Inside IoT: Our Visit to an IoT Science Fair

By Ken Briodagh June 01, 2015

This is the first installment of a new feature here on IoT Evolution World. Whenever possible we’ll be going out into the field to bring you back first-hand reports on IoT innovation and developments. This time, we bring you a dispatch from the NYC Media Lab’s recent “Visions of the Connected Home: An IoT Science Fair” demo event, held at Civic Hall in New York City on May 21.

NYC Media Lab is a sort of technology matchmaker in New York that tries to connect the smartest developers and makers in digital media and technology companies with the best thinkers and idea folks in the city's university system so that, together, they can make magic. It was launched through a partnership among the New York City Economic Development Corporation, Columbia University and New York University.

With this event, the Lab set its sights on the connected home. It sees the form and function of the Internet evolving into the IoT and that change creates opportunities. To show the possibilities, the Lab put together a demo zone full of startups, developers and university research labs working at the cutting edge of the connected home industry.

Some were better than others, but here were our favorites.

TrackR bravo
The TrackR is a thin, silver dollar-sized personal tracking device, designed to pair with a mobile app and keep track of frequently lost belongings, like keys, dogs, kids and sanity. And if the owner loses his phone, but has the TrackR in hand, it’ll make the phone ring to help find it. A handy tool to say the least. Of the things I’ve lost, I miss my … what was that again… the most.

Belleds Q
This little startup has created a line of smart bulbs that will, in addition to all the usual mobile control stuff, tie into a home stereo system, or mobile phone, and turn any house into a strobing, bumping club. And for only $30 per bulb. If that sounds awesome (it does), then these dudes are happy to help. If that sounds Clockwork Orange-y, well we might not argue with you much about that either.

This clever company is taking black thumbs (like mine) and turning them green. Their product is a moisture monitor that goes into each plant in your house and alerts you when they’re too dry, or too wet or sad. I may have made up that last one. The next phase for PlantLink is going to be a more versatile sensor that can also detect temperature and ambient humidity.


Still in the prototype phase, these folks from the City University of New York are building an uber-sensitive wearable belly band for pregnant women that will use passive pressure sensors to monitor fetal activity for signs of danger. It will even create a histogram of the baby’s mobile development over the course of the pregnancy, which could be of huge benefit to doctors. No joke here; this one’s very cool.

Orion Onyx
The Onyx is a great little communication wearable that brings touch-to-talk capability out of the hands of cellular contract holders and gives instant communication abilities to anyone with the need, anywhere. It pairs to a phone, but doesn’t require a contract of its own. And at a little less than $100 each, not a bad deal for a private, dedicated push-to-talk network.

Scout Alarm
This is a DIY home security system, in a nutshell. Buy a base unit and as many door and window sensors as you want and link them all up via your home Wi-Fi, and you’re done. And safer. The accompanying mobile app is platform agnostic and will allow you to monitor your home from anywhere. Simple, but effective.

Bug Labs
Bug Labs came to the party with two favors: freeboard and dweet. Though different, they both serve the developer of IoT devices quite well. dweet is essentially Twitter for machines. It’s a messaging platform designed to allow connected devices to inform one another about conditions that could affect performance. Freeboard, on the other hand is a monitoring dashboard, which allows developers (or anyone with knowledge) to monitor sensors in the system, as defined. The nice thing is, this stuff is ready-made to be added into under-development solutions, so it’s speeding folks to market without them having to make this stuff work themselves.

That’s far from all we saw, but is a very good sampling of what was available. The connected home market is still in its infancy, like much of the IoT, and we’re watching it learn to crawl. If you want to get an idea what walking, running and varsity basketball will look like, come to the IoT Evolution Expo in August at Caesars in Las Vegas. We’ll have developers like these on deck to demo their solutions, and plenty of peers around to help you make yours. See you in the desert. 

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