When Appliances, Pets, and Plants Start to Tweet

Soon, we should expect devices and appliances of all kinds to emit digital updates.  Will it be signal or noise?  It depends on your perspective. This “Ambient Status” is in which a non-living device or non-human beings compulsively create digital signals and updates.

With technologies at hand that allows anyone to share their opinion and status, the world becomes more connected. Perhaps one of the challenges in our overly connected world is the damage that excessive noise from many who publish causes.   It won’t be limited to just people: expect our cars, refrigerators, servers, pets and plants to start tweeting, blogging, and live streaming.  

For example, we should expect in the near future that:

  • Cars to alert us in SMS, Twitter or email when they need to be serviced, have low air pressure or other service.  In fact, we’re already seeing technology that will allow your car to text on your behalf while you drive.
  • Automated alerts from loved ones will be tweeted or texted to us. We know that Onstar can alert a centralized office if there’s an issue with the car being in an accident or stolen, why not alert loved ones (idea via @rototok)
  • Medical devices like life alert, or wrist bands or watches that measure heart rate and pressure could be used to auto alert loved ones of sick or elderly.
  • Refrigerators, washing machines, coffee machines and other home appliances will alert us when they need service or have completed a task.  If your plant can already Tweet when it’s thirsty (yes this already exists) then why can’t your air conditioning system and lights? 
  • It won’t be just home appliances, expect overloaded servers, web systems, and alerts when your boss is approaching your cubicle to be able to emit signals.
  • In the not-so-far fetched future, we can expect our pets, infants, and even unborn children to emit digital signals that we could aggregate in Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, SMS or email.  Heck even my puppy @goodboyrumba already tweets, (with some aid from his human servants) but we could expect new collars that measure his bio rhythms to emerge and let us know when it’s time to be let out for number 1 or 2.

The real question is, is this ‘ambient intimacy‘ or just adding to the ‘noise’.  While it may help us to be more connected, aware, and easier to manage our lives, it’s also going to make us a little more frantic, over-sensitive, and overwhelmed.

34 Replies to “When Appliances, Pets, and Plants Start to Tweet”

  1. The way to avoid ambient tweets from adding to the noise of life is by giving objects something important to say about themselves.

    The best primer on the subject: Shaping Things by Bruce Sterling.

  2. Cool thoughts Jeremiah. You have, once again, captured the future. In answer to your question, it’s only noise if it is not of value or a nuisance.

  3. My company has been doing this for the B2B world for years with customers like Diebold, EMC, and Varian Medical. Usually e-mail, but we have done some experiments with tweets too. Key is to have the notifications be relevant and configurable based on you needs. Otherwise, too much noise, not enough signal.

  4. Jeremiah,

    I’m talking about software that manages distributed logic at the appliance, secure communication back to a server, and rules to notify people or other systems (including Twitter) for hundreds of thousands of devices. We integrate with CRM, but this is beyond CRM. Companies underestimate the software required to move from cool demo to enterprise-scale deployment

  5. I think many of these things will be beneficial improvements and save time. But I definitely don’t want to get into a situation where I spend more time looking at reminders for little things than actually doing them.

    Another thought – We’re already distracted almost constantly and very rarely fully-engaged in whatever we’re doing at a given time. How many more distractions and notifications can we let come into our lives before we’re not really consciously making choices (instead of just reacting to them) and really aware of what’s going on outside our little individual bubbles.

  6. Another good tweet

    williamgarrity: @owyang It might be a bad thing when appliances tweet. Coffeepot: I’m done! Dishwasher: I’m on the dry cycle now! Washer: add softener!

  7. I would imagine that the hacked coffee maker tweet would be something like this:

    “Just brewed a delicious pot of dark roast he got from http://coffee4less.com for only $4.99 like it so much he sold his dog to buy more”

    hackers gotta make money too!

  8. Interesting that you chose to call it ambient, since it reminded me of Ambient Devices (http://www.ambientdevices.com/) which makes things that receive communication in the other direction (like an umbrella that lights up when it’s going to rain).

    Like anything else, it’s all in the design. People will prefer devices that communicate appropriately (or can be set to do so) and rate the poorly designed ones low. Given all the bells and whistles on cars these days, is it far fetched that you would get one that communicates with you intelligently? I don’t think so.

  9. Well, my 2 1/2-year-old son tweets … albeit with his thirtysomething dad doing all of the typing 🙂

    As to whether a tweeting oven is valuable or just more noise, it’s all a matter of perspective, of course. If it tells *you* that *your* dinner is ready, then that’s probably worthwhile. If it tells me that … probably not so much.

    We just need to continue to filter what is relevant and learn to ignore what isn’t.

    Bryan | @BryanPerson

  10. I agree with the notion in giving objects something important to say about themselves(value). Do you see Twitter as the service to achieve this vision? Personally I feel that the service is too open and that a closed network will be the preferred alternative when grouping appliances!!

  11. “it™s also going to make us a little more frantic, over-sensitive, and overwhelmed.”

    Well said, Jeremiah. Many of us are already feeling the “emotional flatness” of information overload and twitter fatigue. If we’re going to take ambient awareness to the next level, we’re going to have to come up with a better model than Twitter’s “one feed to rule them all”. I could see being able to handle these additional types of accounts with FriendFeed perhaps, but Twitter…not so much. Without elegant and practical methods of feed organization and grouping, Twitter just turns into a fire hose that you can’t drink from. Something’s gotta give.

  12. From a marketing perspective if the appliances in you home could contact the owner and the owner would let him what a great way to ensure a dialogue with the consumer. I would cost much to install wireless hook up in may home appliances.

    Great post Jeremiah!

  13. Hmmm, tweets when my computer has finished installing Windows updates would be handy, maybe also when my inbox is too full and feels neglected…

  14. A $300 million cash-for-clunkers-type federal program to boost sales of energy-efficient home appliances provides a glimmer of hope for beleaguered makers of washing machines and dishwashers, but it™s probably not enough to lift companies such as Whirlpool (WHR) and Electrolux out of the worst down cycle in the sector™s history.

  15. Most of the things you talk about are things that we all do and have to remember ourselves. I don't see any problem in appliances starting to tweet because if they can figure out for themselves when there is a problem or they need to be serviced, it's a load off my mind and I can concentrate on other aspects of my life or work.
    Whirlpool Parts

  16. what a wonderful blog this is. so much informative and attractive for every one.

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