Attending a conference on the “Internet of things” is like walking through a bizarro mosaic of the future.
Conferences tend to center on a well-defined market, topic, or large company, and that theme is reflected back in some cohesive fashion by each company in attendance.
“The internet of things”, “smart devices” or “connected devices” (my preferred term), or broad subsets like “wearables” by nature implies just about everything.
Everything, in theory, can connect to everything else via a sensor, processor, and transmitter. That means the boundaries of a connected product and its related vertical markets are, in theory, limitless.
So as you peruse the booths, you see wireless garden sensors next to fabric with sensors literally woven in, you see defense contractor behemoth Booz Allen Hamilton talking about cloud computing solutions across the aisle from a startup shoe sensor company called Boogio (“Makes your shoes smart!”).
As I walked through the vendors and sessions at this week’s Wearable Technologies Conference in San Francisco, I tried to assemble a picture my future life flooded with all these sensors, embedded everywhere, telling me everything.
As I finish up a work project in my future home, Imprint Energy’s wafer-thin batteries power a wristband running atop VirtualBeam’s motion recognition software which informs me when my hands have been gesturing over my Leap Motion sensor for too long, so I need a break to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome. My future wife scans patients at the hospital with Aura’s 3D ear canal scanning system but her Emotiv electroencephalography headband scans her brainwaves and lets me know that it’s been a stressful day for her. I send our drone to go pick up tacos for dinner.
My future daughter plays in the backyard and I know she’s okay because Sensirion’s outdoor sensors tell me that the humidity and temperature are reasonable, not to mention the Leo bands around her legs tell me she’s well hydrated and her muscles are moving well (i.e. she’s running around happily) and her SunFriend wristband indicates her UV intake is still low. My future son practices the virtual drums with his Moff wristbands as he gets ready for his football game where Flextronics sensors will map his muscle motions on each tackle (good form or not?) and his i1 Biometrics mouthguard will alert me in real time when he gets a concussion and store the data in the cloud.
And that is the really the binding agent of all these seemingly random companies.
“It’s about the data!” Frank Ball, CEO of vascular imaging company Evena Medical, booms during his talk. “We’ve heard about generating data. But the money is being in the pipeline that processes that data…. We call this whole morass ‘the data hurricane’.”