With the advent of Internet-of-Things/Machine-to-Machine(M2M), are all the existing un-connected appliances we have today on their way out? Will we be seeing stores phasing out all the older, 'dumber' appliances, regardless of their top-range functionalities, because these appliances are not connected, and hence cannot take or give 'orders' from humans and other machines/devices?
Maybe not. Just earlier this month, Telefonica launched its 'Thinking Things', which are modular devices that connect to the internet and, via sensors/readers installed in each 'thing', can read the environment and transmit information to the cloud. The 'Thinking Things' are also able to receive information or 'orders' which enable them to control the settings on the end appliance, such as turning the temperature up for the thermostat, switching on and switching off an electrical device, starting a 'spin' cycle on a washing machine and turning on the lights in the porch.
Also this month, Grid Connect, another company in the IoT/M2M space unveiled its Smart Outlet which is an electrical outlet (where one plugs in an electrical appliance) that brings remote monitoring and control capabilities across otherwise unconnected appliances. According to Grid Connect, the smart outlets which are connected to Wi-Fi and cellular can be used to power on and power off a wide range of electrical appliances and can also be used to set up rules, notifications and schedules. Using the 'If This Than That'-style programming, two or more commands can be linked to each other allowing users to execute a program such as 'turn on the heater when garage door opens'.
Recently, littleBits, another company in this space launched its littleBits Smart Home Kit, which provides similar connectivity modules for un-connected appliances. Like others in this space, littleBits leverages its cloud, the cloudBit from which information is received and transmitted to, allowing end users to control their appliances remotely on their mobile devices using littleBits apps. According to littleBits, the number of connected homes in the US will surpass 31 million with the industry poised to become a USD$71 billion by 2018. The company said that its Smart Home Kit comes with 14 'Bits' including the MP3 player, Threshold, Number, Temperature Sensor, and IR transmitter. Also included is an infographic poster with 14 project ideas and 11 accessories - including the AC switch, which connects the littleBits 5V system to AC power (110V).
These new breed of connected 'things' or 'bits' and 'controls' are allowing almost every device to attain the status of being internet-connected. With easy to download-and-use apps that come with these devices, they are becoming a very attractive alternative to embedded or integrated M2M technologies. In fact, these M2M agents are allowing cross communication between appliances of different brands and provide the fastest way to build a whole new connected ecosystem for buildings and homes. One of the key feature for these type of solutions is the modular design that allows users to buy, assemble and install connectivity on a functionality basis, adding more 'bits' or 'things' everytime they want to control an additional attribute.