A simple mantra for the IoT

In his classic TED talk from 2010, distinguished chemist George Whitesides contrasts simplicity and complexity, specifically in relation to science and technology. He describes the Internet as a series of simple, stacked elements from binary ones-and-zeros to the Google search bar. He concludes with two famous quotes, and then closes on a gem of his own.

First, Albert Einstein:

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

Second, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry:

“You know you’ve achieved perfection in design, not when you have nothing more to add, but when you have nothing more to take away.”

Third, George Whitesides himself:

“How do we make things as simple as we can, as cheap as we can, as functional as we can and as freely interconnectable as we can? If we make that kind of simplicity in our technology and then give it to you guys, you can go off and do all kinds of fabulous things with it.”

Is that not a beautiful mantra for the engineers, architects and designers of the Internet of Things? Simple, cheap, functional and freely interconnectable. Let’s get stacking!

Blogging about Tweeting about Blogging

Just now we wrapped up an hour-long #StartupChats session on Twitter discussing the importance of blogging and one’s startup (summary via Storify). And now that we’re writing about that here, we are effectively Blogging about Tweeting about Blogging as the title implies!

Why? Because that hour of human-generated 140-character content flying across the Internet made us think of the future, the Internet of Things, and what the machine-generated content might look like if technology were truly contextually aware and cognisant of the physical world.

A few weeks ago, we presented at the Ambient Intelligence conference in Waterloo and closed with the following thoughts:

  • What if (non-human) things were in complete control of what they shared and with what?
  • What if the information they shared increased their access to utility?

For instance, taking the automotive example, which was often cited at the conference, imagine self-driving cars negotiating with parking spaces and one another. Now imagine we could follow that as a Twitter conversation just like #StartupChats, but rather #ParkingChats. Of course such negotiation between inanimate objects (or, more accurately, their “avatars”) is totally foreseeable, however it is likely to employ a more machine-friendly communication mechanism. But perhaps in the future Internet of Things, an intrepid developer will create a human-friendly translator for such machine communication that may in fact prove to be rather entertaining:

SelfDriving99:   @tightparkingspace are you free?

tightparkingspace:   @SelfDriving99 why yes, I am.

SelfDriving99:   @tightparkingspace on my way baby!

IDriveMyself_123:   @SelfDriving99 perhaps you should ask @tightparkingspace again. #winning

SelfDriving99:   @tightparkingspace WTF?

tightparkingspace:   @SelfDriving99 welcome to the #SharingEconomy dear! cc @IDriveMyself_123

IDriveMyself_123:   @tightparkingspace @SelfDriving99 LOL

Clearly, we are not the first to think about such humour:

Given that this post started out on the subject of Blogging about Tweeting about Blogging, the deeper (silly) question is whether the above conversation might subsequently be discussed at a higher level via another medium? In other words, might those self-driving cars and parking spaces “blog” about their tweeting-about-parking experience?

Curiously enough, our answer today would be “perhaps”. If the goal of ubiquitous computing and the Internet of Things is indeed to maximise efficiency, one could argue that the algorithms behind efficiency calculations would indeed be dynamic and subject to improvement themselves. Hence the idea of machines blogging about tweeting about parking, with the goal to increase parking efficiency, may not be completely far-fetched. And should it come to that, one can only hope that we as humans find humour, inspiration and, dare we say, a deeper appreciation of ourselves, in those translated discussions.