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Element14 Webinar: How to Connect Things to the Internet with thethings.iO

Last week, we made a 45 minute webinar at Element14 to explain to the on-line assistants how to connect things to the Internet with thethings.iO.

Here are the slides used in the presentation

Please, don’t hesitate to send some feedback or comments.

Transcription of the webinar at Element14

Thanks Chris for the kind introduction. Welcome at the webinar Connect things with thethings.iO: the social network of the Internet of Things!

First of all, i would like to introduce myself. My name is Marc Pous and I’m from Barcelona, Spain. I’m a Computer scientist and a business entrepreneur. Previously, I have worked at multiple startups and built a blog business to 1M visitors per year. The last 7 years, I have been involved in research centers as the technical lead for Smart Cities and the Internet of Things projects. I built and run IoT communities. The IoT Barcelona meetup community has more than 1 thousand members and i’m also co-organizing the IoT Munich meetup in Germany. I’m also the Intel Internet of Things influencer since last months.

Finally, last year I created my own startup thethings.iO that is being accelerated by Wayra Barcelona from Telefonica.

I would like to tell you a story before start with technical details and IoT projects. In 1990s the researchers at Xerox Parc in Palo Alto coined the concept “Ubiquitous computing”. The chief technology officer was Mark Weiser, in the picture, who described his ideas in a great article called “The computer for the 21st century” in 1991. In this article Mark Weiser envisioned small powerfull devices such as devices as mobile phones and tablets that we have today. The first sentence of his article said “The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.” That article impressed me a lot for his vision and i turned my work towards Ubiquitous Computing and what in 1999 was coined as Internet of Thing by Kevin Ashton.

thethings.iO is an Internet of Things platform which allows you to connect different things made by different brands and technologies in one social place. You can access all your things from one single dashboard and when your things talk with each other, they get smarter, their functionality augments, and you get more.

Today at the Internet of Things scenario we are living in dozens of branded silos. So, we have a million market gadgets, where every device or brand need their own app.

Then, if we need 1 app to interact and manage every Internet of Things, do you think that his model is scalable?

The ubiquitous computing vision that envisioned Mark Weiser 20 years ago didn’t take a lot into account the user experience. The lack of precedent for connected things that combined micro-computers with everyday objects forces to create a new user experience from scratch and a mobile app to virtually interact with the things.

This is why i founded thethings.iO. At thethings.iO we believe that consumers of this multimillion things market will want to keep their things in one place not in a hundred different apps.

It’s for this reason that we are reinventing the Internet of Things user experience, moving from several mobile apps to a new experience of the Internet of Things.

Before going further into thethings.iO i would like to contextualize how i got into this Internet of Things scenario and the why of thethings.iO. Here i will describe some of the Internet of Things projects where i have worked.

One of the firsts IoT projects where was INREDIS. INREDIS was a research Spanish project supported by the Spanish government to bring universal accessibility in 8 different scenarios of our daily life. Some of these scenarios were such as home, the office, urban environments and also the bank environment, among other.

I was part of the bank environment connecting an ATM to the mobile device and laptops from people with different kind of disabilities. From blind people, people with several mobility problems among other. In Spain there are several models of ATMs in the streets. For example blind people need to know all the models and how to interact with them to extract money from them.

In the case of blind people, we hacked with the bank a real ATM with a Bluetooth dongle. A mobile phone was connected via Bluetooth to the ATM and to the bank cloud platform to secure and double-check all the Bluetooth communications. The users were able to interact with the ATM only touching or speaking with the mobile device and not the ATM. All the interaction data was stored on the cloud platform via REST API.

The next project was called Cutleware. This project was presented in an Internet of Things challenge and i got a special mention. The main goal of the Cutleware project was to real-time control our eating behaviour to try to recommend you how to eat. Each of the cutlery (forks, knives, spones, plates and glasses) had a sensor to understand the amount of calories that we were eating, the temperature of the food and our speed. There was a tablet app prototype that helped us to decide what to eat and what habits we should change.

Technically speaking the Cutleware project was just a prototype. The idea was to connect the sensors from the cutlery to the tablet via Bluetooth low energy. And then store all the information on the cloud via a REST API. The tablet app would be able to retrieve data and aggregated information from the cloud storage platform. You can find more information at marcpous.com/cutleware

CO-2-maps was presented at the final for the Android ADK projects at Google IO Berlin in 2011. Actually Google was not interested on pollution sensors. Some months later with the crowdfunding campaigns at kickstarter of the Air Quality Egg or the Smart Citizen Kit from the Fablab Barcelona, i was able to finish the Android ADK prototype. At the CO-2-maps prototype i hacked the sensors from the Air Quality Egg that never worked together with an Arduino and Arduino Ethernet shield.

Connecting the Arduino to a cloud platform using a REST API i was able to visualize almost real-time (with some seconds of delay) the sensored data and visualized with d3.js and google maps. I exposed this prototype that was interactive at the Make Munich in 2012.

One of the most crazy projects i built is the Oktoberfest of Things, or how to connect Oktoberfest beer jars (that are 1 liter jars) to the Internet. I co-created this project with Thomas Amberg from IoT Zurich and is always hosted at the venue from IoT Munich that i co-organize. The main goal of the project was to have fun and yearly meet up with iot and beer lovers in Munich. Next 18th of September we are going to make the 3rd edition of the Oktoberfest of Things in Munich, so all of you are invited to come by and hack beers with us. The aim is to go next day after hacking to the Oktoberfest and try it in the real environment.

So, how do we connect the Oktoberfest beers to the Internet? Last edition we had 2 different prototypes: one made by Thomas Amberg that had an Arduino with a tilt sensor and a Bluetooth Low Energy chip that was connected to a mobile device with 3G connectivity to a cloud platform to store the data of our drinking behaviours. The 2nd prototype was an Arduino with an Arduino GPRS shield with a pressure sensor. When the pressure sensor was 0, so there was no pression on the table, meant that i was drinking. This prototype was connected directly to the Internet through GPRS to the cloud platform that was storing the data in real-time.

If you are interested on the Oktoberfest of Things you can find more information at the tumblr site, oktoberfestofthings.tumblr.com

Another awesome project where i worked was the One Seat Away project at the Sonar music festival in Barcelona. The Sonar Barcelona is an International Festival of Advanced Music and New Media Art. In 2013 we could expose our connected IKEA sofa. Our goal was to connect the festival with the Barcelona citizens through vibration and not music. And also connect the festival people with Barcelona. To make that, we connected the DJs main stage real-time with a cloud platform. We made some algorithms to convert music into numbers, that was the data that we were real-time storing.

The sofa with an Arduino was real-time polling the music’s numbers and with some motors embedded into the sofa, people sitting there could feel the music on the main stage of Sonar. Meanwhile, small sofas were moving at the vibe of the city, with sources such as: Barcelona tweets, weather, available public bikes, buses around the festival and traffic in the city.

This is just a part of the architecture where we were connecting the sofa with the dj main stage.

One last project i made for fun for the IoT Munich event was the Handy Bird. Inspired on Flappy bird, i made a website where i could play Flappy bird with my hand and not with the laptop keyboard. The main goal was to experience physically flappy bird. So, i buit a ping pong racket with a tilt sensor and an Electric Imp connected to the WiFi. Through a cloud bridge was interacting with a browser and people was able to play at Flappy Bird at the meetup.

All of my projects have an element in common, the cloud platform. In all of them i needed to store data and retrieve it, sometimes real-time, sometimes a big chunk of data and do whatever i like with it with no requirements.

This is the reason why i built my own Internet of Things cloud platform, to connect anything that i needed whenever i needed without expected changes of anything. With the cloud i was improving the visualization tools form the website.

Today i called theThings.IO and it’s not only the social network of the Internet of Things but also an Internet of Things full-stack to store real-time data from your hardware.

So, as the webinar was entitled, today i will show you how to connect things to the Internet with theThings.IO and how to connect projects as i do using the theThings.Io cloud platform using our REST API.

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and be sure to check out our #IoTFriday blog!