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Products that Tweet

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28 October 2010

We’ve decided to dedicate this week’s tech insight post to a topic that’s been keeping us awake at night with excitement for the past few months. We want to put the idea to post to get some comments on it, and some collaboration on the possible applications of it. The more use cases we get, the better we will understand it.

The idea is to develop cheap hardware, possibly an Integrated Circuit (chip), that will enable manufacturers of appliances and consumer electronics to enable relatively cheap devices to Tweet and be Tweeted.


Products that Tweet

One of my favorite components in the IP Suite is a protocol called SNMP. It’s a very handy protocol that allows remote monitoring and management of devices on a network. Often used to query firewall stats remotely (for instance, how many packets were dropped, etc), it is one of a range of tools that help a sysadmin do their job from the comfort of their desk (or game chair) at home.

SNMP has never quite made it mainstream, though, and is today unbeknownst to all but the most hard core server room techies and network engineers, and a few good firewall salesmen.

As a further result of its obscurity, SNMP never quite made it onto the Internet in a big way, since most firewalls block it, unless they have a very good reason for allowing it.

Imagine now, using Twitter as the communications backbone of a new, easy to use, protocol, bringing something similar to SNMP to the consumer appliances and electronics market.

Let’s look at a few possible use cases, and this is where I hope you will add more in the comments.

Tweet and Shine

The idea here is to add Tweetability to an alarm clock. The alarm clock, when configured to do so, will Tweet when you get up in the morning, possibly with a custom message that you enter when you set the alarm. Maybe you could even set the alarm (and corresponding tweet message) by Tweeting?

Tweet a Watt

This is not our idea. We saw it here. These devices measure the power consumption of power sockets and Tweet it periodically. If this idea is extended, it could become the backbone of power saving incentives driven by social networking, funded by Electricity Providers. It could even work the other way round, and receive Tweets to, for instance, control water heater cycles centrally to help dampen periods of peak power consumption.


How about a device located in the frame of your bicycle, using part of the frame as a GPS and 3G antenna, Tweeting the location of your bicycle every few minutes? This could help in relocating stolen bikes and automatically publish exercise routines.

Hush Tweet

This is not a use case, but rather a necessity to make all these use cases work.

Many of these ideas open up the concept of using Twitter as a communications platform to control devices or getting status and logging data. This needs a cryptography to be applied to the Twitter messages, to ensure that only an authorized sender and receiver can read or send these Tweets. Enter Twitter Hush Tweet, a hypothetical Twitter encryption service, driven by PKI.

Rather than heading off on a tangent with dozens of similar use cases, we’d like to hear what you think. Please comment:

UPDATE: Just as we finished this post, we stumbled upon Akiduki Pulse Box. What a beauty!

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  • October 28, 2010 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    I really like the Akiduki Pulse Box! And what a name it as too.

    How about a device like that which you wear to the Gym, and only if your pulse achieves a certain level for a certain time, it Tweets your pulse!

  • Posted by Adriaan Pelzer
    October 28, 2010 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    Good idea! It could, for instance, only Tweet if you maintain a certain pulse rate for a certain amount of time.

    Maybe, by doing that, it could also form part of a system that tracks (and Tweets) your fitness over time. Something along the lines of energy spent on the machine / heart rate = fitness level, or something like that.

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