It’s known as “the internet of things.” The next stage in the evolution of interactive technology will see an increasing ability for people to connect various devices in their surroundings on a more intuitive and intelligent level.
The technology is still in its nascent stage with many “things” still finding it difficult to connect with each other. If such technology is to go mainstream, an alliance must be formed between technology companies with widespread adoption of open-source standards in which developers can contribute freely.
Looking at the current state of corporate relations, this is likely to be some time away, unless exceptional individual companies come up with revolutionary technologies built on an open platform.
An important advancement in this field has been made by Australian startup Ninja Blocks. The company’s newest product, Ninja Sphere, connects devices into an eco-system, acting as a central intelligence that runs all the devices.
This is different than comparable devices currently available, which focus mainly on individual tasks prompted by user commands.
For example, other devices might enable a user to turn off a heater in the home using a smartphone. The Ninja Sphere would recognize that the heater is on though the person is away from home; it would alert the user, giving him or her the option to turn the heater off. The Sphere can intelligently respond to scenarios involving the things it is connected to.
Place a Bluetooth-enabled smart tag on any object in the house and it will instantly connect with the Sphere. Suppose you place a tag on some valuables in the house, and those valuables start moving while you’re away from home. The Sphere will alert you to the potential robbery.
Ninja Spheres learn the relative locations of devices in the home using cutting-edge sensors.
This is achieved using “trilateration,” a procedure in which three or more signals intersect to pinpoint the location of an object. The device can also build a digital model of your home using machine learning algorithms, which take everything into account, including furniture, doors, et cetera.
The Sphere uses WiFi, Bluetooth, and Zigbee (for low-power devices). It can be activated by gestures, instead of touch or through a typing interface.
The gesture control mechanism allows you to remotely turn off the lights, fans, or any other electrical equipment with a swipe of your hand.
It also displays the weather, indoor temperature, energy usage, and more.
Among the devices currently supported are Zigbee Lights, Phillips Hue, Z-Wave, Logitech Media Server, Spotify, and Pebble. With an open-source platform, however, the developers say all devices could be connected, as long as the driver to connect it to the Sphere can be installed.
Having raised more than AUD$325,000 (US$290,000) to date, the Ninja Sphere’s Kickstarter campaign has far surpassed its goal of AUD$115,000 (US$104,000).
Ninja Blocks CEO Daniel Friedman told the Sydney Morning Herald, “We think that that’s absolutely fantastic, given that most of our sales come from word of mouth and organic growth.”
Worldwide shipping is expected to commence June 2014.
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