Sunday, May 10, 2015

The "Internet of Things" is dumb

In 1982, a group of students at Carnegie Mellon University developed a soda vending machine that allowed customers to check the availability of soda in the machine remotely. Interested customers could talk to the machine from their computers, using the Unix finger protocol, and get the machine to respond back with the relative temperature and availability of soda in the vending machine. This machine was later dubbed the Internet Coke Machine and was a hit among people in the area at that time.

The Internet Coke Machine was also the first "connected" appliance. For those unfamiliar with connected appliances, these are devices that traditionally serve a rather simple and singular role (e.g. a toaster), but are developed to connect to a network and interact with other devices on the network (e.g. a toaster that informs your cellphone that it's time to take out the toast). Connected appliances are meant to augment the user's experience with them, providing extra information to the user or providing data to other connected appliances.