Thursday, May 22, 2008

Two things that will change the world.

Last night my backordered "smart" powerstrip arrived. It kills power to other outlets when the master voltage drops (e.g. the TV goes to sleep or is powered off). Simple, genius. I had the same level of excitement plugging things into it as I do when a new Apple laptop arrives. Total rush!

Sensors
The world will change when sensors are everywhere. From RFID tags, to power consumption sensing, once little bits of information are available, so many cool things can happen. Disclaimer: I'm a data junkie.

Feedback Loops & Awareness
I have friends at two energy management companies that are on fire right now. Tendrill, and GridPoint. Both firms promise to give me control, and data, around the power my home uses. Sadly, we've been running on dumb power grids for decades, with zero awareness of peak energy useage times. Viewing my home's power consumption patters at a URL is something I've wanted ever since buying my house. I feel lucky that the town I live in, Boulder, CO, will be the first in the nation to have smart power panels installed on most of the homes in the city by the end of the year. Closing loops changes how we think and act, and power consumption loops have been left open for far too long.

My Macbook Air...
... is so smart. It senses ambient lighting and adjust keyboard backlight, and screen, brightness in real-time. Clouds roll in, blocking out the sun, and my laptop brightens. When I'm sitting in a dark room and someone turns on the lights, my laptop adjusts. So cool.

lat, lng, alt
With location based sensors, latitude, longitude, and altitude will be associated with vast amounts of new data. Cameras will embed geodata into every image they snap. Phones will literally know where you are, and you can pump that info to products like brightkite with nary a button press (or even automatically).

Exciting times
While I'm totally stoked at what the future will bring with sensors, I'm bummed that I'll personally be further down the foodchain in it's creation. I'm a software guy, not a hardware guy, and this game starts with hardware and devices. Sadly, that restricts the playing field for innovation dramatically as well. Hardware notoriously evolves like a glacier. Software on the other hand iterates faster than a speeding bullet. That said, I anxiously await the arrival of the new data, so I can build software to use it and make the world a better place.

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