Calm, cruel and connected: May’s best and worst of IoT

It seems that every day a new IoT device or means to connect existing devices is revealed. With so much energy in being devoted to tell us how, when, where, what we can connect to each other, the “why” may be getting a little blurry. So we want to take a step back every now and take a critical look at the connected devices that actually go out and buy, right now.

(Ed note: We also do a round-up of crowdfunding ideas you can’t quite get yet…or possibly should never be able to get.) Here’s what caught our eye, for all the right – or wrong – reasons:

Smiirl’s social media counter

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Some people need regular validation. They stare in the mirror and think “But do people really like me?” If such people started a business, this would be the product for them, a visual counter by Smiirl displaying their company’s number of Twitter, Facebook or Instagram likes. As the company explains:

“Place it in your window to attract new customers, hang it on a wall to convince them to join your community, or even in your offices to motivate your teams!”

It’ll put you back $300 per counter and you’ll need one for each social media platform. Sit and watch your popularity drop. Verdict: Miss.

The Smart Zabuton

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For cafe staff too busy staring at the social media counter to notice that their customers have moved from their seats, there is the Smart Zabuton, a cushion with that emits a signal when sat on (no, not like a whoopie cushion). This allows cafe staff to use the corresponding app to check how many seats are free in a cafe or restaurant. I guess it could come in handy if you are managing an event like a public awards ceremony that requires seat fillers. It could also be used at work by a controlling boss to see how long you spend sitting at your desk. Verdict: Miss.

my.Flow

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Did you know someone has made a smart tampon? You seem shocked. Anyway, the my.flow notifies the wearer when it needs to be changed. It works via a long tampon string that reaches out of your underwear and attaches to a snap-on bluetooth sensor. This bluetooth sensor can then be clipped on to your waistband.This sensor then sends data to an app on your phone, analyzing how saturated the tampon has become and alerting the wearer when they need to swap out their tampon for a new one. While it’s commendable that the makers are aiming to solve the serious problem of toxic shock syndrome and blood leakages onto clothing, I’m not convinced that this is the way.

The company is currently seeking funding with the intention to sell the sensor for a one-time price of $49. I’m genuinely amazed how many prizes this product has won, especially when more technology is addressing the problem in innovative ways like high tech absorbent underwear. It’s also reminiscent of the Pro-pregnancy tracker in being a rather redundant means to solve an issue. Verdict: Miss.

Triby

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Mobile phones are not conducive to the kitchen environment. I’m a keen cook and often find myself unable to answer the phone due to fingers encased with dough. I’ve also had the unpleasant experience of dropping a mobile in a sink full of water from an apron product while teaching a class. The Triby by Invoxia comes to my rescue.

Triby is a digital assistant, Internet radio, connected speaker, hands-free speakerphone, and connected message board all rolled into one. Amongst other things, people can send messages, emoji and hand drawn doodles to Triby ’s E-Ink display via its dedicated app. In April it was the first non-Amazon product to be Alexa-enabled which means that users customers have hands-free voice control for information from Wikipedia and the web, weather, timers and alarms, news, shopping/to-do lists, sports updates and scores, smart home features, calendar entries, IFTTT, and much more—with new skills being added every week. It retails at $199 and I suspect it won’t be long before cheaper versions hit the market but with less sensitivity. Verdict: Hit.

Bitlock

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As a person who loses keys more often than I’d like to admit, this product is very appealing. I also live in Berlin, where bike thefts are a huge problem – thieves literally go around with cutters and steal enough bikes to fill a truck.  BitLock is made of reinforced and heat-treated steel combined with a high-security disc locking mechanism. The lock is not only keyless but it’s corresponding app enables users to transfer pin number access to friends or visitors. The battery lasts five years and a GPS connection to your mobile ensures that you don’t lose your bike after one too many beers. And if your phone is dead, you can open BitLock by punching in a four-digit secret code with a sequence of button presses. It costs $129 which is considerably more than a key lock but would be a good investment. Verdict: Hit.

BMW Motorcycles’ Emergency Call

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In a serious motor vehicle accident, it’s vital to get help as soon as possible. BMW is introducing the intelligent eCall system, which is either automatically or manually triggered and sends out the position data – the coordinates of the motorcycle accident site – to a qualified BMW Call Center to initiate the rescue chain. In the “intelligent emergency call” option, the connection is established via the permanently installed mobile communication unit. Sensors on the motorcycle detect which event occurred whether a collision with another vehicle or crashing into an obstruction. A banking angle sensor detects which position the motorcycle is in.

The intelligent emergency call takes three scenarios into account: Automatic triggering in the case of a bad fall / collision; automatic triggering in the case of a minor fall or collision (which the rider has the option to cancel the call by pressing a button); and manual triggering by pressing the SOS button for other road users in need. A message is sent to the BMW Call Center and a voice connection is established. A voice connection is mandatory if the eCall was triggered manually before further measures are initiated. Here, too, the accident victim/rider is also given the opportunity to cancel the emergency call at the press of a button or by turning off the ignition.

I’m curious about the “intelligent emergency call system” how the rider can communicate with the BMW Call Center in his native language. Presumably in the future the call could go directly to emergency services? It would be great to see this kind of technology embedded in all kinds vehicles, including farm machinery like tractors.

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