The internet of things

With its £6,000 price tag and gimmicky feel,  LG Electronic’s Internet Refrigerator was met with a frosty reception on its UK release in 2002. But behind the internet fridge lies a more persistent idea dubbed the ‘internet of things’.

Up until now, the internet has mainly been about connecting people and (more recently) places, but what if objects could communicate with us and each other on the net?

It all sounds very futuristic, but an increasing number of everyday objects are finding their way online. Tech infrastructure firm Cisco recently predicted that 50 billion ‘things’ will be online by 2020 (and made this cool infographic). Here’s just a small sample of existing innovations bringing the internet of things to life.

Car parking palaver

Fed up with trawling around busy city centres trying to find a parking spot?  Streetline collects live data from street-based sensors to tell users where empty parking spaces can be found via a smartphone app. Residents of Sausalito in California were the first to road test the system in October 2011.

WWWashing machine

Shared laundry rooms in student accommodation can be a nightmare, but a new system called eSuds is easing tensions in US universities. With eSuds, students can check whether any washing machines or dryers are available using a website, pay online and receive a text when their laundry is done. All that’s missing is an alert for when you inevitably forget that one lonely sock in the machine.

Recording your run

Put a small sensor in your shoe when you go for a run and the Nike+ system will record your speed, the distance you’ve covered, how many calories you’ve burnt and more. The sensor communicates with your smartphone, which logs your workout online so you can keep track of your progress. You can even intimidate your rivals by getting Nike+ to send out an automated tweet with the details of your run.

Pill popping

Glowcaps is a pill bottle with a difference. Equipped with an internet enabled chip, you tell it when you are supposed to take your medication and it keeps track of whether you have unscrewed its top at the designated time. Forget a pill and it flashes and beeps, or lights up a wireless reminder light in your home. Continue to ignore it and you receive a phone call.


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