The IoT is rapidly becoming a part of our everyday lives, and the list of things that we can’t connect to the internet is getting shorter every day. From automated pet food dispensers and programmable piggy banks to smart parking systems and remotely controlled beehives, there seems to be no limit to the ‘Things’ that can benefit from being connected. As hardware gets ever cheaper and consumer demand catches up with the technology available, the network of IoT devices is ready to explode into millions if not billions of connections – some more useful than others. These are just a handful of the more unexpected uses of the IoT, so sit back and enjoy the full range of weirdness the IoT has to offer.
Lucid Dream Machine
An Amsterdam based startup Arenar have invented a wearable device to help you sleep – and dream lucidly. Yes, you read that right, the IoT can tell when you are dreaming and send musical alerts to tip you off, so that you can effectively control your own dream and do just about anything you like! The iBand+ utilizes pillow speakers and a headband equipped with LED lights and EEG sensors, which register your brain activity and shines the light on your eyelids to stimulate sleep and lucid dreaming when you are in the REM sleep cycle. It can also smooth out your normal wake-up routine, with a smart alarm which gently wakes you using calming music and simulated sunlight.
One of the earliest uses of the IoT is also possibly the most inane, proof that technological frippery is not just a product of the smartphone era. All the way back in 1997 Paul Mathis decided, for no other reason than to see if he could, to connect a set of lights to the internet. Twenty years later, you can still visit his site DriveMeInsane.com and remotely mess with him using a disco ball, two lamps and a moveable webcam. This might not be the most advanced use of the IoT, but in the new age of internet connected everything, it is nice to look back at the silliness that started it all and see how far we have come – in terms of technology if not maturity.
Tracker in a Truck Light
It might seem like the IoT is full of ‘specialist’ items (like a disco ball coat for your wiener dog) and because-I-can connectivity, but some of it’s most unexpected uses are those which you might never notice. Anytrek specializes in what it calls ‘the ultimate in covert tracking’, a solution for managers of truck fleets whose drivers feel that they have no need to be monitored.
Anytrek’s GPS trackers are housed in what looks and functions exactly like a brake light, with the GPS tracker inside the casing to avoid detection. This effectively eliminates the chance of an irate driver destroying a tracker and straying from a delivery route, and means that the tracker is fully water-, shock- and dust-proof, as a brake light would be. The tracker connects to the vehicle using the normal 3-pin light socket and even uses less energy than a typical light would. Using an m2m (machine to machine) SIM card provided by Pod Group, these trackers can connect to the strongest available signal without ‘steering’ to any one network, meaning that they can constantly transmit data back to HQ without leaving a blind spot for more canny drivers to exploit.
Trash that Talks
Allentown Pennsylvania has a unique solution to a universal problem: timely and efficient rubbish collection. Since 2013 the city’s trash cans have been connected to the Verizon network, and relay information back to the city trash collectors. Sensors are fitted inside the bins to send alerts when there is too much rubbish and to update the collectors how frequently each one is filled or left empty. This helps not only to stop bins overflowing and becoming a health risk, but is also invaluable to planning collection routes, focusing on areas that are used more often first, and even moving bins to spread waste evenly throughout the city.
The Telegarden was another early experiment in the IoT’s history, but for slightly more artistic purposes than the ‘drivemeinsane’ project. It ran from 1995 to 2004, and welcomed green fingers from around the world to contribute to a small garden – all via the wonder of dial-up. Users could plant seeds, water them, and monitor their growth using a robotic arm, and over 9000 people worked together to build this garden in the first year alone. Amongst all the efficiencies, data analytics and marginal gains that fills the IoT, this is a striking example of how it can be used simply to bring people together for a common good.
A group of undergraduates in the Random Hall dormitory at Michigan Institute of Technology, fed up with going to the bathroom and waiting to use the toilet, connected the whole bathroom system to the internet. If you visit www.bathroom.mit.edu you can see which stalls on which floors are vacant, and if they’re in use, for how long they’ve been, ahem, occupied. This means stressed out students can scout out a stall from their dorm room, and watch it to make sure it hasn’t been used (or abused) too recently.
These are just a select few of the unusual IoT uses out there, and testament to how versatile these technologies can be. Whether it’s tracking a fleet of trucks undetected or planting seeds in Austria from a computer in Tokyo, the IoT has an almost infinite range of uses – and even in the most remote, challenging, or extreme conditions the right M2M connectivity can be found for your needs.