Big Brothering Ourselves At CES

January 9, 2015   |   by Chris Kalaboukis


Specifically looking for interesting examples of internet of things (IoT) implementations at CES, I was struck by all of the devices that basically allow to us watch ourselves, take pictures of ourselves and video ourselves.

Ultimate donut selfie, anyone?

There seemed to be a huge undertone of “security” all over the place – there were plenty of crowd-funded devices (like Homeboy) that we could use to feel more secure by watching over our homes (higher tech versions of the camera in the teddy bear which people used to use to watch over their nannies to make sure that they were treating their kids properly).

Some didn’t look like cameras, but most did, so we are now seemingly perfectly comfortable with cameras sitting on our bookshelves, keeping an eye on our living rooms, whether we are there or not. In comparison, I saw maybe two or three companies who were interested in allowing less of this – seems that being watched is now part of life. Personal surveillance might be the correct term for this one.

Even most of the drones I saw – and there are plenty of them – from tiny little drone implementations that you can launch off of your wrist (cool tech from my friends over at Nixie Labs) to delivery drones and everything in between, pretty much all of these things are cameras on our lives.

On the home automation side – tons of virtual locks, virtual peepholes, controllable bulbs etc – but really just a more high tech version of the same old X10 style stuff – the controls are now in your smartphone instead of some clunky control unit. There were a few companies that were working towards some kind of platformization of the IoT, but so far – all of these seemed standalone and proprietary. This must changes for there to be real rapid movement – we need some sort of open source platform to take the lead here.

One thing I did notice was the the amount of sensors in the IoT devices was kept purpose built in most cases, and to a bare minimum. Unfortunately, this won’t help to enrich the big data that we will need eventually in order to create a seamless world. Multi sensor devices, like the Thingsee or the Apollo were in very short supply, I feel that we need more of those kinds of devices to fully realize the internet of things.

An example: a French company called had a very interesting device called Mother, which allowed to you track various things that its “cookies” (remote sensors) could do – thought that had a lot of promise – but when I asked about the capabilities of the cookies, they told me that they only had motion and temperature sensors – which is great when you are tracking if someone is home or not, or if they’ve brushed their teeth, or if its warm in the room. Its a good start, and I hope that we’ll see even more sensors built into friendly form factors like this.

Some key directions if you are interested in getting into the space:

  • Stay open source – try to build or attach to a platform – either make the standard or help to identify one. Keep your platforms open and build or leverage a developer ecosystem
  • Add more sensors – give your devices the ability to collect more data that they need for their purpose built task – opening the door for more and more uses
  • Go beyond security – most of the IoT solutions currently focus on that – think more about higher level “life improvement”
  • Tie things together : right now, your door could automatically sense your presence and unlock. Imagine if it could also start playing your favorite song, cue up a recipe for dinner, alert your spouse that you are home, and announce their ETA as well.

In short, help build the tools we need to build the (hopefully near) future seamless world.

photo credit – mike mozart – flickr