LeWeb’12 Paris: Connecting Things

Notre Dame has nothing to do with connected things...

What Things are being connected and how? Here’s a brief summary from our perspective at LeWeb’12:

SmartThings

SmartThings may look like connected home meets Kickstarter, but at LeWeb they announced a $3M round for a much larger vision: the Open Physical Graph. It’s great to see investors excited about an open ecosystem, and this may very well be the catalyst for major advances that extend far beyond the Internet of Things!

Ninja Blocks

Ninja Blocks is another Kickstarter hardware project that’s making big waves. At LeWeb they announced that they’re opening not only their software but also their hardware. Now anyone can build on an already capable platform that includes a connected computer (Ninja Block) and an if-this-then-that style web interface (Ninja Cloud). While the current examples lean towards connected home, it’s clear that the platform can be applied to much, much more.

SIGFOX

SIGFOX is an M2M infrastructure for Things, and it already covers just about the whole of France, requiring only a thousand or so base stations. Things can communicate over kilometers, sending messages of a few bytes. And their target is a $1/year/Thing and a $1 device. If you’ve ever priced hardware and plans for M2M over cellular, you’ll appreciate how disruptive this is!

Sen.se

Sen.se is an open platform in beta that explicitly intends to extend beyond Things, including humans, environments and much more in the mix. SmartThings and Ninja Blocks have far more advanced platforms, but perhaps their twist on the vision will generate traction. They ended their presentation with the tagline “The Meaning of Life”™ (yes, with the trademark), but gave due credit to Monty Python.

Orange MyPlug

The MyPlug from French giant Orange is a connected-home play that has the advantage of easy configuration: it uses a cellular plan with three years of service included in the purchase price of 80 Euros. Conclusion: the carriers can fight SIGFOX’s cost/simplicity advantage (at least for non-battery-operated devices) but, without an open platform, can this ever become more than a novelty/experiment?

Koubachi

Let’s wrap up with the Koubachi, a $99 WiFi plant health monitor. That description alone highlights many of the problems of the present-day IoT. First, if the sensor costs more than the Thing it’s monitoring, the economics simply don’t work. Second, simple sensors shouldn’t speak WiFi (did you enjoy that alliteration?). In fairness, CEO Philipp Bolliger acknowledges this fact, lamenting the lack of a ubiquitous infrastructure for Things. And finally, how will this device connect to and communicate with the open platforms described above?

In summary, it’s wonderful to see so many visions already extending beyond the Internet of Things, but then you have Nest CEO Tony Fadell suggesting that the Internet of Things is a decade away. As is often the case, it’s less an issue of the technology being ready and more an issue of society being ready. The hyper-connected world needs to become far more compelling if we want it to percolate to the top of everyone’s wishlist anytime soon!

LeWeb’12 Paris

LeWeb'12 Paris Banners

The theme of this year’s LeWeb conference in Paris was the Internet of Things, how about that! A few months ago we would have hesitated to mention the term “Internet of Things” as it didn’t seem to mean anyThing to even the technically inclined. Yet today, that term has become a buzzword in the tech and startup communities. Thanks LeWeb for helping spread the word!

Having had the pleasure of attending, I must commend the event organisers, Loic and Geraldine Le Meur, on the execution, the speaker lineup and the catering! It’s a nice touch when the cheese is blue rather than orange. 😉

The biggest news to come out of the event: Instagram’s Twitter card removal. Certainly not a euro-IoT themed story, but it was supported by a fair bit of discussion around the future of social networking and the protectionist strategies of the giants. Probably a good discussion for the IoT to learn from: it’s not difficult to imagine Things being connected to different networks for different reasons all with insufficient integration. At least that’s where it looks like the fledgling IoT is headed right now.

Euro vs. US was an underlying theme, with questions about when Europe will produce a Facebook, if at all. It seems that even with EU integration, cross-border expansion is far from trivial, and labour laws get in the way of the “hire fast, fire faster” mantra. The discussion simply strengthened my affinity for Montreal. It’s good to sit on top of an accessible US market and enjoy some socio-economic advantages as well as cheese that’s the right colour.

And on the theme of the Internet of Things, well, things are moving forward. Several IoT startups had noteworthy announcements, and the list of connected things included lights, plants, electrical outlets, thermostats and even brainwave-sensors. Some very cool stuff, but certainly nothing to make anyone say “OMG this changes everyThing!” Had that been the case, it surely would have demoted the I-can’t-tweet-a-picture-of-my-lunch story from the headlines.

bloggyActive kicks off!

We’re excited to kick off our blog! There’s so much going on right now regarding the Internet of Things, indoor location, wireless Kickstarter projects, social applications of RFID technology, etc., etc.

bloggyActive will be the outlet to share our thoughts which don’t fit into 140-character messages. We, the reelyActive co-founders, look forward to sharing our perspective and insights given our rather unique background with respect to connecting the physical and the digital world. People, places and things are becoming more connected than ever, which makes this an exciting time to be a futurist, a philosopher, an engineer, a developer, a dreamer or any and all of the above! Just imagine what’s next!?!

Shit just got reel silly

To inaugurate the sillyActive blog, it felt like the best thing would be to post the first bit of reelyActive silliness. And here it is:

Shit just got reel

Context

This photo was taken on April 3rd, 2012 (look how pale my arm is!). At that time, reelyActive was a project barely three months old being run through düngengineering, my engineering consulting company. We had working technology, but certainly nothing that qualified as a MVP. We were applying to get on stage at the Montreal International Startup Festival and we knew we were a long shot. So we took this photo of Pier-Olivier and myself, tossed it on our landing page and hoped that when our application was reviewed we’d at least generate some smiles from the Bad Boys 2 fans with enough knowledge of German to catch the nuance that düngen (my family name) means to fertilize, using, you guessed it, shit!

In the end, it didn’t get us on stage, but we still had a great time at the festival. By that time, our webpage had serious content and we set up our landing page to have two options: Serious Site and Silly Site. The Silly Site was simply the above photo. And while we have no scientific data to back up which site was more popular, whenever we went through the access logs, chances were that when someone stumbled upon our website for the first time, curiosity took them to the Silly Site first.

So there you have it. Anecdotal evidence suggests that our visitors enjoy silliness and that’s why our first blog post shall be silly! And we promise to deliver plenty of silliness limited only by the fact that we actually have to run our business, which turns out to be a rather time-consuming affair. 😛