There is an Arthur C. Clark quotation that states "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic". Call it ubiquitous, pervasive, ambient or IoT - but we've reached an intersection of technological advances that is making words like 'magic' and 'enchanted' seem apt descriptors. I'd like to share a couple of things I spotted at ARM Techcon 2015 (armtechcon2015) this week that reinforced this idea for me.
First up is a magic dice demo put together by the clever, creative folks at uBlox. They took a set of beautifully carved wooden dice and implanted some of their OLP425 series modules. These connected via a gateway based on their ODIN module, to a local network and onwards to the cloud. A web app then pulled the reported sensor data into a rich page with a nicely rendered image of a set of dice on the screen. Roll the wooden dice, and the dice on the screen rotate to match their physical counterparts. This is a really elegant demonstration showing what can be achieved at the cross section of miniaturization, efficient connectivity and compute, and modern MEMS sensor technology. Matching the virtual to the physical dice brings a smile to your face, but let your imagination run with the possibilities that infers and it will take you to some interesting places.
Next was a product designed by Cambridge Consultants and mentioned in ARM CTO Mike Muller's (mikemuller) opening keynote. The KiCoPen is a pre-loaded insulin injection pen for diabetics. What makes it clever is that it tracks the successful injection of the insulin dose and transmits this information to a companion smartphone app. What makes it magic is that it does this without a battery. I'll say that again - there is no battery in this connected device! The single chip electronics in the pen harvests sufficient energy from the removal of the cap to power the tracking of the dose and transmission of this to the nearby smartphone. The KiCoPen is a 2015 Red Dot Design award winner.
Finally, a friendly demo from the Bluetooth Low Energy specialists from ARM's mbed team. They taught the mbed zone at ARM Techcon to say hello to visitors... by name. They achieved this by distributing some tiny bluetooth beacons a little bigger than a standard sized SD card to visitors to the main ARM booth. Each beacon was associated with the name of the guest, so that when they strolled over to the mbed zone a large display screen would light up with a personalised greeting. What struck me here was the cost and size of these beacons - small enough to be worn as a cufflink or lapel pin, cheap enough to give away. They connect the physical world to the internet and cloud. The rest, as they say, is 'just software'. As an added behind the scenes point of interest, these beacons are architecturally identical to the BBC microbit that is about to be put in the hands of a million British school children. We've just created a generation of magicians - I can't wait to see what they come up with.