Original question from Quora:

What are some cool IoT ideas and projects?

My Answer:

Before giving you an idea for what would be an unbearably cool IoT project idea, I want you to consider what makes something cool in the first place.

Consider music. Music is something that everybody loves and surprisingly, it seems to drive the adoption of lots of technology.

Consider SSD’s. If it wasn’t for music, we wouldn’t have SSD drives. That is a bold claim, but follow me on this.

Think back to the year 2000. The MP3 revolution was huge and Napster accounted for as much as 61% of internet traffic. A couple years later you have the launch of the iPod, which was the first mass market music player based on small hard drives.

Over time the iPod drove portable hard drive prices down and the iPod Nano marked the beginning of flash memory being used in mass market devices.

Millions and millions of people bought iPods. That meant Apple, Sony, and other companies invested billions of dollars developing flash memory technology.

In 2007 the iPhone happened and that pushed flash memory and SSD technology even cheaper and closer to reality.

This moved memory far enough forward for solid state drives to be a viable alternative to hard drives and solid state memory allows our phones and other devices to get ever smaller and cheaper.

Now nobody would even consider a portable device with a hard drive inside as a sensible thing. Everything uses some form of flash memory now.

All of this happened because of music.

People love to listen to music. Pretty much every person on the planet loves some kind of music, so if you give them a cool new way to listen to their music, they will buy it.

And that brings us to the internet of things. IoT, like many other inventions is driven in large part by… music!

Think about it, what are the most popular IoT devices? Bluetooth speakers and headphones.

Now, you might argue that a bluetooth speaker isn’t very IoT compared to something like Arduino based gadgets, but in reality a bluetooth speaker is basically a bluetooth radio with enough computing power to pair with a device, translate the signal into sound, and handle basic user interactions like button presses for volume or a play/pause button.

Oh and a bluetooth speaker usually has a speaker or an array of speakers to produce sound. And a battery. And a USB charging input.

However, look at the Amazon Echo speaker or the Google Home speaker. These are definitely IoT devices.

Instead of a dumb speaker, you now have a fully internet connected computer and microphone that takes vocal commands and translates that into instructions for a giant computer in the cloud.

It’s magical because it harnesses a global computing network to turn short vocal recordings into instructions and computer generated responses that do anything from change the song that is playing all the way to buying things like toilet paper and having it show up a couple days later at your doorstep.

That is magical and amazing right?

Now consider this, would anyone have bought into Amazon’s vision if it wasn’t for music?

Nope.

Seriously, without music Amazon Echo as a way to buy from Amazon would sound ridiculous. “So you want me to put a microphone in my house that is always listening to me so that sometimes I can buy things from you? No way. That’s creepy.”

Yet, since Amazon Echo is a nice bluetooth speaker that happens to also contain a microphone and Alexa integration, it doesn’t feel creepy at all. People love to listen to music.

Being able to say “Alexa, buy that song I just listened to.” seems natural doesn’t it?

People already listened to music on speakers, so Amazon piggybacked on that existing behavior and made something magical. Just like Apple did with the iPod and the iPhone, or Roku with the TV.

So, my idea for a cool IoT project would be to take something people already do - like running/walking (fitbit and smartwatches), listen to music (Amazon Echo, Sonos, Google Home), watch TV and Movies (Roku, Xbox, Playstation), play games (Xbox, Playstation, Occulus Rift), weigh yourself (Withings smart scale), change the temperature (Nest thermostat), and so on and use that as a springboard for your IoT project.

I’ve got a simple one that would be fun to wire up…

A smart piggy bank for kids (and adults). You put your coins into special sized coin slots and it counts the money as it goes in the piggy bank. It would show the current amount in a bright, big display on the front of the piggy bank.

I think people would get a kick out of putting the money in and seeing the count go up. For bonus points add a small speaker and a “kaching” sound.

Pretty much everybody understands a piggy bank and almost everybody has the need to save money. It’s not particularly internet connected, but maybe you can network them together into a pseudo-savings account if you had multiple smart piggies.

At the very least it would be fun to have around and I’m sure it’d entertain people with the “kaching” sound. People love that stuff.

-Brian

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