Three "Non-Wearable" Internet of Things That Need Making

Brian Krzanich said it at CES; Intel is working to making everything smarter. And to that end, Edison was announced as a new SOC PC, the size of an SD card.  On stage we saw a number of wearable demos that created buzz and excitement.  There's no doubt wearables is a big space, however there is another space that might be as equally if not more disruptive as smart wearable technologies. This other space is made of smart things that are fixed in place and not carried or worn.  Let’s call this space "smart fixtures".

About Smart Fixtures:

Before I get into a few ideas, let’s look at why we need a smart fixture space.  Smart wearables and mobile devices do a great job of sensing and processing things in context to the user wearing or holding the technology.  However, this creates a limit to what can be sensed with them. For example, Google Glass or a smartphone can’t see the back of your head, know where your feet are, or sense non-connected things are in a room outside their line of sight.  In terms of wearables vs. fixtures, consider the Wii motion controller as wearable where Kinect is more of a fixture.  Kinect can see the whole front of you while Wii can only know where the controller is.

Consider another analogy: a wearable is to a smart fixture as a flash light is to a lamp.  A flashlight is as good as it is carried and pointed in the direction one needs to see.  It’s not good if it was left behind or if more than one part of a lit room needs to be lit at a time. However, a lamp - regardless of where it is placed -  lights up a room.  The lamp is a fixed part of the room and can be designed to give the entire room light. If we consider the lamp vs. flashlight scenario, there could be a argument for more smart fixture technologies compared to wearables. So let’s look at some smart fixture idea that need building.

Three Ideas:

The Smart Table: We’ve seen smart tables before. The Microsoft Surface table is a good example. However, we probably don’t need to create a table top screen to create a smart table.  The table may just need some active motion or IR sensors and wifi to deliver a lot of value.  The reason you want the table to be smart is people at a table come and go, and the table can retain context and feed information as if people are there, where they are, if there are smart devices on the table and where they are.  If a device is controlling this, then the things you need to do at the table walk away as soon as that device is removed.  That's imperfect.  Additionally, you may need to know about things in orientation to the table, and if a device or wearable is moving you can easily lose that information.  Thus making the table smarter has value.


  • IR Scanning: Detect if humans are at the table and where they are
  • NFC & Bluetooth: Detect if there are devices on or near the table and pair with the table to get data

Use cases: A table is a social setting.  It is where people gather, meet, have conversation, engage, and play games.  Key use of the technology can make devices near or around the table aware of what other people and devices are at the table and where they are. The table will simply make available this information for apps to leverage.

  • Virtual Board Games: Players can assemble at the table; as they do, they are asked on their devices if they want to join the game. The game immediately adds the players, monitoring the location of the player.  If a player leaves the table, the app shares that the player has left.  Tablets can be placed flat on the table to create the board game space. If you add more tablets, the table is aware that more tablets have been added and where they are to expand the game space across the tablets added to the table. When it’s a players turn the game board will automatically rotate to the current players position at the table.
  • Contextual Data Sharing:  When sitting at a table apps will let you know immediately who is with you at a table.  Giving you the option to share photos, content directly with the people you are having a conversation with
  • Gesture Computing:  The table can see the body positions and arm movements of each person at the table and feed that to devices that may not have full view of the user.

The Smart Door, or Door Lock:  The front door to your home or apartment is an ancient technology but it is possibly one of the most used technologies you interact with.  Consider how a door works.  We assign keys to users that grant them rights to be able to open and operate the door. We provide view portals on doors so we can see what’s on the other side without having to open them.  We put alert systems on doors to notify us if someone is at them. And we have social norms and rules for what times of day it’s acceptable to use that alert system unless it is an emergency. We let people leave messages and packages beside the door if someone was there while we were not. And more recently we’ve added intercoms and speakers near doors allowing us to communicate through them should we be remote from someone who is at them.

If doors are not perfectly made for IoT, I don’t know what is.  So to get an understanding of a smart door, think about how a door works at a hotel room.  The lock is automated based on an electronic key.  What if you assigned mobile phone numbers as keys. Thus,  when the right SIM card gets near your door it unlocks.

With a smart door, if you need to let a plumber in, its as simple as texting his phone.  Need to take away a key from an ex? Just remove their permissions. Your phone or wearables can ring or buzz rather than the door bell, and people who dropped by while you were gone can be captured by webcam with a text alert to let you know someone was there.  Doors need IoT.

The Smart Bulb:  Perhaps the biggest area of opportunity is in the smart light bulb. We’ve done something very interesting with man-made controlled lighting.  We’ve run powered sockets strategically around the globe,both indoors and outdoors, so that nearly every corner of the world can be illuminated when its dark. Here’s what that means in an IoT world.  With smart bulbs every corner of our world is not only illuminated, it can be sensed, and processed. That is right: with one good invention, we have a way to sense nearly every inch of our world.  Add infrared, add cameras, add WiFi, NFC, etc.  Now wherever there is a light bulb you now have something that can:

  • Sense if something is near, process its shape, and know if a human is approaching or where in a human is.
  • Adjust light based upon proximity of what is near or approaching it
  • Turn on a camera and take pictures or video as needed
  • Know where a person is in 3D space
  • Send data to other systems to react to what a lightbulb is sensing.

A smart light bulb could be the most amazing piece of technology allowing all sorts of systems to respond and present information or options based on what the lightbulb is sensing.

All of these technologies can interact and add value to smart wearables and visa versa. Making the world of things smarter and more programmable allows the real world to act more like a digital world.  In video games you don't need to search for your keys to open a door or try to find where the light switch is an room.  All because the programmer wants the experience to be hassle free.  Soon the real world may act the same way.

There are many, many more ideas.  These are 3 I can't wait to see become smart. What do you think of these ideas, and do you have some of your own? Let me know in the comments.

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steven m.'s picture

Yes. Great ideas...Thanks for the thought provoking info.

Bob Duffy (Intel)'s picture

So agree Nancy. Seems with Bio metrics you could have technology at each clinic and ER that confirms you are you and insurance and medical records should just auto fill all info needed, HIPPA compliant of course.

Nancy Gordon  Moore's picture

Can we add to this list a tool to connect my phone to my medical record to the physician/ clinic intake desk? How many times have you filled out those dreadful new patient forms by hand with the same information? 

Kathy F. (Intel)'s picture

Brilliant ideas all, which always trigger more brilliant ideas.


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