June 6th, 2014
The Internet of Things is growing, and the things are getting weirder by the day.
Last year, we dug up some of the weirdest objects that had been connected to the internet, from a college dorm bathroom to the human heart. Since then, the Internet of Things has only gotten bigger, drawing more items you wouldn’t expect under its umbrella.
The trash can that posts to Facebook
Newcastle University researchers conducted an experiment with the BinCam, to see how embedding a camera in personal trash cans would affect recycling habits. The BinCam connects a smartphone to the underside of a trashcan lid, which automatically takes a photo every time the user puts something in it, according to PostScapes. The photos are automatically shared on Facebook, to garner scrutiny from Facebook Friends who would like to see the user recycle more, as well as with Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service. The latter sends the photos to a judge who assigns a score to the user based on how well they recycle.
City trash can
A more practical use of a smart trash can be found in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where city officials have connected trash and recycling compactors so they can monitor how frequently they get filled, PC Mag reported. This information is used to form the most efficient routes for trash pickup, and is just one example of a growing trend.
Amazon’s grocery tool
As part of its recently announced Amazon Fresh program, the online retailer has released the Dash, a small device that records what users need to buy. The Dash has a voice recorder so users can take notes, as well as a barcode scanner that can scan and record specific products that users need to buy.
If the Amazon Dash is too much work, and if you happen to buy a lot of eggs, the connected egg tray will constantly monitor how many eggs you have in the refrigerator and display the information on a mobile app.
Dog treat dispenser with video chat
For those who travel a lot but don’t want to go without giving their dog a treat every day, the iCPooch is a video chat device that is controlled remotely and dispenses dog treats. The device was invented by a 14-year-old girl who wanted a better way to give her dog attention while her family was out of the house, and raised more than $29,700 against its $20,000 funding goal on Kickstarter.
Dog fitness tracker
If you get carried away with the internet-connected treat dispenser, the Whistle dog fitness tracker can help monitor a dog’s physical activity. It’s sort of a Nike Fuelband for dogs that tracks and stores each dog’s daily activity, so owners can get a sense of how much exercise their dog is actually getting. The Whistle’s founders plan to aggregate all the data on the dogs wearing its devices to create a database that veterinarians and researchers can access to spot trends in dogs’ health, Gigaom reported.
And if you decide that your dog needs more exercise, the internet-connected dog door can let it come and go without letting in any other unwelcome animals. As part of the Iris line of connected home products from Lowe’s, the connected pet door opens only for pets wearing a special collar, and tracks how often the animals walk through it.
Home beer brewing system
An aptly named company called Inebriated Innovations has developed a Wi-Fi-enabled temperature control system for home beer brewing operations, according to a report at Postscapes. Temperature probes connected to a Wi-Fi module monitor temperature, and a mobile app allows the user to control heating and cooling devices remotely. The developers came up with the system after finding that better control over temperature during fermentation yielded a better beer.
Using a Raspberry Pi and some ingenuity, a student at the University of Oxford connected Wolfson College Bar, which is run entirely by student volunteers, to help improve everything from inventory to music selection, Wired reported. The Raspberry Pi recorded sales data in a MySQL database, which alerted student volunteers of stock shortages and suppliers’ price changes. The project also involved coordinating an automated email system to remind volunteers of their shifts managing the bar, and a playlist on the pub’s website where patrons can look up songs that are played over the sound system.
Random person’s office
Using a web cam, a scrolling marquee sign, a disco ball, some lamps, and an internet connection, one internet user has invited the entire world to drive him insane since 1997. At the domain name DriveMeInsane.com, visitors can see constant footage of a small home office, type messages that will scroll on the marquee sign, and control the lamps and disco ball in the room from their own computers. It’s a very early, and impressively long-running, consumer use of the Internet of Things, and the person behind it did it just because he could.
Jerseys that ‘feel what the players feel’
In March, a company called Wearable Experiments introduced the Alert Shirt, which somehow monitors activity during Australian-rules football games on television and vibrates when the players on the field are tackled. The idea is that those wearing the shirt will be able to feel a game while they watch it.
At last year’s CES, Verizon displayed a football helmet adorned with sensors that record impact data and send it to a console where teams can monitor each player’s health and risk of injury. Players don’t always immediately report when they’ve been injured, but a connected helmet could mean they won’t have to.
Household power tools
Designers at Frog Design have come up with prototypes for connected power tools, such as a cordless drill and a tape measure. These kinds of advancements could be useful for storing information, such as the number of screws drilled into a certain item or lengths measured with the tape measure. Recording this data can help prevent simple missteps that can derail a project and cause safety issues.
We may never have to manually open and shut window shades again. The SONTE film stays in place, but can change from transparent to a solid color with an electric current, Postscapes reported. The film can be controlled by a smartphone and is connected to Wi-Fi, so users can shut their blinds while sitting in the room or if they’re on the other side of the world.