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Posts tagged ‘Twine’

On Sale At Last: Twine, Your Gateway To The Internet Of Things

A year ago, two MIT Media Lab graduates raised half a million dollars on Kickstarter to create Twine, a cigarette-pack-sized chunk of Internet magic that promised to turn any object in your home into a web-connected, interactive “smart product”. Want your basement pipes to send you a text message when they’re in danger of freezing up, or your garage door to ping you if you forget to close it? No problem: With Twine, building your own personal “Internet of things” is supposed to be easier than programming a VCR. And now that the product is available for purchase, it looks like creators John Kestner and David Carr have very nearly delivered on that ambitious promise.

How do you get a non-hacker to even understand a device like Twine? With product design that would make Steve Jobs proud. Kestner, who studied industrial design as an undergraduate, tells Co.Design that “we wanted to wrap the functionality in something that didn’t read as an electronic object.” Twine is packed with sensors that detect temperature, moisture, and position, but it’s as light, small, and unassuming as a pack of gum. “It’s just a solid chunk of connectivity,” Kestner says. “We settled onelastomer [for the outer case]–it feels great to the touch, and reads as durable, friendly, and decidedly non-electronic.”

But Twine is also intriguingly mysterious: Flip the rubbery, featureless box over on its back and two instructions reveal themselves: “Place this side up,” and “go to Twinesetup.com.” From there, configuring Twine feels like an adventure instead of a chore. Wow, it just connected to the Web by itself–now a little light is turning on–whoa, now I can see an image of it in my Web browser, sensing the temperature–what will this thing do next?

Building this sense of wonder and delight right out of the box is essential to making Twine feel useful. If you think of it as a little magic box that can do anything–kind of like a Swiss Army knife crossed with a Tamagotchi–you’re more likely to find its open-ended possibilities inspiring instead of intimidating. After all, there’s no instruction manual. Once your Twine is set up, the dashboard in your Web browser invites you to set up “rules” (which are actually simple programs) for telling it what to do. I just moved into a new house with a cold basement office, so I used the simple drop-down menus to program my Twine to send me a text message saying “Get a space heater, doofus” whenever the temperature drops below 70°.

More info here.

Twine wants to put your things on the internet

If you’re the kind of person that sometimes finds themselves talking to inanimate objects around the house then it might not be too long before they start talking back – not directly but via an SMS, tweet or email. MIT Media Lab graduates David Carr and John Kestner are looking to hook household objects up to the Web via Twine, a 2.5-inch square (16 cm2) box with internal and/or external sensors that connects to a Wi-Fi network to enable it to send a message when certain user customizable criteria are recognized by the unit’s sensors.

In 1982, a group of students at Carnegie Mellon University connected a Coke machine to the internet so they wouldn’t have to traipse down several floors just to find the machine empty. While the number of devices connected to the internet has exploded since that time, the majority of household appliances and objects have been slow to make the move online. Despite talk of the emerging “Internet of Things” connecting anything other than a computer, games console, tablet or smartphone to the internet via a home network generally still requires some specialized knowledge.

It is this hurdle that Carr and Kestner are aiming to clear with Twine, which they say will make it easy to connect things to the internet “without a nerd degree” – meaning there’s no programming or soldering and wiring expertise required. The Twine module provides Wi-Fi connectivity out of the box and comes with on-board temperature and vibration sensors. Power is supplied either via the unit’s mini-USB port or by two AAA batteries, with an email alert being sent when the batteries need replacing.

More info here.