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Houses, Ferries, Mousetraps, Buses and Businesses—All Find Ways to Communicate Through Twitter


Illustration by Mike Right

A Ferry Good Solution

Not one to sit around while problems can be solved, Stanford-Clark soon showed another use for the Internet of Things. Not long after he put his house on Twitter, he was standing and waiting for the ferry to take him to work at the IBM lab. He had no idea that the ferry was running late that day.

Understandably miffed, he wondered if this could be avoided. Maybe the ferry could tell him where it was. After doing a bit of research, he found that the ferry was connected to a GPS system and broadcast a digital radio signal that gave its location. Stanford-Clark used crowd-sourced data to capture the radio signal and send it back to a Twitter feed, which could tell users how the ferries were running.

The feed turned out to be so popular that the ferry company and IBM collaborated to automate the system and put monitors at ferry terminals to show the ferries’ locations. Such is the power of the Internet of Things to solve problems people weren’t aware they had.

Just the Beginning

We are at the beginning of a world of talking, tweeting machines. “People are just getting the hang of the potential for putting sensors on things and dealing with the huge amounts of data they produce,” Stanford-Clark says. “There will be a lot more sensors capable of monitoring a lot more things more cheaply. It will be much more pervasive.”

Some of the applications for businesses might include everything from monitoring factory equipment to tracking delivery trucks, monitoring the supply chain of incoming raw materials to tracking movement of cattle in farmers’ fields, improving the use of drugs in hospitals to monitoring elderly and vulnerable people in their homes. The uses are potentially endless.

“When I started working on MQTT at IBM in 1998, I was a lone voice,” Stanford-Clark says. “But now, with Smarter Planet, everyone in the company knows about it.

“So that’s pretty cool.”

Frank Bures is an award-winning writer based in Minneapolis and the literary editor at Thirty Two Magazine.

Frank Bures is an award-winning writer based in Minneapolis, Minn., and the literary editor at Thirty Two Magazine.



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