25 weirdest things in the 'Internet of Things'

The Internet is slowly creeping into every part of our lives, and soon millions and millions of connected devices will all be talking to each other

The Internet is slowly creeping into every part of our lives, so much so that it’s becoming easier to look around the house and find objects that can be connected to the Internet. In just a few short years, we probably won’t think twice about connecting most of these objects to the Internet, but others will likely take some more time to get used to.

1. College dorm bathrooms

Through some student/university collaboration, MIT connected the bathrooms at its Random Hall dormitory to provide an online resource so residents know which bathrooms are available when.

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2. College dorm laundry room

Perhaps motivated by the success of its bathroom server, Random Hall also connected its laundry room so residents can check to see when washer and dryer machines are available. Students can enter their email addresses to get regular updates, too.

3. Garden

On the other side of the country, the University of Southern California connected an outdoor garden. When the “telegarden” was moved to Austria a year later, the researchers equipped the garden with a robotic arm and an Internet connection, allowing gardeners to plant seeds from anywhere in the world.

4. Dog collar

With dogs’ well-being in mind, advertising agency Rethink Toronto equipped a dog collar with a thermistor to monitor a dog’s temperature, along with a coded chip and a SIM card that alerts owners via SMS message if its temperature exceeds 79 degrees Fahrenheit.

5. Cat feeder

Another project aims to help cat owners who travel frequently and can’t always find a friend with the time to come by and feed their cats. This Internet-enabled cat feeder dispenses food into two dishes simultaneously upon the owner’s request, and monitors the entire process via webcam.

6. Cattle

Dutch startup Sparked has been implanting wireless Internet-connected sensors in the ears of cattle, helping farmers monitor their health and prevent spreading disease from contaminated meat or milk. Cisco estimates that each cow transmits 200MB of data each year.

7. Human heart
Corventis' heart monitor
, which can be applied to patient’s chest like a Band Aid to monitor and report heart activity, was approved by the FDA and the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare in 2010. The data can alert authorities if the patient has had a cardiac episode or has simply fallen down as a result of an arrhythmia.

8. Diapers
A startup called 24eight dreamed up the wireless diaper, which features an embedded chip that sends SMS messages to parents or babysitters when the diaper is wet. The connected diapers only cost an extra two cents to produce than normal diapers, the Wall Street Journal reports.

9. Slippers
Also developed by 24eight, the connected slipper was designed with the elderly in mind. Using a similar technology that recognizes when a smartphone is tilted, the slipper monitors the wearer’s footsteps for warning signs and communicates any potential problems to family members and physicians.

10. Breathalyzer (that Tweets)
This breathalyzer prototype can transmit the user’s blood alcohol level to his  Twitter account, automatically making it available for everyone to see. While most people wouldn’t want their drunkenness publicly available, it could be a good deterrent for repeat drunk drivers.

11. Shoes
One of the more well-known connected pieces of apparel is footwear. Nike may have gotten the most recognition for it, but several others, including Google and fashion company WeSC, have developed shoes that connect to social media and even talk to the wearer as exercise motivation when he has been standing still for too long.

12. T-shirts
Ballantine’s developed a T-shirt made out of ultrathin LED display technology that connects to the Internet via the wearer’s smartphone and essentially acts as a larger, body-worn display.

13. Coffee machine
In 2009, a prototype for an Internet-enabled coffee machine emerged on the forum Hacked Gadgets. By connecting the coffee machine to the Internet, the user can instruct the machine to brew a cup of coffee remotely.

14. Toothbrush
While one toothbrush model currently sends dental hygiene data to the Internet through a Bluetooth-connected smartphone, researchers expect most toothbrushes to come directly Internet-enabled pretty soon, making it even harder for kids to lie to their parents about brushing their teeth.

15. Vending machines
A few Internet-connected vending machines have already surfaced for promotional purposes. Pepsi launched the Social Vending System in 2011 to engage customers and drum up publicity, while the Internet Coke Machine is an early Web legend in its own right. But vending machines stand to benefit from constant connectivity, which could alert suppliers when inventory is low.

16. Cars
Connected cars are a hotbed of discussion in the tech industry, and need to overcome a handful of safety and regulatory obstacles before consumers can start reaping the benefits, which range from more accurate insurance rates to cars that drive themselves.

17. Door lock
A solution for anyone who forgets to lock their front door before traveling, the Internet-connected door lock is poised to become one of the first widely adopted applications in the internet of things. Schlage’s LiNK system is a good example, granting access to a home’s door locks via PC, iPhone or iPad.

18. Christmas tree
Dubbed The Lonely Christmas Tree, the project connects the lighting on a small Christmas tree to the Internet and automates it to respond when the owner receives emails or social networking updates, as Make Magazine reports.

19. Plants
By connecting potted plants to the Internet, an organization called Natural Fuse establishes city-wide networks of plants that help offset carbon dioxide emissions. Comparing the system to a circuit breaker, Natural Fuse says the system harnesses the energy of the connected plants to help reduce the amount of power consumed by its users. It also waters the plants automatically.

20. Sidewalks
A Spanish company called Via Inteligente has developed Wi-Fi-emitting pavement stones, dubbed iPavement. The goal is to literally pave the ground of city streets and sidewalks with Wi-Fi so no one is without Internet access.

21. New York City sewers
A campaign called Dontflush.me aims to install sensors in the New York City sewer system to avoid overflows, which are responsible for an estimated 27 billion gallons of raw sewage overflow into the New York Harbor each year.

22. Rats
Just a few months ago, scientists announced a successful experiment connecting the brains of two rats through the Internet, The Guardian reports. The rats were tested in labs thousands of miles apart but still collaborated on tasks, like finding and drinking water.

23. Parking meters
Solving a problem felt by many residents, San Francisco connected its parking meters so drivers can find open parking spots without driving around the same block several times.

24. Mirrors
Essentially turning a mirror into a giant reflective tablet, the Cybertecture Mirror overlays application interfaces on a reflective mirror and comes with a peripheral sensor pad that registers, records and displays personal health data over time.

25. Toys
Several children’s toys connect to the Internet, but don’t be surprised to see Internet-connected toys on your boss’ desks. A company called reaDIYmate has designed interactive paper used to build toys that can be programmed to react to emails or social networking updates or controlled remotely with a smartphone.

This story, "25 weirdest things in the 'Internet of Things'" was originally published by Network World.

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