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Opinion Editorials

Why this is the year the “Internet of Things” will explode

(Tech News) Your fridge, thermostat, car, and sprinklers can all talk to the web now, representing the “Internet of Things,” and it’s about to explode in a huge way.

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From 0 to 60 in 20 short years

Can you imagine life without the internet? I can’t. But 20 years ago most of us (except for you geeks out there) were perfectly fine without it. That was 1994.

A few years later we couldn’t imagine doing business without email and the world wide web. And a few years after that, we couldn’t imagine not having broadband internet in our homes.

What made the internet so critical to our lives?

I sat down with my friend Antonio Rodriguez, a serial tech entrepreneur originally from Monterrey, Mexico (he founded Mexico’s first internet portal as CTO of Mexico’s Reforma newspaper) who now calls Austin home.

We talked about the coming age of the Internet of Things, but to understand where we are now, he had to give me a quick economics and history lesson on the internet. The rapidly falling cost of modems and internet access coincided with tremendous advances in technology to make the internet ubiquitous. It quickly became an essential part of our lives.

Well, we’re at that point again.

The Internet of Things is about to explode

Pretty soon, says Rodriguez, we’ll be living in fully automated homes made possible by internet connected appliances, doors, windows, garages and little devices everywhere, all controllable by apps on our smartphones.

Rodriguez pointed out Austin company WigWag, which has already gotten in on the act. Combining low-energy internet protocols, motion and temperature sensors, and smartphone apps, here are a few things they say you can do with their smart device:

  • Your house lights will turn on automatically when you walk in the house, and turn off when you walk out.
  • If you’re about to walk into a sprinkler watering the sidewalk, the sprinkler will temporarily turn off.
  • You’ll be alerted when the (snail) mail gets delivered.
  • When you walk up a dark staircase or down a dark hallway, your path will light up automagically.

WigWag’s device is not a ready-to-go appliance, it’s the building block for a build-your-own approach – great for geeks and hobbyists but not entirely practical for your average consumer.

But that was last year. Rodriguez told me that 2014 is the year the internet of things will really take off.

Why now?

4 Reasons the Internet of Things will explode this year

Rodriguez is a developer, an engineer, and a tinkerer at heart. He’s a huge fan of the Maker Movement, and he’s fully immersed in 3D printing and the low-cost technologies that are making this possible. Here’s what he told me:

1. Energy consumption for internet connectivity for devices has gone way down
In 2013 Bluetooth Low Energy (LE), or Bluetooth 4.0, was introduced into the market. If you have an iPhone 4, you probably have it. Battery life for those little miniature batteries that power this new Bluetooth technology can be extended to a year or more. A huge improvement over previous generations of Bluetooth.

How is this possible? These devices remain dormant until a sensor turns them on just long enough to send a signal, and then they immediately go back into sleep mode. They only use energy during those little nanoseconds when they’re needed.

2. The price of technology has gone way down, just like modems in the 90s
The little chips and sensors used to manufacture these new devices are now down into single digit territory, meaning aspiring entrepreneurs can manufacture their products affordably, offer them at consumer price points, and still make a decent profit.

3. The Maker Movement has exploded
3D printing and the falling cost of sensors, chips and other critical components for the internet of things have made sophisticated high tech items accessible to everyone. Well, accessible to geeks that is. For example, Austin already has it’s own Maker gathering point, the ATX Hackerspace, with 8,000 square feet of space for “artists, designers, engineers, makers and hackers…” It’s equipped with soldering and welding equipment, 120V, 240V and 3-phase power. Essentially, it’s a geek’s wet dream come true.

4. Crowdfunding has become mainstream
Most would-be “Internet of Things” entrepreneurs are going straight to their market through Kickstarter campaigns. Check out these cool projects:

  • The Ring, a gesture controlled, wearable input device
  • Bringrr™, a tracking and reminder device to help you track what you’ve lost or remind you to not forget things you need

No waiting for VC funding, or even angel funding. Go straight to the market, prove your concept with real customers, and deliver. That’s market validation!

Rodriguez is planning a really cool Austin-based internet connected device too, but I can’t reveal it here – not yet. He’d have to kill me.

As we finished our conversation, Rodriguez told me it’s only a matter of time when our homes and workplaces will be completely automated by little web-connected devices. We won’t be able to imagine life without our connected spaces. 2014 is the year it starts to happen on scale.

Fernando Labastida has been writing content in both Spanish and English for the last seven years, starting with his first Spanish-language effort, LatinITMarketing.com. He is the founder and CEO of Content Propulsion, a content marketing agency whose mission is to help Latin American companies enter the U.S. market, U.S. companies enter the Latin American market, and Austin companies conquer the world, with a content marketing approach.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Gabe Sanders

    March 29, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    OK, call me old and maybe not completely in touch with the Internet generation, though I think I’m somewhat tech savvy. But, the thought of everything being connected to the web scares me. The possibilities of third party attacks and intrusions is the problem.

  2. Pingback: How to Live Healthier? Monitor Your Sleep via #IoT | iTelNews

  3. Pingback: EarlySense & SAP HANA Cloud Platform Can Improve Your Sleep - SAP HANA

  4. Pingback: A fun, brief overview of the History of the Internet - The American Genius

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Opinion Editorials

Our five faves for Friday – almost Thanksgiving edition

(EDITORIAL) This week, I have so many faves that I can barely keep it at just five – Unicorns, gophers, tears, science nerdery, and rebellions, oh my!

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I heard a rumor that it’s Friday again, so today we share with you five of the neato-est things that we came across this week – some silly, some serious, all awesome.

1. Brands refusing to open on Thanksgiving Day

It started with retailers opening early on Black Friday, then opening at midnight on Thanksgiving Day, and now retailers are expected to force their staff to work instead of enjoy a bajillion-ish year old American tradition.

But some companies are pushing back, publicly refusing to open on Thanksgiving Day, so even though our home doesn’t care about Black Friday, we’ll be giving some business to those taking a stand.

2. I need you to know about my favorite tv show ever

So there’s nothing new about this, but since you’ve never heard from ME on a Friday Faves roundup, I really need you to know something about me – I have a lot of natural curiosities and history (when not told in a dusty way) fascinates the hell out of me.

Unearthed on the Science Channel is friggen amazing and literally EVERY episode has taught me something that I didn’t know before (like the one about Stonehenge included new discoveries that change how we think about how humans used to operate – seriously mindblowing stuff). All of the episodes are available online, yo, so get to nerding!

3. No one has bought me a Pony Cycle yet

One of the only email newsletters I actually open is The Grommet – they feature independent makers’ inventions and wares, and I’m all about supporting the little guy.

But I posted this insanely amazing Pony Cycle on my Facebook timeline this week with a request that someone buy me one. Guess what? No takers. My friends are monsters. I mean it comes in horse, unicorn (dibs), and zebra, why not buy me one or three?

ponycycle

4. Video that made me cry

After the recent earthquake hit Iran, there has been a deep need for food for the victims. Watch this video (my fave part is the pat pat on the back) and try to tell me that hate isn’t something we’re taught… also, I’m not crying, you are…

5. My favorite gif of this week

If you know me, you know I love gifs more than the average person. So when I came across this one, I knew I had to award it my fave of the week…

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Opinion Editorials

Is your job inadvertently harming your health?

(EDITORIAL) We often get so consumed with our work that we unknowingly hurt ourselves in the process. Learn how to keep this from happening.

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With the changes in seasons, we tend to put more of an emphasis on our health. This makes sense as flus and colds have a tendency to run rampant around the holidays.

However, we should be more mindful of keeping track of our health throughout the year. And, given that our jobs are such a large part of our lives, it is important to keep in mind that our jobs can have an affect on our health. Which can often be a bad thing.

For most of us, we are in the same space for eight hours of our day. Sometimes we think that just because it’s ourselves occupying that space, things can’t really get germy. Well, think again.

We have so many things that we touch on a daily basis – our keyboard, mouse, phone, ID badge, etc. These have a tendency to become a house for germs, which can hurt us as time goes on.

Combat this by setting aside some time each week to disinfect all of your most-used items. Also, consider keeping some hand sanitizer at your desk.

Getting up to clean around your office can help take care of another issue – being too sedentary throughout the day. Sometimes we get so consumed with plugging away at our computers that we forget to get up and stretch.

This can be harmful to your weight and your circulation. Keep the blood flowing by getting up and moving a bit every hour or so.

The mindfulness of your health should not stop at the physical, but should also involve keeping an eye on mental health. Your job plays a big part in this as well.

First of all, you start and end your day with a commute. For some, this can be incredibly strenuous – expensive, traffic-filled, etc.

This has been known to lead to depression. Try filling this time with positivity and fulfillment by listening to a quality podcast or an audio book. This will help to give meaning to otherwise wasted time.

The most important thing to monitor with your mental health is making sure to not overwork yourself. It can be difficult to find that perfect work/life balance, but it’s necessary for a happy and healthy life.

Try staying away from work emails and texts after a certain time of the day on weekdays or on the weekends. Think about it this way – you’re not supposed to tend to your personal business during work hours, so why let work interfere with your personal time?

All of this can be helped by checking in with yourself every once in a while, or even by using the buddy system and discussing the topic with a work friend.

Lastly, be sure to check with your company to learn about health and wellness programs that may be offered.

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Opinion Editorials

Do literally anything with your money besides buy an iPhone X

(EDITORIAL) The iPhone X is pretty snazzy, but let me express why your money belongs literally anywhere besides in Apple’s pocket for this phone.

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The iPhone X is off to a rocky start, beginning with the fact that no one seems to know whether it’s supposed to be pronounced “iPhone Ten” or “iPhone Ex” and working up from there.

If you’re here, you probably don’t need me to tell you that a 5.8-inch OLED screen, facial recognition, 4K recording at 60 FPS, and an all-glass design are superfluous as hell — but just in the off-chance that I’m wrong, THE IPHONE X IS SUPERFLUOUS AS HELL.

Take literally 30 seconds to think about all of the mega-cool features that convinced you to buy your last smartphone, then think of the last time you used even half of those features without feeling compelled to do so. If you’re one of those people who uses all of the filters on the camera every day, fine, but I’m willing to bet that you just use your phone for Facebook, texting, and calling your grandma.

You don’t need a 5.8-inch, all-glass, basically-a-tablet-of-a-phone to do those things, but if money doesn’t mean anything to you, be my guest.

It’s also worth noting that there is a certain point at which “really fast” and “really, really fast” feel identical to one another. My personal experience with this phenomenon was with the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 8; it doesn’t matter how fast your newest processor is if the last one was fast enough.

Apple has a long history of publicly executing things that people are still using. While it’s hard to be too mad about the headphone jack, they hit a soft spot when they nixed ethernet ports—and, more recently, USB 3.0 ports—and the most recent dissident to fall victim to Apple’s indiscriminate chopping block is the Home button.

Yeah, that thing that make the iPhone usable in the first place? Not there anymore. Worse still, the simple display is now flooded with different shortcut hotspots. For example, you swipe up from the bottom of the screen to open the Control Center — no, wait, that’s how you get home. You swipe from the top-right corner of the screen to open the Control Center, while the top-left corner opens the notifications screen that — hey, are you writing this down?

To make matters worse, Apple added a bunch of different contextual shortcuts to the physical buttons on the sides of the iPhone X, further reducing accessibility. I could go on, but I think you get the point.

Is the iPhone X necessary? Absolutely not. Is it neato? Sure.

But is it worth your time if you’ve got dollar bills to blow? Again, absolutely not — do literally anything else with that money, up to and including burning it. As long as Apple continues to ignore the issues that plague their devices in favor of broken facial recognition and 3D emoji animation, consider spending your money elsewhere.

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