Skip to main content

Espresso meets Peepee in the Internet of Things

Sometimes it's the silliest or most useless ideas that push new technology to the forefront.  Today it's peepee.

Yes, peepee.

A diaper company in South America is promoting a system they're calling TweetPee, whereby a sensor on a baby's diaper wirelessly "tweets" to a parent that the diaper is wet.


Many questions come to mind. What kind of wireless technology is used?  If it's stronger than Bluetooth Low Energy, is there a radiation concern? More generally, are parents really more attentive to Twitter than to their babies? And is it good for a child's development to change diapers right away, denying them the learning experience of surviving a bit of discomfort and having the parent take care of them when they need? And while the diaper companies want us to change diapers instantly, can people really afford to?

In the end, however, all these questions are irrelevant. TweetPee is one small niche product, but its impact is more than its product itself. It's impact is that it proves, yet again, that as new technology is made available inexpensively, the market will find applications.  (For more details of TweetPee, see here and here.)

TweetPee is an example of what folks are calling "the Internet of Things" - connecting all sorts of sensors, appliances, and other "things" to the Internet. Most major mobile companies are working hard on the area, but until now it hasn't been clear why we want our mundane things talking to us, or why we want a lot of sensors sensing things in our environment. But as TweetPee shows, the Internet of Things has the power to hit us where it counts.

Another example of the Internet of Things was demonstrated at the recent Mobile World Congress (MWC) conference by Qualcomm.  This coffee machine has integrated electronics that enable it to be controlled from its owner's smartphone or tablet. Personally, I would love this - Lie in bed and use my phone to start the coffee going downstairs.

Qualcomm's work on Internet of Things, which they call the Internet of Everything, is in conjunction with an open-source organization they created called AllJoyn.  Besides coffee machines, they're looking at controlling thermostats, televisions, pictureframes, alarm clocks, webcams, microwaves, cars, and more.

Unlike TweetPee, Qualcomm's vision of the Internet of Things has the devices connected to the Internet, rather than communicating device-to-device using short range wireless. They've worked out technical details of peer-to-peer device discovery, with no central "home controller" needed. Connected devices enable control, notifications and streaming. Security is available, and devices are managed on a home-wide basis, based on the router to which they're connected.  Their ongoing R&D includes having devices controllable from outside the home, via cloud services.

Qualcomm is only one of many companies working on the Internet of Things. In addition to major mobile companies, there are also start-up companies in the area that are coming out of stealth and poised to enable this new market.

One such company is CubeSensors, whose products include connected sensors for monitoring temperature, noise, light, vibrations and more, and send notifications based on pre-defined criteria. So you can know when your basement floor is getting wet, your closet door is opening, your kids are too loud, your car is moving, your freezer is warming, and so on.

Several other start-ups are taking a similar approach, selling sensors that can be deployed to monitor and notify. Others are working on embedding technology into appliances, plug sockets and lights, similar to Qualcomm's coffee machine, so that they can be accessed and controlled remotely. Still others are working on embedding Internet access, either browsing or widgets, into every-day objects like mirrors, wristwatches, pillows and dolls.  Several companies and industry groups are working on supporting technologies.

Clearly there's a lot more to the Internet of Things than peepee and coffee. The technology is coming and its coming soon. But what applications will people really want?  The only way to know the answer is to launch products and see what users like.  Most importantly, the answers will come when these products get in front of real users, not techie early adopters. This is why we think TweetPee's release is a watershed event for the Internet of Things. TweetPee is telling us that the dam is about to burst on Internet of Things products coming to market....

Popular posts from this blog

Intel demos indoor location technology in new Wi-Fi chips at MWC 2015

Intel made several announcements at MWC 2015, including a new chipset for wireless connectivity (Wi-Fi) in mobile devices. This new chipset, the 8270, include in-chip support for indoor location positioning. Below we explain their technology and show a video of it in action. With this announcement, Intel joins Broadcom, Qualcomm and other chip makers in moving broad indoor location positioning into mobile device hardware.

The transition of indoor location positioning into chips is a trend identified in the newest Grizzly Analytics report on Indoor Location Positioning Technologies, released the week before MWC 2015. By moving indoor location positioning from software into hardware, chips such as Intel's enable location positioning to run continuously and universally, without using device CPU, and with less power consumption.

Intel's technology delivers 1-3 meter accuracy, using a technique called multilateration, generating a new location estimate every second. While 1-3 meter …

Seeing Quuppa's indoor location technology at MWC 2015

I first met Fabio and Kimmo from Quuppa in 2012, before Quuppa existed, when they had spent years researching indoor location positioning technologies at Nokia Research Center. Less than a year after that they formed Quuppa, independent of Nokia, to bring their technology to market. At the time I called Quuppa "the newest and oldest in indoor location positioning."

Fast forward two and a half years. Their technology has reached market, it can now track both smartphones and BLE devices, and it's accurate to within 20-50cm. Before reading more about their technology, take a look at a video of their demo in action:



Grizzly Analytics has analyzed indoor location technologies by over 150 companies, and virtually all of the radio-based technologies operate by measuring the distance between the device being tracked and other radio devices, and using these distance measurements for either multilateration or fingerprinting. For example, the well known BLE beacons measure a device…

Robot Camera Foreshadows an Era of Location-Aware Electronics

A French company called Move 'N See produces a line of camera robots. Their devices act as a smart tripod, holding a video camera and automatically moving and zooming the camera as people of interest move around a site.

The idea is simple but amazingly innovative. Photo selfies are easy to take, but video selfies are next to impossible. How can I video myself playing football or doing gymnastics, without setting the camera so far back as to be useless? Do spectators want to spend an entire sporting event carefully videoing their friend or relative moving around the field?
Enter Move 'N See's "personal robot cameramen." Their devices aim, pan and zoom a video camera as one or more people move around an area. The people of interest wear armbands whose locations are tracked, enabling the camera controller to know where to aim the camera. The camera controller also includes enough smarts to adjust the camera smoothly and to capture multiple people evenly. The armband…