The Legos of IoT

For those of you who missed the introduction of Telefonica’s Thinking Things, it may appeal to the Lego obsessed kid in you. It’s a modular building block type system with blocks for connectivity, battery, sensoring and actuators. Snap them together and you have a little mobile stack that can continually provide sensor readings on say the temperature in your apartment or the energy usage of your refrigerator (smart plugs not available till next year).

The Spanish telco provider Telefonica operates the sixth largest mobile network in the world, and what’s most interesting about the modular building blocks that allow users to take measurements for variables like temperature and humidity, is that the stack can be moved around and can run anywhere in the world where there’s a GSM network.

How sensors should connect to a network is an issue about which there are continual disagreements. Many feel that wifi is much too power hungry. Others complain that some protocols are proprietary, like the wireless standard Z-Wave. What’s clear though is that none of these protocols are mobile and while many devices like thermostats don’t require mobility, it’s still interesting to see a mobile carrier opening the door to systems that can collect data and be continuously moved.

Who’s exactly gonna buy Thinking Things? For sure, this an early adopter item. It’s basic design even suggests that the consumer should figure out how exactly to use the device, which is a major contrast to most devices where the benefits and uses are clear right out of the box. To want constant data on the temperature in your home or the energy consumption of your TV, you’ve gotta be a little bit of an IoT nerd. But more than anything, I think we’ll see some creative solutions, particularly in the business sector. Telfonica’s API should help on that front.