Last week, a post written by Amanda Headlee reminded me of a post I wrote a little over a year ago called The Internet of Snarky Things. The two posts don’t have much in common, but there’s mention of an underlying thread: the problems that might be caused when everything is connected to everything. I was trying to be funny, but I think Amanda is more interested in the fear factor.
By the way, if you are a writer, want to be a writer or are easily amused by writers, you should visit The Sarcastic Muse.
As things are moving very, very fast these days in the world of technology and communications, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Internet of Things (IoT) is becoming more of a reality than a pipe dream. Things are talking to other things. Sometimes they talk to each other on our behalf, sometimes they talk among themselves without our knowing, and sometimes they tell on us the way young siblings do. Unfortunately, mom isn’t there to say “nobody likes a tattletale.” The people who built that last group of things love tattletales.
One of the way things (OK, not really things but it’s a good example) talk to each other that I like, is demonstrated by a service called If This Then That, (IFTTT, said to be pronounced like “gift” without the “g”). I signed up for IFTTT so I could link two services that I use together.
I use Evernote and Trello in support of this blog (see Blogging Geek Style). Evernote is a great place to keep notes. Probably why they put “note” in the name. Trello is a great place to schedule stuff. Trello is a lightweight task/project management system. That’s a good thing, because heavyweight project management systems were invented for people who are building bridges. Who needs that for publishing a blog?
While both of these services handle note-taking, artifact-storing and task-scheduling, Evernote is better at the first two and Trello is awesome at the third. What I really wanted was a way to link Evernote to Trello.
Now I have that.
IFTTT is a service that lets you link applications/Apps/Services/etc. to one another by building simple rules that invoke actions that are published in the various products’ APIs (application programming interfaces). APIs are things that applications know how to do that are publicly understood.
It’s like telling your nephew from Boise to set the table. You may not have seen him since the day he was baptized, but he’s 11 and he should know how to set a table.
Your nephew might put the fork on the right, maybe that’s how they do it in Boise, or maybe he forgot, or maybe he’s bored, but APIs don’t forget. APIs are reliable and they never get bored.
I created a link in IFTTT that lets me click something in Evernote and have the blog idea I have squirreled away there be added to a schedule I have in Trello. I can also schedule a new blog post in Trello and have a note page setup in Evernote to remind me to do the necessary research. I think that is very cool.
As for products that talk to other products, a wide range of devices are currently hitting the market. For example: a thermostat that talks to all the phones in your house and knows when the last person leaves the house and when the first person to return is close enough to crank down the AC. That product is doomed in our house. My wife reigns over the thermostat and woe be unto the human or artificially intelligent device that gets in her way.
Another product can be set to control all the lights in your house and to vary them in conjunction with the Earth’s rotation to keep you in a good mental frame of mind. This product would automatically wake you with bright simulated sunlight. Again, that product is D.O.A. at our address. The Mrs. follows me around, turning off every light as I go light switch to light switch moving them into the On position when I wake up. Turning a light on to make her happy is like bleeding in front of a shark to make it go away.
The category of snitchy things includes things like devices that talk to the electric company and shut things (like lights) off or turn things (like the AC) up or down or schedule appliances like washers and dishwashers to run or not run based on conditions on the grid. Also in this category are the things you can plug into your car’s diagnostic port that will tell your insurance company how you are driving, and devices, apps and toilet seats that will tell your doctor that you did, apparently, have a second slice of pie last night.
I don’t think these that the “things” in the Internet of Things are going to truly be useful until they can marry other things and learn a few things about peaceful coexistence. Things like: “do not turn the dishwasher on at 2:00 am” – “do not turn the thermostat up when it’s hot and humid” – “do not tell my doctor I had two beers” and, of course: “turn that darn light off!”