Forget Google Glass, these Internet of Things hacks take connectivity to the next level

November 18, 2013


Every second 80 ‘things’ are connected to the Internet. By the year 2020 50 billion ‘things’ will be connected. And this weekend 15 teams made that waterfall of connectivity a little more useful. In Santa Monica, at the inaugural Internet of Things Hackathon, hackers competed to build the best Internet of Things app in just a day and a half.

By using various sensors, mobile phones, the Dell all-in-one PC, Plantronics Concept 1 headset, AT&T’s M2X alpha service, and ESRI’s map platform hackathon teams created a wide range of inventions including a plant terrarium controlled by a smartphone app, a text message-controlled robotic arm capable of watering a plant, and even a human piano app that plays musical notes when users tilt their heads to the side or nod forward.

However, the judges, which included Mark Sim of gotokki, Tshaka Armstong of Fox 11, Michelle Garakian of Mayor Garcetti’s Office, and Bill McNabb of Intel, were most impressed by two teams with quite practical apps: Team Safe Circle, who developed an app to track restraining order violators, placed second and Team Leverage, who developed a social workout app, took home first prize.

Safe Circle utilized the GPS capabilities of mobile phones with ESRI’s map platform to track the position of an abuser with a restraining order: when the abuser enters a restricted area, authorities and the abusers victim are notified via the Safe Circle app while the abuser is also notified via their cell phone and told to leave the area. The Safe Circle app tracks the movements of the abuser so the authorities can later determine if the intrusion into the restricted-zone was intentional and if prosecution is required.

By combining sensors in the Plantronics Concept 1 headset with a mobile app, Team Leverage’s virtual trainer app much resembled the Strava app, popular amongst cyclist and runners. Users can track their workouts, post encouraging audio notes to fellow gym members, and even automatically count sit-ups by using the sensors in the Plantronics Concept 1 headset.

Both teams will move onto the final round of competition at International CES this January in Las Vegas, an event that will, just as the Internet of Things Hackathon did, highlight an important trend: connectivity is enhancing to all sorts of traditionally non-connected devices.


Connectivity is being added into mundane household objects like deadbolts, thermostats and fire alarms. The Nest Learning Thermostat, for example, is capable of learning users’ habits and preferences, then optimizing the temperature for their comfort and energy savings. Connected devices in everyday living offer humans the ability to examine and improve upon previous routine activities in ways not thought possible before. This could perhaps create household productivity gains similar to those first created by the adoptions of early electrical appliances.

Beyond household items, the Internet of Things is perhaps most known for wearables like Google Glass and Samsung Galaxy Gear Smartwatch. The cameras, accelerometers, gyroscopes and various other sensors packed into these devices offer new ways to gather information about the world around us, in a

     Team Safe Circle with organizer Alex Donn      particularly personal form.

In the future, this everyday connectivity may enable companies like Google to develop a search engine for the self, giving you the ability to reflect on and query your life. That is what makes the Internet of Things so full of potential. While the classic Internet is filled with content entered with keystrokes and clicks, the sensors that make up the Internet of Things are capable of capturing the world’s content as it really is.

Capturing that real world content then organizing it offers huge potential for tech. “Who ever can figure this out and put the all-in-one PC at the center Intel, Dell, Microsoft, IBM, HP and others are going to be behind you,” said Judge and Intel Product Marketing Engineer Bill McNabb. The same might be said for sponsors AT&T, ESRI, and Plantronics: having a place in the new Internet of Things is highly coveted.

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