What is the Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things
The Internet of Things

What is the Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things describes a rapidly increasing collection of physical devices and objects that are connected to the Internet which are not typical computers. Things such as fridges, cameras, vending machines, routers, etc. More interestingly these devices are usually capable of receiving and sending data back onto the Internet.

For me, this makes them the secret weapon in the battle to interest children (and adults) in computing and programming.

What’s so interesting about a vending machine on the Internet?

Not much on the face of it. We’ve been hacking these sort of things for decades. I remember working in San Francisco and one of our Startup friends had rigged up his “soda” machine to the web so it would let him know when it was empty.

Great, so the Internet of Things uses the Internet to help us be even more lazy?

Yes, exactly! No, hang on a minute. No.

Okay, the pop/soda vending machine example was probably the wrong one. Let’s try this one, the cute Pixy cmucam5 which is has already smashed it’s first goal on Kickstarter.

Pixy cmucam5
Pixy cmucam5

The Pixy is a camera that can recognise multiple objects, in colour, and send a message when it does. It can also do this with moving objects. If this all sounds a bit abstract let’s think of something practical.

Pixy cmucam5 - colour object recognition
Pixy cmucam5 – colour object recognition

For example, with Pixy, I could teach it to recognise different birds and animals in my garden, take a picture and then send the data to my web blog: Dan’s Garden Zoo.

The server could  store the data in a database and graph the animal activity in my garden over time. If I get something rare, say a Woodpecker, it could send a tweet with the pic attached. I could share the code with friends and we could have a Battle of the Garden Zoos to see who has the most nature friendly garden.

Actually, I’ve just backed the Kickstarter and this is what I’ll be doing with it with the kids (along with ordering vats of slugs so we win the Hedgehog Showdown!

Personally, I think this is a fantastic way to introduce programming to children as again it’s a very tangible thing. It could be something more fun that counting birds and animals, maybe a hi-tech security device for opening a child’s bedroom door! It could also be something that you could build a simple physical computer game with.

There’s also the Raspberry-Pi which has the potential to be right at the heart of the Internet of Things as the brains behind these devices. And it’s not ust going to be a new way to hack devices.
going to be a massive part of Cisco estimate the Internet of Things to be worth  $14.3 trillion by 2020.

There’s currently a pilot in UK schools with the concept. Here’s a Telegraph article about the Eight UK schools to pilot Internet of Things trial

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