HapiFork, moderated by Mike Butcher of TechCrunch. I’ve come across SmartThings before and I have to say they’re pretty cool: it’s a cloud based platform that lets you connect your devices and build applications for them. A bit like Pachube, but it works in the cloud.

So Alex Hawkinson of SmartThings has bravely volunteered to do a live demo, on stage, in front of more than a thousand people. Appealingly, it comes in what looks like an old drawer from a kitchen dresser. He’s showing off motion, temperature and humidity data coming live from the ‘Eye of Sauron’ (according to his phone’s interface) which is not at all disturbing.

In the real world, what this basically means, among other things, is a remote control for everything. So the whole house can be locked remotely. But more powerfully you can set things up remotely to make devices interact. When someone knocks on the front door, the nightlight can flash and you can get a notification direct to your phone.

Mike, straight to the point, wants to know how SmartThings will make money and how developers will share revenue. There will be paid apps and free apps, plus smart services – lovely example of a group of off duty cops who are making money setting up a home monitoring system based on SmartThings monitoring.

HapiForks is a much simpler proposition, a fork that tracks the number of times you bring the fork to your mouth and how fast you’re moving it. Go too fast and the fork vibrates to remind you not to be a greedy pig. It’s a tool to monitor and change eating habits, and it will also track and monitor your habits over a longer period. So now you can have graphs of every meal on your mobile.

It remains to be seen how this will go down at The Fat Duck.

There are projects going on to look at analysing what is on the fork as well as how it is used. Niches include people who have eating disorders, or particular food intolerances, but basically it is a tool for those who want to eat mindfully.

One of the joys of the Internet of Things is the unexpected connections: the guy who has hacked his house so that if his FitBit doesn’t record sufficient steps one day, the heat won’t work tomorrow. The same is true for businesses in the area – they are making all sorts of connections to build new functions.

Mike raises the real challenge of device fragmentation and standardisation. However the panel see this as a converging market, with a potential size of billions. ‘Are you a user of stuff?’ says Alex. If so, the Internet of Things is relevant to you. Look out for it at a fork near you.