New York Times on Botanicalls, Again!


Another great article called Gadgets to Help Tend a Garden in The New York Times today. Roxie Hammill and Mike Hendricks review a variety of technology solutions for home gardening, including our own:

Botanicalls, a collaboration among artists and technologists, has designed a do-it-yourself kit with a sensor that goes into the dirt to measure moisture. When it gets too dry, the plant posts, “Water me please.” And it will send out a polite thank you when you respond.

“We didn’t want it to be like that person who only calls when he wants something,” said Robert Faludi, a professor at the School of Visual Arts in New York and in the Interactive Telecommunications program at New York University. The kit is for sale at for $100.

The goal was to encourage a happy relationship between plants and people. “A lot of people are afraid of plants. They’re afraid whatever they do the plant is going to die. This makes it possible for them to have a plant in their lives where they might not otherwise,” Mr. Faludi said.

Read more about the Gadgets to Help Tend a Garden.

Strata Big Data Video Interview

I spoke live with Mac Slocum at O’Reilly’s Strata Big Data conference about Digi International’s involvement in the Data Sensing Lab here, as well as the future of M2M and the Internet of Things-what I’m hoping will be an Internet of Things People Want. Our part in the lab was to assemble a network of 40 XBee ZigBee radio sensor nodes running Arduino, gateway their data via a ConnectPort X2e running the XBee Internet Gateway and post everything to the iDigi Device Cloud where it could be passed off via Amazon Web Services to a team of visualization experts for analysis. Here’s the interview:

Fjord Panel: Internet of Things meets Service Design

I spoke this week at the New York headquarters of Fjord design for their Fjord Kitchen event, “Where Will the Internet of Things Take Service Design?

Moderated by Fast Company‘s Cliff Kuang, the two groups of panelists included:

  • Steven Dean, Partner, Prehype. Adjunct Faculty, ITP.
  • Scher Foord, Executive Director, Design, Condé Nast Technology.
  • Tim Queenan, Director of Strategy, Google Creative Lab.
  • Rachel Ramoni, Executive Director, SMART, Harvard Medical School.
  • Jacob Styburski, VP Customer Experience, Enterprise Growth, American Express.
  • …and me: Rob Faludi, Collaborative Strategy Leader, R&D, Digi International!

Some of the key themes that overlapped in both groups:

  • The Internet of Things is here, and will become more ubiquitous and invisible.
  • Good service design will continue to humanize the technology and the data around us, making its complexity disappear into the background.
  • Given that, our panelists agreed that it’s high time to kill the term “Internet of Things.” What’s important is to create an “Internet of Things People Want,” that should eventually evolve into the “Internet of Things People Expect.”
  • To make this a reality, designers must create a shared language that allows for collaboration across the companies, industries, and individuals creating the services of tomorrow.

We had fun and great food. Here’s some more pictures and more about the event.

Faludi on BBC LIVE: Digi & Connecting Light

The BBC News interviewed me live, explaining the Digi technology behind YesYesNo’s Connecting Light art installation for London Festival 2012’s Cultural Olympiad. We’re on the edge of a craggy cliff about halfway along the installation of 400 huge interactive weather balloons that are illuminated in different colors by text messages sent from people around the world. I’m explaining how Programmable XBees and the iDigi Device Cloud make that possible. And although you don’t see them in the live shot, we are entirely surrounded by sheep:

…more photos here.

Connecting Light System Diagram

Here’s how the Connecting Light system is created from Digi equipment for the 73-mile-long installation of 400 giant illuminated balloons on Hadrian’s Wall in northern England. The huge network will go live tonight for an crowd expected to bring traffic along the 80-mile World Heritage site to a crawl as thousands of spectators flock to the interactive event. Connecting Light is a perfect example of a large-scale system for centrally controlling remote devices—the same advanced infrastructure that hospitals use to monitor patient ventilators, infusion pumps or dialysis machines, and that forward-thinking power utilities use to network their entire grid.

The technology required for Connecting Light was assembled by Digi Professional Services—my same colleagues who network dynamic message signs along highways, smart thermostats for utility networks and positive train control systems for railroads. Putting all these different devices online is arguably the next big revolution for the Internet. Organizations are starting to demand visibility to their remote assets along with centralized control for everything out in the field as their competitors begin benefitting from the systems currently being put in place. It’s an exciting time to be involved with this stuff!

The diagram above shows how Programmable XBees, ConnectPort GSM mobile routers and the iDigi Device Cloud all work together to form a reliable backbone behind a breathtaking artwork that spans England’s coasts.It is also available as a PDF.


Connecting Light Spans England’s Coasts with XBees

This week I’m heading to Newcastle upon Tyne in the U.K. for Connecting Light, 400 giant illuminated balloons that will cross England coast to coast along Hadrian’s Wall, a 2000-year-old Roman barrier. This will be my first exposure to 73-mile-long art! The interactive installation was networked with help from me and Digi using Programmable XBees and the venerable iDigi Device Cloud. Connecting Light was conceived and built by my friends at the YesYesNo collective, including artists Zach Lieberman and Molmol Kuo. You can see it in person in the U.K., or watch it online the evenings of August 31 and September 1st.

This video shows them testing it few weeks ago, along the New York City waterfront:

XBee Cymbal Monkey

You want your project noticed? Nobody can ignore a hyperactive cymbal-playing chimp that creates a cacophony of sound when triggered over the Internet. Inspired as always by Tom Igoe’s Making Things Talk, we hooked this toy terror up to an XBee radio, creating a wireless alarm that grabs the ear as well as the eye and the heart. From the project instructions on the Digi Examples site:

By pairing an XBee with your percussive primate, you create an unmistakable alarm that gets immediate attention. It’s a first-rate way to present alerts that cannot be ignored. Web server down? Customer service queue climbing beyond your comfort? Kids ignoring their chores? This easy hack will put a monkey on their back, and he won’t let go until the warning is heeded!

Check out the ape alert in action in its video below:

Displaying Numbers Wirelessly with XBee

We’ve given you a number of XBee Examples—coins, words, lamps, buttons scents and dials. Here’s one that’s just about numbers. A 7-Segment Numeric Display connected to an XBee radio can show any digit or letter from zero to Z. Now your project can count, spell and impress. Here’s how we put it on the site:

The XBee directly drives a simple numeric display, and that’s often all a project needs. With a simple 7-segment numeric display you can showhow many, how much, which one or when with precision. It’s a snap to display numbers wirelessly with an XBee radio.

Now you can create a counter that shows how far away Friday is, display your current Amazon or Yelp ratings, show the current flight landing at O’Hare or keep an eye on the temperature in your restaurant’s walk-in freezer.

Check out this video to see if any number is special to me:

Controlling AC Devices with XBee

If it plugs into the wall you can turn it on and off with an XBee radio. Switch lights and appliances on or off wirelessly, even over the Internet! Matt Richardson shows you the ropes in the latest XBee Example: Control of AC Devices. He writes:

Hobby electronics projects usually work at low voltages and with direct current. But what if you want to control your lamps, TVs, or blenders, which operate at higher voltage with alternating current? Situations like this call for a relay, which let you use low current to open and close circuits on high voltage devices. Using the 3.3 volt digital output of the XBee connected to a relay, we can wirelessly control high voltage AC devices.

His example uses the popular PowerSwitch Tail or you can also use a Digi Smart Plug in much the same way. Either method creates worldwide controls for interior lighting, office devices, country homes or commercial equipment. Switch off your lights after your leave for the night or fire up your regional warehouse’s backup air conditioners to save your inventory. If it sounds interesting you could start building a prototype today!

Get a Whiff of This – XBee Scent Generator

The latest XBee Example shows how to create a wireless scent emitter using Digi’s XBee radios. We demonstrate how to easily connect a battery-powered air freshener to the wireless web, using an XBee radio. From the site:

By pairing the XBee with a scent dispenser, you can create ambient alerts that notify a whole area without making any noise or needing anyone to look at them! This is a terrific way to present information that builds over time. Not meeting your corporate power-saving goals today? A whiff of pine can remind your co-workers to think green. Are sales spiking? Perhaps the smell of cinnamon warns your workforce that the website is getting slow. Or maybe surf’s up at the beach and a the fragrance of ocean breeze pervading your home could change your afternoon plans. It’s a whole new way to interact with information!

What does information smell like? Get started with ambient output  to savor the bouquet of your data. Profits up? Database down? From now on your nose will know! Get started with the XBee Scent Generator Example now.