It’s the sad but consistent rule of technology that all cool future inventions must be given really terrible, confusing, complex and obtuse names.
The first time electronic products like washing machines and dishwashers got their own brains and were able to figure things out for themselves, the name given to that technology was Fuzzy Logic.
The first time computing and storage power was taken offsite and made available from a remote location, the simple name it was given was Cloud Computing. This was heralded as the new technology that would change the world.
And now the latest buzz is that soon each and every device, machine and sensor in the world will talk to each other and take smart decisions with zero intervention from you. The awesomely simple name for this future technology? The Internet of Things (IoT).
What’s in a name?
Granted, the name is terrible. But it’s so much better than the terms that techies came up with before this: Machine Learning, Machine to Machine and the absolutely killer Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (or the far friendlier acronym, SCADA).
But whatever it’s eventually called, the future of IoT is very bright. The prediction is that, in a few years from now, more than 100 billion devices will talk to each other, analyse, take decisions, change things and perfect our lives without us getting involved.
That, is serious power. And glimpses of that power are about to reach you right here in India. I played with a few IoT-ish devices in the last few days. The stuff of dreams
Think about every nightmare associated with setting up an Internet-accessible security camera system: wires all over, complex set up, the difficulty
in installation, the rocket-science degree required to operate it, and the almost-impossible task of installing outdoor cameras.
Well, Netgear’s Arlo just took all of these nightmares and turned it into a dream. It is completely wireless, runs for about six months on batteries, and can be set up by literally anyone in about five minutes.
The cameras are weather-proof and can be set up outdoors or indoors. It also provides actual high-definition picture, great wireless range of about 150 feet, perfect clarity even in the dark, magnetically mounted cameras that are easy to monitor
from anywhere in the world and finally, the whole system is motion-activated. I had my two-cam system set up in a few minutes.
You take the main hub and connect it to your home router with an ethernet wire, then press a button on the hub and on
each camera one by one. And it’s good to go.
I set one camera to monitor the front door and the other to monitor the front gate with no hassles of running any power cords. The app on my phone allowed me to record only when it detected motion from 10pm to 6am.
Any movement, and a video was sent to me along with an alert. It worked perfectly as a baby monitor, a pet monitor and especially as a vacation home security system.
With email and app notifications, I knew at any given time who was at my house while I was two continents away. Arlo also puts it all on a cloud server for you to monitor whenever you like.
The system also talks to other devices and the cameras can be used for other IoT activities. It could turn your house lights on as soon as the cameras recognise you as you enter.
It could integrate with LiFX LED light bulbs and eventually also with your home’s front door lock. You could turn on air conditioners and coffee machines before you reach home or wake up.
It’s not all good though; this is an expensive system at about Rs35,000 for two cams and the smart hub. Also, there is no audio which is a huge omission. Battery life may also not last the promised six months depending upon how you set it up and how far away the outdoor cam is.
I’ve also used another product, Dropcam, which has audio, but isn’t truly wireless. And that is a deal-breaker in the new world of Internet of Things. The gadgets are coming
Xiaomi has had a head start on its IoT ambitions with a slew of new launches: the Mi Smart Weigh Scale that records BMI and other health parameters along with your weight, talks to your phone and fitness band (yes, Fitbit and Withings have similar features but this one talks to a whole lot of other devices and costs about $20).
There is the Yeelight Bedside Lamp, which is completely controllable via your smartphone, throws out light in 16 million colours, can be controlled by gestures and will soon recognise your presence in the room and turn on.
The Smart Air Conditioner, in partnership with Midea i-Youth, which can also be controlled through your smartphone and Mi Band. If set up the right way, it will switch on as soon as you enter the room wearing the Mi Band and switch off as you leave.
This is just the start. The Internet of Things is coming at you from all directions and at the speed of light. All this category needs is a better name.
Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3
From HT Brunch, June 21
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