Mobilize 2013 recap: The internet of things is bigger than ever

This year’s Mobilize conference has come to an end, and among the many discussions had both on and offstage, one key thread emerged: The internet of things is growing faster than ever. From connected cars to smartwatches, all the way to socks and cats (yes, you read that correctly), the world is becoming increasingly connected through mobile technology.

And as mobile tech continues to evolve, just where can you expect to find connected devices over the coming year? Here are some of the interesting, fascinating, and unexpected places we learned about this week, along with the possibilities that connectivity will bring to the table:

  • On your wrist. Smartwatches are arguably the biggest new trend in the internet of things, but the idea for them has been around for years. Eric Migicovsky, founder of the Pebble smartwatch, said, “In 2008, smartphones changed things for us. Pebble is an accessory to the phone. We recognized that people would be carrying modems in their pocket so we decided to take advantage of that.” And competition for wrist real estate just became even more heated, as Paul Gaudio, vice president of Adidas Interactive, took to the stage to introduce the company’s latest device. Geared towards runners, the Adidas smartwatch provides your location, speed, heart rate and stores music. It also brings digital coaching to the smartwatch category, with personalized coaching based on your heart rate and transmitted through the watch face or Bluetooth headphones.
  • On store shelves. Staples is making a big push to bring the internet of things to a much bigger audience by way of its big-box stores. The company has partnered with Zonoff to introduce Staples Connect, which uses a universal hub and multiplatform app to control connected devices throughout the home. Staples showed off its new retail kiosk at Mobilize for the first time. Placing the spotlight on connected home devices in stores should help elevate public awareness, and break these products out of their somewhat niche market.
  • In cars. Nokia wants to completely change the way we use maps through its Here mapping platform. “When you think about what is location all about in a mobile world … it’s about connecting or bridging us between the virtual world and the real world,” Hans-Peter Brondmo, vice president and head of new product innovation for Nokia Here, said onstage. Nokia wants to do away with the flat, static maps we’re used to in favor of 3D maps that represent the world as it actually is. Technology like this could allow your GPS to tell you to make a turn when you see a particular restaurant or landmark, as opposed to just standard street names.
  • Throughout your home. Philips’ connected Hue lightbulbs have been available for nearly a year, but devices like these should start to see a sharp increase in popularity and adoption as Philips starts to experiment with new form factors. Kevin Tom, Hue developer program architect, also noted that new APIs will expand the usefulness of the connected bulbs. He pointed to a recent developer who linked his Hue to the live information feed of London’s transport system, and programmed the light to change colors to indicate how much time he had to catch his bus. And Linden Tibbets, CEO of IFTTT, pointed to another potential use for the programmable bulbs: “We use Hue lights to indicate bathroom availability. It’s been a game changer — 18 people, one bathroom.”
  • On your feet. This is probably the least likely place you’d expect to find a connected device, but the internet of things is even coming to your sock drawer. Still, the technology isn’t superfluous. Davide Vigano, co-founder and CEO of Heapsylon, said that wearable products can’t be “tech for tech’s sake.” So how exactly does that work with something like socks? “We don’t want our product to disrupt the consumer workflow. Wearing smart socks, for example, should be no different in the morning than wearing dumb socks: You just put them on,” Vigano said. And once they’re on, the fun starts. Vigano has already been contacted by developers who want to create apps that monitor everything from footfall detection to teaching you the Argentinian tango.
  • To cats. OK, the internet of things isn’t exactly coming to cats (though I’m sure a connected litter box can’t be too far off). Instead, SmartThings CEO and co-founder Alex Hawkinson showed a photo of a SmartThings-enabled kitchen drawer that, when opened, was programmed to activate a connected leaf blower pointed at the draw-opening kitten culprit.

That last one is a stretch, of course, but it goes to show just how far the internet of things will continue to grow. And these examples really only scratch the surface of what was covered at the conference. For a closer look, you can check out our live coverage page here, which has blog posts and video for each of the sessions. It’s an exciting look at what to expect in the mobile space in the year ahead.