Essential Truth: the IoT Democratizes Innovation

Posted on 23rd September 2013 in Essential Truths, Internet of Things

I’ve got Internet of Things innovation on the brain right now: I’m writing a speech specifically to deliver to college audiences to motivate them about careers in the field, so I keep seeing more cool stuff that young people are doing in the field. You know, when you’re a hammer, all you see are nails…

This one was in the current Popular Science, about a young programmer named Nathan Broadbent, who had a hunch, based on two of his preoccupations:

“Web developer Nathan Broadbent loved automating everyday tasks. He also loved frozen dinners and wanted to program his microwave to prepare them. He suspected an oven could harness Universal Product Codes — the bar codes found on almost all food packaging — to download and execute cooking instructions all by itself.”

It was pretty obvious to him, but why wasn’t anyone doing it? “‘We’re at this point with technology that we have everything we need to make this possible, but no one’s doing it.’”

Nathan Broadbent

So, voila, Broadbent hacks his microwave, integrating a Raspberry Pi board and a custom circuit board. He added on a wi-fi adapter, microphone, speaker and barcode scanner for good measure.

Now, when the scanner identifies a frozen food, the Pi downloads the cooking instructions from a online database he created, programming the microwave to cook the food! He can even issue voice commands. And, shades of the Tweeting Toaster, it can even tweet when the cooking is done.

Reading about Broadbent and another young IoT innovator, smart “onsie” creator Dulcie Madden (whose background is in public health, not electronics) leads me to posit another of my Iot Essential Truths, closely related to the earlier one of empowering individuals:

“The Internet of Things democratizes innovation, by giving them tools that make it easier for people who have particular interests, pains, or other motivations, to invent solutions that will make their lives simpler and/or richer, and to find solutions to problems that large companies haven’t even thought of.”

To me, that’s pretty cool (heck, I’m even designing an IoT app myself — because of a chance occurrence that triggered an “aha moment” — if you’re a hungry young app designer, I’m looking for a partner, so contact me!). I wasn’t able to make it to the Maker Faire in NYC this last weekend, but I suspect that a ton of great ideas will emerge from the cross-fertilization that came out of that event!

PS: here’s the Raspberry Pi microwave!

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