First Click: That time my thermostat began talking to the lights
September 11th, 20154
The goal of the Internet of Things (IoT) is to integrate all the dumb objects around us in meaningful and intelligent ways. But that requires a lot more thought than simply putting a chip in something and calling it "smart." Yet for all its excess, sometimes the Internet of Things gets it right.
I’ve accumulated a number of smart objects over the years. Some with the explicit intent of solving a problem, others out of professional curiosity. My Toon LCD thermostat from Dutch energy provider Eneco fits in the first category, acquired a few years ago to give me real-time insight into my daily energy consumption. My Philips Hue lights fit into the latter, weirdly popular bulbs I bought because it’s fun to automatically turn your lights purple when it’s about to rain.
Yesterday I fired up my thermostat after being out of the house for six months due to a renovation. After a quick software update, I was greeted with a faster, nicer looking UI that asked me if I wanted to add my Hue lights.
Never before had I thought, "wouldn’t it be nice if my thermostat was integrated with my lights." But then it hit me as I stared at the message on Toon’s 7-inch touchscreen: that big LCD would make a perfect lighting hub.
Now my intelligent thermostat is also a centralized panel from which my family can control the home lighting — no smartphones required. Now that's smart.
Toon, like Hue, ships with a ZigBee wireless chip. That’s the same silicon you’ll find in Nest and even Google’s new OnHub router, in addition to hundreds of home automation devices that have been around for years. But the ZigBee chips found in the new generation of smart devices can often lie dormant (as was the case with Nest and now OnHub) while companies wait for their own product lines (and those of others) to mature. Sometimes you just get lucky.
The promise of IoT is real — we just need more examples like my own to cut through the hype.
Five stories to start your day
The one thing the Star Wars prequel trilogy did very, very right
The contrasts between the original Star Wars trilogy and its prequels were stark. Where Episodes IV to VI were told economically, the prequels felt bloated. Where the originals used practical effects, puppets, and people to build its galaxy, the prequels leaned on computer effects to make a universe that felt fake. Where A New Hope introduced characters we wanted to root for, The Phantom Menace featured a cast of punchable irritants, led by a character so annoying his name is shorthand for "the worst."
Jony Ive soundboard brings soothing British narration to the haze of our mundane existences
Designed by software engineers Amy Hoy and Thomas Fuchs, the Jony Ive soundboard lets you compose full sentences out of Ive-isms. You can click on any one fragment to remove it and, when you're done, play back the full nonsensical arrangement in one sweep. Or you can tweet it out, if you're that kind of person.
SpaceX releases first interior photos of its astronaut-carrying spacecraft
SpaceX's new Crew Dragon capsule may be reserved for astronauts traveling to and from the International Space Station — but now you can take a virtual tour of the vehicle's insides. The company just released interior photos of the spacecraft, as well as a video showing closeups of its control panels and crew seats. The images offer our first glimpse at what the finished Crew Dragon will look like.
Killing off wild predators is a stupid idea
The headline looked like a joke: "To truly end animal suffering, the most ethical choice is to kill wild predators (especially Cecil the lion)." Instead, it was an apparently serious opinion piece published earlier today on the news site Quartz. Walter Palmer — the infamous dentist who shot and killed Cecil the Lion — actually did the world a favor, the article says, since Cecil would have killed many more animals before he died. The authors argue that humans should hunt and kill predators in order to save prey animals from dying horrible deaths.
A portrait of Donald Trump painted entirely from portraits of Donald Trump
Paintwithdonaldtrump.com lets visitors paint in their browser with photos of presidential hopeful, real estate mogul, and crappy board game maker Donald Trump. What would I paint, I thought upon my visit. Would it be a fruit bowl? Or perhaps my dog, would she be a good subject? No, I decided. I must paint Trump with Trump.