From the Economist:
TAKE a vast windowless hall. Squeeze in hundreds of garish booths vying to produce the loudest and most obnoxious music possible. Then add thousands of busy people and bake at a high temperature for several days. Visiting a large conference or trade show can be an unpleasant experience, as Babbage can attest from many years of writing about technology. Precisely how unpleasant, though, no one has measured until now. At Google’s annual I/O conference for developers in San Francisco this week, scientists are finally trying to turn sharp elbows, raised voices and sweaty brows into cold, hard data.
The Data Sensing Lab, a project of O’Reilly Media, has deployed over 500 sensor motes at key locations around the Moscone West centre. Each phone-sized mote is a self-contained computer based on a cheap Arudino micro-controller and linked with low power ZigBee digital radios. Some measure temperature, pressure, noise, humidity and light levels. Others are tracking air quality, the motion of crowds or how many mobile phones are being used nearby. Together, they form a network producing over 4,000 streams of data that are uploaded to Google’s Cloud Platform software for analysis.
The network is an example of the “internet of things”, where physical objects are digitally interconnected and communicate without human intervention. At a shindig like I/O, this could one day mean rooms pre-emptively activating air conditioners when they detect delegates arriving, or organisers rating speakers by the level of mobile phone use during their presentations.
At the Google event, the Data Sensing Lab showed live visualisations of people flowing out of seminars and forming an eager cluster around a stand showcasing Google Glass wearable computers. It also highlighted the noisiest area (the keynote by Larry Page, Google’s co-founder) and the quietest (a pop-up shop selling Google-branded products). All the data will be made freely available online after the conference wraps up.
More info here.