I listen to the Computer Industry gossip. And one thing I have been hearing about, over and over – is IoT. But I didn’t pay much attention to it – what’s so unusual about some new Internet users, even if they are things? Big Deal.
But gradually I have been getting used to the idea – and now that I have played around with some of these things – I can see its advantages.
My first thing was a Raspberry Pi – which, like all of them, uses a chip developed by smartphone manufacturers to do its general-purpose processing – a computer on a chip. But instead of surrounding that chip with some useful hardware – an audio jack for playing music, a microphone, cameras and a touch-sensitive display – all it has are ports where you can add these yourself. The Raspberry only costs 40 dollars, but the extra stuff can cost hundreds. And you can end up with wires running all over the place, connecting everything together.
Only to discover that my Pi doesn’t produce any video. Next month, when my Social Security paycheck comes, I will buy a new one, and reassemble the whole mess. I have been spoiled by semiconductors. Back in the Fifties we had vacuum tubes that were not very reliable, and lot of wires you had to solder together. Now we have chips with thousands of parts in them, all built at the same time, by some magical process they call a Silicon Foundry.
My next thing will be a Tessel 2 – which functions as an IoT device. It doesn’t do much itself – but it can tell other devices, anywhere on the Web, to do whatever needs to be done. It does have special ports where you can plug in little circuit boards that can detect all kinds of things – sounds, lights and temperature, for example. It functions as an input device, not an output device. The rest is done elsewhere, heavens knows where, by other things it can talk to.