The internet of things

The internet of things is the basic premise that rather than just having your phone or computer connected to the internet in fact you have a whole wealth of dedicated devices which are connected to the internet and provide a specific service.

Your online fridge
The classic (and very bad) example is the fridge. If it was connected to the internet, in theory, it could tell, or you could tell it by scanning a barcode, that you have run out of milk so next morning the milkman drops off a fresh bottle as it was automatically added to his online delivery list.

With the cost and size of manufacturing the relevant chips and sensors decreasing it is on the verge of becoming a widespread reality. The Parrot Flower sensor is a prime example of this. It is a wireless sensor which you put in a plant pot and it measures sunlight, soil moisture, temperature and fertiliser. This enables the plant to basically alert you when it needs some attention.

Examples of success already
There is sure to be lots and lots of gimmicky / pointless applications but I’m really excited about the potential. One of the first success stories is in health/fitness. Big names like Nike and their FuelBand are good examples. How long before Health providers / doctors will start using this data to service customers? So called Big Data is about to get a whole lot bigger! There is then the gamification side of things, just by being able see how active you are on a daily basis is an astonishing motivator, add in the ability to compare yourself to your family or friends and the result are amazing.

Use your imagination
Beyond that your imagination is your only limit as to where this could go. Literally think of any physical possession you have and what it could mean about being connected to the net. Any electric / physical item could be controlled remotely e.g. run a bath, put the oven on for when you get home, which it knows to delay if it can see you are running late or get stuck in traffic. Like the plant example though, it doesn’t have to be limited to man-made devices. Heck put a GPS sensor on your cat if you can’t work out why he’s putting on some much weight.

Battery / power is a limiter at the moment but with wireless power processing in it’s development it is likely that this limiter will be removed as well in the future.

So there is two very big opportunities for individuals and organisations

  1. Creating a widget or connection service which people want and gives them something new or makes life easier for them
  2. Those that then use the data / insight these new devices will bring. E.g marketing, insurance, health, economics, governments, etc etc

Certainly the former will attract the immediate attention and initial headlines but I’ve got a feeling the real winners will be those that can leverage the later.

Windows Frustration

I’m writing this post out of per frustration, it is not a new problem but one I and countless others face day in and day out. I live a pretty busy life, I work full time with an hour commute each way and have a young baby girl. This does not really leave a lot of time for anything. If I want to check my emails or pay a bill or surf the web I pretty much want to do it instantly. Mobile phones and tablets are absolutely genius at this, especially with their ‘apps’. The one that has most recently changed my life (and I literally mean this because it has saved me vitals minutes during the day) is Barclays mobile banks app I can now instantly check my balance, pay a bill or even use it to log into my full account using a PC instead of having that annoying card reader thing. I’m sure other banks have had good apps like this for a while but I think this represents exactly why apps can be brilliant.

So back to subject, whilst I think mobile phones and tablets are great in many ways, quite often I prefer to sit at a desk with a bigger screen and a keyboard. I personally find it a lot more comfortable and often a lot quicker to do things. However, and this is the whole point of this post, I am at my wits end with Microsoft Windows. Firstly when I power on it can take 5 minutes before I can actually access a webpage. 5 mintues!! This is not some really old crumby PC I’m talking about here this is Windows 7 running on a pretty decent machine. Then there is the constant updates windows wants to do, which of course require a full restart! Now I get that some updates will requests on my Android phone but they are few and far between and of course any app updates don’t require a restart so just happen in the background most of the time.

I thought Hibernation was my answer. It moves the PC to very low power usage and brings the benefit of a quick turn on except I have a major issue with this. The wireless adaptor gets turned off during hibernation has been turned off and this seems to take a age to turn back on. In fact I’ve just tested it and it has taken 70 secs!!! Now I’ve tried to mess around with settings to avoid this turning off and/or trying to make the wireless adaptor turned on more quickly but to no avail.

I’m not sure I hundred percent blame Microsoft for this issue. I suspect not every Windows machine has this issue but rather it is the fact that the hardware and software are made almost exclusively by different companies. In may case the laptop was put together by HP and with the literally thousands of wireless cards to choose from which can be produced by any manufacture quality is likely to suffer and these little ‘glitches’ occur from specific set ups. This is the beauty of Apple, they not only make the software but also control the hardware too meaning they can ensure a top quality user experience.

Of course Microsoft themselves have changed their long term strategy and released Windows 8 with the Microsoft Surface. This is hardware and software all by Microsoft. Whether the Windows 8 software proves successful or not remains to be seen but I think this is a good move by Microsoft and should hopefully lead to a high quality set of Windows running devices which just work. And maybe, just maybe I’ll be able to claw back some of those valuable seconds.