05 May 2010

An internet of things - not yet

This concept, the Copenhagen Wheel, which stores energy when you brake for you to draw on to boost your cycling uphill, gets a pretty rough reception at BoingBoing. Hardy cyclists think it's for whimps, green cyclists point out that the energy cost of manufacture will negate any benefit it might bring by encouraging cycling, others point out that its weight will add to the effort required to ride the bike in the first place, that not enough energy will be captured in braking to give a significant boost, and so on. But the derision reaches crescendo at its control mechanism: an iPhone app, which can also, incidentally, give you feedback about your effort levels and attainment of you personal fitness goals, and share your cycling data with friends (oh, and connect you to a green points club - at this point I had to check this wasn't an April 1 video). These are not the advantages we're looking for in an internet of things.

We know there's mileage (sorry) in things being able to give information about themselves. It's easy to see the fit with tracking in industrial and commercial inventories; healthcare and military applications make sense too. But, as for tracking the details of your cycling, like internet-connected bathroom scales, unless at the extremes of fitness training, there's just too much of the anorak about them at the moment.

I can see, though, applications where connected things will make sense in the future. For example, if we're taxed on our use of certain roads, we might want our car to track its location and mileage (and present those to us coherently) so we can check our bills.

Coincidentally, the issue of the FT, where I first saw the connected scales, also featured an item on the launch of the first remote TV control in 1956. Remote controls didn't seem essential in the UK, at least, until the late 1980s when satellite TV increase the number of channels available and channel hopping became (for some) a way of viewing.

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