Tag Archives: Embedded Sensors

16 ordinary objects ‘enchanted’ by smart technology

According to MIT Media Lab researcher David Rose, the term “enchanted object” is used to describe any everyday object with extraordinary functions. “We are now standing at the precipice of the next transformative development: the Internet of Things. Soon, connected technology will be embedded in hundreds of everyday objects we already use: our cars, wallets, watches, umbrellas, even our trash cans. These objects will respond to our needs, come to know us, and learn to think on our behalf,” Rose notes in his latest book.


Entitled “Enchanted Objects: Design, Human Desire, and the Internet of Things,” the book depicts the blueprint for a better (or shall we say ‘smarter’) future, where efficient solutions come hand in hand with technology that delights our sense. Not only are these innovative things fun and alluring, they may hold the key to better satisfying our needs and improving our lives. “The big lesson here for companies is that they need to embrace and start designing for this world of enchanted objects,” Rose said in a recent BI:Tech interview. “It will mean a key change for how we interact with technology, and it’s a great opportunity for all of these traditional product companies.”

Rose believes that the IoT will be fully realized in the near future. To prepare for it at this moment, he is developing technology that analyzes photographs. The die-hard Maker emphasizes that cameras will soon be everywhere, capturing photos of everything. “We’re already seeing this materializing. DropCam allows people to stream videos of their homes and the Narrative camera records everything you do in a day. The photos recorded by these devices are not attractive or artistic, but the meta-data within them is stunning,” he told Fast Company

As we prepare for this embedded future — where versatile microcontrollers will give once-ordinary objects super “powers” — let’s explore some of the coolest, most enchanted objects currently in our world today. From a pill bottle that can alert you when you’ve skipped your medication to an umbrella that says whether it’ll rain, these objects provide us with a glimpse into smarter society — one where fairy tales actually become reality.

Vitality GlowCap


Always seem to forget to take that pill in the morning or before bed? This smart cap will remind you to take your medications by lighting up, making chirping sounds, and eventually sending you a text message. You can share your medication data with a remote loved one, a professional caregiver, and even your pharmacy. No more calling to refill those prescriptions!

The Ambient Umbrella


What if your umbrella had a handle that would glow if snow or rain was in the forecast? You’ll never forget to grab it on your way out the door again!

Google Latitude Doorbell


Created at the MIT Media Lab, the Google Latitude Doorbell chimes a tune when a family member is approaching the house. Each family member has their own tune. Have some fun with it: Imagine setting it to play “Master of the House” from Les Misérables as you approached the door, or the Jaws theme song for your mother-in-law.

The Ambient Orb


When you think of David Rose and ambient object, this “magical” orb is often times the first thing that pops into mind. This device tracks real-time data for the stock market, pollen count, traffic congestion, and more, and glows specific colors to let you know if the data looks good or bad.



Feel like you’re walking on sunshine? This small will let you know whether you’re actually taking in enough bright light during your day, in order to help you improve your energy levels, sleep cycle, mood, and so much more.

Energy Joule


Let’s face it, energy bills are the worst — especially those living in extremely cold climates in the winter and warm in the summer. To better help you save a buck or two, the Energy Joule can track energy costs by glowing red if prices are high, yellow if prices are average, and green if prices are low.

The Facebook Coffee Table


“Like!” Developed at the MIT Media Lab, this incredibly social-savvy coffee table listens to your conversations and displays photos from your Facebook page whenever they are appropriate to the conversation. Think Mark Zuckerberg meets Minority Report.



Never quite sure as to which outfit to buy? Ladies, you’re in luck. This smart mirror records the outfits you try on, so you can compare them and decide what to buy or wear. Never have to go back and forth again.

Amazon Trash Can


Forget to replace the toilet paper? Run out of milk? Need laundry detergent? This trash can can now scans any object you’re disposing and automatically reorder it from Amazon.

Pandora Chair


Created at the MIT Media Lab, the chair plays various music based on your level of incline. Envision the possibilities: Sit back, relax and enjoy the tunes of the caribbean. Or, sit upright, intensely focus on your work while listening to some “Eye of the Tiger.”



As our days get too busy, it can quickly become too difficult to manage our liquid intake. Luckily, a smart cup can do that for you — it knows what kind of fluid you’re drinking and track how many calories and how much sugar, fat, protein, sodium, and caffeine are in that beverage.

The Skype Cabinet


Tired of always having to grab the computer, flip it open and sign into Skype? Thanks to this recent creation from MIT Media Lab, all you have to do is simply open a wooden door and connect to a friend or loved one via Skype. No more setup, bad lighting, or those irritating headphones.



NOTHING, we repeat NOTHING is worse than losing your luggage while traveling. This smart luggage tracker can slide right inside your suitcase and inform you of its whereabouts using its companion app, which connects to the tracking device.

Energy Clock


Are the culprit in your household’s excessive energy consumption? This innovative clock shares real-time feedback on the amount of energy your home is using. It learns your consumption habits, then offers some subtle feedback on how you’re tracking against yourself.

Goji Smart Lock


As we inch closer to a Jetsons-like future, of course there will be smart locks! Easily lock and unlock your door with your smartphone, after snapping pictures of visitors at your door and automatically sending real-time picture alerts to your device.



Yes, this is exactly what it looks like: a WiFi-enabled rabbit. Unlike Peter Cottontail, this device tells you the time, a recap of the week, RSS news feeds, a report on the air quality or traffic, an MP3 alarm clock, a weather forecast, a stock ticker, and even e-mail alerts.

IoT’s Impact on Human-Tech Relationship

In a recent interview with O’Reilly Radar, Rose explored technology and its implications by first focusing on user needs. He stated, “I am confident that enchanted objects will change how we live. They will change health. They will change transportation. They will change housing. They will change how we understand our own habits around energy and resource conservation, and they will even help us with creativity and expression. I’m confident there’s a promising future in terms of this new way of interacting and positioning ourselves relative to technology. I think one of the biggest challenges is to not think about this as computing. I don’t think there is a ‘future of computing.’”

As O’Reilly Radar’s Mary Treseler notes, designers and entrepreneurs alike must focus on creating products and services that focus on human desires and needs — omniscience, telepathy, safekeeping, immortality, teleportation, expression, many of which mentioned above.

“If you can invent things that resonate with people’s existing drives, desires, fantasies — the ones that we’ve had for a millennium that are revealed through fairy tales and through folklore and through pop culture — you’re much more likely to succeed,” Rose adds. (You can listen to the entire interview here.)

Evident from the ambient objects above, a connected future is well on its way. From lighting to energy, a new generation of smart products set to increasingly power our lives calls for smarter chips. Internet and wireless enabled devices embedded with microcontrollers will give these once-ordinary “things” new science fiction-like future. Evident by the aforementioned examples, David Rose’s concept serves as a blueprint for our next-generational world, one in which is equipped with countless sensors, data and real-time interaction.

Interested in reading more? Check out the MIT Media Lab researcher and Vitality CEO’s latest book here.

Report: Internet of Things semiconductor market set for rapid growth

The Internet of Things (IoT) processor, sensor and communications markets are set to grow by 36.2% next year, according to a new Gartner report.


The study reveals that processors will be the largest revenue contributor to the connected “things” semiconductor device forecast ($7.58 billion in 2015), while sensors will experience the greatest increase with 47.5 percent growth in 2015.

“The demand for billions of things will ripple throughout the entire value chain, from software and services to semiconductor devices,” explained Alfonso Velosa, Gartner Research Director. “These ‘things’ will drive huge demand for individual chips. IoT semiconductor maturation will come from industries spanning consumer, industrial, medical, automotive and others.”

As alluded to by Velosa, analysts predict that the automotive and household consumer markets will help spur this growth, as companies will seek to research and develop IoT-based devices, ranging from smart lighting to in-vehicle entertainment systems. In addition, Gartner emphasizes that both safety regulations and the convenience of autonomous vehicles will drive a “tremendous demand” for new semiconductor devices in the car.

One example of how the Internet of Things will transform the car of tomorrow is the use of so-called predictive maintenance. Car owners will be notified of any necessary maintenance via small sensors throughout the engine; as a result, predictive maintenance enables superior experience for the consumer while paving the way for cost savings for both the consumer and the auto dealer.

Furthermore, LED lighting will be a huge volume play, both in lowering costs and allowing for new services through its capability to connect, network and sense the environment. Consumers looking to enhance their daily lives through the use of connected devices will also add to the IoT demand through both wearable technology, like smart glasses, smartwatches and fitness bands, as well as televisions and set-top boxes.

“Gartner forecasts almost 30% growth through 2020 for IoT semiconductor revenue,” concluded Dean Freeman, Gartner Research Vice President. “This revenue spans every conceivable industry and is driven by the immense scale of low-cost devices. Some in the industry believe this growth will transform the semiconductor industry. However, further investigation shows that the majority of IoT devices are commodity offerings. The truth is that inexpensive devices are one of the biggest enablers of IoT.”

In order to make this more intelligent, more connected world a reality, these Internet and wireless-enabled devices will be embedded with Atmel microcontrollers to give once-ordinary “things” new powers.

Report: IoT to become multitrillion-dollar market by 2020

As previously reported in Bits & Pieces, the potential for the Internet of Things (IoT) is pretty clear. By 2020, Cisco forecasts that there will be approximately 50 billion devices connected to the Internet, while IDC analysts project the worldwide market for IoT solutions will rise from $1.9 trillion in 2013 to a staggering $7.1 trillion. According to a recent survey from PwC, enterprises are now turning to sensors for many of the same reasons that they would adopt most technologies, such as greater efficiency. As a result the study has found that more companies are embarking on the gradual but massive adoption of the IoT, particularly investing in sensors to collect data, which is then wirelessly sent for further analysis or alerts.


The survey entitled, “Sensing the future of the Internet of Things,” reveals the ways in which the ever-evolving IoT is transforming the everyday physical objects that surround us into an ecosystem of information that will enrich our lives. “From refrigerators to parking spaces to houses, the IoT is bringing more and more things into the digital fold every day, which will likely make the IoT a multi-trillion dollar industry in the near future.”

“While the IoT represents the convergence of advances in miniaturization, wireless connectivity, increased data storage capacity and batteries, the IoT wouldn’t be possible without sensors,” PwC reports. “Sensors detect and measure changes in position, temperature, light, etc. and they are necessary to turn billions of objects into data-generating ‘things’ that can report on their status, and in some cases, interact with their environment. Because sensor endpoints fundamentally enable the IoT, sensor investments are an early indicator of the IoT’s progress.” According to PwC’s 6th Annual Digital IQ survey of nearly 1,500 business and technology executives, the IoT movement appears to be well underway.

The study found that 20% of companies are investing in IoT sensors, up from 17% last year. In addition 54% of top performers (survey respondents whose companies are in the top quartile for revenue growth, profitability, and innovation) said that they will be investing more in sensors this year, while 14% of the respondents claim that sensors are top strategic importance to their companies in the next three to five years.


Writing for Wired Innovation Insights, PWC’s Chris Curran explains that in the coming years, “Businesses will augment their operations, adding connected sensors to people, places, processes and products to gather and analyze information to make better decisions. I call this phenomenon the Internet of Business Things (IoBT).”

The Internet of Things can help consumers achieve goals by greatly improving their decision-making capacity via the augmented intelligence of the IoT, PwC notes. “For businesses, the IoBT helps companies achieve enhanced process optimization and efficiencies by collecting and reporting on data collected from the business environment.”

“Already, we’re seeing companies use sensors to track the movement of customers and employees who serve them. Product and shelf sensors are feeding inventory algorithms so businesses can replenish supplies exactly when they need to. Machines are being developed to detect when an employee isn’t properly trained and will shut down in response to an inadequately trained operator. Robots are coming to market to not replace workers, but to augment their work by sensing and assisting. Companies are even putting sensors on employees and in conference rooms to learn how to build better teams and to more efficiently balance real estate use between individual and shared space,” Curran adds.


Sensors are important in providing this so-called business intelligence to customers, as the data gathered enables them make better, faster decisions, in areas like business processes, supply chain and customer experience. The survey also went on to highlight the top 10 industries currently investing in sensors. Among the most notable included energy and mining (33%), power and utilities (32%), automotive (31%), industrial (25%) and hospitality (22%).

For those interested in learning more, you can access the entire PwC report here.