Internet of Thing!

Today, I attended one of the free AT&T Devlab workshops to learn about developing for The Internet of Things (IoT). IoT is the name given to the continuing trend of computing devices becoming smaller, cheaper, and ultimately more prolific. Many of these devices are capable of participating in conventional WiFi networks, which is what enables them to communicate over The Internet. Basically, we’re seeing the dawn of an age where everything and anything is connected to networks. For example, in a not so distant future, your washing machine will be able to push a notification to your Smart Phone to tell you it is done. With an exciting future of connected appliances upon us, I jumped at the chance to learn more about what is out there to help developers build applications to leverage this trend.

About the workshop; it was aimed at getting developers exposed to the tooling that powers the Internet of Things. Their vision is like this, you select one or more low cost devices that collect data using sensors and relay the data to AT&T’s M2X cloud service. There are sensors out there for just about every situation. For example, a temperature sensing device would be handy for keeping tabs on the temperature of a refrigerator. At regular intervals the device would send temperature status to the cloud service where the data is stored and analyzed.

While their platform played a central role in the training exercises, the event was far from being a commercial. All participants received a free Texas Instruments CC3200 Launch Pad, which is about $30 value. It is literally a thing with Internet connectivity. It features WiFi connectivity, temperature and orientation sensors, and ports to extend it further using daughter boards. The session introduced us to working with the board and getting acquainted enough with the tooling and code to create a minimalist application that tied the board’s sensors back to M2X. Any developer will attest that it takes time to get up to speed on a new platform and that it often involves a non-trivial amount of trial and error. An outcome of this event is that there are now a bunch more developers ready to be productive at writing applications that take advantage of the Internet of Things and for me it opens up some more possibilities for future applications.