I’m Adrian McEwen. I’ve been adding the Internet to things other than computers since 1995. Initially cash registers, then PDAs and mobile phones – back before smartphones existed. The picture in the background is of the first ever web browser on a mobile phone, built by STNC – a startup from Cambridge that I joined in 1996. We got acquired by Microsoft in 1999 when they started getting into the mobile arena.
In 2002 I left Microsoft and since then have been running my own company. We’ve worked on web browsers for set-top boxes and since 2008 have been focusing increasingly on physical/ubiquitous computing, particularly with the Arduino platform and interfacing that with the Internet. Just recently I became the official maintainer of the Ethernet library for Arduino.
So, what is Bubblino? He’s a twitter-watching, bubble-blowing Arduino bot. I built the first one towards the end of 2008 and I thought it would be useful to share some of the journey I’ve taken in the two years since in turning him into a product. People can now visit http://bubblino.com and order their own – four left for Frankfurt at the start of the month. There’s still a way to go, but it’s been an interesting journey so far.
Platforms like Arduino are making prototyping these sorts of devices much easier and cheaper. There’s a whole wealth of artists, geeks, hackers and enthusiasts embedding computing into all sorts of devices. The hardware required – an Arduino + Ethernet shield – is only £60 You can build it yourself, or get someone like us to build it for you - similar cost to a website, anything from a couple of grand upwards And aside from the electronics, digital fabrication tools are also becoming cheaper and more widespread – Fablabs let you go along and use their laser-cutters, CNC mills and 3D-printers, and services like Ponoko <http://www.ponoko.com/> and Shapeways <http://www.shapeways.com/> mean you can upload a design and receive a physical version of it in the post a few days later.
With the new capabilities come new challenges for designing products, devices and services. If we’re going to add interactivity to so much more of the fabric of our world, it needs to spend much more of its time getting out of our way, fading into the background... - The tyranny of the power LED I don't need to turn any lights on if I go to the bathroom in the middle of the night - there are already enough power LEDs and blinking activity lights dotted around my flat to provide illumination. Ben Bashford has written eloquently about this just recently (look for his Emoticomp post <http://journal.benbashford.com/post/2848763029> - the dilemma of demo-mode: your device needs to attract attention in order to be bought, but then should only demand attention when necessary - Design for humans, not factories Lots of embedded technology starts out in industry, where efficiency is the driving factor. This comes up time and again in the &quot;fridge of the future&quot; that automatically reorders stuff based on RFID tags. If we're not careful we'll be reduced to porters who carry RFID enabled boxes from front-door to fridge, then to microwave and then recycling bin. To catch on, keep people as the focus - think about what might go wrong and how your object or service will degrade gracefully. - Magic as metaphor Magic is a better metaphor to use when trying to communicate new capabilities to people.
Making it consumer-friendly - Needs to work seamlessly - How do you configure a device that doesn't have a screen or a keyboard? - Getting connectivity: wired vs. wireless Both have issues - people don't always have an Ethernet port to hand, but WiFi devices are harder to configure
Scaling up? Lots of lovely prototypes/one-offs, but lots of people stall at this step. - Outsource whole problem Do it yourself. That’s the approach that I’ve chosen, as it’s providing a useful learning process in the steps required. Don't choose a bubble machine as your first product :-) (you need a water-tight compartment, and a number of moving parts)
I think the biggest challenge is explaining to people what the Internet of Things actually is... - Lots of competing terms ubicomp, physical computing, pervasive computing, ambient computing, IoT seems to be winning, even though the Internet isn't always involved - Don't worry about the tech, focus on uses/benefits As always, there's a tendency to talk about the technology: Arduino, RFID... people don't care about that. They do get excited about being able to have a clock that shows the location of their loved ones. - Promotion from IBM, Cisco, et al a double-edged sword The big marketing push of things like IBM's &quot;Smarter planet&quot; are spreading the word, but also giving the impression that it's something you can only do on a corporate or government scale. Initiatives like Homesense from Tinker London show that it's within the reach of everyone, and that's where the revolutionary and exciting stuff is going to come from.
Lessons Learnt from Building Bubblino (a Thing on the Internet)
Lessons Learnt From Building Bubblino (a Thing on the Internet) Adrian McEwen - www.mcqn.com
Who Am I? Putting the Internet into things since 1995 1995: Cash registers 1996: Joins STNC, embedded Internet startup 1997: PDAs – Psion Series 5 1998: Built first web browser on a mobile phone 1999: STNC acquired by Microsoft Adrian McEwen - www.mcqn.com
Who Am I? 2002: Left Microsoft, founded own company 2006: Set-top boxes 2008: Arduino MCQN Ltd. builds Internet of Things products for ourselves and for others. Adrian McEwen - www.mcqn.com Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/heungsub/4876380962/
Bubblino Adrian McEwen - www.mcqn.com Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nuttyxander/3206466676/
Challenges <ul><li>Prototyping </li></ul><ul><li>Design to be unobtrusive </li></ul><ul><li>Making it consumer-friendly </li></ul><ul><li>Scaling up production </li></ul><ul><li>Explaining the Internet of Things </li></ul>Adrian McEwen - www.mcqn.com
Prototyping <ul><li>Not as tricky or expensive as it sounds </li></ul><ul><li>Hardware is pretty cheap these days </li></ul><ul><li>Build it yourself, or </li></ul><ul><li>Get someone to build it for you </li></ul><ul><li>Digital fabrication tools getting cheaper and more widespread </li></ul>Adrian McEwen - www.mcqn.com Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lucamascaro/2936920531/
Design for the Background <ul><li>The tyranny of the power LED </li></ul><ul><li>Design for humans, not factories </li></ul><ul><li>Degrade gracefully </li></ul><ul><li>Magic as metaphor </li></ul>Adrian McEwen - www.mcqn.com Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattymatt/3104387906/
Making it Consumer-friendly <ul><li>Needs to work seamlessly </li></ul><ul><li>How do you configure a device that doesn't have a screen or a keyboard? </li></ul><ul><li>Getting connectivity: wired vs. wireless </li></ul>Adrian McEwen - www.mcqn.com Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/heungsub/4876380962/
Scaling Up? <ul><li>Lots of lovely prototypes/one-offs, but lots of people stall at this step. </li></ul><ul><li>A gulf between artwork and product </li></ul><ul><li>Outsource whole problem </li></ul><ul><li>Do it yourself </li></ul>Adrian McEwen - www.mcqn.com Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ste3ve/521083310/
Explaining the Internet of Things <ul><li>Lots of competing terms </li></ul><ul><li>Don't worry about the tech, focus on uses/benefits </li></ul><ul><li>Promotion from IBM, Cisco, et al a double-edged sword </li></ul>Adrian McEwen - www.mcqn.com Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/heungsub/4876380962/
Thank You. Any Questions? MCQN Ltd website: http://www.mcqn.com Or email firstname.lastname@example.org My Personal Blog: http://www.mcqn.net/mcfilter/ Or on twitter I’m @amcewen Adrian McEwen - www.mcqn.com