"The internet of things" — the concept wherein virtually all physical objects are digitally connected to each other at all times — becomes more realistic by the year as the necessary components shrink in size, cost, and power draw, and a startup by the name of Electric Imp is looking to kickstart the trend. Founded by veterans of Apple's iPhone and Google's Gmail teams, the company's Imp module looks like an SD card but integrates Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n support (a little like an Eye-Fi) plus a Cortex-M3-based processor and software-controllable I/O pins. Developers use web-based software tools to connect to the card — wirelessly — where they can write and debug code and get realtime logging information returned from the hardware. On the back end, Electric Imp provides the cloud over which Imps communicate — it all happens over the internet so that users and developers don't need knowledge of specific IP addresses or open router ports to establish the connection.

In layman's terms, that means that the companies that make coffee makers, dishwashers, and lamps — companies that don't traditionally have strong coding chops — will have an easier time getting their devices and appliances connected to the internet, where users will be able to do Nest-like things remotely: start the coffee brewing before you get home with a few taps on your phone, for starters. Electric Imp says that the cards will run $25 apiece, but that discounts will be available for bulk orders; developer previews are shipping late next month with Imp-enabled consumer products coming later in the year from "a variety of vendors."